First of all--congratulations! It's always fun and exciting to win prizes online. If you're using Win.ly, get used to it as you should be winning a prize or two every month if you keep up with it.
If you've won something relatively small (under $600), things are pretty simple. You may receive an email or a phone call asking you to provide or confirm your home address. Or it may just arrive at your door if you've already provided your address during registration
Hint: Be sure to mark your wins on the Win.ly toolbar so you can track them and make sure they show up.
Considerations for Bigger Prizes - Do I Even Want the Prize?
If you've won something bigger you'll need to first think if you really want the prize enough to pay the taxes on it.
You'll be asked to sign an affidavit and the sweepstakes administrator will file paperwork with the IRS along with the value ("ARV") of the prize or prizes you've won. This means you'll owe taxes on this as if it were extra income you've earned. (When tax time rolls around you'll receive a 1099 form).
Only you know what tax bracket you're in, so consider taking that percentage of the ARV and knowing you'll need to pay that to get the prize. Is the prize still worth it?
And also take into consideration that big prizes, like cars or extravagant trips, can push you up into a higher tax bracket.
So the 21 day trip around the world seems cool, but is it worth paying $7,000 in taxes for? That's up to you.
Some Other Things to Consider
For cash prizes you should obviously always take the prize. You can pay the taxes out of it and keep the rest. No decision there.
For prizes with a good resale value you should also consider taking the prize. For instance, a car or truck. You might owe $10,000 taxes on a $40,000 car, but you could most likely (depending on the specifics of the vehicle) sell the car for more than $10,000 and keep the difference. Of course, as long as you're willing to put up with the hassle of the whole process.
What if my Prize Never Shows Up?
This does happen sometimes. Sweepstakes administrators make mistakes just like everyone else. This is why it's important to track your wins so you can follow up if they don't arrive.
If you're looking at your list of wins in Win.ly and see a prize that never showed up, you'll need to find a person to contact. The better sweepstakes administrators will still have a page up that says the game is over, along with a link for someone to contact for support.
If there is no support link, and the rules are still available, try looking towards the end of the rules. There generally should be three sections there.
- Sweepstakes Administrator: This is the company hired to run the promotion. Google them to find their phone number and call to ask them about your prize. Since they are being paid to run a smooth promotion, they are usually very helpful. Most of the time the issue is something as simple as a delay in receiving the prizes in order to ship and they can get things straightened out quickly.
- Sponsor: Every set of rules should list a sponsor and this is where you should go if you can't determine an administrator. The sponsor is the company who actually decided to run the promotion and is generally paying for it. Sometimes they can be a little more difficult to navigate than the Administrator, since they are often much larger corporations, but if you are persistent enough to get to the right people you can usually get helpful responses here.
- Winner's List: Any well run sweepstakes will supply an address to write to for a winner's list after the sweepstakes is over. If it's a different address than what' you've tried and you are still not getting anywhere, it's at least worth a shot.
These are suggestions to help with rare situations. It's important to keep in mind that these circumstances are rare and the majority of the time your prizes arrive easily (although not always so quickly). Be patient for at least eight to twelve weeks after you've won before pursuing a follow-up call. If you're really antsy, check the rules -- they should specify the amount of time you need to wait for your prize to arrive.
Any Good Stories?
If you have a story about winning a prize, please post it to the comments. Your experience could be very helpful to other players.
You Still Have to Play to Win
All this talk of prizes should have you chomping at the bit to go out and try a few. Go to Win.ly now and start playing. The prizes will come as long as you keep playing.