Get paid to buy stuff
Cash-back shopping sites pay rebates on the stuff you want to buy. It's not a license to overspend, though.
Need to buy clothes, rent a car, send flowers, subscribe to a magazine, book a trip, order a computer, look for a soul mate, stock up on kitty litter or research your family history?
Make sure you get a discount when you do it, by using a cash-back website.
Cash-back sites are affiliate marketers. They get a finder's fee each time they send a new shopper to an online merchant and split that money with the consumer. In other words, you'll still be buying Fido's kibble from Petco. You'll just be getting an 8% rebate to do so.
Which are the best cash-back sites? So glad you asked.
Becky Ford of CompareRewards.com does an annual analysis and comparison of cash-back sites. This year's report gives highest honors to a program called Extrabux.com. (Post continues after video.)
But why stop at one?
It pays to compare, because the sites may offer exclusive discounts and coupons or temporarily higher cash-back rates. Sites like Cashbacktool.com or Cashbackmonitor.com let you compare rates from some of the better-known cash-back companies.
Coming in second and third place in Ford's findings are Shop At Home.com and Mr. Rebates. Honorable mention went to FatWallet.com, Best Buy's Reward Zone Online Mall and Ebates.
It's free to sign up. Use a separate email since you'll be getting at least weekly communiqués. Read these, because you may find a free shipping code or double cash-back on an item you need.
Read the FAQs, too. This can keep you from making a rookie error such as using a coupon or shipping code you found somewhere else. That would likely void your cash-back deal.
If the site has a reader forum, check it out. FatWallet readers in particular are supersavvy deal hounds and post hot deals as soon as they find them.
Don’t overdo it
Understand: Cash-back sites are not an excuse to shop indiscriminately. They're just another way of saving money on things you actually need.
The variety of merchants is staggering, from drugstores to domain names to dating sites. So if you're looking to buy something, don't automatically go directly to the merchant's online store. Check a few cash-back sites first. You might be pleasantly surprised.
A few other things to keep in mind:
- What's the payout threshold?
- How often can you ask for a check or direct deposit?
- How are payments made?
- Does the site often get exclusive discounts or codes?
More on MSN Money:
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
WHAT IS FRUGAL NATION?
Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
ABOUT DONNA FREEDMAN
Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
The popular online program lets you earn Amazon cards, PayPal cash and other rewards.
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
If you worry about money after the streetlights come on, these actions may help you rest easier.