If you have to buy it, get the best deal!
Online shopping makes finding the best deal very easy. No driving all over town to compare prices. The cost of gas will eat into or completely erase your savings anyway. If you’re not getting paid to shop online, you are not getting the best deal. Many pay-to-shop programs exist. They affiliate with the retailers and get paid a percentage your subtotal for the “referral.” They are easy to use and completely legit. Getting paid to shop online is not a scam. Ready to get the best deal in every way possible?
You want to go to the website of the pay-to-shop program of your choice and click their custom link that brings you to the retailer’s site. This is an extremely fast process and should never take more than 30 seconds to access the pay to shop site and search your retailer on their site. While you’re there, take a few extra seconds to look at promotions the pay-to-shop program is listing for the retailer of your choice. They may have one listed you have not seen yet, and it may be better than the one you have.
That link implants a cookie telling the retailer to pay them and the pay to shop program to pay you. If you’re wary of cookies, I assure you nearly every site collects them to some degree anyway. The cookie trade off for a great deal is worth it to me. Pay-to-shop programs take a percentage of what they earn and give some back to you. It is a win/win/win. They get paid, you get paid, and the retailer gets the sale. I do update program details for the ones I use (ebates, Mrrebates, My Points, ShopatHome, Swagbucks, and TopCashBack) as I learn new things, so feel free to check their pages periodically for new information.
I have affiliations with some retailers and update promo codes on the main page and the individual retailer pages periodically. They usually have some general offers for public consumption as well. Sometimes I find codes they do not have through my affiliations, searches, or contact from personal shopping. More often than not, they have a lot more codes than I do. It is always a good idea to look in multiple places when you’re looking for promo codes. No one can find or post them all even pay-to-shop programs with a lot of employees.
If you find an excellent code outside a pay-to-shop program, you may not get the cash back if the click is hand reviewed. Always try to match a code up with a respective pay-to-shop program when possible. Some codes are unique or unavailable on their sites, but using them does not mean you cannot try to use the pay-to-shop program. They may process the claim with an outside code, so it is always worth a try. Every program has a way to inquire about missing payments. What I would suggest in this case is compare the pay-to-shop programs. That’s right! You should have more than one.
If you only use one, you are off to a great start. Maximizing your deal requires more than one. No program covers every retailer and some retailers are not available on all the pay-to-shop programs. What does this mean? Birchbox (I have a more promo extensive code list than any pay-to-shop program I’ve seen) was only available on Mrrebates for a long time. This is a retailer I shop often, but I could not get cash back from any of my other pay-to-shop programs. Thankfully, Birchbox is expanding. It is now available through ebates. That gives me an option. I can place my orders through Mrrebates or ebates now, so I choose the one with the highest cash back percentage. About a month ago, it made its début on ShopatHome, but it only includes coupons so far. That means you can look up coupon codes there, but you will not get any cash back (for now). Sometimes a retailer starts with coupons and eventually offers cash back.
There are hundreds of examples like Birchbox where a retailer may take part in certain pay-to-shop programs but not others. If you’re shopping a retailer that is not listed on your pay-to-shop program, you should consider looking into other pay-to-shop programs. While there are a lot of retailers that do not take part in any, there are a lot that are only available on one or two. I only use six pay-to-shop programs, but I am open to the idea of adding more. Most of the retailers I shop use one of these six programs. For the ones not covered, I try to buy their items from a general store that carries their items, like Ulta, Sephora, or any of the department stores.
If Pay-to-Shop program A is offering 5% cash back, you will get $5 back for every $100 you spend. Sounds great, right? Does it sound as great as getting 7% cash back or $7 for your $100 from Pay-to-Shop Program B? Both are better than nothing, but you can get the best deal by comparing rates and having accounts with more than one program.
Unless you do a lot of shopping, joining every program is probably not practical. I use four traditional cash back sites and two untraditional. Read below each program to go over the differences. Most have minimum amounts to request payment or get a payment on the scheduled date, so your money can sit in perpetual limbo too long if you do not have enough to cash out.
Every program has benefits and drawbacks. The easiest one is ebates. Most claims process electronically. That means you will generally see the cash back (a percentage of your subtotal or a flat amount depending on the retailer) credited to your account within a few hours. If the retailer is slower at reporting, it may take a bit longer. You can submit a payment inquiry as soon as you want. There are periodic offers for flat bonus amounts that appear at the bottom of your cash back activity screen. My current offers are all from Neiman Marcus. These targeted offers apply based on your shopping history. If I spend $250 on beauty at Neiman Marcus before 06/22/16, I will get a flat $25 payment plus whatever the cash back percentage is when I place the order.
The start-up bonus with ebates is generous. If you spend at least $25 in your first 90 days using their link to a retailer, you get to select a $10 gift card to the store (from a list) of your choice. This mails within a few weeks of earning it, so you do not have to wait for the pay-out period. They pay you once a quarter by check or Pay-Pal. There is a $5.01 minimum to cash out.
