Cashback Shopping for Beginners

Start Using Cashback Sites for Online Shopping. Potential Savings: $50-500/year. Difficulty Level: Low to Moderate

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Do you shop online? Me too. American consumers spent $500+ billion online in 2018 (about half on Amazon) and 2019 online sales are up 12% year-to-date, far outpacing retail growth.

Like physical retailers, online sellers advertise a lot. One way they advertise is “affiliate marketing” - paying other websites commissions to refer customers to the retailer’s website, generally through links.

For example, when a reader clicks on an Amazon product link in The Wirecutter (a great product review site owned by the NY Times), Amazon pays the Times an affiliate commission from 0-10% of the sale price.[1] This year, online retailers will spend an estimated $5+ billion on "affiliate marketing” like this.

“Cashback” shopping sites let you keep a portion of these affiliate commissions for yourself. How does this work?

  1. First, create an account on a cashback site (below, I mention two cashback sites I use).

  2. Next time you order something online, instead of going to the retailer’s website directly, go to the cashback website first and click on a link to the retailer.

  3. Once you place an order, the retailer pays an affiliate commission to the cashback website, which then shares a portion (often a very large portion) of the commission with you, usually within a few days. The cashback percentage generally ranges from as little as 1% to as much as 15%+ of your order.

  4. Cashback is generally paid out monthly or quarterly, and may sometimes require you to request a payment (generally via PayPal or check).

Since 2011, I have primarily used two major cashback websites (Rakuten Ebates and Mr. Rebates), earning a total of $1,803 in cashback.

This doesn’t count other miles or point-based cashback sites I’ve used over time (including Delta SkyMiles Points for Shopping or the Amtrak Guest Rewards Shopping program), nor does it include credit card rewards.

In some ways, cashback feels almost too good to be true, but it is well-accepted by retailers (and the cashback sites themselves are big businesses). If you shop online often, I highly recommend it.

Another tip - if you end up using multiple cashback sites, Cashback Monitor, a site that compares current cashback rates, is a great way to ensure you are maximizing your cashback.

I hope this has been helpful. If you liked it, please press the “like” button and share it with your friends! Also, if there are any topics you’re interested in, please send me your requests. And finally, if one of these tips helps you, I’d love to hear about it - just send me an email and I may (anonymously, of course) mention your story in a future post.

Finally, a note: Same as in my post on credit card rewards, none of the links above are affiliate links. I’m not compensated for anything you sign up for from this post. Many money-saving how-to guides are designed to make money for the author from advertising. Often, the content can be padded because the author may try to include as many advertisements as possible. I’m not doing that - this is just a free newsletter recommending things I have found useful, and I’m not earning anything from it. If that ever changes, I will let you know.