As a way to entice cable purchasers to sign on to their services, some cable companies offer a variety of rebates as incentives. Although the idea of a pre-paid debit card might sound very appealing, make sure that the amount of the rebate actually will save you money. And make sure you understand the terms of the rebate, particularly fees for early cancellation and inactivity. You're only eligible to sign up for most rebate cards after your account is active and in good standing, typically after your first billing cycle, so you won't see your extra money for at least 90 days.
In 2012, Comcast offered $100, $200 and $250 rebate cards for signing on to various cable packages; however, the cards come with some restrictions and red tape such as monthly maintenance fees and even fees for using the card.
Time Warner Cable offered a rebate where subscribers who sign onto their Showtime plan are offered a $25 prepaid Visa debit card. But, if you signed up for Showtime and got a $25 rebate card, you're actually paying way more in the long run than the value of the rebate card.
Bottom line: these rebate cards come with lots of strings attached. Instead of sending you a good old fashioned rebate check, cable companies are partnering with credit card companies to minimize how much a rebate really ends up in your pocket. Even though it might seem like you're getting a kickback of $100, more than a month's worth of your cable bill, you're not getting much at all.
Other types of rebates that cable companies offer include free installation and free equipment with your installation. If you're promised free installation, watch your bill for several cycles to make sure that you aren't charged. And be aware that you're only paying for the equipment that you need. For instance, if a company is offering an HD converter box for free with installation, remember that this offer isn't a rebate at all if your TV is already HD ready.