Cashback rebate. It always has a nice ring to it.
I put together this Ebates review because, when you start talking about online cashback rebate websites, you cannot leave the grandaddy of them all out of the conversation.
Is Ebates Legit or is it A Scam?
Yes, a big yes, Ebates is legit. The company has been around since 1998. While that is less than two decades in our time, in Internet years that is pretty much forever. If that doesn’t make you feel better about the company, the founders were formerly Deputy District Attorneys that specialized in prosecuting identity theft and internet fraud cases.
On a personal note, I have never failed to be paid by Ebates when I have hit the minimum payment threshold. So if you have seen the commercial and though, “Is Ebates a Scam?” the quick answer is now and the more closely researched answer is still now. Ebates is a legit online cashback rebate program.
How Does Ebates Work?
To get a full understanding of how Ebates works you have to understand online advertising. A large amount of advertising online is done through affiliates. An affiliate relationship allows a third party to recommend a product or service in exchange for a percentage of the sale or a flat commission. I use affiliate offers on this site. It isn’t a lot, and definitely not enough for me to recommend something I am not personally using, but it helps pay for the services I purchase to keep this website up and running.
Now Ebates takes affiliate relationships to a whole notha level. They created a website where you go to Ebates.com search for the online store you want to shop at, click on their affiliate link, and they give you a part of the affiliate commission. They keep the rest of the commission and everybody wins.
Let’s use Nordstrom as an example, because I don’t shop there and if you do then you need to be spending less anyway. You know you want the latest popular, but overpriced, piece of clothing so you are heading to their website to check out the pricing. Instead of going straight to Nordstrom.com, you take a quick stop at Ebates.com, search for Nordstrom in their handy dandy search box and go to the Ebates Nordstrom page.
All the page really does is tell you how much cash back you get from Ebates for clicking on their link and show you a few of the promotions that are going on right now. I usually ignore the promotions because I can find better deals on whatever website I am going to. As of this writing the Ebates Nordstrom rebate is 6% cash back on anything I purchase at Nordstrom.com, but it does not count if you buy gift cards (that is standard for affiliate links). So you click the handy dandy Shop Now button and it takes you to Nordstrom.com. You make your purchase and within 48 hours (usually) you get 6% of your purchase deposited into your account.
How You Get Paid on Ebates
You can get paid two ways with Ebates. The first is a check that is sent to you in the mail and the other is through Paypal. Either way works great and you get your payment when you hit their minimum threshold of $5.01 in a payment period.
Ebates pays out on their rebate program quarterly. This means, if you accrue the account minimum, they do their payments on the 15th of February, May, August, and November. For example, If you manage to accumulate $10.25 in rebates in December and January, then you will get a payment on February 15th for $10.25. The system works pretty well, and as I mentioned above, I have never had Ebates fail to pay out when I have hit the cashback minimum.
Ebates Review – Pros
I have been using Ebates for more than a decade as part of my online money saving strategies. This makes them a highly useful website for saving you money, but what makes them better than other websites like MrRebates.com or Top Cash back? There are three main ways that Ebates is the best.
- The Number of Retailers – Ebates has the largest listing of different online retailers for you to choose. As of this writing they have over 1600 different retailer links where you can get cashback.
- Customer Service – Being the big dog on the block has its advantages. For Ebates this includes a larger staff to handle customer service problems. As a result, Ebates has been very effective at answering any customer complaints and coming to a a resolution that makes the user happy.
- Sign Up Bonus – Ebates offers a very generous sign up bonus of $10, after you make your first purchase. This is the top in the industry, with a few other companies matching it and many others doing $5. This is an automatic bonus. All you have to do is sign up for Ebates, make one small online purchase, and once that purchase clears the $10 bonus will show up in your account.
Ebates Review – Cons
I really like what Ebates has to offer but there are two reasons that they are no long my favorite of the cashback rebate sites:
- Lower Cashback Percentages – Ebates is the largest network of sites and has the most users. With this kind of positioning in the marketplace they are able to offer slightly lower cashback and still keep their people happy. A quick example, I went to Ebates and checked Wal-Mart. You get 1% back with the Ebates link. I then went to MrRebates.com and did the same search. They have 3% cashback at Wal-Mart. This is a pretty common occurrence across the sites that offer cashback rebates.
- Quarterly Payouts – This is the one where I scratch my head with Ebates. Why is it that every other rebate site can pay out monthly but the big dog is on this once every three month system? What makes this worse is that if they do happen to mess up your payout, it tends to get added to the next payout another three months later.
There is one other con that goes for all online rebate sites and that is some retailer designate different rebates for different categories of shopping. The great offender on this one is Amazon. They change their categories for cashback and how much you get all the time. This isn’t something Ebates can control, but make sure when you click on the link that you notice whether it says “up to” beside the cash back percentage. That will tell you that you are dealing with a retailer who plays the category game.
While there are a ton of cashback competitors, I only include three websites as the biggest competitors for your attention.
- Mr. Rebates – I am a big fan of this website because of how much they share of the affiliate commissions. Most times, when there is a merchant that they carry that Ebates also carries, you get 1% to 2% more than you would with Ebates. The downside to them is that they don’t have as large of a network of sites. They have a bunch, but not as many as Ebates. I have a full MrRebates review if you want to learn more about them.
- InboxDollars – InboxDollars got its name for getting paid to read e-mail. They still offer that as part of their rewards, but also offer a host of other ways to save money, including cashback shopping. You can see all the different ways you can get rewarded in this InboxDollars review.
- SwagBucks – Swagbucks started out as a way to get paid for using a search engine. Just like InboxDollars they have spread out into a bunch of ways to get paid and now cover cashback shopping. I have been using Swagbucks for a long time and have an extensive review of Swagbucks money earning potential.
How I Use Ebates in My Savings Strategy
When it comes to using cashback websites, I want to get the greatest percentage back I can. That means I have to be willing to spread out my transactions among multiple providers of this service and postpone getting may payouts a little longer in order to get the maximum amount of money. This means I use three different cashback sites instead of just the one.
So instead of just hitting Ebates, I also Check MrRebates.com and TopCashBack.com. I think of Ebates as my catchall account because they have the largest network of sites. Using my example of Nordstrom above. When I went to MrRebates for that transaction the only thing that showed up was Nordstrom Rack (the outlet/clearance store for Nordstrom). The same thing happened at TopCashBack.com
Basically, I check Ebates for every online purchase because
- I want to make sure I am getting the best cashback offer
- If all the other sites fail me Ebates is the most likely to have a relationship with an online retailer
For anyone that is looking to make cashback rebate shopping the most simple it can be, then Ebates makes it easiest by having that huge network of affiliate relationships. One thing to be aware of is that online discount codes can sometimes cancel out your rebate. A best practice is to only use codes that are offered on the Ebates site or to understand that the code may kill your rebate, since the discount codes are usually for a greater percentage off than the cashback rebate.
Ebates Review – Overall Impression
Ebates is a solid and easy to use cashback rebate website. The rewards are solid and the payouts are on time, even if they are only once a quarter. The site is free and they have the largest offering of stores of any of the cashback sites.
As our culture shops online more and more, these cashback sites are going to become more and more useful. I am seeing more an more online retailers go the affiliate route and that only means that these cashback sites are going to expand over time.
Since I have had years to review Ebates and other online cashback sites, Ebates is the biggest and easiest to use. It gives you a great way to save a little extra money on almost every online purchase and should be a part of every online shopping strategy. So sign up for Ebates today, make your first purchase and get a quick ten dollars deposited into your account.