I am a huge fan of cashback websites. In the affiliate industry, these websites are known as loyalty sites. The premise behind most of these sites is that they use existing affiliate tracking to split referral commissions with the customer. Most splits are 50/50. Said another way, an affiliate program that pays 4% commissions is likely to show 2% cashback on most sites.
There are hundreds of cashback sites out there. Unfortunately, 90% are pretty crappy. The barrier to entry is higher than having a blog since you have to have an API with the network to track orders and voided commissions. Support and accounting are undoubtedly a nightmare for these kinds of sites since affiliate tracking fails about 10% of the time on desktops for a myriad of reasons. This number is far higher on mobile.
1. MrRebates – they are my go to cashback website. It doesn’t look like much. In fact the site has changed little in appearance since it was started in 2002. Fortunately, they rock in the areas that matter. Support is fast and the payout rate is among the highest you can find. My research indicates the site is a family business with Craig and Bret Cassata being the main folks behind the site. I like this mom and pop aspect from a company that I know is making a fortune.
How do I know they are making a fortune? I can see it from their rankings in Commission Junction. Their EPC number is over $200, which is pretty phenomenal. In layman’s terms, it means they make over $2 on average every time a visitor clicks on one of their affiliate links. Following the 50/50 split model, it works out to be more like a dollar a click. It’s still a shit ton for a website with an Alexa rank better than 10,000 (mucho traffic).
An intriguing note about MrRebates from an affiliate perspective is that they were once based in Illinois. Illinois was one of the first states to pass nexus tax legislation requiring companies to collect sales tax if they had affiliates located in the state. The Illinois supreme court eventually overturned the law. Unfortunately it was too late to save MrRebates and the company moved to Indiana.
I’ve personally used MrRebates since 2010 and have the paper trail to prove it.
It is also worth noting the $5 1st purchase bonus in this screenshot. Many cashback sites will reward you with between $5 and $10 for registering or making your first purchase through the site. They can do this because they know they have a high lifetime value since the service helps you earn money from doing what you would already be doing. The catch is that the bonus is usually under the payout threshold, so you will have to make a few more purchases to cash out.
2. Ebates / Fatwallet – I put these two stores together because they merged a few years back. They still operate on slightly different models and sometimes offer slightly different amounts of cashback. Ebates tends to have the higher cashback rate of the two, but Fatwallet has a stronger community to help find remarkably good deals from across the web. Ebates also has a better signup bonus of the two. They will send you a gift card worth up to $10 after you make a purchase of at least $25 by clicking on one of their links. Here are the current offerings:
Other Cashback Sites
- UPromise – this option is interesting because the site is part of Sallie Mae. The cashback collected on purchases is set aside to help fun your child’s college. They claim to have helped members generate over 850 million dollars towards their children’s education.
- SwagBucks – they have made dramatic gains in popularity. They advertise that they have saved member over 65 million dollars. This is less than 10% of UPromise advertises but still nothing to sneeze at. SwagBucks is more innovative than most cashback sites. Mobile platforms were embraced early, and they think of innovative ways for members to earn additional rewards. Even better, earning cashback through their website almost feels like playing a video game.
- ShopAtHome – I am not a big ShopAtHome fan. They had a toolbar for years that would automatically redirect traffic in order to drop affiliate tracking. The toolbar was indifferent as to whether the user was even signed in to shopathome. This latter aspect is noteworthy because it meant that many times a user was redirected, they didn’t even receive cashback for the purchases made, while shopathome earned affiliate commissions. The whole prospect was shady to say the least. You can tell what the public thought about this toolbar and the company’s ethical practices by conducting a simple Google search.
- RebateGiant – they offer a $5 signup bonus. I would definitely put them on the lower tier of cashback sites though. The rates are decent. Unfortunately, the site isn’t as well organized as others.
- TopCashBack – low on the list. I would avoid them unless you are really hard up to earn the $5 signup bonus.
- BigCrumbs – mediocre
- BeFrugal – I would only use them for the signup bonus. Other sites are better for day to day usage.
Best Bank / Credit Card Cashback Sites
Many of the best cashback sites are associated with credit cards and banks. ShopDiscover is probably the most famous. All major banks offer this option. These are increasingly the go to sites to maximize cashback.
1. ShopDiscover – cashback is rounded to the nearest 5%. This means all the merchants listed offer cashback of 5%, 10%, 15%, or 20%. Discover has many exclusive offers that allow higher bonus cashback amounts. For example, cashback for Groupon was at 10% through ShopDiscover for over a year. The cashback amount was less than 5% through any other source. The only problem with ShopDiscover is the relatively limited merchant pool. They only let the largest retailers into their program.
2. Chase – their store is hard to navigate, but the rates are good. The highlighted stores with the cashback boost are the best deal. Lowe’s currently falls into this category. You can earn 10% cashback this corder if you make purchases online from Lowe’s by going through the chase cashback store. Here is a sample of some of their current offerings:
3. Wells Fargo – they face the same organizational problem as Chase. They tend to pass on the entire affiliate commission as cashback. This can make their site worth the slight organizational headache.
4. BankOfAmerica – the Bank of America system is good if you do a lot of brick and mortar shopping. You can load specific deals on to your credit card and the cashback is earned when you shop at the specificed merchant. Here is how the interface looks:
Other Useful Cashback Websites
I tend to stick with MrRebates and ShopDiscover in my personal life. If you have the time or the drive to maximize your cashback on every purchase, there are a couple monitoring sites you might find useful.
- Cashback Holics – the site looks like it is straight out of the 90s. The information is actually well organized and up to date.
- Cashback Monitor – this site looks slightly more modern than Cashback Holics. I might give it a 2001 origin if I had to guess. Again, it still has a great backend if you are looking to maximize your cashback.