Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013
I recently deposited a check for $31.07 I got for shopping. And I didn’t even leave the house.
I earn extra money just about every time I shop online. A company called Ebates cuts me a check every few months. Ebates is what’s known as a “cash-back website,” and there are many of them. (More on that later.) The checks they cut are similar to mail-in rebate checks, except I don’t have to fill out a rebate form, photocopy a UPC, and spend 45 cents to snail-mail it all to the manufacturer. All I have to do is visit Ebates.com and log in before making a purchase.
Ebates has made deals with more than 1,500 stores. Let’s take Target, for example. If Ebates refers a shopper to Target’s website, Target gives Ebates a percentage of what that shopper spent on Target’s website – essentially, a sales commission. Ebates then gives part of that commission to the shopper.
This win-win might sound too good to be true, but I’ve yet to find a catch. The only thing I can’t believe is how many people I’ve met who still aren’t taking advantage of this. If you’re still missing out, here’s everything you need to know to get started…
In the process of setting up my Ebates account and teaching my technologically challenged mother how to use it, I’ve learned a few things that will help you get the most out of a cash-back website.
Actually get your rebate…
You only get your cash back if you, in this order:
- Sign into Ebates
- Click on the link to the store from Ebates
So if you want to buy something from Target, you must first sign in and then click on Ebates’ link to Target. You can’t just type www.target.com into your browser. That sounds so basic, but it’s easy to surf store sites and forget to go back through Ebates for your cash back. My mother finds it helpful to close all other browser tabs before logging into Ebates to buy something.
Take advantage of double cash-back offers…
There are several ways to do this.
Each day, Ebates doubles the cash back at one store. If you sign up for their “Daily Double Email” subscription, they’ll send you an email every morning to let you know the store. Also, if you click the little heart next to the stores you frequent, Ebates adds them to your “My Favorites” list and will often send you an email when the cash-back percentage at those stores is greater than usual.
Also, Ebates doubles cash back at almost every store on certain holidays. For example, I did all of my 2011 Christmas shopping online and made all of my purchases on Cyber Monday to maximize my cash back. It was my easiest Christmas shopping season ever – plus I got paid to do the shopping!
Ebates pays me to shop, but it isn’t paying me to write this article. So just because I happen to use Ebates doesn’t mean you have to. Ebates is perhaps the oldest – it started in 1998 – but there are other cash-back websites out there, like Big Crumbs and Extrabux, to name a couple.
Before you sign up with one, read about how they work. There isn’t much of a difference from one cash-back site to another – except when it comes to how they pay you and how often they’ll give you your cash back. For example:
- Ebates pays you by check or PayPal at least four times a year, as long as you’ve accumulated at least $5 in cash back.
- Big Crumbs pays you by PayPal monthly, as long as you’ve accumulated at least $1 in cash back.
- Extrabux pays you by check or PayPal whenever you want your cash back, as long as you’ve accumulated at least $10. By the way, they refer to getting cash back as “withdrawing,” so don’t let that term confuse you.
There’s also a cash-back website aggregator: CashReporter will tell you what percentage of cash back you can earn at several different cash-back websites by shopping at a given store. Of course, this is only useful if you’re willing to sign up with multiple cash-back websites. Personally, I feel that an occasional extra percent or two isn’t worth having to manage multiple accounts. But that’s just me.
Do you use cash-back websites other than Ebates? If so, let us know which one and whether you would recommend it.