Sprint Replaces Mail-in Rebates with Instant Savings
Come Sunday, Sprint will temporarily replace its mail-in rebates for newly purchased cellphones with instant, at-the-register or online savings, a move that is sure to be welcomed by consumers frustrated with the traditional and protracted snail mail rebate process.
The mail-in rebates long offered as part of virtually every new phone purchase have conditioned consumers to expect substantial discounts when phone shopping, especially for pricey smartphones. But only around 60 percent of mail-in rebates are redeemed, according to tech analysts at the Aberdeen Group.
Instant savings spares the consumer the mailing-of-the-rebate-form task by deducting the rebate from the purchase price right at the point of sale, whether that's online or in the store.
"The instant rebates will replace existing mail-in rebates, dollar for dollar," said Lloyd Karnes, Sprint's manager for customer experience communications. "It's a special, limited-time promotion, in Sprint stores, on Sprint.com and through other participating channels."
If the promotional price of a Sprint phone currently includes both a mail-in rebate and a separate, additional instant savings offer, the mail-in amount will be converted to an instant discount and applied to the purchase price along with the original instant savings.
Currently, Sprint offers $100 mail-in rebates on the newly released HTC EVO Shift 4G as well as the HTC EVO 4G, the parent, larger version of this first phone with 4G data transfer speeds available in the U.S. Expect those hundred-dollar savings to be awarded instantly once the promotion begins this weekend.
Sprint is the first carrier to officially eliminate mail-in rebates and replace them with instant rebates, though other major carriers have also made changes to their rebate programs recently. Verizon implemented a new smartphone rebate plan earlier this year that works as follows: smartphones net priced $150 or higher would have no rebates, while smartphones net priced at $149.99 and below have $50 rebates. ("Net price" refers to the price paid when activating a new two-year contract.) The rebates have primarily been in the form of online savings deducted at checkout.
AT&T, for its part, has not made any rebate policy announcements, but mail-in rebates have been few and far between on its site since the first of the year.
Could Sprint's move mark the end of the mail-in rebate? Sprint will be monitoring its new promotion and then will decide if instant savings gains a permanent spot in the company's retail strategy.
"We’ll have to wait and see," Karnes said. "We will of course be watching results closely and listening to customer feedback."