Calling all shopaholics! If you do even a fraction of your shopping online, you have to take advantage of cash back sites. They’re the easiest way to save on online shopping and really pay off. In fact, I’ve earned over $650 in cash back just from adding a few clicks to my shopping! And this is on top of coupon codes and discounts offered by the retailers themselves.
Since using cash back sites can be a little confusing, this post is going to cover everything about how they work and how to use them. I’ll also share some of my favourite sites and examples of how to make the most out of them.
What’s a Cash Back Site?
In short, cash back sites are websites that give you cash back on some of your online purchases. By shopping through their referral links, you can save money on many things you can buy online. Some of the most popular options are Ebates (Ebates.ca/Ebates.com) and Giving Assistant.
How do Cash Back Sites Work?
The short explanation is that cash back sites receive a commission from the retailers you shop from, and then pass a portion of the commission on to you.
Now, the longer explanation:
You may have heard of affiliate marketing and it’s a big part of how cash back sites work.
If you’re not familiar with it, affiliate marketing is a performance-based type of promotion where a business rewards the affiliate for each visitor or customer brought to them through the affiliate’s marketing efforts.
Let’s use an example.
I love Etsy and I can apply to be an affiliate through their affiliate program. If I’m approved, I receive an 8% commission on anything purchased by new buyers on my recommendation. (I would also get paid 5% commission on anything purchased by existing buyers, but for simplicity’s sake let’s look at new buyers only).
The Etsy affiliate program will give me a unique link which I can share with my readers. When my readers click the link, they are taken to the Etsy website and it looks just as it would if they had gotten to the site from Google. But there’s a code built in that tells Etsy that the shopper was sent by me.
It’s a win-win-win:
- Etsy gets a new visitor to their site who is likely motivated to buy since I’ve referred them and spoken about how much I love their site. If the customer buys anything, paying an 8% commission on the sale is well worth it. This is because a) they probably wouldn’t have gotten the sale otherwise; and b) they keep the rest of their revenue.
- The affiliate (me in this case!) gets rewarded for their recommendation and is therefore incentivized to recommend products and services they love.
- The reader gets a recommendation from someone that knows the brand. And they don’t have to to pay anything extra to buy the product recommended. By that I mean that there’s no fee to the shopper if they buy something through a referral or affiliate link.
A few notes:
- Affiliate programs have different commission percentages and currencies. For example, some pay affiliates in store credit versus cash.
- Often the affiliate doesn’t have to recommend the specific product; they just have to guide them to the site. For example, if I wrote a blog post about a great bridesmaid gift on Etsy and you bought an antique dresser there, the commission would still apply.
What does this have to do with cash back sites?
Cash Back sites are sort of like master affiliates. They are members of hundreds of affiliate programs and therefore get a commission of sales made through their links.
Unlike a traditional blog, they are set up more as a deal site, offering coupon codes and promotion information on online retailers. Instead of saying “this printer from HP Canada is great, go buy it!”, their call to action is “save X% at HP Canada today!” For example, here’s the Ebates.com home page:
Using the Etsy example, if a cash back site like Ebates had a similar agreement with Etsy, they could offer shoppers who shop through their link say, 4% cash back. That way, they make a profit on the sale.
Let’s say you spend $100 at Etsy through Ebates and Ebates is currently offering 4% cash back at Etsy. Your Ebates cash back account will increase by $4 once the purchase is complete. Ebates earns a commission of 8% from Joe Fresh, and receives $8. They give $4 of that to you and keep the $4. (Note that this is a fictional example, but it illustrates the point!)
How can I get this cash back?
Simply create an account at each cash back site and start saving.
Before buying ANYTHING online, check your cash back sites to see if they offer cash back and if so, which one has the highest rate. I shop a lot on Etsy, for example, and Giving Assistant offers 2% back on Etsy purchases which is better than Ebates (normally 1% cash back). But, Ebates will sometimes offer up to 12% cash back at Etsy so I always check out all three sites before purchasing.
If you were shopping on Etsy, you’d search for them on Ebates and then click the red “Shop Now” button. It will then take you to Etsy but with a tracking code to tell Etsy you were sent by Ebates. Etsy will then credit Ebates for your sale which Ebates will pass along to you, at least partially.
Note that if you live in Canada like me, you can sign up for BOTH Ebates.ca (Canada) and Ebates.com (U.S.). Sometimes retailers are listed on both, but one has a greater cash back percentage than the other. Also, some stores are only on the Canadian site (for example, you have to shop through Ebates.ca for Staples.ca, even though Staples.com is available on Ebates.com).
It’s similar with Giving Assistant. Again, after creating an account, you’d search for Etsy on the Giving Assistant website. Once you find it, Click the red “Shop Now” button and you’ll be taken to Etsy. In the screenshot below, Giving Assistant was offering 4% cash back but this week it’s 2%. Always be sore to scope out the current offerings!
In either case, you can do all your shopping on Etsy, fill your cart, and before check out look into cash back options. Find the cash back rates at the sites you’ve joined, then click “Shop Now” from your site of choice!
Which Are the Best Cash Back Sites?
While I’m Canadian, I have accounts with Ebates.ca, Ebates.com, and Giving Assistant. All three will make payments to Canadians, and I like having the choice! I’d recommend signing up for all three as you can and finding the best rates for each purchase. (You can also check out my Ebates Review and Giving Assistant Review for more information!)
In closing, you can see that Cash Back sites are a great way to save money on your online purchases. Plus, you can score $15 as a bonus!
Have you ever tried any of these sites? What is your favourite way to save money shopping online? Leave us a comment – we’d love to know.