How To Win Sweepstakes And Contests
Entering sweepstakes and contests can be a very exciting and rewarding hobby. This article will show you how you can "beat the odds'' and win frequently. Anyone can with the right knowledge.
What Are Sweepstakes
Sweepstakes are random drawings for prizes sponsored by various organizations to draw attention to their product or service. When an organization offers a sweepstakes it must adhere to many state and federal laws. One of the most important laws for you to understand is that no purchase is required to enter a sweepstakes. Many people believe that you won't win unless you buy the sponsors product, this is not true. Many winners of sweepstakes do not purchase the sponsors product. The sponsor is hoping you will become aware of and try their product by offering a sweepstakes to draw your attention to the product. Most larger sweepstakes are handled by an outside judging agency. This helps the promoter insure that everything will be handled properly and legally.
Do not confuse sweepstakes with contests. Contests winners are judged to win by their skill. When an organization offers a contest, it often will require a proof of purchase. This is legal because a contest is not a random drawing, winners are chosen by judges for their skill. Some of the more common contests are for recipes, writing, or drawing. Winning contests can be easy if you are skilled in the area required. There are usually far fewer entries in a contest than a sweepstakes.
Game Sweepstakes And Lotteries
Game sweepstakes are different from other sweepstakes because they have predetermined odds. There are only so many game pieces printed or game plays available, so the odds can be calculated. The odds are displayed in the rules. There are many types of game sweepstakes. Some of the more common ones are instant win games, match and win games, and collect to win games. Instant win games are the easiest to play, usually you scratch off the game piece with a coin and see if you are a winner - and many are online with pre-determined times that that determine the winning entry. In match to win games you usually must bring the game piece to a display (if you can find one) to determine if you are a winner. Collect and win games require that you save game pieces and try to complete a phrase or complete a picture, etc. These usually have one rare piece, necessary to win. In most games the odds are very remote of winning a major prize. Occasionally you will find a game that has quite reasonable odds, and it is worth the effort to send for additional game pieces. I have found this to be rare though. The best part about game sweepstakes is the second chance drawing that many of them offer to win prizes that go unclaimed in the game portion of the sweepstakes. Online games are very popular. usually the entry time is predetermined, so that when you enter a game online the prizes are predetermined to be awarded at various time throughout the promotion period. Some of the most winnable online games are ones that require a unique code to enter. Unique codes are usually available on the sponsors products, or by mailing for a game code (no purchase can be required). Lotteries are not really a good investment. Winning depends only on luck. unlike sweepstakes you must pay for a lottery ticket. The value of the prizes offered must be less than the amount taken in for all the lottery tickets sold. For this reason on the average if you kept buying lottery tickets until you won, you would spend more than you would win. Sweepstakes prizes on the other hand, are paid for by the promoter and an entry is the cost of a stamp. Many sweepstakes entries have a far greater value than the postage they cost. When this is the case, you can win a far greater amount than you spend entering the sweepstakes.
Finding Sweepstakes To Enter
Sweepstakes are everywhere. they are often advertised on the TV, in the newspaper, on the radio, in magazines and in stores. A simple online search for sweepstakes will bring up hundreds of current sweepstakes also. When your shopping, look for "take one'' forms offering sweepstakes and make sure to enter local contests when shopping. The inserts in the Sunday newspaper arealso a good source of sweepstakes.
Reading The Rules
It is important to read the rules. Do not enter a sweepstakes without first reading the rules. This is important for online sweepstakes and mail-in sweepstakes. Most mail-in entries will consist of a 3X5 card or a 3x5 piece of paper with your name and address on it. Some sweepstakes will require a "qualifier'' to be sent with your entry. A qualifier is usually a phrase or the name of the sponsors product on a 3X5 card or paper. Many sweepstakes allow you to enter as often as you like, but on many others, only one entry is allowed. Every sweepstakes is different so you must follow the rules. Why go to the work of preparing several entries in a particular sweepstakes, only to have them disqualified because you did not prepare the entries correctly? Always hand print your mail-in entries, any mechanically produced entries will be disqualified.
You will usually enter online sweepstakes on the promoters website. If you are entering online sweepstakes regularly, it will be a big time-saver to use the autofill feature on your browser. There are many ways to find online sweepstakes. You may do your own searching on a search engine, but websites that list links to sweepstakes will be a great time saver. Before entering mail-in sweepstakes, you should go down to the local office supply store and purchase these items: plain 3x5 cards, plain 3x5 paper, #10 or smaller envelopes, pens and possibly a clipboard. Work on one job at a time. Filling out 3x5's at one time and addressing envelopes at another. This way you will be more productive than if you assembled one entry at a time. You may want to put your name and address on 3x5's and stockpile them for future entries. We recommend a good newsletter to find mail-in sweepstakes.
