The next best thing to getting paid to shop is getting cash back when you shop.
It’s free money you receive for buying things you were going to buy anyway. It’s been possible online for well over a decade via cash-back portals like Ebates.com — and now it’s possible in stores.
Ebates introduced its in-store cash-back program about a year ago and has been fine-tuning and expanding it since then. This means some 30 major retail and restaurant chains will now basically pay you to spend money at their brick-and-mortar locations, with more chains expected to join in the new year.
Before we explain how Ebates’ new program works, though, let’s start at the beginning.
What exactly is Ebates?
Ebates was founded in 1998 as an online cash-back shopping portal, making it one of the longest-standing websites of its kind. I’ve used Ebates when shopping online for more than five years now.
Ebates receives a commission from retailers for referring online shoppers like you and me to those retailers’ websites. Instead of pocketing all of that commission, though, Ebates shares it with shoppers.
Your share of that commission is what’s referred to as your cash back. Ebates sends it to you quarterly, by your choice of a check or PayPal deposit, as long as you’ve accumulated at least $5.01 in cash back. So far this year, I’ve received three checks totaling $41.11.
Ebates is a free service. To use it, sign up for an account. Then, all you have to do to rack up cash back online is:
- Visit Ebates’ website and sign in before buying something online.
- In the search bar at the top of Ebates’ site, enter the name of the retailer where you want to shop. More than 2,000 retailers currently participate in Ebates’ online cash-back program.
- Click on Ebates’ orange “Shop Now” button for the retailer where you want to shop. This will redirect you to the retailer’s website, where you can then shop as usual — while earning cash back on most anything you buy there.
Alternatively, Ebates offers a browser plug-in and an app that streamline this process.
How does in-store cash back work?
Just as Ebates’ longstanding online cash-back feature enables you to pocket extra money when shopping online, its new in-store cash-back feature enables you to do the same when shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.
Ebates launched the in-store feature in “test and learn mode” in early November 2015 with five retailers, Todd Herrold, Ebates director of product management for the feature, told Money Talk News.
“We wanted to expand the degree of our offerings for our members,” he explained.
Now, more than 30 retailers and restaurants are participating, and the program is expected to continue to grow.
The new feature will be especially handy this month for last-minute gift shoppers who don’t leave enough time for online purchases to be shipped to them before the holidays.
To earn cash back in stores, you must first sign up for an Ebates account and then link your credit or debit card to your Ebates account.
Linking a card to your account enables Ebates to know when you’ve used the card for a brick-and-mortar purchase that’s eligible for cash back, and in turn to calculate how much cash back you earned from the purchase.
The linking process entails providing your credit or debit card information to Ebates, although your card data is transmitted to Ebates’ website only once and is stored in encrypted fashion.
Additionally, Ebates uses a secure and encrypted connection, technically known as an SSL connection, on all of its webpages where you transmit or access your personal information.
“We’ve taken pains to make it as secure as possible,” Herrold said.
Currently, Visa and American Express cards are compatible with the in-store feature. Ebates is also working to add MasterCard to that list, hopefully in the first quarter of the new year, Herrold said.
Once you’ve signed up for Ebates and linked a card to your account, all you have to do to rack up cash back in stores is:
- Visit Ebates’ website and sign in before buying something in stores. Then click on “In-Store Cash Back” near the upper center of the page.
- Click on the green “Link Offer” button next to the offers you want to redeem. This activates them on your credit or debit card, enabling you to earn cash back in stores.
- Shop as usual at the stores whose offers you linked to your credit or debit card and pay with the applicable card. You don’t have to present anything like coupons to earn cash back, just the card.
Alternatively, the Ebates app streamlines this process and enables you to activate offers while in stores if you forget to do so before leaving home.
When paying with a debit card, note that you must opt to process the transaction as credit rather than debit to earn cash back. So you’ll provide your signature rather than your PIN.
After you’ve paid, you will get paid for shopping in stores in the same way you get paid for shopping online.
What do you make of the concept of in-store cash back? Have you tried it, or would you? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.