Getting cash back when you shop online has become easier than ever as more and more sites have joined the rebate game.
The problem is which programs actually pay out and have enough rebate offers to make it worth your time.
How Do They Work?
The way these cash back sites work is, whenever you want to shop online, you first log into your members area. Next you click on a link that takes you to the site where you want to do your shopping. This click gives the site you are using a commission for clicking on their link. They take that commission and share a part of it with you. Everybody wins.
Now I have set some criteria before I join a program. These criteria include:
- It has to be free to join – I am not going to go through the trouble of earning someone else some cash if they want me to pay for the “privilege” of joining.
- The points have to be simple – Complex online rebate programs make it hard to really know if your efforts are worth the trouble.
- The payout has to be reasonable – If I have to wait til I earn $100 to get a payout, then I’m out. Most of these programs will pay you at $10 or less.
If you are like me you can use all of these programs but to get things started I wanted to give you a best of class list for anyone that wants to concentrate their efforts on one website.
Best Cashback Sites
While it would be easy for me to pick just one singe site, I thought it would be more helpful to highlight the best site in several categories.
1. Largest Rebates – TopCashBack
TopCashBack stormed on the cashback scene in the United States back in 2011. Compared to other sites this makes them a little on the young side, but very established in Internet years. The company originated in Great Britain so they were really founded in 2006 and have a long history of paying out their users on time.
TCB operates on a different financial strategy than many of the other sites on this list. Instead of you clicking their link and getting a portion of the commission, you get the entire commission the site makes. What they keep is any bonus money that might result of performance incentives. For example, Amazon starts their affiliates out at 4% commission, but that goes all the way up to 8% as they sell more during a month. TCB gives you 6% cashback and pockets the extra 2%. This still makes them they best rebate for Amazon and they make money. That’s good for all of us.
TopCashBack is consistently the highest paying rebate site and that includes huge retailers like Walmart. If you are looking to get the most back without referring people or searching multiple rebate sites, then TCB is your best choice.
2. Most Ways to Earn Money – MyPoints.com
MyPoints is one of the oldest rewards programs on the Internet. How old? I joined in 1997 and it was already a year old then. While MyPoints is not my favorite for cashback rebates, they do have a good size list of stores that you can earn cash back from shopping and they have a ton of different ways to make money. The overall program sets them apart from the other rebate style sites.
This is not to say that the shopping rebates are bad. They are competitive with other sites but you don’t have the same total number of retailers and they definitely do not compete with TopCashBack for the percentage back.
What you can do is earn points in multiple ways that include:
- Doing internet searches
- Taking Surveys
- Watching Videos
- Playing Games
- Printing Grocery Coupons
And even more. These extra ways to earn cash means you can consolidate all your efforts into one program and do very well. See all the ways to earn more cash in my MyPoints Review.
There are two other direct competitors to MyPoints, Swagbucks and InboxDollars. Each one has some great options for earning money during your down time or for stuff you already do.
3. Best for Referrals – Mr Rebates
Mr. Rebates is the second longest running of these programs, getting their start in 2002. They do not have as many stores as CouponCactus but they tend to pay a little bit higher percentage on the stores they do carry.
I used to use Ebates exclusively but found better cash back offers at this site and then added TopCashBack, so now I go back and forth between the three based off of who has the best rebate or carries the store I am shopping at.
4. Largest Number of Stores Covered – CouponCactus.com
CouponCactus has the largest number of online retailers in their click through list and it isn’t even close. With over 9,000 stores in their list, CouponCactus has twice as many store options as any of cashback rebate site.
The reason why they are not listed higher on the list is that they have worse rebate rates than TopCashback and Mr Rebates and a lot less ways to earn cash than Mypoints.
5. Best Sign Up Bonus – Ebates
While Ebates is not older than MyPoints they are the grandaddy of all the cashback rebate programs. This is because when Ebates came on the scene, MyPoints was still mostly a get paid to read e-mails program.
The company was started in 1998. That is an eternity in internet years and they have paid out consistently for me for over a decade.
They offer the most generous signup bonus with a free $10 when you make at least $25 in qualified purchases in the first 90 days. This is really easy for most people and a good way to get your feet wet while earning some extra cash.
6. Best for Groceries – Ibotta
Ibotta was the first to really test this model and have done really well with it. The way it works is you go into your account and connect your loyalty rewards card. If you are shopping at a store that does not have a loyalty rewards card then you can submit your receipt with detailed purchases from the retailer. Before you go shopping you have to unlock your rebates and then you get credit back into your account for the purchase.
While Ibotta focuses on grocery stores, it works with all sorts of retailers so if you are going shopping you should check to see if something you are going to purchase is on their list.
You might also want to take a look at Checkout 51. They work in an almost identical fashion to Ibotta and many times you can submit the same receipt to each service.
How I Use Cashback Rebate Sites
I didn’t get the name “Saving Freak” by being happy when I get one discount. When I start to win at something I want to run up the score and that is exactly what I do by stacking my discounts. My strategy is to use multiple cashback and rewards programs all in one transaction. This example is how it works on $50 Amazon.com purchase, but it can be applied to almost any major retailer.
- I go to my local grocery store and purchase a $50 Amazon gift card with my cash back rewards credit card that gives me 5% cash back on grocery store purchases.
- My local grocery store participates in the Fuel Rewards Network so I get 5¢ off per gallon with my next gasoline fill up at Shell (worth about $1 or 2% on a $50 purchase).
- I check Ibotta to make sure there are no rebates from them on my purchase.
- I then go to my TopCashBack account and use their link to click through to Amazon.com
- I make my purchase and get 6% cash back into my TopCashBack account.
So what does this rebate/reward stacking get me? That $50 purchase is now the equivalent of a $43.50 and, let’s be honest, whatever I purchased on Amazon was also on sale. If you can do better than that I want to know and you should leave your strategy in the comments for all of us to learn.