are cash back sites worth it?When I first stumbled across cashback sites, I loved the idea of being able to earn “cash back” on things that I was going to buy anyway. Along with the best online paid survey sites, I saw them as a good opportunity to make a bit more extra cash on the side in my free time.

Things had been going great with these sites until the proverbial "bubble" burst with these sites. Some of the cashback sites that I’d been using started to experience payment issues and some went under altogether. At that point, I decided I needed to reevaluate whether it was worth the time and effort that these sites required.

How It Works

If you’re not familiar with cashback sites, here’s a brief guide to how they work. When you want to earn cash back on online purchases, first go to the cashback site, and then click through to the retailer at which you want to shop. Then, you just go about your shopping as usual. Sounds too simple, right? The reason you get cash back is because these cashback sites are given a percentage of your spending by the retailer. To entice you to shop through them, these cashback sites in turn give you a portion of what they gained on your purchases.

You don’t get your cash back straight away though. Generally speaking, you can expect to wait several months before your cash back status moves from “pending” to “validated” or “awarded” and is then eligible for redemption. Most cash back sites use PayPal or bank transfers as payment methods, but there may also be an option to redeem your payments in the form of Amazon vouchers. Keep in mind that not all popular retailers are on cash back sites though. For example, you’ll rarely find Amazon there.

Who to Trust?

If you’re thinking about signing up for cashback websites to get a little extra back while you’re shopping online, you’re probably also wondering which are the best options. My favorite site is eBates. They pay by check or Paypal (and other payment methods in some cases) every three months as long as you've earned over $5.01. They have a great reputation and I'd much rather use them than most other cashback websites for this reason.

Another one that I like is Treasure Trooper. Treasure Trooper will often have retailers not offered on eBates. And while Treasure Troopers offers PayPal and check as payment options, it has a higher $20 threshold. Their turnaround time on payments is pretty dependable.

Is It Worth The Time and Effort?

If you’re using cashback sites purely for getting a bit of money back on your online purchases, it’s simple enough. Going to the cashback site and clicking through to your chosen retailer doesn’t take long, and assuming that you were going to make this purchase anyway, you’re not losing anything if the cash back doesn’t track or the retailer doesn’t pay up. There’s no guarantee that the cash back will materialize, so don’t dramatically change your shopping habits just to get a some cash back. The best way to use cashback sites is to just shop as you normally would and treat the cash back as a nice added bonus. That would be my best piece of advice.

One other quick thing about another feature of cashback sites. Some of these sites offer “daily clicks” which pay you a small amount (often just a couple of cents per click) for click-throughs to retailers on comparison websites. This seems to be more popular in the UK than the US, but you can sometimes find “Cash Clicks” on sites like Treasure Trooper. This isn’t something that I’ve used too much, but friends who have tried this strategy frequently complain that retailers don’t pay up on time (or at all) in comparison to the more traditional cash back route on purchases discussed in the rest of this post. Based on that, the "click strategy" is something that I’d be more wary of doing because of the lack of dependability and the extremely small payouts.

Do you use cashback websites? Which ones do you recommend or advise against?

(photo credit: GenBug)

2 comments

  1. Anonymous // November 17, 2010 at 10:55 AM  

    Cash back sites are the right choice for the marketers as well as the shoppers. It's a win win situation. As an online shopper, I can say that shopping through cash back websites is a great option for saving money when shopping online. Being a thrifty online buyer, I always use cash back websites like ShopAtHome, AAfter Search and Ebates, and MrRebates.

  2. millionaire instantly // November 22, 2010 at 11:49 AM  

    great post. this is the first time i heard about cash back websites :P