In the past six months, I’ve earned roughly $220 shopping online.
And I’m not talking about credit card rewards. Rather, I discovered some cash-back websites that reward me for doing my regular shopping. Find out how cash-back sites work and how you can start earning more money today.
What are cash-back sites?
Cash-back sites don’t sell products or services. Instead, they act as a portal to retail websites.
“To earn cash back, you must visit a cash-back website and click through its special link to the retailer of your choice instead of going directly to the store’s site,” said Natasha-Rachel Smith, TopCashback’s resident personal finance expert.
The cash-back site records your visit and then gives you the promised reward once you complete a purchase. Check out the four best cash-back sites below and see which one works best with your online shopping habits.
Ebates partners with more than 2,000 stores to give you up to 40 percent cash back. It also offers coupons you can stack with your cash-back rewards.
What sets Ebates apart
Cash-back sites typically require that you visit online retailers through the cash-back site’s website to get your rewards. That’s not the case with the Ebates Cash Back Button.
An extension you can add to your web browser, the “button” pops up to notify you when you’re on a website where you can earn Ebates cash back.
The extension also highlights cash-back rates in your Google searches. For example, this is what you’ll see if you search “clearance sales”:
Swagbucks is the only other cash-back site that offers this feature.
Other ways to earn cash back
Shopping online isn’t the only way to earn cash back with Ebates. You’ll also earn money by referring your friends to the website. As of August 2017, you’ll earn $5 for every friend you refer who makes a qualifying purchase and an extra $40 when two of your friends join and make qualifying purchases.
The cash-back site also offers in-store cash back. Simply add your Visa or American Express credit card to your Ebates account, and you’ll earn extra cash back when you shop at participating stores.
Ebates pays out earned cash back every three months in four ways:
- A “big fat check” addressed to you
- A “big fat check” addressed to someone else or a charity
- A PayPal transfer
- A retail e-gift card (you sometimes get a bonus if you choose this option)
You must have at least $5.01 in earned cash back to get a payout. Otherwise, it’ll be included in the next one.
TopCashback has more than 4,000 retail partners, ranging from big-name brands to small and midsize retailers. It also offers coupon codes you can stack with cash-back offers.
What sets TopCashback apart
Not to be outdone by its competitors, TopCashback offers to match some other cash-back sites’ rates.
Eligible websites include:
- Mr. Rebates
Before you request a match, be sure your purchase meets the terms and conditions.
According to Smith, another thing that makes TopCashback stand out is the fact that it’s the only cash-back site in the U.S. that offers full commissions.
“That means it gives the entire commission rate it’s paid by retailers,” Smith said. “No other cash-back site in the USA does this; they give a portion back but keep a share too.”
Instead of keeping part of commissions, the cash-back site makes money from advertisements and sponsored links that don’t generate cash back.
Other ways to earn cash back
TopCashback has a page dedicated to in-store offers on its website. However, as of August 2017, there are no offers available.
Like Ebates, TopCashback offers referral bonuses when you get your friends and family to sign up for the cash-back site. You’ll earn $10 for every referral who signs up and earns at least $10 in cash back through the website.
You can redeem your TopCashback rewards in three ways:
- A direct deposit into a U.S. bank account
- A PayPal transfer
- A gift card (you’ll get a 3 percent bonus if you choose this option)
There’s no set timeline or minimum balance for payouts. Once your cash is available, you can request a payment.
With Swagbucks, you’ll earn rewards on purchases with over 1,500 retailers. Instead of straight cash back, you’ll earn Swagbucks points you can redeem for gift cards or cash back.
Like Ebates, Swagbucks offers a browser extension that highlights when you’re on a partner website. It also shows how many points you’ll earn with a partner in your Google and Bing searches.
What sets Swagbucks apart
Although other cash-back sites offer a few extra ways to earn cash back, Swagbucks takes its mission to the max. You can earn Swagbucks points if you do the following:
- Answer surveys
- Watch videos
- Sign up for offers with partners
- Get free samples
- Search the web using Swagbucks’ search engine
- Play online games
- Find special text codes on the site and social media you can submit for points
- Refer a friend (you’ll get 10 percent of their earnings for life)
- Meet daily earnings goals
You can redeem your Swagbucks points in four ways:
- A retail gift card
- A PayPal transfer
- A donation to one of Swagbucks’ charity partners
- By entering a Swagstakes to win prizes
Points are worth one cent each, so 500 points are worth $5. You can redeem your Swagbucks points anytime, assuming you have enough points for an available reward or Swagstakes. There’s no minimum balance requirement or waiting period.