Improving your odds
Entering as many sweepstakes as you can find that appeal to you is one good way to start winning, but being selective can help you win without as much time and effort. Being selective of what you enter is one of the best ways to win often. Obviously, a sweepstakes that offers thousands of valuable prizes is a better sweepstakes than one that offers only one large prize. Entering several sweeps many times is also better than entering many different sweepstakes one time each. Think of the difference of entering a sweepstakes with one prize once as opposed to entering a sweepstakes with thousands of prizes 50 times. The latter example would have thousands of times better of a chance to win than the first example. What you want to do is win, and you can win by getting the odds in your favor. Below are some examples of good and bad sweepstakes, I will explain each of these below.
Many valuable prizes
2nd chance sweepstakes
Sweepstakes that are difficult to enter
Hard to find sweepstakes
Sweeps that have a very short entry deadline
Sweeps that are for a targeted audience
Games requiring a unique code
One or a few prizes
Multiple ways of entering (coupon or rebate form)
Only one entry allowed
Heavily advertised sweeps
Sweeps with a very long duration
Here is a brief discussion of the aspects of a good sweeps, enter these!
Many valuable prizes--this one is obvious. The more prizes available, the better your odds of winning one will be.
2nd chance drawings--Believe it or not! Most prizes in collect and win or match type games go unclaimed. Even in instant win type games a good percentage of prizes go unclaimed. Many of these games offer a second chance drawing for all prizes not claimed in the game portion of the sweepstakes. This is great for us since most people don't bother to enter the second chance drawing for unclaimed prizes. Your odds of winning some second chance drawings can be fantastic!
Local sweepstakes-- Because they are local there are far fewerentries than in a nationally advertised sweepstakes. Some local sweepstakes offer very nice prizes.
Sweepstakes that are difficult to enter--These include a number of different types of sweepstakes, such as: Sweeps that have long qualifiers. Sweeps that require you to send a self addressed stamped envelope to receive each entry or entry code. Sweeps that require you to answer a difficult question or fill out a survey. Many types of sweepstakes could fit into this category.
Hard to find sweeps--These are sweepstakes that are not heavily advertised and are not found in the typically high circulation magazines and newspapers. Sweeps that have a very short entry deadline-These sweeps you must enter fast. There is not time for many people to enter them especially with multiple entries.
Sweeps that are to a targeted audience--These are sweepstakes that are open to certain people. For example, a sweepstakes might be restricted to a certain age group.
Games requiring a unique code--These online sweepstakes are limited in entries to people who have either purchased the sponsors product or send for a code by mail.
Now you will see what kind of sweepstakes to spend less time on:
One or few prizes--Chances are slim of winning with only one prize offered, especially with only one entry.
Multiple ways of entering--You see a lot of these. The ones you can enter online or via a coupon or a rebate form. These sweeps should have more than an average amount of entries, lowering your chances of winning.
Only one entry allowed--It is more difficult to win a sweeps with one entry. Multiple entries is your best way of getting the odds of winning in your favor, if allowed.
Heavily advertised sweeps--You know the ones! They are everywhere, on TV on the radio, in the newspaper. These sweeps will draw huge amounts of entries.
Sweeps with a very long duration--These sweepstakes give the promoter a lot of time to advertise the sweeps and also allows the entrants a lot of time to enter and enter again and again.
Now you're starting to get an idea of what to look for. Once you find a desirable sweepstakes to enter, remember to enter often.
Entering often, is the key to winning. The more entries you send in, the better chance you have of winning. The number of times you enter a sweepstakes depends on your budget for mail-in sweepstakes and if allowed for online sweeps. Keep in mind that you're not going to win in every sweeps you enter but if you follow these guidelines you will win and win frequently.
When You Win
First off a warning! If you receive a notice or phone call stating you won a sweepstakes, and they ask for a fee to claim your prize, or require a purchase, THIS IS A SCAM! NEVER SEND MONEY TO CLAIM A PRIZE! It is very exciting when you win your first sweepstakes prize. Usually you will be required to fill out an affidavit and have it notarized and send it back to the judging agency. When you win a smaller prize you may just receive the prize in the mail. Most winners will be notified within a month or two of the end of the sweepstakes but occasionally it will take longer. Trust the judging agency, if you're a winner they will notify you. Some people will send for the winners list to see if they are on it, if you're on it you will already know, so don't bother.
