Winning a prize and not being able to use it is a common problem for sweepstakes fans. Maybe your plans have changed since you entered to win that trip, or you've moved and can't use that pool install anymore. It's heartbreaking to have to decline a prize, but sometimes a cash option lets you enjoy your success, even if you can't use the prize you entered to win.
What Cash Options Are
Cash options are a feature that some giveaways offer their winners. If for some reason, the winner can't use or doesn't want a prize, they can choose to take cash prize instead.
Sometimes, the cash amount that is offered is the same as the prize's approximate retail value (ARV). In other cases, the cash option may be less than the value of the prize.
Cash options are great for sweepers; if you can't go on a trip or you have no use for the prize you ended up getting, you can still receive something everyone needs more of... money.
How Can You Get a Cash Option for Your Prize?
In most cases, if a cash option is on the table, it will be listed in the sweepstakes' rules. For example, the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes has been listing a cash option in their rules for years. The winners can either take possession of the house itself or they can settle for a lower cash value and not have to worry about selling a prize they can't afford to keep.
If a cash option is listed in the rules, everything is simple -- you just need to say that's the prize you want to accept.
If no cash option is listed in the rules, you should accept that your chances of getting one aren't high.
There's nothing wrong with politely asking, "Is a cash option available instead of my prize?" But pushing any harder for cash if the sponsor says no seems ungrateful, and probably won't get you anywhere. It's one of the things you shouldn't do when you win a giveaway.
Do Giveaways Have to Offer Cash Options?
There's no guarantee that a cash option will be available. Many people make the assumption that they can always receive cash in lieu of prizes, but unless it's stated in the rules, sponsors don't have to offer a cash option -- and they usually don't.
Many times, the sponsor isn't simply handing over the ARV for the prize. They might have partnered with other companies to put together a prize package. For example, a hotel may have donated the room, an airline offered discounted fares, and a restaurant a free gift card in return for being listed as a partner on the sweepstakes page.
So in many cases, it's not just a case of the sponsor buying the trip where they can just give you cash instead.
In other situations, the sponsor has already purchased the prize; they've already spent the money, so they don't have it available for a cash option.
Even when that's not the case, the sponsor may have other reasons for not offering a cash option for a trip prize.
If you are running a giveaway and want to know what you can do if a winner requests a cash option, the Thompson Colburg law blog has a good breakdown of your options for when winners request changes to their prizes.
What Can You Do If There's No Cash Option?
So if you can't take a trip you won, and the sponsor doesn't readily agree to a cash option, simply decline the prize. It's frustrating to turn down a prize you have rightfully won, but it means that the trip prize will go to someone who can use it well, and maybe you'll improve your luck with the good karma.
If you have won a physical prize that you don't need, you can sell it on eBay or one of these other places to sell stuff online.
Have more questions about winning trips? See these Vacation Prize FAQs for answers to the most commonly asked questions about vacation wins.