Partnering with more than 850 online retailers and more than 10,000 restaurants, Upromise offers cash back on shopping and dining out.
What sets Upromise apart
Owned and operated by private student lender Sallie Mae, Upromise is geared toward helping you save for college and pay off student loans. It offers bonus cash back if you transfer your earnings into a Upromise GoalSaver account for college savings.
The Upromise dining program is also beneficial for individuals and families who eat out regularly. You’ll earn 2.5 percent cash back at qualifying restaurants. All you need to do is link your credit or debit card to your Upromise account and use it to pay the bill.
Other ways to earn cash back
In addition to earning cash back through online shopping and eating out, Upromise also partners with popular travel sites.
You also can use eCoupons to get cash back on everyday in-store purchases by linking your store loyalty card to your Upromise account.
As of August 2017, Upromise doesn’t offer a bonus when you refer your friends.
Once you’ve earned enough cash back, you can redeem your rewards by:
- Contributing to a Upromise college fund or a linked 529 plan
- Paying down student loans that are linked to your Upromise account
- Requesting a paper check
There’s no minimum balance to use your rewards to contribute to a college savings plan. If you want to pay down student loans or get a check, however, you’ll need at least $10 in your account to redeem.
Which cash-back site should you choose?
“America has an abundance of cash-back sites, but they all play by different rules,” said Smith. “Look at each one’s benefits and limitations to determine which is the best for you.”
Consider earnings and redemption options as well as restrictions, including how often you can redeem and how much.
Choosing the right cash-back site isn’t always about making the most money, either. For example:
- If you’re likely to forget to go through the cash-back site to shop, using the Ebates and Swagbucks browser extensions could be your best bet.
- If you like the idea of getting cash back for more than just shopping, Swagbucks offers the most opportunities to do so.
- If you eat out regularly, Upromise’s restaurant network is impressive.
- If you want to maximize your cash back without signing up for multiple cash-back sites, TopCashback is great.
But if you’re more of an optimizer who wants to get the most cash back every time, consider signing up for all of them. Then, you can use websites like Cashback Monitor to keep track of which cash-back site is currently offering the best rate for a given retailer.
Regardless of which cash-back site you choose, Smith said you should “get into the habit of using [it]. Read and follow the directions on each retailer’s specific cashback page, bundle savings, and tell all your friends and family about it.”
The sooner you find the right cash-back site, the sooner you’ll start earning money. For my part, $220 in six months isn’t going to make me rich — but it’s two weeks’ worth of groceries, so I’m not complaining.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.97% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 6.30% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
APR stands for “Annual Percentage Rate.” Rates listed include a 0.25% EFT discount, for automatic payments made from a checking or savings account. Interest rates as of 11/8/2018. Rates subject to change.
Variable rate options consist of a range from 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term, 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term, 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term, 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term, or 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term, with no origination fees. APR is subject to increase after consummation. The variable interest rate will change on the first day of every month (“Change Date”) if the Current Index changes. The variable interest rates are based on a Current Index, which is the 1-month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) (currency in US dollars), as published on The Wall Street Journal’s website. The variable interest rates and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) will increase or decrease when the 1-month LIBOR index changes. The variable interest rates are calculated by adding a margin ranging from 0.98% to 3.80% for the 5-year term loan, 2.35% to 3.85% for the 7-year term loan, 2.40% to 3.90% for the 10-year term loan, 2.65% to 4.15% for the 15-year term loan, and 2.90% to 4.40% for the 20-year term loan, respectively, to the 1-month LIBOR index published on the 25th day of each month immediately preceding each “Change Date,” as defined above, rounded to two decimal places, with no origination fees. If the 25th day of the month is not a business day or is a US federal holiday, the reference date will be the most recent date preceding the 25th day of the month that is a business day. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 3.27% per year to 6.09% per year for a 5-year term would be from $180.89 to $193.75. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.64% per year to 6.14% per year for a 7-year term would be from $139.65 to $146.76. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.69% per year to 6.19% per year for a 10-year term would be from $104.56 to $111.98. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 4.94% per year to 6.44% per year for a 15-year term would be from $78.77 to $86.78. The monthly payment for a sample $10,000 loan at a range of 5.19% per year to 6.69% per year for a 20-year term would be from $67.05 to $75.68.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.28% effective October 10, 2018.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.47% – 6.30%1||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.51% – 8.09%4||Undergrad & Graduate|
|3.02% – 6.44%2||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.69% – 7.21%5||Undergrad & Graduate|
|2.79% – 8.39%6||Undergrad & Graduate|