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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.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 21, 2012 12:40PM

Image: Money (© Corbis)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 does an annual analysis and comparison of cash-back sites. This year's report gives highest honors to a program called (Post continues after video.)

"If you want to shop through just one rewards program . . . you can't do better than Extrabux," says Ford, who for 10 years has written about cash-back shopping, survey sites and loyalty programs.

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 or 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 and Mr. Rebates. Honorable mention went to, 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?
Don't forget to log in before you shop. If you forget, you won't receive your rebate. Period. Put a note on the computer to remind yourself, so you don't miss a good deal.

More on MSN Money:

Aug 29, 2014 6:35PM
is a newer site that offer many benefits that the older sites don't offer.  They offer up to 50% cash back on over 1,500 stores, with many of the stores with double cash back of greater cash back than the older sites. They offer a $5 Welcome bonus and a $5 referral bonus, simple text to your friends "check out for great cash back deals".  I made $70 doing this. The other great thing about the site is that they pay out on the 1st and 15th of each month.  The older sites that I know of pay every 3 or 4 months.  Why have them sit on your money and collect interest when you should be collecting your own interest.  They have a pretty good blog at .  All in all a very good site.
Jun 7, 2014 2:01AM
The issue with the cash back comparison sites, sometimes they fail to address all sites out there. Fatwallet is good, but my personal experience, they don't have as much variety as sites like 
Feb 13, 2014 1:07AM
I have used cash back website They provide very good rates and have very good customer service.
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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.


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.