Do you shop online regularly? Do you make all of your purchases online because you are a bargain shopper? Do you love saving money, or getting a great deal on a purchase? Would you like to get paid to shop online?
If you answered yes to these questions, then this article is for you. There are several sites on the web that allow you to make money essentially by shopping the same way you always have and from the stores you normally shop at. The way these sites work is that retailers send them referral fees for sending traffic to their websites, and while some referral partners are greedy and keep these referrals, these two cashback sites actually give you a portion of the referral.
For example, let’s say that you are shopping for an espresso maker online and you find the one you want on Amazon. You could buy it directly from Amazon for the posted price that day. The alternative is that you could go to a site like Ebates or Mr. Rebates, who would then “refer you” to Amazon. You would proceed to make your purchase and then Ebates or Mr. Rebates would send you a cut of the referral fee, usually a percentage in the 1-5% range for most sites.
All about Ebates
Ebates offers cash back for many sites including Nordstrom, Amazon, eBay and Macy’s to name a few. The cash back varies from 1% on some sites up to 30% or more on others.
Ebates only cashes out (pays you) once per quarter and the minimum balance for a cash out is $5.01. If you did not use Ebates enough to get $5.01 in cash back earnings, you will have to wait until the next quarter to get your cash back reward. However, if you shop online often, it is very easy to meet the minimum every quarter.
For example, if a site offered you 4% cash back as a referral bonus, you would only need to spend $125.25 in order to reach the minimum of $5.01. As you can see, that would not be hard to meet in a quarter, at an average of $41.75 in spending per month.
Things we like about Ebates:
- Multiple payout methods, including Paypal, a physical check via mail, or a donation to a charity of your choosing
- Ebates gives cash back for over 1,700 online retailers
- Ebates has an iOS and Android app for mobile users
- The Ebates website has a very clean interface and is very easy to use
- They offer a “Daily Double,” which is specific merchants every day that you can shop online with for 2X on your Ebates cash back. They also often have special holiday promotions.
- They offer a sign-up bonus, which we will mention at the end of this article
- They also often offer a “refer-a-friend” type program in which you could earn $60 (at the time of writing) for getting three friends to sign up for Ebates as well
- Ebates has a browser plugin that notifies you when you are shopping on an Ebates affiliate, which makes sure you never forget to get your cashback bonus when you are shopping
Things we don’t like about Ebates:
- Amazon does not give cashback on most categories
All about Mr. Rebates
Similarly, Mr. Rebates offers cash back on many sites from Amazon to Walmart to Sears to Dell and many more. The cash back varies from 0.5%, all the way up to 25%.
Mr. Rebates cashes out monthly, unlike Ebates. However, Mr. Rebates minimum cash out amount is $10. So to take our example from above (4% cashback), you would need to spend $250 before reaching your minimum cash out of $10 in a given month. Again, if you shop online often, this should not be hard to do in 1 month.
Things we like about Mr. Rebates:
- Multiple payout methods, including Paypal or a physical check via mail
- Rebates offers cashback for over 2,000 online retailers
- They have a referral program that allows you to get extra cashback when your referrals make purchases through Mr. Rebates
- Rebates does special event weeks, with special bonuses for certain categories during these times
- They are known to have some of the highest payouts in the industry
- They offer a sign-up bonus, which we will mention at the end of the article
Things we don’t like about Mr. Rebates:
- The website has a clunky interface, not nearly as nice as Ebates
- No iOS or Android app
Pitfalls to watch out for
Both of these sites offer cashback on Amazon, but only for certain categories. You need to be sure you check the category of spending prior to making your purchase.
For example, Ebates offers cashback on clothing, sorts and outdoor gear and another category or two. For another example, Mr. Rebates does not offer cashback on beauty products. Mr. Rebates also requires you to redirect through their site for different categories of spending. So if you were purchasing a dress and a trampoline, you would need to exit Amazon and go through Mr. Rebates site for each purchase separately.
If you are new to using cashback sites, you may not be familiar with the term “stacking rewards.” Stacking Rewards means utilizing more than one cashback or rewards program simultaneously to sweeten a deal.
For example, let’s say you are purchasing a new camera lens for your DSLR. Here are some steps you might take to really make sure you are getting the best deal:
- Go to all of your favorite cashback sites, including Ebates and Mr. Rebates and find out which stores might carry the camera that you are looking for. You would want to compare cashback rates from each of these sites to find out who offers the highest cashback bonus for the store that you want to purchase the camera from. Once you find this information, move on to step 2.
- Go to all of your credit card offers and rewards programs and see if any of them have special category bonuses or specific bonuses for the store you are purchasing the camera from. If not, just look for your credit card with the highest cashback bonuses. Discover tends to have pretty good cashback bonuses. They will often do something like a 5% cashback on all online shopping for a 3-month period.
- The next step is to find out if there are any coupons or promo codes for the site that you are purchasing the camera from. Take a look at all of your favorite coupon and promo code websites, and look for a discount or free shipping code. Maybe you found a 10% off coupon code, or a free shipping coupon code, which would also sweeten the deal.
- Check to see if the company you are purchasing the camera from has any promo codes for signing up for their email list. Many websites offer 10-15% off on your first purchase if you sign up for their email list. It doesn’t hurt to check!
If you know how to explore all of your options, you can really find great deals online. Maybe you picked up 4% cashback from Ebates, 5% cashback from Discover Card, and you found a promo code for free shipping. On the purchase of a DSLR, that could easily get you cashback of $70-100 and the free shipping just sweetens the deal.
Many cashback sites offer a sign-up bonus when you first create your account. Ebates and Mr. Rebates are no exception to this.
Ebates typically offers a $5-10 sign-up bonus, usually in the form of a gift card rather than cash. You first have to make a purchase through their referral, and spend a minimum of $25. This qualifies you for the sign-up bonus. You can bet they get some kind of referral bonus for themselves by purchasing these gift cards for their customers!
Mr. Rebates typically offers a $7.50 sign-up bonus, which you can claim on your first payout once you hit the minimum.
Which is the better cashback site?
We find ourselves using both sites pretty often, but there are some reasons to prefer one over the other. Ebates tends to offer higher bonuses during Black Friday deals and holiday sales. Mr. Rebates, on the other hand tends to have higher cashback bonuses on everyday purchases. However, Mr. Rebates site is very clunky while Ebates is much more user friendly.
There are reasons to love both sites, but if we have to pick one we would go with Ebates simply for the cleaner interface. However, you can’t go wrong with either site.
Here is the interface for Mr. Rebates:
And the interface for Ebates:
You can tell even by just looking at these screenshots that one is more clean and modern than the other.
Now that you know what cashback sites are, and how to use reward stacking to maximize your payouts, you are well on your way to becoming a super shopper! You should get in the habit of checking every purchase on one of these sites prior to clicking “buy.” It only takes an extra 30 seconds to click through the cashback bonus site, and the upside is huge. If it takes you 30 seconds to get even $1 in cashback, those rewards really start to add up.
I love racking up my cashback bonuses and leaving them in my accounts for long periods of time, and only taking cash outs for large amounts. It feels a lot more rewarding to me, but you can use your cashback rewards any way you like. Happy shopping!