Ebates is one of the best cashback sites on the web. I recently wrote a review of Mr. Rebates. They are my favorite cashback site, but for all practical purposes, Ebates is just as good. The deal with cashback loyalty websites is that the site with the highest cashback will vary over time. For example, cashback for Groupon might be 6% on Ebates, 3% on Mr. Rebates, and 10% on Shopdiscover. This same equation can be completely switched the next month.
How Cashback Sites Work
My day job is as a marketing affiliate manager. As a result, I work closely with many cashback websites and have a strong understanding of how they work. Here is the short version:
- Cashback loyalty sites join the affiliate program of a merchant, like Kohls, Groupon, or Living Direct.
- The cashback site is given unique tracking links. Most of these links work by using browser cookies, so you don’t want to use incognito mode or blocks cookies when you try to earn cashback.
- After you click on the affiliate link, a pixel fires on the confirmation page reporting your purchase to the affiliate network.
- The cashback site displays the purchase and splits the commission with you.
How To Use Ebates (With Graphics)
1. When you first go to Ebates.com, a popup will appear asking you to register. You will have the choice between $10 gift cards to stores like Walmart and Target or you can take $5 back to be paid with your first payment. The only information required to register is your email address and a password.
2. After you register, you are then ready to start shopping. If you have a specific store in mind, it’s easiest to use the search box. Otherwise, you can click Shop All Stores tab at the top left to see a table with all the stores and the corresponding cashback rate.
3. When you have found the page for the store where you plan to make a purchase, click the shop now button.
4. You will then see a popup and be redirected after a few second to the selected merchants site. It is very important at this point not to click links from other websites since they could override the Ebates tracking cookie.
- Merchant affiliate tracking sometimes breaks. At my last job, their were huge tracking problems when I started. It took months to find and resolve all the possible causes. This problem is less common with large merchants, but I’ve even seen sites as large as Living Social report inaccurate data. Fortunately, in the cash of Living Social they over reported since their pixel configuration wasn’t subtracting for coupon usage, so it just meant extra cashback and slightly guilty conscious.
- Don’t use coupons not found on the cashback site. The majority of the time you can get away with this, but if you are counting on the cashback, it isn’t wise to surf for a better coupon. Flower delivery sites are one of the most likely categories to void the cashback if you use an outside coupon.
- Don’t add the items to your cart and then click on the cashback link. This component is becoming more critical. Merchants pay commissions because they are trying to find partners that will bring incremental sales. Affiliate networks, like Impact Radius, are starting to offer tracking options that won’t give an affiliate credit if the customer already has the items in the cart. The theory is that the customer would make the purchase with or without the affiliates assistance.
- Gift cards can void cashback. I made a purchase from Rockler wood working for my father’s Christmas present this year. I added a gift card to increase my order value to qualify for free shipping. Rockler ended up voiding the entire commission because a gift card was part of the order. Personally, I thought this was bullshit, but it is a warning for you.
How Much Can I Save With Cashback Sites?
I usually save around $1300 a year using my various cashback tactics. About half that comes from my grandfathered Citi Fowards card that gives me 5% back at restaurants and Amazon. Cashback sites like Mr. Rebates and Shopdiscover account for about $300 worth. Obviously, your experience will vary based upon where you shop, how much you shop online, and how much you spend. Regardless for someone at my very average income level, using cashback sites is well worth it. I tend to the enjoy the experience though. If you view the process as tedious work, it might not be worth it for you. We all elect to spend our money in the way to that makes the most sense to us.
Advantages of Ebates
- Ebates has been around since the end of 1998. They are well respected and trustworthy. Trustworthiness is always an important factor for anyone that owes you money.
- They give a $10 signup bonus gift card.
- They have a generous refer a friend program – after you register, you will be provided with a unique link to send your friends.
- Ebates tends to be near the top in how much cashback they offer for most merchants.
- There is a Canadian version for our friends to the North.
How Does Ebates Pay
Ebates sends quarterly payments to customers with at least $5.01 worth of cashback pending. Amounts under this value rollover to the next payments cycle. This is a difference between Mr. Rebates. They pay at the first of each month, but you have to request payments. Cashback won’t become available in Ebates until the transaction has locked in the affiliate network. The waiting period is usually between 30 to 60 days.
Ebates pays users by check, PayPal, or to a charitable organization.
How to Find the Site with the Most Cashback
If finding the absolute maximum amount of cashback is your number 1 aim, you will not want to exclusively use Ebates. I recommend reading my article about the best cashback monitoring sites. If you don’t have the time for that now, you might want to look at a site like Cashback Holic to compare the cashback and bonus rates of different loyalty sites. These sites can usually help you quickly and easily maximize the amount of cashback you receive from a given merchant. My only advice is to be wary of cashback sites that are new or lack reviews. That might spell trouble regarding your likelihood of future payment.
Is Ebates A Scam?
I was surprised to see how many people search for whether Ebates is a scam. I assume it goes back to the old saying, “if it seems too good to be true…” Fortunately, Ebates is completely legit, and you will be paid if you follow the steps correctly.
On the off chance you have some issues, Ebates offers timely and competent support. Ebates has an A+ BBB rating. They will go out of their way to try to make sure you are pleased with their company. They have been accredited since 2000.
If you have a problem, I would reserve going to the BBB as a last resort. Your best bet is to go the help section of the site first. They have an extensive FAQ. The customer service contact form is here. Even if your purchase doesn’t show at first, Ebates can do an order inquiry to ask the merchant to look into the issue. At that point, it is a crap shoot though. I’m usually pretty lenient about approving inquiries from loyalty sites as long as another affiliate didn’t also receive credit. The merchant doesn’t want to leave a bad taste in the mouth of someone who has already shown they are willing to make a purchase.
In an attempt to have an unbiased review, I searched for complaints about Ebates. Ripoffreport had 34 complaints. Given how long Ebates has been in business, I didn’t think this number was very high. The majority of the complaints were from people claiming they weren’t paid. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable problem with a last click tracking system that relies upon cookies. A few of these people claimed Ebates support didn’t reply. I personally find this hard to believe both based upon my experience and the fact that Ebates support replies to the complaints on Ripoffreport. I take this as a definite sign that they are legit and committed to customer satisfaction. Here is one of the replies from Ebates support on the site: