I’ve been sitting on a “secret” part of my Travel Hacking repertoire for a while because … well … I haven’t gotten around to writing about it. Today I will be sharing with you how I earn money back for most (~85-90%) of my online purchases.
I will say that sometimes the amounts that I get back are miniscule but they all add up … and that’s the point of Travel Hacking. Small gains over time result in substantial savings.
You may be familiar with Points Portals like the one from Aeroplan’s eStore where if you purchase an item through their portal, you will receive Aeroplan points as a bonus. This is a great way to earn Aeroplan points to keep your account from expiring but did you know that that same purchase through a Cash Back Portal would earn you actual money back?
The way these portals work is that they drive traffic to websites in return for a percentage of the sales that those referrals generate. This is often known as Affiliate Marketing.
Now this is important because these Cash Back Portals offer you, the consumer, a percentage of that negotiated return as a cash back incentive to use their portal.
I’m just going to name a portal to make things easier to cite as examples but I’ll have a few portals that I go into depth on towards the end of the article. The portal I will use as an example is eBates.
As an example, eBates might have a deal with the computer retailer Dell that provides them with 8% return on all referred traffic that buys from their website. In return, eBates provides you the end customer with 5% cash back for your purchase. eBates then pockets the 3% as their fee as the middleman.
This is an absolutely genius business strategy for these Cash Back portals and a win-win for everyone involved.
Let’s think about it from the perspective of the retailers. They know that the people being referred by sites like eBates often results in sales, meaning their conversion from browser to buyer is very high. This is something that all retailers are after … sales. If it means that they take a smaller margin on those particular sales, so be it. At the very least it puts the product in the hands of the consumers and then, assuming the product is good, can rely on word of mouth to further increase sales.
From the perspective of the eBates, this is an amazing business model because all you are doing is negotiating terms with retailers and connecting users to retail sites. I know that there is a lot of work that goes into marketing and making people aware of the service but once the user base is established, the money just continues to roll in.
For the buyer, you basically receive a further discount on your online purchase for using a link. It’s really just one small additional step to potentially save hundreds of dollars.
See? Everyone wins.
Sounds Great … Does It Really Work?
Well, if it didn’t I wouldn’t recommend it.
Want more proof? Ok. Well, I’ve been using shopping portals for years now and I’m going to provide screenshots of the payouts that I have personally received.
From the Canadian eBates portal, I have received $197.09 lifetime.
From the US eBates portal, I have received $352.18 lifetime.
From the Mr. Rebates portal, I have received $227.63 lifetime.
From the Great Canadian Rebates (GCR) portal, I have received $877.86 lifetime.
As you can see, I have received over $1,650 in rebates since I started using these portals. Sure, it has taken some time to accumulate these balances but how much work did I have to do? Not very much. You literally click a link to from one of these portals and it redirects you to the retailer’s site. From there, once you buy, you receive the promised percentage back.
How Do I Get My Money?
One thing to keep in mind when using these portals is that you often have to wait 3-4 months to get your rebate and the reason for that is simple. The portals only get paid when you can no longer return the item back to the retailer (for the most part). For example, if a website has a 30 day return policy, the portal won’t get paid until after that period has expired. These portals pass on that obligation to the consumer (and then some).
To cut back on the amount of cheques/payments that need to be sent out, they often have monthly or quarterly payout periods. Each site has its own rules so read their terms to get a better understanding.
Now how do you get your actual money? Usually there are at least 2 options:
- Money back via PayPal (my preference)
- Money back via cheque
I use the PayPal method because it serves as way for me to store my money for further online purchases. I also don’t fully trust the mail system so dealing with a lost cheque can be a long and frustrating ordeal so I just stick with PayPal.
More and more portals are popping up everyday now so it’s sometimes hard to know which sites to trust. You can certainly look for ratings online but I can recommend the sites below based on personal experience.Fair warning – the links provided to sign up are referral links so I might get some money if you sign up through my link but I can assure you, that’s not why I am recommending them. If you don’t trust me, feel free to search the sites out on Google and use the non-referral sign up. If you do use the referral, know that you are helping to keep the blog up and running.
As the name suggests, it’s a Canadian based portal and they have an excellent history of paying out your rebates. In fact, I have never had a single issue with GCR. One of the best ways to use GCR is to sign up for credit cards because you can get cash back for the sign up.
As an example, I recommended the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard from MBNA which has a $75 annual fee. If you used GCRs link, you would receive $60 cash back, making the effective annual fee $15. Pretty damn reasonable for 25,000 Alaska Airline Miles.
Pays out in Canadian dollars.
eBates has also had an excellent reputation for paying out rebates. I have had 2 issues in the past where a rebate hasn’t posted but a quick email to eBates Customer Service solved both issues immediately. eBates has also done an excellent job at negotiating with retailers to get some of the highest cash back rewards for consumers. They also have promotions all the time where rebates are doubled for events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Boxing Week.
Pays out in Canadian dollars
Just like its Canadian site, you can expect to get every dollar owed to you from eBates. I use the US site when the cash back percentage is better. Just compare the return from both sites before you decide which one to use.
Bonus Offer – Get $10 free to sign up.
Pays out in US dollars
Mr Rebates started my obsession with cash back portals and they have been very good at paying out as well. Their site isn’t as pretty as others but what matters here is that they often have great rebates with almost all online retailers. I have never had a problem with Mr Rebates in the past. No missed clicks, no missed payouts, etc.
Pays out in US dollars
Hints and Tricks
If you use Chrome, most cash back portals will have a plugin that you can utilize that will alert you whenever you go onto a retailer’s website that offers cash back. This is an excellent tool to remind you that you could be receiving valuable money back on your purchase. I would highly recommend that you utilize these tools because even though I have been doing this for a while and have received significant returns, I still sometimes forget that there is a cash back possibility when I make purchases.
Another thing to remember is that these portals often use popups to keep track of the sites you click on so be sure to whitelist the site, otherwise you may not be credited with the sale. Luckily most of these sites can detect if you are using a pop up blocker and then give you instructions on how to whitelist the site so you can get your cash back.
Quite honestly, many of the people I tell about Travel Hacking end up having a lot of doubts … I mean admittedly, the rewards in Travel Hacking sometimes sound too good to be true (they aren’t).
Cash back portals are another one of those things that people don’t believe exist because there is so little work involved with such a good return. If I didn’t experiment with these portals for the past 5+ years, I would have my doubts as well which is why I’ve included my personal screenshots of my cash back bonuses to help reassure you.
Take it from me. This is a really easy way to get a further discount on you online purchases and you would be fool not to take advantage of it.