It’s a basic human reflex: When you offer us something for nothing, we’ll take it. We love credit cards that give us rewards simply for using them, baristas who give us a grande when we ordered a tall, and websites that give us cash back for buying stuff we would have bought online anyway.
Many retailers pay commissions to companies who send consumers to their websites. So, if you followed someone else’s link to an Amazon book you wanted to buy, Amazon would give that person a kickback. A new breed of website woos consumers into buying stuff through them by giving some of that commission as cash back. The cash-back sites we’ve looked at cover the major places we shop anyway, like Sephora, Staples, Borders, and others. We’ve compared these reward sites back-to-back to find our favorites.
Which Sites Are Worth It And When.
In addition to generalist sites, we found two particular specialty sources of these kickbacks: magazines and airline programs. Some magazines like Lucky have programs through which you can shop online and get money back, but they require a magazine subscription. We suggest that you don’t buy a subscription only for the sake of these rewards (but if you already subscribe, they’re worth checking out). Similarly, most airline mile programs let you shop in exchange for miles. We generally prefer cash back to miles—since we could always use the cash to buy plane tickets if we wanted—but this could be a good option if you’re a few miles shy of a sweet airline upgrade.
A Few Basic Ground Rules And Notes On These Programs.
- Virtually all of these websites require that you create an account and log in so that they can track your spending, but it’s free to sign up for those accounts. The airline mile sites sometimes make you register a credit card so they can track what you buy on that card to verify the purchases. Though this may seem suspect, we’ve tried it and it’s worked out fine.
- For the most part, you can’t get cash back for using gift certificates through these third party sites. That makes sense, since these sites are making commissions for getting you to spend money—and that money has already been spent. Check first, though, since occasionally a site will have a special deal with a retailer that makes gift certificates okay.
- Pretty much across the board, you won’t get cash back or airline miles for items that you later return, so don’t try to game the system in an effort to get cash back on items you don’t plan to keep.
- If you already have credit card rewards like cash back or airline miles, note that these programs don’t conflict with your other benefits. So, if your current card gives you 1% back on all purchases and one of these sites gives you 3% back on a certain purchase, you’ll get 4% cash back. Same goes for double airline miles if you use an airline card when you go to an airline shopping site like this.
Number One: ShopAtHome.com, because it has the most pleasant and user-friendly interface with a broad array of products.