A newsletter is a great tool to have when entering mail-in sweepstakes. There are several good newsletters available. The monthly newsletter ``Best Sweepstakes Newsletter'', features several of the best sweepstakes available every month along with listing about 45 other current sweepstakes. Each month there are subscriber articles, winner announcements, and other information. "Best Weekly" is a 6 page newsletter published weekly and lists 20-25 sweepstakes each issue. Information on these two newsletters is at www.bestsweepstakes.com.
There are several good websites available that list sweepstakes links.Our website lists only sweepstakes with prizes valued over $1,000 and is accessed free by newsletter subscribers.
A Few More Tips
1. When the word "plain" is used you must use white unlined papers & cards. Use paper for "paper", a card when rules ask for a "card". Only one entry per envelope. 3x5's must be mailed in envelopes. Always
print legibly on your 3x5's, never use rubber stamps, labels, etc.
2. Avoid using a PO Box for your address or sending entries with metered mail, because this is sometimes not allowed.
3. Envelopes usually can be typed (I prefer to hand address all my envelopes to be safe), but never if the rules say "mail in a hand addressed envelope". Number 10 envelopes (business size 4-1/8x9-1/2) are preferred since they are larger and are often required.
4. Return addresses are optional. You can use labels or rubber stamps for return addresses if you like.
5. Postcards may be used only if the rules ask for a "postcard". Postcards can be 3-1/2x5 to 4-1/4x6. Postcards may be purchased at the Post Office for $.33 each.
6. Sweepstaking is a hobby! Very few people win enough to live off of their winnings. Don't have too high of expectations.
7. Send at least one entry to each sweepstakes you would like to win. Most successful sweepstakers I talk to never send more than 20 or 30 entries to a sweepstakes (1000 entries doesn't guarantee a win).
8. Spread your entries over the life of the sweepstakes.
9. Enter more than the sweeps in this newsletter. be on the look out for in-store drawings, local drawings, Official entry form only sweeps, etc.
10. If it adds pleasure, decorate your envelopes. I don't believe it helps in national drawings, but it may give you an edge in local drawings.
11. If you don't want the prize offered, don't enter. A cash alternative is rarely offered.
12. Don' sweat the taxes! You only pay taxes on the "fair market value". Most people will have little if any tax burden from winning a trip, if you win a substantial prize it can always be sold.
13. Sweepstakes scams do exist, never give out credit card numbers, or pay money to claim a prize, even if it supposed to be for taxes or shipping charges. Any letter requesting money to claim a prize is bogus!
14. Formulate a budget for your hobby and stick to it.
15. Enter contests if you have a knack for writing short essays, photography, or cooking. They have far fewer entries than sweepstakes. A purchase is sometimes required to enter a skill contest though.
How To Enter And Win Online Sweepstakes
Entering sweepstakes is a fun and rewarding hobby. Most major sweepstakes promotions are available to be entered for free online. Companies offer sweepstakes to draw attention and create excitement about their product. A purchase can not be required to enter a random drawing.
There are so many sweepstakes available with prizes ranging from a T-shirt to a new home - and all that is necessary is a computer with an Internet connection and your time. The time you spend entering sweepstakes does not have to be work, but can really be fun, because you can let your imagination go wild with all the possible prizes you could win. If you are persistent, and a little patient, you will be successful and win regularly.
Online sweepstakes are usually presented in two ways - a random drawing - or an instant-win game. In a random drawing sweepstakes, all entries are included in a random drawing at the end of the promotion to determine the winner or winners. In an instant-win game, the entry time is usually predetermined prior to the promotion, and the person entering closest to the predetermined time is awarded the prize instantly.
Before you get started there are a few basic things you should do. You should set up an email address to be used only for the purpose to enter sweepstakes. There are several reasons this is a good idea. First, it will keep your sweepstaking hobby separate from your regular email account. Second, entering sweepstakes, can draw spam to your email address. It is a great time saver to set up the "autofill" feature on your browser. This way, you do not have to key in your name, address, phone number, etc. at each entry page you visit.
