Frugal NationFrugal Nation

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 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.)

"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 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 andEbates.

 

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:

1Comment
Feb 13, 2014 1:07AM
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I have used cash back website http://www.cashbackhouse.com. They provide very good rates and have very good customer service.
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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.

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