I am a bargain hunter by nature, always have been. Not always smart about it though–in my younger days, I have been known to buy a cute pair of sandals that were two sizes too small because they were only $10 and the leather “should stretch out over time!” You guessed it; I wore them one time for a grand total of an hour, couldn’t return them and was out $10. Don’t be like the old me!
Nowadays, I’m smarter about my bargain hunting and planned purchases. Anything unplanned, I have a customary two to seven day waiting period before I decide if I really love that item enough to bring it home. Planned purchases are researched online for the best price and then I search all of the cash back sites I use to see which gives me the best offer resulting in the lowest overall purchase price.
My favorite cash back site is TopCashBack. They usually have the highest cash back rate on most any store I’ve shopped through and they partner with over 3500 stores. I’ve earned cashback on everything from my new fridge from Lowe’s to last year’s beach vacation from VRBO. Each store has their own processing time so some release the funds to your account sooner than others–usually dependent upon their return policy. The lengthier and more lenient the return policy, the longer you’ll wait for the cash back to post as payable to your account.
TopCashBack is also unique in that they don’t do an automatic cash out when you reach a certain threshold level. Instead, you can cash out at $3 or $300 and I’ve done both. I like to let it grow as if it’s a little savings account. I don’t have immediate access to it, but I know I can cash it out and have the money in a matter of days. That’s because TopCashBack pays via check, Paypal, or ACH direct deposit to your checking account. They also offer an American Express or Amazon gift card for a 3% bonus. If you’re looking to cash out $50 and spend it on a shiny new something at Amazon, here’s your chance to get $51.50 towards it!
TopCashBack also runs contests periodically that ask you to “find the birdie” (like the one pictured in their logo). They give clues on their Facebook page to help you find the hummingbird hiding on retail pages on their site. When you enter the store name that matches the given clue, the hummingbird will fly onto the screen. You click it to reveal what you’ve won. It can be an entry into their drawing for the mega prize that’s usually $500 or $1000 or it can be an icon that you collect to try and win a smaller prize. For instance, one rose icon instantly wins you $.25, collect four heart icons and you instantly win $25. I personally haven’t won more than $.50, but hey, it was $.50 I didn’t have before! 😉
My other cash back site I always check is Ebates and they partner with over 2000 stores. They sometimes run promotions that double or triple their normal rates and this can certainly push the rate higher than TopCashBack. Ebates pays automatically via check, Paypal deposit, or charity designation–you choose your preference in your account setting–once every three months for the previous quarter’s earnings after you’ve reached a $5.01 threshold. They have a button you can download on your browser to check any available coupon codes at the merchant you’re shopping. And you can download the Ebates browser bar so you can’t forget to check their site before making a purchase through an affiliated merchant. Ebates is offering a $10 cash bonus to any new member who completes a qualifying purchase(s) totaling a minimum of $25 within the first 90 days of membership.
Two other places I use are my credit cards’ websites. I primarily use a Chase Freedom Visa card and then a Discover IT 5% card to take advantage of their rotating cash back calendars. This can help stack the savings in your favor even more. For instance, I timed the purchase of our new refrigerator to the Chase quarterly offering of 5% cash back at home improvement stores. I used the card at Lowes.com clicking through TopCashBack first, earning 5% back from Chase and 10% back from TopCashBack at the time. That’s a significant amount of money I saved by stacking my available offers.
Both credit cards offer their own network of affiliate stores for cash back as well. I have noticed that sometimes Walmart is only offering 4% cash back through TopCashBack and Ebates, but Discover always offers at least 5%, so it pays to start there then. And credit card cash back is usually posted by your next billing cycle. If you return something, they simply take it back out of your accrued balance. Be diligent in checking out each possible cash back offer, otherwise you’re throwing away free money!
As a new card member as of the date of this post, the Chase Freedom Visa card is currently offering $150 cash back after you make $500 in purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating bonus categories (gas, restaurants, warehouse clubs, travel, etc) each quarter you activate and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. There’s an initial 0% APR for 15 months for purchases and balance transfers. After that, it’s a 15.49%-24.24% variable APR.
$150 is a big bonus, but please only open an account if you are wise with handling a credit card. This means you don’t carry a balance month to month and you don’t spend more simply because you’re using a card and not restricted by the cash in your wallet. My goal is always to help you save or earn more money, not drive you further into debt!
Related: Beginner’s Guide to Price Hacking
The final place I look is MyPoints. They partner with some places that the other sites don’t; places you wouldn’t normally think of like non-profits and charities. I routinely donate money to the Salvation Army and cancer research charities (just because I’m frugal doesn’t mean I don’t prioritize giving!) and by donating through MyPoints, I can earn some points back for future use. Points can be redeemed for gift cards, Paypal deposits, award miles, or charitable donation. MyPoints is currently offering a $10 bonus (in the form of 1,750 points) to any new member who completes a qualifying purchase of $20 or more within the first 30 days of membership.
Something distinctive about MyPoints is that you can subscribe to their MyPoints BonusMails, which are email advertisements they send out daily that generally give you five points each for clicking through them. By doing this, you can earn points without ever spending a penny out of pocket. You can have one account per email address so I manage my account and one in my husband’s name through our shared email address. It can take almost a year of clicking through emails and offers to have enough points to cash out a $25 gift card, but come Christmas, that’s two gift cards I can use as presents or to help purchase gifts for friends and family. And the effort was really minimal!
Have any other places you like to use for cash back? I would love to hear about them in the comments!