Tips for winning
All sweepstakes are not created equal. While it certainly does not hurt to enter all sweepstakes you come across since you can't win if you don't enter - and it isn't a bad strategy to enter everything, but time is valuable. Eventually you will learn to concentrate your time and effort on sweepstakes that will offer you the best chance of winning the prizes you want to win. You just need to give thought to your competition. For example, HGTV gives away a home each year and draws several million entries. This sweepstakes is heavily marketed, the prize is fantastic, and everyone enters! Now I certainly am not saying you should not enter this sweepstakes, by all means get your entry in. What I'm saying is, your chances of winning are slim. Also, many sweepstakes are limited to one entry per person, again this makes it more difficult to win. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands of sweepstakes going on at any given time that offer a prize or prizes worth well over $1,000. If you are persistent, you will claim your share of these prizes. Some of the sweepstakes that are your best bet for winning are:
Local Sweepstakes or regional sweepstakes - These sweepstakes draw fewer entries and can be very good.
Unique Code Sweepstakes - These sweepstakes have fewer entries because you either need to buy a product to participate, or send for a free unique code by mail. Many soft drink and candy promotions are run this way. It is often just as cheap to buy the product to enter as to send for unique codes.
Survey sweepstakes - It is work to fill out a survey, many people will not bother.
Skill contests - These require thought and work, there will be much fewer entries in a skill contest than a sweepstakes. It can be relatively easy to win a contest if you are skilled in writing, photography, cooking or other specialty the contests is requiring. Skill contests can legally require a purchase as the entry is chosen on skill rather than at random.
Hard to find sweepstakes - Few people will enter these sweepstakes.
Sweepstakes targeted to a limited audience - These sweepstakes will also have fewer entries, giving you a better chance at winning.
Another thing to consider is how many times you are allowed to enter. I would say most online sweepstakes are limited to one entry per person, many allow one entry per day - and this would give you more opportunities to win.
Where To Find Sweepstakes
By now you might be wondering, how do I find the best sweepstakes to enter? There are many sources and ways to find great sweepstakes to enter. The most obvious way would be to do a search on a search engine such as google or yahoo. A better option would be to find a website that offers links to current sweepstakes. There are many of these also, some are free, but heavy with advertising. Others offer only a few sweepstakes to enter. Others yet, charge a subscription fee to use their service. If you are serious about this hobby, you will eventually subscribe to one or more of these websites.
One last thought. Sweepstakes used to be entered only by mail, and still are in many cases. If you are interested in expanding your hobby, or going in this direction, a sweepstakes newsletter will be a very helpful asset to you. We recommend the newsletters offered at www.bestsweepstakes.com if you would like to enter mail-in sweepstakes.
Don't Ignore Entering By Mail
It's hard not to notice that sweepstakes have proliferated online. Most all companies, marketers, and even blogs have taken advantage of offering their sweepstakes promotions online. They are easy and cheaper to run online. The old days of mailing in a postcard to enter seems to have all but disappeared. This has been generally accepted as a good thing by a lot of people that enter sweepstakes because there are no longer postage and paper costs. There are dozens of sites listing sweepstakes links without charge also. Our site also has a database of online sweepstakes with prize values over $1,000 available to all of our newsletter subscribers.
The only problem is, there is much, much more competition to win online sweepstakes! I believe that the sweepstakes that are more "winnable", turn out it be the very sweepstakes that you probably do not enter online. We believe that it is much more likely to win a prize in a sweepstakes that is not entered by the masses online. In other words, the sweepstakes with fewer entrants and much better odds of winning.
While you should still enter sweepstakes online, I am more inclined to put my energy into sweepstakes that are often ignored by the masses of online entrants. These sweepstakes may include promotions offered without an online entry such as mail-in entries or text entries. I also see many sweepstakes that are available to enter online, but may require you to make a purchase, fill out a lengthy survey, or join a rewards program. The trick here is that the sponsors must make a means of entry without a purchase, which is usually by mail. In some cases of large instant-win games, a code is required from a purchase to enter online. Sometimes it is fairly cheap to purchase a product for a code, such as a can of soda, a hamburger, or candy bar - but, you may also obtain a free code to enter often by mail. Some of these promotions are relatively easy to win. Also, for those without online access, you still have as good a chance as any when you enter by mail. This is because most all online sweepstakes have some type of entry limitation, such as one entry per person - and your mail-in entry has just as much chance to win.
This is where YOU have a big advantage over the masses of entries received for online sweepstakes. We are geared to mail-in sweepstakes, and put a lot of effort into finding sweepstakes that are difficult to enter online or not available for online entry. So, continue entering by mail knowing that your odds of winning are likely better than winning most large online sweepstakes.