It’s almost November, which means the Black Friday sales (and, ugh, pre-Black Friday sales) are nearly upon us. Hopefully, all you savvy shoppers are planning on using cash back sites for your holiday purchases.
So here are some tips for the holidays.
Note: Even if you cash back shop a lot, I still urge your to look over this post. You might learn something you didn’t know — like which plugins and programs may keep you from getting your cash back.
I’ve broken this up into two sections. In the first, I’ll cover when you should use specific sites. In the second, I’ll give some specific tips to ensure your orders are actually eligible for cash back (and get tracked correctly).
Which site to use
In other words, check both sites if you have time. If not, Mr. Rebates is probably best.
For gift cards
If you’re going to use a gift card, use Ebates. It will provide you with cash back for any amount over the GC you pay. As far as I know, it’s the only site that guarantees that.
That’s a big deal because a fair number of stores won’t give you any cash back if you use GCs — even if it’s only part of the payment. At least with Ebates you’ll get something for the amount you spend over and above the GC. (And yes, some stores will give you cash back even on the GC portion, but most won’t.)
Point being: When it comes to using gift cards, Ebates is the go-to.
This is the only other time I advocate using Ebates without checking other sites.
Extrabux no longer offers eBay cash back. Mr. Rebates and Dollar Dig can’t help you if your rebate doesn’t post automatically. And Ebates has the best rates I’ve seen for this merchant anyway with up to 5% back.
Now, if you really don’t want to use a second cash back site — sometimes simplicity is best — don’t lose heart. The vast majority of people’s rebates post on their own. And eBay is 1% (or less) on sites other than eBay, meaning that most of your rebates will only be a few cents. So even if your rebate doesn’t post, it’s really not that big a deal.
If you use/are willing to use more than one site, choose Ebates for eBay.
For a boost
Use any cash back site you’re not already signed up with!
Almost every single one has a sign-up bonus. So create an account and make at least one purchase to really boost the cash back on a single purchase.
Ebates will give you $10 as long as you spend at least $25.
Just don’t be the person who abuses the bonuses by opening multiple accounts/referring yourself. It’s against all sites’ rules, and it endangers the bonus programs for real newcomers.
How to use any rebates site
This is the biggest factor, people, so listen up: If a coupon isn’t listed on the rebates site, it may not work with cash back. (Yes, even the ones the store emailed/mailed you.)
As all you affiliates out there know, coupons can override whatever site the person clicks through. If you click through Mr. Rebates but use an Ebates-exclusive offer, the latter site will get credit.
And that coupon in the store catalog or that it sent you just because you’re such a swell customer? It might make the merchant say (and file the purchase as) “Hey, our direct marketing works!” Or something more business-like and pithy. Regardless, your cash back would be voided.
So what if you find a great coupon and are still hoping for cash back? Well, hey, you might as well try. Click through, use the coupon and see if it works. Just don’t factor the rebate into your end price — or at least don’t let it be what convinces you to make the purchase.
Price compare/coupon shop beforehand
Don’t click through a cash back site and then go searching for deals. Nope, not even in other tabs or windows. (Did you know that even doing a search for the store’s name plus “coupon” might cause issues? Seriously. Some stores are ridiculous.)
And if for some reason you forget and have to search again, go back and click your cash back site’s link again. It must be the last link you use.
Deal sites are especially dangerous because you might use one of the links there, if for no other reason than to find that specific item/special on the store’s website. Unfortunately, this is a big no-no. Those deal sites aren’t offering free information out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re affiliates, and they can get credit for your purchase.
If you want to be a real stickler — and especially if the rebate is a big deal — consider actually clearing your browser cookies before going to the cash back site. Or use two browsers during the purchase: one to search for deals, the other to actually order through.
Don’t dismiss this section just because some of your rebates have been coming through. The plugins/programs below don’t affect all stores, but they can still cause problems with a fair number of them.
If you use any of the programs/plugins below, you might have some problems with your orders tracking:
- Adblock/Adblock Plus
- Spyware Blaster
Make sure those aren’t enabled while you shop. Oh, and don’t just add the cash back site as an exception. That won’t fix the problem.
Ebates has some help on the last answer on this page. That will give you some exceptions that will work. Those will work for any rebates site.
Also, while I’ve only heard about problems with the five programs above, Ebates also says that certain settings on Kapersky, Norton and firewalls can be problematic.
Oh, and make sure both first- and third-party cookies are enabled.
Too many tabs!
Even if you’re not searching for coupons, keep the tabs/windows to a minimum. In most cases, this just lessens the chance you’ll accidentally click on some other site’s link or ad while doing other things.
But apparently it also applies to the merchant’s site!
Yep, if you open a slew of tabs or windows for various pages on the store’s site, you run the risk of losing your rebate. Too many clicks on the merchant’s site might credit your purchase… to that site.
I’ve had it explained to me a couple of times and still don’t get it. I guess it boils down to it just being how some stupid merchants’ stupid tracking systems stupidly work.
And admittedly this doesn’t seem to happen a lot — I’m all about multiple tabs and nearly every order I place goes through fine — but “rare” is hard to quantify. And I’m not sure whether it means “a small number of stores” or actually “a small number of instances.” Which isn’t comforting.
So… If you’re tab happy, maybe go back to the rebates site before checking out. One last click couldn’t hurt, right?
Some people worry about the time between clicking the cash back site’s link and checking out, so they add items to the cart ahead of time.
It’s understandable, but not the best idea.
Apparently, a small number of merchants will only give you cash back for the products you add after you click the rebates site’s link. The only one I know for sure is Staples. (There’s even a restriction on both Ebates and Mr. Rebates for that store.)
So having things in your cart ahead of time is probably fine. But why risk it?
Just make your purchase within a couple of hours (preferably less) of clicking the cash back site’s link, and don’t fuss with a lot of other tabs or windows in that time.
We already covered paying with gift cards. But also be careful when buying them.
Alas, those two pages have some conflicting information, which might be confusing. Still, I recommend consulting those pages before buying a GC. You can always email the rebates site directly to get clarification.
Store credit, store rewards and store cash might void your cash back. Or maybe not. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. And there definitely aren’t any breakdowns that I could find.
The only absolute I know is that Kohl’s cash won’t mess with your rebate. But you’ll only get cash back for the amount over and above the cash.
For all other stores, I guess you should just default to the “expect the worst, hope for the best” mentality: Use a cash back site, but don’t count on a rebate.
So… Did I miss anything? Did you learn anything? Are you now pumped up to get rebates flowin’ in?