The Bottom Line
When shopping, consider the price to be charged to your credit card when you buy as well as the final price — after all rebates.
Cell phone offers often include one or more mail-in rebates, which can dramatically lower the final price of your phone. This also means, of course, that the amount your credit card is charged at the time of purchase might be higher than the advertised final price. Some rebates may require several months to redeem, so be aware that your cash might be tied up for a while.
Depending on the phone you buy, there could be several different kinds of rebates, including offers from the phone manufacturer, from the carrier you are subscribing to, and/or from the retailer from which you are purchasing. Therefore, it is important that you print out the terms and conditions of any rebates at the time you place your order so you'll have the information you'll need to qualify for them. The redemption requirements will likely include some combination of receipts, rebate forms, wireless bills, and the UPC/bar code. This last item is usually located on the exterior of the box in which the phone is packaged — so don't throw it away.