Guide and reviews to Cash Back Shopping Sites.

Have you ever had a credit card that offers cash back on purchases? Or used a coupon or gift card that is in effect equivalent to free money? If so, you already have some idea of how cash back shopping sites work. Read more below on the pros and cons of each site and get reviews of how the largest cash back sites work.

There are two different methods for signing up. One is you create an account with the website, then log in before doing your online shopping. A second option is to create an account with a cash back site then to install a browser extension or use a phone app that activates automatically when you go online.

Once logged in or installed, you then click through to the merchant you plan to shop with, then just do your shopping as you normally would. Thousands of stores, both online and stores, are listed on these cash back websites. In theory, almost all of your shopping can be completed using these services. The cash back site then usually deposits some percentage of your total spend to your account. In addition, many of them even offer signup bonuses, so you can earn some money that way.

So why would a cash back site pay you to shop in this way? Why are they free to use and sign up for? There are two primary ways these sites make money:

  • They get a "referral bonus" from the merchant, which they then share with you.
  • They collect valuable "big picture" marketing data about how, when and where people shop for things.

Things to Look For at a Cash Back Shopping Site

Obviously, the main thing you'll be looking at is the percentage of cash back offered per purchase. The higher the better, as it is in effect free money. This isn't a flat rate on all of your purchases, however. Sites have different arrangements (and offer different amounts) for each merchant they partner with.

 

 

 

 

In addition to the list of partner merchants and the amounts offered, you'll want to consider all of the following:

  • The available payment methods (check, bank transfer, credit card, PayPal and so on).
  • The minimum amount required to receive a payment.
  • The number of stores available to shop at, and do they meet your needs.
  • How often you can cash out.
  • Ensure they are free to sign up for, which they should all be.
  • Caps on rebate amounts for big purchases.
  • Whether free coupon services can also be combined on the cash back site for further savings and income opportunities.
  • Whether they offer a browser extension or mobile application that suits your preferences.
  • If they collect shopping data, and whether or not it is anonymized.
  • Signup bonuses.

The Biggest and Best Cash Back Shopping Sites

The following reviews are the biggest and most reputable of the cash back shopping sites, and the ones that shoppers most frequently use. The websites have the most customers, retailers, members, and savings! They also do not charge membership fees and are free to use.

Ebates

Ebates is one of the most familiar names in the cashback shopping world, having been around since 1998. They were one of the first sites to offer a mobile app that can be used to scan barcodes at retail stores, and support pretty much all of the major internet browsers.

 

 

 

 

Pros:

  • Browser extension that notifies you of available offers when you visit any partner website.
  • Thousands of retailers are available to shop at, including major companies such as Amazon.
  • Very broad range of available sites and shopping categories.
  • Requires very little personal information to sign up.
  • Welcome bonus after spending $25 within the first 90 days.

Cons:

  • You can't have more than one account per household (based on your IP address).
  • Balance is only paid out four times a year (every three months starting in February).
  • Maximum rebate of $50 on larger purchases.

Ebates has many other aspects to it. But is is one of the largest and most well known cash back rebate site. Learn more about Ebates.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an interesting site that blends a number of different online money-making activities that anyone can do. This allows families the ability to earn even more money from multiple sources. Cash back rebates are a significant portion of their offerings, however, with over 1,000 partner merchants including many of the biggest names in retail. Shoppers earn "swagbucks" both from their shopping and activities on the site, and cash these in for various rewards.

Pros:

  • Added activities for earning money including surveys, games and watching videos, all of which pay out.
  • Instant cashouts with very small minimums.
  • Cash back percentage goes as high as 8% with some of their merchants.

Cons:

  • One extra non-automated step to getting rewards (using Swagbucks to buy a reward).
  • You can receive PayPal funds, but there is no way to get a direct check or bank transfer.

BeFrugal

Though BeFrugal offers cash back options at thousands of stores, the site has an added focus on coupons. That's because it started as a coupon site back in 2009 before adding cash back shopping options (and quickly growing to become one of the largest of these sites).

 

 

 

Pros:

  • Usually has the largest range of merchants available online, and save even more money by using free coupons on the site.
  • Direct added coupon offers at many merchants
  • Widest range of cash-out options (check, direct deposit, PayPal or gift cards).
  • Has a browser extension with automatic offer notifications at merchant sites (like Ebates).
  • 125% "best cashback rate guarantee" that matches to many of their competitors.

Cons:

  • Minimum cashout amount of $25.
  • You can request a cashout at any time once over $25, but it can take up to two months to process.

Mr. Rebates

Mr. Rebates is one of the longer-running cash back sites, first established in 2002. The site has a simple and clean interface that it hasn't messed with much over time as users tend to love it, but they have also modernized by adding browser extensions and mobile apps.

Pros:

  • Minimum cashout threshold of only $10 (and can be requested anytime).
  • One of the larger selections of retailers available.
  • Offers a signup bonus.

Cons:

  • Can take up to 90 days to receive your cash.
  • Purchases may not appear in your account for up to 30 days.

Honey

Like BeFrugal, Honey was originally conceived as a coupon search site. It's continued to have that function, but a free cash back element has also been introduced. "Honey Gold" is their rebate program, offered at select partner sites in addition to any coupon savings that are available.

 

 

 

 

Pros:

  • Has an innovative browser extension that not only searches a site for the best price on a type of item, but will also search for coupon codes to apply to it.
  • Offers a significant bonus amount on your first purchase.
  • Tracks product prices over time across merchant partner sites and can be set to email you when prices drop to a certain point with coupon savings.

Cons:

  • Honey Gold can only be redeemed for gift cards.
  • While Honey does price and coupon searches for nearly every major retailer, only select retailers and product types are eligible for Honey Gold.

TopCashBack

TopCashBack was founded in 2005 in the United Kingdom and quickly became that region's largest and most popular cash back portal. The site expanded to the United States in 2012 and has experienced similar success.

Pros:

  • Added 3% bonus when you choose to cash out with an Amazon gift card, and since Amazon is the largest online shopping site it can allow you to save even more money.
  • Usually has the highest cashback rates on Amazon.
  • Can have multiple accounts per household / IP address, so open an account for each family or household member.
  • Periodic contests that give you a high chance of winning bonus funds.
  • Frequent added bonuses with a minimum spend at certain merchants.

Cons:

  • Can take up to 90 days to receive your money.
  • If you have to file a claim for a missing or inaccurate purchase, there is no guaranteed timeframe in which it must be resolved (users report resolution times ranging from 2-12 months).

Making the Most of Cash Back Sites

There's no reason to not use multiple cash back sites. Also, combine the free money you can earn (and the savings) with coupons and other sources of funds, even such as cash back credit cards. Just keep in mind that you can't use them simultaneously, and spreading things around too thin might cause your cashouts to take a long time. Percentages and available product categories will also change over time.

 

 

 

 

Perhaps even more important - remember that you can use a credit card with rewards as well as coupons to shop through these sites for even greater savings! The funds can help anyone (whether low income or not) save money on their bills and get some “free cash”!

By Jon McNamara

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