What AMOE Means and Why Sweepstakes Use Them

Different methods for entering sweepstakes
Some sweepstakes offer many alternate ways to enter. Image (c) chokkicx / Getty Images

"AMOE" is a term you'll often see in sweepstakes rules. It's an acronym that might seem intimidating, the meaning is actually quite simple. AMOE stands for "Alternate Method of Entry." It's used when sweepstakes have more than one way for people to enter.

It's important to pay attention to AMOEs for a few different reasons:

  1. You can use them to enter giveaways when the primary entry method doesn't work for you. For example, if you can't get a form on a webpage to load, you could look if the giveaway offers an AMOE by mail.
  2. In some circumstances, sweepstakes use AMOEs to let you enter for free instead of using a purchase. Using an AMOE in this way lets the companies avoid being categorized as an illegal lottery. For example, you might see an AMOE offered if you can guy something to get an entry, but you have the option of using an AMOE to enter for free.
  3. AMOEs might give you more convenient ways of entering. For example, a giveaway might require you to share a photo on Instagram to enter online, but if you don't want to share a picture, you can use an AMOE to enter by mail.

Common AMOE's

Some of the most common alternate entry methods include:

  • Online entry forms
  • Email entry
  • Entry by mail
  • Telephone entry
  • Entering through social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram
  • Sharing the giveaway on Facebook or other social media channels
  • In-person entry at stores, restaurants, or events
  • Text message entry

Why Sweepstakes Offer AMOE's

Sometimes, sweepstakes offer an alternate entry method to make it easier for people to enter. Most companies want as many people as possible to enter.

But an important reason why many sweepstakes offer an AMOE has to do with consideration.

A giveaway cannot legally have all three of the following attributes:

  • A winner drawn by chance.
  • A prize that has value.
  • Consideration, or the exchange of money or something of value to enter.

For example, sweepstakes can't legally require people to spend money to enter. So if a sweepstakes has an entry method that involves any kind of monetary benefit for the company, like a purchase or donation, they must offer an alternate entry method.

The AMOE must also have exactly equal odds of winning as any other form of entry. The sponsor cannot offer two entries with a purchase but one entry by mail, for example. So you don't have to worry that using a free entry method instead of making a purchase hurts your chances of being chosen as a winner.

Consideration is a tricky issue because the money spent doesn't have to directly benefit the sponsoring company. It can be difficult to determine what exactly falls under consideration laws. Even internet access for online sweepstakes has been questioned.

According to the article, Don't Gamble with Internet Sweepstakes:

"There has been some concern that requiring a computer and/or Internet access to enter a sweepstakes could be deemed consideration. However, as long as consumers are not specifically induced to purchase Internet access and/or a computer for the purpose of participating in a promotion, Internet sweepstakes are not likely to be deemed an illegal lottery on that basis alone."

To be safe, however, many internet sweepstakes offer a mail-in entry AMOE to be sure that they are not falling afoul of illegal lottery laws.

AMOEs not only have to be available, they also have to be easy to find. Some big retailers have gotten in legal trouble for offering an AMOE that wasn't clear to entrants. For example, sweepstakes lawyers Thompson Coburn posted about a $100,000+ settlement A&P made after the New York Attorney General determined they hadn't been clear enough that a giveaway had a non-purchase entry method.

Advantages of Using AMOEs

 There are several factors to consider when choosing an entry method. For example:

  • Some AMOEs might require less work than others (for example, needing to submit a photo or a recipe that won't be judged).
  • Some AMOEs will ask for less personal information (many mail-in AMOEs, for example, don't need your email address).
  • Sometimes, you'll save money using a free versus with-purchase entry method (though if you are buying a qualifying product anyway, that might be the easiest way for you to enter).

Legally, companies are not allowed to offer better odds with some entry methods over others. You are free to decide which entry method is most convenient for you.

How to Find Out Which AMOEs Are Available

Companies are required to disclose all entry methods in their sweepstakes rules, as well as anywhere they are advertising the giveaway.