What Is A Rain Check?

Do you wait for your local sales announcements, and rush to the store to cash in on the too-good-to-be-true pricing? If so, you have probably experienced the “empty shelf” syndrome. Hot sales prices on one or two advertised items can drive customers in quickly, depleting the stock on hand. Late comers must choose between purchasing alternate higher priced items or checking back regularly in hopes of finding the item restocked.

A third choice is available, providing a blessing in disguise for smart shoppers. This choice is the “rain check”.
A Little Back Ground First:
In 1971, the Federal Trade Commission issued the Retail Food Store Advertising and Marketing Practices rule; also know as the “Unavailability Rule”. Amended in 1989, the Unavailability Rule protects consumers against grocery stores that advertise bargains to attract customers but fail to have adequate stock available. Unless an advertised sale states clearly and adequately that “quantities are limited” or “not available at all locations”, the store must offer customers a comparable offer, either:
  • A "rain check" that allows customers to buy the item later at the advertised price
  • A substitute item of comparable value to the sale item
  • Some kind of compensation that is at least equal in value to the advertised item
Most stores offer customers a “rain check”. These paper vouchers are a valuable “I.O.U.” guaranteeing consumers receive the same sale price at a later date of the customers choosing. Consumers are not required to check back during the advertised sales period. Rain check vouchers are available immediately at any time during an advertised sale, whether or not the store receives, or plans to receive, an additional supply. And to ensure the product is available in the future, rain checks are typically valid for up to one year from date of issuance.

This provides some key advantages to obtaining rock bottoms prices:

Rain checks are sales, not coupons, and can be combined with other manufacturer offers. New coupons or additional special offers and rebates may be issued during the rain check period, providing an even lower overall cost.

Rain checks are not required to be redeemed. They can be used during another promotion on the same item; if the “current sale” price is higher, use the rain check to receive the lower sale price. If the “current sale” prices are lower, save the rain check and purchase at the current sale price. Or, if the store is out of stock once again, pick up another rain check for the better price.

If storage, refrigerator, or freezer space is an issue, “capture the savings” on the rain check, and wait until space is available before purchasing the items.

If items are not needed immediately, or a stockpile has already been purchased, save the rain check until it’s needed. Purchasing items later generally provides fresher product with a later expiration date.

If you know income or finances will be limited in an upcoming month, stockpile rain check sale prices along with your coupons to stretch your grocery dollars during that period.

There are several techniques to augment the value of rain checks. Some consumers check back to see if the items have been restocked during the sale, and receive an additional rain check with every inquiry. hey may also check with different store locations within the same grocery chain: rain checks can be received at each store where the product is unavailable. Also, if a store is out of only one specific product or flavor, e.g., the store is out of Kraft Fat Free Ranch salad dressing, but other flavors are in stock, a rain check can be received for the Kraft salad dressing sale price.

So, next time you find the perfect sale, you might not need to rush out to the store. Just remember to walk up to the customer service desk and get a rain check.



  1. Deb Dorrington

    I get a rain check when the item on sale is out of stock and then I add it to a coupon and get even more savings

  2. Okay this was a very interesting article able a rain check,I will have to take heed to this advice the next time I ran across a sale, especially after the thanksgiving sales

  3. I was aware of rain checks, but I didn't know that they were good for an entire year. Thanks.

  4. This explains alot about rain checks. now maybe I can take advantage next time my item is on sale and out of stock. Thank you for the post

  5. thanks for such an informative article. I learned something new today!
    joann tompkins winborn

  6. I never really thought about laws concerning Rain-Checks. Thanks for the informative text here.

  7. My Grandma has been sending me to stores, and telling me to get rain checks for a couple years now...She's a super saver. I always hated doing it for her, because I would never do it for myself. Now that I've started using coupons and trying to save, I get it..She's a wise woman.

  8. Great article on rain checks. I didnt know you could get a rain check unless they were out of the item you wanted. Tho I do get rain checks especially if its for something good thats on sale. Thanks for the info

  9. I love rainchecks. If it is not in stock I always ask for one. Rite Aide will give you the raincheck and then if it takes awhile to come in they will give you the items at the sale price. I ended up buying Cheerz in November and only paying $1.25 for the medium size..it was a great deal

  10. Thanks for the info on rain checks. I use them all the time but wasn't aware that they didn't expire for one year. They assure you get stuff still at awesome prices.

  11. I usually get a rain check when I can't get the particular variety that I want. The other day the waffles were on sale,, but, they only had original, I wanted the blueberry.

  12. Since the last time I read your post now ask for rain checks when sale items are out of stock, it has saved us alot of money. Thanks for the great post

  13. i never bothered to ask for a rain check, i figured there out there out, so would purchase something else but now i will make sure to ask and keep some coins in my pocket ;) Thanks @tisonlyme143

  14. I would like to know where the term "rain" check came from rather than something else like return check or something else.

  15. Thanks for the information. Now I have a new option on what to do when something on sale is out.