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What's the best shopping rewards site?

It's definitely not MyPoints, says an expert who compared a dozen popular programs.

By Donna_Freedman Nov 18, 2011 12:06PM
Ever wondered what MyPoints really mean, or puzzled over which cash-back shopping site had the best rates overall?

Becky Ford of Compare Rewards has done the work for us, putting up an article that analyzes and compares a dozen top programs. In other words, she's done the math for us.

Who has the best program?

That would be Extrabux. This company had the highest cash-back rate for 52% of the merchants included in the analysis, and the second-highest rate for 22%.

"If you want to shop through just one rewards program and you're looking for the one with the most popular merchants and the highest overall rates, you can't do better than Extrabux," says Ford, who for 10 years has written about cash-back shopping, survey sites and loyalty programs.

Cash-back and rewards sites shopping sites are affiliate marketers. They get paid to send buyers to online merchants, and then kick back a little to us consumers. Even though you originate through Extrabux (or wherever), you ultimately end up buying through your merchant of choice.

The sites also typically provide coupon and free-shipping codes and let you know about any available rebates. Last year when I bought my first laptop, the cash-back site clued me in to second deal: Buy a printer-scanner-copier at the same time and get a full rebate. (I did.)

Crunching the numbers

Coming in at second and third place, respectively, are Shop At Home and Mr. Rebates. Honorable mention went to FatWallet, Best Buy’s Reward Zone Mall and Ebates. Click on the "analyzes and compares" link above to learn more about what each program has to offer.

Ford crunched a lot of numbers, comparing everyday cash-back rates for 327 popular merchants through a dozen popular programs. If a program pays in points rather than dollars, she gives the equivalent in percentage of cash-back.

"We want to compare apples to apples," writes Ford. "You may have a favorite rewards program, but wouldn't you shop elsewhere if you could earn 25% cash-back instead of 4% cash-back?"
The dubious honor of "lowest cash-back rates of 2011" went to MyPoints. Ford acknowledges that the site does have decent deals on occasion and that it offers consumers a variety of ways to earn points. But "when you work out what their points per dollar rate is worth in terms of a percent, you see they are the absolute worst."

She cited several examples:
  • 16% cash-back on Yves Rocher through Shop at Home vs. 5.8% (8 points per dollar) at MyPoints
  • 25% on through Mr. Rebates, or 3.6% (5 points per dollar) at MyPoints
  • 12% on ShoeMall through Extrabux or Mr. Rebates, or 4.3% (6 points per dollar) at MyPoints
Although a few exceptions exist, MyPoints' rates are "abysmal," Ford writes. "You can easily earn three times more by shopping through another rewards program."

It isn't just the money

Ford reminds consumers that while higher rates are desirable it's also important to consider other factors, such as:
  • How long does it take to reach a payout threshold, and how often is cash-back offered (e.g., monthly or quarterly)?
  • What kinds of redemptions (e.g., direct deposit or check) are offered?
  • Does the site have a track record? What's its reputation?
  • How's the customer service?
  • What other services (e.g., coupon codes) does the site offer?
The other programs Ford analyzed for the report were BondRewards, Memolink, QuickRewards Network, Sunshine Rewards and Upromise.

More on MSN Money:

Mar 5, 2012 12:51PM
moneymakesme dot com has some good site and invites with tutorials for many rewards site
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