Do you like to shop online? If so, do you make a point of clicking through from an online “cash back mall” first? If you do, you’re saving a few extra percentage points. If not, you’re leaving some money on the table.
Not sure what I’m talking about? Well, there are a number of services out there that offer a bounty for shopping at an e-tailer after first clicking through from their own site. Here’s how it works (more or less)…
What’s a cash back mall?
Many online retailers have affiliate marketing programs, through which they pay other websites for bringing them business. These payments are typically in the form of a small percentage of the total purchase price — often in the 3-5% range. Over the past decade, as online shopping has grown, some savvy entrepreneurs have built businesses around referring customers and then passing on a slice of the savings.
Some of the best known businesses in this are include Upromise, FatWallet, and E-bates. In all cases, you’ll need an account (which is free) so they can track and pay out your cash back earnings. Once you have an account, simply click through from their cash back mall before shopping.
Which one is the best?
Let’s assume that you’ve decided to do this, but you’re not sure which site to use. If you’re anything like me, you value simplicity, so you don’t want multiple accounts. Rather, you want the best overall account. So let’s see what each has to offer.
For starters, Upromise has “over 600 stores,” FatWallet has just over 1,000 stores, and E-bates has around 1400 stores. While all three offer most of the same big names, there are some differences. For example, you can get cash back at Target through E-bates (3%) and Upromise (2%), but FatWallet doesn’t offer Target.
Next, what about earnings? Well, there are some differences here, but nothing completely consistent. For example, you can get 2% cash back on Walmart.com purchases with FatWallet and E-bates, compared to 1% from Upromise. At Kohl’s, it’s 4% from E-bates, 3% from Upromise, and 2% from FatWallet. For Sears, it’s FatWallet at 4% and both Upromise and E-bates at 2%.
Finally, what about convenience? One thing that Upromise has going for it is that it links up to your existing Upromise account (if you have one). And yes, you can withdraw your money from Upromise rather than directing it into a 529 plan, but that’s an extra hoop to jump through. For their part, FatWallet offers payment via PayPal whereas E-bates will pay either by check or PayPal.
Bonus offer: E-bates is currently offering a $10 gift card to Barnes & Noble, Target, Home Depot, or Magazines.com just for signing up and completing your first purchase ($25 minimum).
Pro tip: If you pay with a cash back credit card, you can stack the savings. For example, if you use a 1% cash back credit card on a FatWallet purchase with 3% cash back, you’ll get a combined total of 4% cash back.
What about you? Do you use an online cash back mall? If so, which one? Why did you choose the one you use over the alternatives? And how much have you saved?