Way too many people I’ve talked to about Ebates online shopping cash back rebates initially think it’s a scam or are too lazy to save extra money! I’ve been using this since 2013 and I’ve nothing but a positive experience. Maybe I need to work on my initial “pitch” since not that many people believe me. One of my best friends when I first brought this up was worried since the parent company Rakuten had an unreliable past (if you follow that rabbit hole link on Wikipedia). She also followed me when I first started my journey into savvy online shopping through SwagBucks as a referral. (That’s another saga haha spanning my middle/high school years.) Ebates is probably one of the most popular online cash back (CB) affiliate link websites that paved the way for many others. (They’ve also acquired several other moneysaving deals websites.)
Q: What is this and how does it work?
A: Ebates has an agreement with over 2,000 online retailers to earn commission when a member initiates a shopping session through their affiliate network links and makes a purchase. They will share some of the savings to members in the form of cash back as a percentage of the total order total (before tax and shipping costs). In some rare instances they offer a fixed dollar amount. Basically when you’re about to make a purchase online, you can check if cash back % or $ value is available for the retailer! VERY IMPORTANT, make sure you click through their link so it’s registered that you made a “shopping trip” when you are about to complete your purchase. If you forget to do that it’s very difficult to file a follow up ticket to receive the cash back. Every quarter members receive a “Big Fat Check” payment through the mail or through PayPal!
Q: Why should I sign up? Seems like a bit of work and I’m sacrificing info…
A: If you make a significant amount of purchases online you could greatly benefit from Ebates. It’s especially useful around Black Friday/Cyber Monday or holiday shopping in general when you don’t want to deal with the hordes of people. Once you make your purchase most of the time you will either will instantly get an e-mail after purchase or maybe a few days later when the product ships. Honestly to sign up you just provide your name (you could use a nickname or alias if you wanted) and your address. The address is for mailing you the Big Fat Check. You can also link our PayPal account to receive the transfer much faster. I’ve just started doing this recently after a anxiety overcame me. I stalked the mailbox and mailman daily hoping it would arrive soon. In terms of actually exerting energy you just need to remember to visit the website BEFORE checking out. They also have created these nifty toolbars in your browser to automatically a “Activate” and remind you if you’re on a qualifying cash back website.
Q: You’re just trying to refer me aren’t you? What are the downsides?!
A: Great segue into my actual review portion of the post! While yes I will get a “referral bonus” ranging from $5 to $30 (depending on their promotion cycle) if you sign up and make a purchase, my purpose is more to inform you wonderful readers. I’ve actually had the misfortune of referring one of my friends who signed up years ago, but NEVER made a purchase until just recently. Your referrals do expire after 1 year, but honestly this usually isn’t a problem haha except for one instance when one of my friends signed up years ago but never made a purchase until recently.
Keep in mind the drawbacks listed below are very common pitfalls with all cash back websites for perspective.
- EXCLUSIONS – read the fine print for large department store retailers. Look for wording like “up to 10%” cash back. Sometimes the cash back only applies to certain categories for a % of different values, or excludes certain categories (i.e. gift cards, electronics, music etc…) Specialty retailers are definitely the way to go in my book.
- Amazon (Up to 10%) – I have YET to redeem any cash back with this retailer because of the nitpicky categories. Shame for the original beacon of online shopping. I can’t foresee buying clothes or home services.
- Target & Wal-Mart (1%) – It’s better than nothing right?
- Inconsistent cash back confirmation notification
- Some retailers (looking at you Ulta) are notoriously slow at confirming the purchase even after your product has shipped.
- If you’re impatient like me you can directly submit a missing cash back form with your e-mail order confirmation from the retailer. They will 99% of the time instantly credit your account with the money, in the rare instances (larger cash back amounts) a customer service rep will investigate and get back to you.
- One additional step when shopping online of logging in/clicking a link
- Quarterly payout – I’m extremely impatient, but I love seeing my cash back balance increase. It makes sense that they do it only ever 3 months since customers could have returns that void the cash back.
Q: What are your favorite cash back qualifying stores?
A: I thought you’d never ask! You might judge for the amount of shopping I do online now, but you asked for it. Ebates frequently has “Double Cash Back” (DCB) promotions and sometimes “Triple Cash Back” (TCB). I always anticipate their yearly “Birthday” event where they have up to 15%! When they have the quarterly cash back payout before the official “Big Fat Check” or paypal they sometimes have the option for you to redeem an e-gift card! You can get a 10-15% bonus added and this is a great way if you were planning to make a purchase anyway. Often get 10% bonus from either Sephora or Ulta! I didn’t take a screen shot but the highest 15% was on Express.
- Groupon – 9% cash back frequently! If you’re savvy and combine it with the sites’ own 20-25% off deals you’re getting quite a steal. Any moneysaving adventurists’ arsenal would be incomplete without this or LivingSocial. (It’s debatable whether it actually helps local businesses gain loyal customers, but that’s another article for another time.)
- Sephora – 4% usually or 8% DCB. As a recovering beauty addict I try to justify that the cash back helps offset the MA tax of 6.25%
- Ulta – 3% usually, rarely featured on DCB. I’m slowly converting more purchases to solely Ulta for their better rewards program. (Again this is another potential post!)
- ModCloth / Forever21 / BananaRepublic – 1-2% usually, rarely featured on DCB. Well now you guys know where my style comes from haha. I never boasted to be a fashion blogger!
- Target – 1% usually, rarely on DCB, exclusions recently added. I just love the brand and the feature to order online and pick up in store (specifically for the CB).
Rating: 4.5 ★★★★1/2