Winners in the recent Bankrate Drop Your Debt Sweepstakes each received a check for $10,000, and several have been putting the windfall to good use to pay down debt, build up emergency savings and take a vacation.

A pleasant surprise

It took awhile for reality to sink in for the winners, who initially felt pure surprise upon learning they’d won $10,000.

“I was in complete shock and almost didn’t believe that I had actually won,” says Andrea, one of the winners. “After verifying that I had legitimately won, I was extremely happy and also felt very blessed to have been one of the winners. $10,000 is a significant amount of money, and I am so grateful to Bankrate.”

Irene, another winner, shared a similar sense of disbelief. “I honestly thought it wasn’t real,” she says. “I mean, who wins $10,000? I have been entering sweepstakes for over 30 years and have won many little prizes, including T-shirts, gift cards and even a trip to Nashville. This is, by far, the biggest win ever!”

When he learned he won, Derek, another sweepstakes winner, felt relief at first, followed by “feeling lucky and fortunate,” he says.

Big plans for the winnings

Once the shock wore off, winners started making plans to use the prize money to reduce debt, get finances back on track and enjoy some fun activities.

“As I recently purchased a new car, I took a portion of the money and paid it towards my auto loan,” Andrea says, adding that the remainder of her winnings were placed into a “rainy day fund for emergencies that may pop up.”

After initially placing the winnings in savings, Irene plans to treat her family to a trip to Disneyland and also to “just enjoy a nice staycation.”

Derek used the prize money to both pay off some debts and increase savings. “I also invested some in crypto,” he adds.

Bankrate as a personal finance tool

When asked how they use Bankrate as a source of personal finance information, winners reported using the savings calculators, reading the latest articles and checking out the Bankrate Instagram posts.

“I feel as if I have gained so much knowledge around different facets of finance via the Bankrate Instagram,” Andrea says. “I am also very fond of the savings calculators on the Bankrate website, and utilize them whenever there is a large purchase that I am saving for.”

Derek reads up on the latest market news through articles from Bankrate, he says. “I had recently signed up for Bankrate prior to learning about the sweepstakes.”

Anyone can create a free Bankrate account to access interactive quizzes, learn from money experts, monitor daily rate trends and keep tabs on spending.

“I sincerely thank [Bankrate] for the opportunities that [winning the sweepstakes] opened up for me and for the long-missing smile it put on my face,” Irene says.