I’ve been using cash back websites for well over a decade, and I’ve recommended them to many of my friends and family. It’s one of the best ways to save money on your online purchases. If you’re like me, you try to never buy anything at full price. When something is on sale, that’s a perfect opportunity to save even more money by stacking the sale price with the cash back through an online shopping portal.
How Does it Work?
It’s pretty simple. Instead of going directly to the online retailer’s website, you first visit a cash back site that will track your visit and re-direct you to the retailer. From there, you simply follow the normal procedure to complete a purchase. Within a few days, the retailer will notify the cash back site that you made a purchase and the money will be deposited in your cash back account. There’s often a waiting period before you can actually receive the cash though. I believe this is to safeguard against returned and refunded items.
Here’s a quick summary of how the payment process works:
- You pay the retailer for the goods/services.
- The retailer pays the cash back website a commission for sending you to their site and making a purchase.
- The cash back website pays you a portion of their commission.
My Experience with Ebates
I first started out using FatWallet, which recently transitioned to another popular site called Ebates. I’ve only made one purchase since the transition and overall, it’s been a positive experience. On a $60 purchase, I saved a total of $31, or 51 percent. Here’s the breakdown:
- $10 bonus cash back for completing a purchase after transitioning from FatWallet
- 10% cash back on the actual purchase ($6)
- $15 statement credit on my credit card from using Amex Offers
After about a week or so, I noticed that my purchase hadn’t been reported so I filed a claim. Ebates did have record of the click-through to the retailer so I filled out an online form with some of my order details (order number, sub-total, total, etc.). The system credited my account immediately. Simple and efficient. Just the way I like it.
Unlike FatWallet, where you had to request a payment, Ebates automatically pays out once per quarter. You can choose to receive a physical check in the mail or receive payment by Paypal.
So far, so good with Ebates. The interface is cleaner than FatWallet, and most importantly, the cash back rates appear to be higher. If you’d like to try Ebates, you can sign up through my Ebates referral link and receive a $10 bonus after making your first purchase.
My Experience with TopCashBack
Overall, I’ve had a good experience with TopCashBack, although there have been a few hiccups. Their cash back rates appear to be even higher than Ebates and they even claim they have the highest rates. If you see a higher rate elsewhere, they want you to let them know about it.
I’ve only had one issue with my cash back not reporting. Their online form to submit a claim is nowhere near as easy as the one provided by Ebates though. Although to be fair, this was awhile ago so it’s possible the process has been improved. At the time, the entire process was convoluted and could have taken a several months to investigate. Ultimately I decided that $3 or $4 wasn’t worth the hassle.
The other hiccup was due to semantics. Around the holidays, they were running a bonus cash back day. The email I received said they were adding 10% to all cash back rates. What they really meant was they were adding 10% of the current cash back to the rates. Perhaps I should have known better, but the wording really wasn’t that great.
TopCashBack offers more payment options than Ebates. You can receive payment by check, Paypal, Amazon gift card, or automated clearing house (ACH). If you choose an Amazon gift card, you also get a 3% bonus.
If you’d like to try TopCashBack, you can sign up through my TopCashBack referral link and earn a $15 bonus after your complete your first purchase.
Tips when Using Cash Back Sites
Did you notice from my experiences that I had issues with both sites regarding my cash back? While they have steps in place to help you, it’d be wise to not count on that cash back if you’re ever in a position where you’re trying to decide whether or not to make a purchase. In other words, don’t buy something you can’t afford if the cash back site is the make-or-break factor.
In my Ebates example, I was able to tack on some additional savings by using a specific credit card. If you have multiple credit cards and one of them offers bonus cash back on spending in specific categories, make sure you use the correct card to increase your savings.
(Featured Image Attribution: “Cash” by Daniel Borman is licensed under CC BY Attribution 2.0 Generic)