There are a million ways to spend your money, and now hundreds of ways to actually SAVE some bucks in the process. Cash-back shopping portals are growing in number every day, and although they may sound too good to be true, they can save you money on travel, dining, entertainment or retail purchases. Some of the best sites are Ebates, BeFrugal, Upromise and Shopkick. But how does it work and which sites should you use?
How it works
Cash-back portals essentially combine spending money with earning money, returning a percentage of what you spend on qualifying purchases—almost like a coupon, without the paper. The difference is that while you are shopping, you’ll need to first go online to link to the retailer’s portal.
To begin, sign up for a free membership at the site of your choice. Then, access the retailer through that portal. Complete your purchase, and enjoy anywhere from 3% – 40% (or more) in discounts just for shopping. The percentage you earn varies by store. Some sites also provide coupon codes. Your reward can come in various payout methods: PayPal credits, checks, gift cards or even donations to your favorite charity or organization.
BeFrugal CEO John Lai says that “it’s important for consumers to know this is sort of the next thing after coupons —the cash-back site.”
Where does your cash come from?
Cash-back websites develop relationships with retailers and get paid to refer customers. The sites then share a portion of their referral revenue with the members who shop. Here’s a sampling of the most popular, each adding its own unique twist to help you save money:
- Ebates – Offers up to 40% back at more than 2,000 online stores; average earnings are closer to 5%. Stores include major retailers like Kohl’s, Groupon, J. Crew, Macy’s and more. To qualify, start your purchase at Ebates.com and click through to the merchant’s website, complete your purchase, and enjoy cash added to your account. You’ll get your rewards in a “Big Fat Check” after it totals $5.01 or more. New users get a $10 bonus or $10 Walmart gift card.
- Swagbucks – Cool name plus cool rewards make this a great site to check out. Members earn swagbucks by shopping online, answering surveys, watching videos and searching the web. You might even be one of the 7,000 daily recipients of free gift cards. If you’re thinking “Online shopping meets focus group,” you’ve got the picture.
- Upromise – What if every time you made a purchase at more than 30,000 retailers, restaurants and online partners, you banked some cash for your kid’s college education? You can put your cash rewards towards 529 plans, eligible student loan payments, or special Upromise GoalSaver Accounts.
- Dosh – Like to travel? Then you’ll love Dosh, one of the newest cash-back portals which pays you for making purchases or booking travel at more than 100,000 hotels, online stores and restaurants—including Starwood Properties, Marriott and more. One user earned nearly $500 through Dosh – read her story here.
- Shopkick – One of the only rewards apps that doesn’t require you to spend money to earn money. Wait, what? With Shopkick, you earn “kicks,” which can be exchanged for gift cards. Earn your “kicks” by simply walking into a store scanning items’ barcodes, taking photos of your receipt, linking credit or debit cards, shopping online and watching ads. Learn how easy it is to earn kicks here.
- FlipGive – Finally, a cash-back app that lets you give it all away. Flipgive is an online fundraising platform that pays individuals, teams and organizations a percentage of your purchases. Popular FlipGive retailers include Under Armour, Anthropologie, Walmart, Sephora, Apple and Hotels.com.
- BeFrugal – Claims to provide the highest cash-back rates, with up to 40% cash back at more than 5,000 merchants, like Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Groupon, Walmart and Best Buy. New users earn $10 just for signing up, and shoppers can use coupons and special deals across the site to save even more.
Are they safe?
We would be remiss if we didn’t offer up a few cautionary tips before you get started. First, you should research any website claiming to earn you cash. Search for reviews and complaints, and even check the Better Business Bureau. Never sign up for a cash-back site that charges you for membership. When signing up, skip any questions that aren’t marked “required” with an asterisk and you’ll significantly improve your shopping anonymity. And finally, before you sign up for ALL of the great sites above, remember that you will likely receive an abundance of emails from each. Our advice would be to choose one or two, and enjoy the rewards! Browse, shop, and get paid. What could be better?
Resources: NerdWallet, Go Banking Rates, The Penny Hoarder, Hustler Money Blog