I recently discovered eBates, a website that pays you cash back on purchases from lots of online vendors. I’ve already gotten my first payment through PayPal, which was a combination of my sign-up bonus of $5 (the sign-up bonus varies – sometimes it’s a gift card, sometimes cash), plus the payment for my first purchase.
How it works
Ebates couldn’t be simpler. You sign up, which involves giving them your contact info and whatever information they need to pay you. The payment options are:
- Paypal account
- Charity/friend (basically, you can defer the payment to whomever you like)
You are not charged a fee for any of these methods. You get every penny you have earned in your account through whichever method you like.
Then it’s time to shop. Instead of going directly to the website – let’s say Sears.com – you go to Ebates and find Sears in their list. Click on Sears, and Ebates starts a ticket. Then it sends you to Sears’ website like normal, and you shop like normal, and you pay for your items like normal. Ebates will keep the ticket going a few days, so if you don’t immediately make your purchase, you’ll still get credit (but if you want to play it really safe, you can always just go through Ebates again right before making your purchase – that starts a new ticket, so there’s no question Ebates will track this purchase).
So let’s say you spend about $100 at Sears. Your cash back rate with each merchant varies from around 2% to 8% in most cases – the vast majority I’ve come across are 4%. Sears has a 4% cashback reward, so a few days after you make your $100 purchase, Ebates credits your Ebates account with $4.
I got my first payment more quickly than normal, and their email stated that they were doing that to show me it works (smart move!). Normally, you get one payment per quarter, unless your balance is lower than $5.01. They have a chart showing you exactly when you can expect to be paid, and it is definitely a bit of a delay: for example, all purchases between January 1 and March 31 won’t be paid until May. In their FAQ, they state they are constantly working on ways to pay you faster. Personally, I don’t mind the wait. I mean, it’s money I would never have gotten otherwise – 5 months is much sooner than never!
Keep in mind that businesses who work as a “middle man” have to have time to get paid by their vendors before they can pay out. I.E., if I buy something at Sears, Ebates can’t afford to pay me my percent until Sears has paid them their percent. And they also need a little time to make sure I don’t return the purchase, or turn out to have been using a stolen credit card, or whatever.
The Tell-a-Friend bonus
Ebates also offers a Tell-a-Friend bonus – I just got $5 for signing someone up, and yes, if you use the link I posted above (or this one right here) and make your first purchase through Ebates, I will get another $5. That’s not why I’m telling you about this, however, and it won’t be the reason you may end up telling your friends about it either. I always test out services like this before recommending them, and this one definitely works. (And if it ever goes downhill, I will edit this post to reflect that, or delete it.)
How many stores?
Ebates works with about 1200 stores. The most noticeable omission from the list is Amazon.com, which is too bad, since a lot of us do the vast majority of our online shopping there. But Ebates does work with Barnes & Noble, QVC, Ancestry.com, Home Depot, Sephora, Sears, Harry & David, Hotwire.com, the Microsoft store – it’s a huge collection of both brick retail stores with websites and companies that were never anything but a website. So far, I’ve been able to use it for all my online shopping except Amazon, and it’s actually pushing me to try some retailers other than Amazon, which has led me to a few very good deals and saved me some money.