What Are Cash Back Web Sites?

Earn cash back every time you shop at your favorite stores with cash back sites!

Our readers are mainly Generation X and Millennials who are very internet savvy, yet when it comes to web sites offering free money, even the best of us have alarm bells going off.

But some sites, called cash back portals, are the real deal.

What are cash back sites?

Cash back sites (or cash back portals) give you money for buying things you normally do online. Users sign up for a free membership and use these sites as their shopping portals.

Let’s say you are buying things on Amazon. Instead of going directly to Amazon, you start at one of these sites first, like Mr. Rebates, and click a link that takes you directly to Amazon to do your shopping as usual.

Once your purchase is verified (you didn’t cancel or return what you bought), the cash back sites will pay you a percentage of your total purchase.

Where does the money come from?

These cash back sites develop a relationship with retailers and get paid when they refer customers.

To continue with the example above, you just bought something on Amazon for $100. Amazon will pay the cash back site a percentage of your purchase total. Call it 16%.

What the site will do is share what they’ve earned with you. Out of the 16% they earned, they will keep half and give you the other half, which in this case is 8%.

So for the $100 you spent at Amazon, you just made $8 – for really doing nothing besides clicking the mouse one extra time.

How much can I make?

An unlimited amount! There are no caps on what you can earn. The key is just reminding yourself to go to these sites first whenever you buy something online and click on the store’s link you want to shop at.

The commission varies from store to store, but almost every retailer you want to shop at has a relationship with these cash back sites.

I’ve made over $35,000 of free money with these shopping portals alone! Whether I’m buying office supplies at Staples, booking hotel rooms from Marriott, or grabbing a restaurant certificate on Groupon, I visit a cash back site first to get that extra money.

After making a purchase, it usually shows up within 2-3 days in my order history. Here’s a screen capture from one of the sites I use that shows the date, retailer, amount spent, and the cash back amount earned:

Cash back earned at UseJewel

The purchases will be in pending status for 60-90 days to make sure you didn’t return anything.

They implemented this 60-90 day rule after losing $1.4 million to a couple of guys buying, and then returning, tons of designer clothes from Nordstorm. The cash back sites never took back the money like they should and ended up losing big money.

Once your purchases clear the pending status, the cash back sites will pay you via check or PayPal. Look at my Mr. Rebates account. With this account alone, I received over $2,500 so far:

Cash back payments at MrRebates

The Bottom Line

Always compare different cash back sites against each other to find the best deal. One site may be offering 10% back at Home Depot, but another might be offering 15%.

Use sites that have been around for a while with good reputations and high pay-outs. The three sites I use the most are Mr. Rebates, TopCashback, and Rakuten (formerly called Ebates).

Do you already use sites like these? What cash back site is your favorite and why?

About John Pham

John Pham is a personal finance expert, serial entrepreneur, and founder of The Money Ninja. He has also been fortunate enough to have appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, and U.S. News & World Report. John has a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a Masters in Business Administration, both from the University of New Hampshire.

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