[Originally posted: June 17, 2014]
Back in the day, one of the few ways that you could save money was to use coupons at a store. When you did that you saved money on the price of a product or service. Today, there are online coupons (coupon codes) you can use when you shop online. If you do not get a coupon code because of a promotion, try using google to search for “coupon code [online store name]” and you may be able to save a few dollars. But coupons really only save you money, they do not literally give you money back. This is where reward shopping programs come into place. You get paid to shop. Credit card companies have cash back rewards where you can earn money back if you follow certain requirements. Check with your banks and credit card companies to see if you are eligible. I know I received cash back for eating at Five Guys last week and for pumping gas at Wawa just for using my debit card and it did not cost me anything extra except my time to activate the reward. The focus of this post will be on cash back programs for online retailers. Cash back programs, such as eBates and Fatwallet, give you cash back for shopping with any of their retailer partners. That is the gist of it in one sentence. Retailers pay cash back programs like eBates to incentivize their customers to shop with them. Then those cash back programs pay you to use those retailers. So, if you go to the retailer site through the cash back program, then you earn money that is placed in your account. After a certain period of time, say quarterly, you receive a check in the mail for the amount in your account. Make sense? No? Hmmm. Okay. Let me see if I can explain this a little better.
Here's a flowchart I put together. I shop a lot on Amazon and it is one of the retailers that has a partnership with many cash back programs including the ones listed in my chart. Under Cash Back Program Deal is the deal that exists for today (6.16.14) for each of these programs. Comparing each of the deals, it looks like BeFrugal.com has the best deal today. This could change at any time, which is why you have to be diligent if you want to get the best deal. The key to using any of these cash back programs is that you go to the retailer site through the cash back program. In the above example, if I decide to use befrugal.com as my program then (1) make sure you are enrolled in their program and (2) go to befrugal.com and search for Amazon.com. It will then take you to the Amazon.com site and you shop as you normally would. Then after you check out, if you check your account on befrugal, you should see the amount of cash back you received for your purchase and you will get a check for that amount after some time. BUT some things to keep in mind:
- Sometimes the deals you see are only for selected departments. You have to check the cash back program for the details.
- When you actually get the cash back will depend on the cash back program. Some are monthly, some are quarterly, and some require you accumulate a minimum of $25 before they will send a check. You have to check the cash back program for the details.
- If you are using a cash back program and you've met all the minimum requirements but have never received a check, make sure you have completed all required information. Make sure you have entered your information to receive cash back under account settings. You have to check the cash back program for the details.
- It is up to you but I would not recommend only using one cash back program, join a few. One cash back program may be great for apparel but if you're buying technology, another may have a better deal. You have to check the cash back program for the details.
Do you see the pattern? You have to check the cash back program for the details. Each cash back program has the same general idea but differs in the details and the deals they give on a daily basis. In researching for this article, I came across two handy tips. Here is an edited screenshot of my browser (b/c I can't do a scrolling screen grab) showing two tools that will help you in getting cash back.
- SavingCashBack.com is a fantastic website. They do a comparison of different cash back programs for any retailer you search for. They also have a bookmarklet that you can save to your bookmarks. If you have the bookmarklet saved, when you go to a website, you click the bookmarklet and it will analyze the site and compare different cash back programs without leaving the site itself. Handy!
- If you are using eBates, then get the browser extension. it will indicate to you if a website you are visiting has an eBate deal. And if it does have a deal, it will tell you if you have activated that deal or not. Go to eBates Button for more information. For other cash back programs, do a Google search to see if they have a browser extension or button. If you'd like use ebates referral link, click here (please note that this is a referral link and that I get bonus for referring you. There is no extra cost for you).
Keep in mind that this article is by no means a comprehensive, end all be all explanation about cash back programs. Think of it as a primer. Go forth and do your own research and look into some cash back programs yourself. Below are some links to help you out with that. Cash Back Program Resources:
- How to Find the Biggest Cash Back Bonus for Anything You Buy
- Google Search: Cash Back Comparison
- Ebates video on Cash Back Program (while eBates focused, it is a good overview of what Cash Back Programs do)
Some Things You Ought To Know: Use a Cash Back Program When you Shop to Earn Money