Winning Internet Sweepstakes

This article is about entering and winning sweepstakes on the Internet.

Companies want consumers' attention, good will and ultimately, business. One way companies "win" these things is by giving consumers the chance to win sweepstakes prizes through mail-in contests, call-ins or the Internet. These prizes can be as small as a gift basket or a bag of coffee. They can be as large as an automobile, a house or millions of dollars.

This article will focus on strategies and techniques for winning Internet sweepstakes and look at the types of sweepstakes out there.

The key investment for Internet sweepstakes is time. None have an unlimited supply so we need to strategize how to use what time we have. This applies to sweepstakes, as well. For example, I seldom bother with sweepstakes that allow entries "every five minutes." You are competing with people who have a lot of time on their hands and really want that particular prize. Sweepstakes with longer lengths of time required between entries seems a better use of time. Usually the categories are daily, weekly, monthly and once. Designate a set day during the week to enter weeklies and one during the month for monthlies. It is best to choose a day in the middle of the month for monthlies. This is because those who enter more than once are often disqualified and drawing dates can vary by a few days at the beginning or end of each month.

It is important to keep track of which contests you've entered. One option is to look for sweepstakes record-keeping software that is often advertised on sweepstakes sites. Another method is to bookmark the daily contests you like and just go down the list each day. This can also work for weeklies. For monthlies and "onces," I keep a running list in alphabetical order in a word processing document.

Another way to strategize involves what prizes to register for. Realize that winners are responsible for taxes, which can be a substantial percentage of the prize's value. Think about whether you can afford to pay the taxes before entering for a particular prize. For cash prizes, this isn't a problem. Just give Uncle Sam part of the prize money. Some winners of items like luxury cars have been known to sell the vehicle, pay the taxes and pocket the rest. Winners of homes can probably get loans to cover a good part of the taxes and still wind up paying far less than they would if they bought a similar home. For trips, this can get tricky. Be sure you want the trip, can afford the taxes and that it is practical for your lifestyle. A single person, for example, probably wouldn't want to win a trip designed for a family of four, as many prize trips are. Even if you pass such a prize on (assuming that the rules allow that), someone still has to pay the taxes.

Smaller prizes have the advantage of little or no tax liability. Your chance of winning is often far greater, both because fewer people conscientiously enter these contests and because far more of these prizes are offered.

Another issue to be aware of is privacy. Some companies run sweepstakes solely to gain consumers' good will. They ask for only enough personal information so that they can contact you if you win. These companies assure entrants that they won't be targeted for solicitation and that entrants' contact information will not be sold to other companies.

Other contests, particularly companies that specialize in running sweepstakes and get corporations to give them prizes in exchange for promotional consideration and entrants' personal information, ask for much more. I would not enter contests that require information like occupation, size of family, income, education level, etc. Other people would. In either case, make an informed choice and know that your information very likely will be used to target you for marketing in the future.

On a related note, if you don't want your e-mail box filled daily, read contest entry information carefully. Simply by entering some contests, you are signing up for their e-newsletter. Most sites are up front about this. Some others give visitors the chance to opt in or opt out of mailing lists. This field usually is down near the "submit" button. Some people even set up a separate e-mail account for their sweepstakes communications.

So where are all these contests? The Internet is filled not only with contests, but also with web sites dedicated to listing those contests. Just typing in "sweepstakes" or "contests" in any search engine will lead you to them. Be sure to look for "related links" or "web rings" on these sites as they often promote each other. Signs of a good sweepstakes site include categorizing contests by prize as well as frequency, daily additions of new contests and having a large number contests. Some sites send out daily or weekly e-mail listings of new contests, with links directly to the contests.

Also, if you visit a particular company site and notice it regularly has contests, keep checking back with that site. You might find out about a contest before the contest sites do.

It can also be a good idea to check newsgroups or bulletin boards using the keyword "sweepstakes." These groups consist of sweepstakes enthusiasts who share information about contests they have found. Adding contests yourself is a good way to get to know these fellow "sweepers" and helps the group thrive. If everyone "lurks" and just gets information without giving anything, these groups would die out.

Most of all, have fun with it. Don't let sweepstaking become work. That can happen. Just enjoy it as a hobby. Enjoy the pleasure of tracking down a prize opportunity that is just right for you or would make a great present for someone else. Enjoy the anticipation of knowing that in the sweepstakes world, any day can become Christmas.

© High Speed Ventures 2011