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Stimulated Shopping

The $152 billion in economic stimulus payments making their way to 130 million households through July are supposed to jump-start the economy. But with news that about half of Americans planned to use their IRS-issued rebates to pay off debt, retailers are offering wallet-friendly incentives to cut your costs—and attract your business.

At supermarket chains Kroger, Albertsons, Fry’s Food Stores, Shop-n-Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, you can redeem your stimulus check for store gift cards worth an additional 10 percent. That translates, for example, to $330 in store credit for a $300 rebate check. Some require a store club card to get the credit, so check ahead.

Safeway has started cashing stimulus checks for free and providing a 10 percent discount certificate to Club Card members for purchases made that day or the following day.

Sears and Kmart are also offering a 10 percent bonus for rebate checks converted into store gift cards. Wal-Mart is cashing rebate checks for free and says it will cut prices on various items. At RadioShack, you can save 10 percent on purchases of $50 or more made when payment is made with your rebate check (or tax refund) between May 4 and July 12; any unspent balance will be placed on a prepaid MasterCard that can be used as a cash card wherever MasterCard is accepted.

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