A friend (thanks guzelkid) was kind enough to tell me about a new program ebates launched. They are offering cash back for in store purchases. They started with five stores: Express, Ann Taylor, American Eagle Outfitters, The Body Shop, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Within a few months of launching, they were up to 25 stores, so I only see this program growing over time. It is similar to other rewards programs for things like airline miles or direct credit card offers. You link offers you like to your credit card. As long as your credit card is linked, you will get the specified cash back amount of the subtotal on the date you made the purchase.
I have not shopped the first three stores in a long time (although I have shopped them all at some point), but I am thinking of trying this out in one of the last two. Although emails were only sent to certain accounts, with her help I discovered anyone with an ebates account can sign up. To prevent the link from bringing up my account (as it brought hers up when she sent it to me), I will tell you what to add into the address bar when you’re signed into your account. Add /in-store-cash-back.do (from the home screen) to the end and it will bring you to the sign up page. This will not work from any of your account screens, so make sure you hit the ebates logo on the upper left to bring you home.
Mrrebates has a $5 sign-up bonus. After your first purchase, it should automatically go into your account. It is the only program I use that gives you an actual cash bonus. There is a decent trade-off with ebates on which retailer has the highest percentage back or flat amount. One of these two usually win. They are great about responding to missing payment inquiries and tend to give a one-time courtesy pay-out if you inadvertently break a rule. You can only inquire if the missing payment is between 30-90 days old though. Waiting 30 days to inquire is not always easy to remember, so I have forgotten to file a couple. Pay-outs stay in pending status for 90 days! Once they reach the available state, you can cash them out when you want as long as you have at least $20.
MyPoints is the first of the two untraditional pay-to-shop programs I mentioned above. Instead of getting a percentage of your cash back, you get points (as indicated by the name). You can use points to redeem gift cards. Some pay-to-shop programs will pay you for gift card redemption, so you could get actual cash back when you redeem these by using a traditional cash back program. I signed up for MyPoints after joining BzzAgent (one of the many free sampling membership sites I cover on this site). While you can earn points from shopping, you can earn points from a variety of other tasks as well, including reviewing BzzAgent products, surveys, clicking on certain emails, and more.
If you make a $20 purchase using a partner link within the first 30 days, you will get 1750 free points (enough for a $10 gift card). That actually makes this minimum $5 less than ebates. Unlike ebates, which mails the check right after you qualify, you just bank the points with MyPoints. I like banking points, so I can redeem them for higher valued gift cards. It comes in handy, because I get 5-10 points just for clicking though on a lot of their emails. Printing and redeeming a Coupons.com offer gets me 10 points each. There are so many ways to earn points that I rarely use MyPoints to actually shop. Using it for that first shopping trip is definitely worth it and some bonus points offers make other redemptions more valuable than cash back.
ShopatHome is a traditional pay-to-shop program. It pays a specified percentage of the subtotal or a flat amount depending on the retailer. The blended aspect of traditional and untraditional ended 08/16/16. Payments get mailed every other month, but you have to meet the $20 minimum to receive a payment. There is a 110% guarantee. If you find a better rate at a covered pay-to-shop program, hit the 110% guarantee button on the retailer page within 48 hours, and it will pay you the competitors rate plus 10% within three days. These guarantees are usually hand reviewed, so make sure you are using a promo code listed on the site and are not trying to price match a mobile offer. As long as you follow the guidelines, you will receive the competitor cash back plus 10%. You will get nothing if guidelines are not followed. Read them carefully if you’re unsure. Unless the site lists my promo code, and I am following every rule, I will not use this guarantee. I would rather get 100% of something than 110% of nothing.
Swagbucks is the second untraditional pay-to-sop program. New members can get a $5 sign-up bonus (enough points for a $5 gift card) when using an affiliate link. This offer only works where I write affiliate link. The other links I posted bring you to the referral page, and you will not get the bonus if you click them. I did not get the bonus, so I do not even know the details. Once I learn the terms, I will edit this. It could be as simple as signing up. If you do not have to do anything to get it, this is the easiest bonus of all though. That makes me think there is some requirement. Points called SB are available for a variety of tasks including: online shopping, surveys, polls, Swagcodes, and more. Offers will let you know when retailers are offering bonus points called SB. There are times when the bonus offers equate to more points per dollar (which you trade in once you’re ready for gift cards) than the traditional pay-to-shop program.
TopCashBack is a traditional Pay-to-Shop program. It pays you a percentage of flat amount of your online subtotal. There is a top cash back guarantee, which comes in handy if you need to place an order in a hurry. If you find out another Pay-to-Shop Program had a better rate, you can file a claim after the fact. There are times when it has a sign-up bonus, and there are times when it has a free gift bonus. Unfortunately, there are times where there is no offer for signing up. Although I’d generally suggest waiting to sign up until there is an offer, they do run limited-time promotions that can be better than sign-up promotions. These promotions include games (where you can win up to $500, bonuses for select gift card purchases, and more.
The main draw of TopCashBack is the cash back program is there is no minimum to receive a direct bank or PayPal transfer. You can also get a 3% cash back bonus for selecting an Amazon gift card (with a $0.10 minimum payout) or an American Express Gift Card (with a $20 minimum). It is the only Pay-to-Shop program that pays you ay time you want your payable amount.
Disclosure: Referral and Affiliate Links