A cash-back site pays you back a percentage of the money you spend when you shop with the retailer. Also known as “cashback” websites, you’ll need to sign up to accrue cash on your qualifying purchases.
If you’re worried cash-back shopping sites are a scam, you’ll be happy to know that the best cashback websites, such as Rakuten (formerly Ebates) and Ibotta, are real and actually pay you back for shopping. The cash back amount you accrue may be small, but the rewards could help you stretch your money when you’re living on a tight budget.
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How Do Cash-Back Sites Work?
You’ll need to sign up for a free membership to track your spending through the cashback site. The best sites have a variety of well-known retailers you can shop at, such as Macy’s, Ulta Beauty, and Amazon. You could even find offers for restaurants and grocery stores. Although most of the stores are online, some sites offer cash back on in-person purchases at physical stores.
Once you’ve set up an account, you’ll need to click on specific links provided so the site can track your spending and award you with cash back. Each website has its own cashback offer with up to 40% back, although most retailer offers average around 5 to 7% of your spending.
Wondering how cash-back sites make money if they’re essentially paying you to shop? The sites remain free to you as the user because they negotiate referral fees or commissions with the retailers. Each time you visit a store and make a purchase, cashback sites get paid a fee. The cashback website will share a portion of the commission the retailers pay them with you — by giving you some cash back on the purchase you made.
How Do You Use a Cash-Back Site?
To use a cash-back site, you’ll need to set up an account to access member deals, see how much money you have accrued, and cash out. Here’s how most cashback websites work:
- Open an account using an email address;
- Download the cashback app;
- Purchase items using the provided link to the retailer or through the app;
- Wait for the purchase to be verified and the cash credited to your account;
- Cash out when you meet the minimum payment requirements. Depending on the cash-back site, you could opt to receive a check, link your PayPal account to get paid, choose direct deposit to your bank account, or select an eGift card.
What to Look for in a Cash-Back Site
There are more than a dozen cash-back websites available, making it hard to decide which one is best. The key is to consistently shop with one or two to maximize your cash-back rewards. You’ll need to do some comparison shopping first to ensure you’ve chosen the cash-back sites best for you. Here’s what to look for:
- When you can cash out: If you’re hoping to get cash back instantly, think again. Some cash-back sites will pay you as soon as the next day after the transaction was completed and verified, while others have certain days of the month when they process payouts. Make sure you understand a website’s payment terms and conditions.
- Payout forms: Each site has its own payment methods, which could be direct deposits to your bank account, gift cards, mailed checks, or PayPal credits.
- Payment minimums: Most sites require that you accrue a certain amount of money before you can cash out. If you plan on shopping using several cashback websites, keep in mind it may be a while before you have enough funds to get paid.
- Cash-back offers: Cash-back websites work with their own set of retailers and have offers that may be different from others. You can use comparison websites to find the best payout rates among the top cash-back sites.
- Exclusions: There may be limits or exclusions to the types of items you can buy from your favorite retailer. It’s always a good idea to read the fine print and know what the exclusions are — the item you have your eye on may not qualify for the cash-back deal you were hoping for.
Tips for Shopping With Cash-Back Sites
Consider the following tips to save the most money and earn a sizable cash-back reward:
Use Multiple Sites
Compare what offers the top cash-back websites have on the item or retailer you’re interested in. You may find a better cash-back deal by shopping around. As mentioned, there are cash-back comparison websites that do the legwork for you if you don’t have the time to do the research in looking at what several cash-back websites have to offer.
If you haven’t collected coupons before, you’re missing out on valuable savings. You may be able to use more than one coupon to increase your cash-back earnings. Work in combination with the app and website to find and save the available coupons for your purchase. In many cases, you could combine them to maximize your purchase savings or cash-back earnings.
Use a Credit Card With Rewards
Consider paying with a cash-back rewards credit card to earn even more cash. Some of the best credit cards provide impressive cash rewards.
For example, some of Discover’s cash-back rewards cards will pay you up to 5% back on your credit card purchases. American Express has a Blue Cash Preferred card that pays 6% on supermarket purchases and streaming subscriptions. You will be able to earn more money when you combine the savings from a cash-back website and your rewards credit card.
Watch Your Spending
It may be tempting to purchase something to get back 10% in cash, but make sure you actually need the item before you purchase it. When shopping using a cash-back website, make a list of what you need and stick to it. Avoid being tempted by promotional items that aren’t a necessity.
Cash-back websites are a great way to save money on the items you need — if you’re disciplined enough to create a budget and stick to it. After all, these cashback websites are FREE money to you, so be sure to check out the 11 Best Cashback Websites as you determine which cashback option is best for you.
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