Do you like getting cash back whenever you shop online? So do I. Whenever I shop online, the first thing I do is see if the website I am shopping on offers any cash back savings. Just as you might pay for any online purchase with a particular rewards credit card to get the most airline miles or cash back, online shopping portals help you get an additional cash reward. The only reason they might not be as popular is because most people do not know how cash back portals work.
My two favorite cash back portals are Ebates and Giving Assistant (I might earn a small commission from clicking on either of the preceding links and make a qualifying purchase. A huge thank you in advance if you do. Of course you will earn a bonus as well!) There are many others to choose from, like through your credit card or airline frequent flier program, but these two offer really good reward rates and have a wide selection of participating vendors.
How do online shopping portals work?
To earn the additional savings, you need to activate the shopping portal to track your order. If you purchase directly from the retailer without first interacting with the shopping portal your purchases will not earn any cash rewards.
Here is a step-by-step guide to start earning your cash back savings:
- Visit the shopping portal
- Choose the store you want to shop at
- Click the “Shop Now” button
- New browser tab will open to begin the tracked shopping session
- Complete purchase within that window to earn cash back on all qualifying items in your cart
Portals like Ebates and Giving Assistant will reward you with cash back several times through the year. Other portals that might be operated through your credit card, airline, or hotel program will reward you with additional loyalty points.
For example, shopping online at Wal-Mart has a 2% reward rate. Using Ebates will give you cash back ($2 on a $100 purchase), but using the Alaska Airlines shopping portal will give you 2 frequent flier miles. Personally, I like getting cash back and my credit cards do not have excellent portal options, so this is why I use either Ebates or Giving Assistant whenever possible.
I have reviewed Ebates in the past and still think it is the most extensive online shopping portal. They have partnered with over 2,000 online merchants, meaning you have the potential to earn cash back almost anywhere. In addition to online retailers, they also have an in-store program of approximately 30 national brands like Old Navy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Petco to earn cash back by linking your credit card to a shopping session.
Some retailers pay up to 40% cash back (usually magazines websites), but most retailers pay between 1% and 6%. Amazon and eBay are the exceptions and are very selective on what earns a reward, especially Amazon. But this is for every portal, not just Ebates.
Plus, if you are in the market for a credit card. Ebates also has a cash back credit card that pays 1% on all non-Ebates purchases and 3% on all Ebates purchases (in addition to the regular Ebates cashback rate).
Ebates is free to join and pays a $10 bonus after making your first qualifying purchase. Cash back rewards are paid on a quarterly basis after earning $5.01 in cash rewards can be paid via PayPal or a “Big Fat Check.”
Ebates Browser Button
The hardest part of earning cash back of shopping portals is remembering to activate the shopping session. This is why I installed the shopping portal browser buttons on my computer. Each time I visit a site like Wal-Mart, eBay, Kohl’s, etc, it lets me know how much I can earn. I click the browser button and the shopping session is instantly activated.
Admittedly I was hesitant to add this button. I don’t like “clutter” on the computer screen, but, this is one tool I use. Plus when I do a Google Search, it will also show the Ebates cash back rate in the search results as well.
What I Like About Ebates
- Widest selection of retailers to earn cash back from
- Free to join
- In-Store rewards & credit card are great options for the “Ultimate Shopper”
- Browser Button lets you know when a site offers cash back & allows you to “surf” retailers without having to visit the Ebates website
- Displays additional coupon codes or promo codes for merchant’s.
- Comes in handy for sites like Shutterfly or first-time purchases at other online retailers
What I Dislike About Ebates
- Doesn’t always have the highest cash back rates (why I use Giving Assistant as well)
- PayPal payment method only pays quarterly (at the moment)
I like Giving Assistant for several reasons. One primary reason is that they donate a meal for every purchase made. Another reason is that they pass on a larger portion of the sales commission to you, the shopper, which means they have larger reward rates on several stores compared to Ebates.
Higher cash back bonuses (on average)
As we built our house, my wife & I had some very expensive shopping lists at Lowe’s. So we used both portals to get some money back when we could place an online order for in-store pickup. When you buy lumber, lights, ceiling fans, you are happy for any break you can get. So Ebates normal cash back rate for Lowe’s is 1.5%, but, it’s 4% for Giving Assistant. You can probably guess who we used (& still use) for our Lowe’s purchases.
Unfortunately we didn’t discover it until closer to the end of the building process, so we didn’t save as much as we could have. But, something is better than nothing!
Another example is the online picture website Shutterfly. My wife uses them every few minutes as she makes photobooks of our daughter. The normal cash back rate with Ebates is 2% and it is 10% for Giving Assistant.
Giving Assistant Browser Button
I also have the Giving Assistant browser button installed to remind me to earn cash back. It is more limited functionality than the Ebates button, but it is still very handy. You have to click the “Activate” button when it first pops up others it might not be readily accessible. It also doesn’t have a built-in search bar like Ebates does, allowing you to quickly compare cash back rates and jump to another retailer website.
Occasionally I have experienced when the Giving Assistant window doesn’t pop-up at sites they offer cash back, but, usually it and the Ebates offers will pop-up at the same time in the top-right corner of my browser.
You might find it handy to go to Giving Assistant first to open the shopping session. It also gives you an opportunity to see additional discount codes.
Similar to Ebates, the average cash back rate at most websites is between 1% and 6%, but magazine sites and other specialty retailers offer reward rates up to 40%.
Giving Assistant gives new users a $5 cash bonus. This is lower than Ebates, but with the higher cash back rates, it is possible to earn more long-term.
In regards to receiving cash back rewards, Giving Assistant will pay you via check on a quarterly basis or weekly via PayPal. The minimum reward balance has to be $5.99 to receive payment via check or PayPal.
What I Like About Giving Assistant
- Higher cash back rates at a number of stores also partnering with Ebates
- Donates a meal for each purchase
- Pays weekly via PayPal with $5 reward minimum
- $5 welcome bonus when first purchase is made
What I Dislike About Giving Assistant
- Not as many participating retailers as Ebates (1,936 stores currently)
- Smaller sign-up bonus than Ebates
- Browser button seems to “malfunction” at times
I have found cash back portals an easy way to save money while shopping online. As long as you do not shop at Amazon, Ebates or Giving Assistant will most likely partner with the retailers you usually shop at. I also recommend installing the browser button, I cannot tell you how many times my wife & I have forgotten to activate our cash back savings because we forgot to visit Ebates first. With the click of a button (literally) the browser button seamlessly starts the shopping session.
If you haven’t used a cash back portal before, I recommend either of these two options. If you currently belong to one, either of these might be an option to consider. Or a reminder to start using your current portal again.
Do you use a cash back portal? If so, which one?