What It Is
(Updated November 2017)
Ebates is a cash back company that rewards you for shopping at online stores affiliated with them. The stores pay Ebates a commission for sending them customers, and Ebates uses that money to pay their users the cash back. Most commonly the amount of cash earned by users is between 1-6 percent. In common terms, Ebates is the ‘middle man’ between you and your favorite store.
Currently Ebates has over 1,600 affiliated stores including Best Buy, drugstore.com, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Old Navy, Priceline and Target. According to the website, Ebates customers have collectively earned $325 million till date in 2017.
Essentially, Ebates is an affiliate marketing company that takes a small cut for referring buyers to a number of different stores. As a hypothetical example to understand how affiliate marketing works – If you buy $50 worth of stuff from a store (say Target) through Ebates, and Ebates makes a 10 percent profit because you have clicked through their site, Target will then pay Ebates $5. Ebates in turn will pay you (the customer) half that amount, so you will get $2.5 as cash back. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved. Target gets more customers, Ebates gets the commission and you get some cash back just for being a customer. If you use Ebates to make your regular purchases (and there is more than enough opportunity to do that since the website has so many partners), you could end up with hundreds of dollars in cash back over a couple of years, depending on your spending patterns.
How It Works
First you sign up using just your email address (it’s free to sign up). Once signed up you will be offered a gift card worth $10 and you can choose from a list of different stores.
After you are signed up, you can search the Ebates website for stores you may want to shop at, or for a particular store using the search bar.
Click on the green ‘Shop Now’ button once you have found a store you like.
You will be given a tracking ticket in order to make your purchase.
After purchasing an item, your cash back points will automatically get added into your Ebates account within one to six days.
Your cash back is then kept on hold for 60 days (to secure your purchase and to make sure there are no returns).
After 60 days, the holding period is over and the cash back is officially yours.
Payments are made on set days, quarterly on the 15th of February, May, August and November. You can receive your cash back money in one of two ways, either via a cheque or deposited directly into your Paypal account. If you have more than $5 in your account, you will receive your cash back. If you have less than $5 in your account, your money just gets transferred over to the next month.
If you do not have a Paypal, it is fairly easy to set up. Once your account is running, you can deposit cash from your Paypal into your bank account, easy-peasy.
You can earn a gift card after your first $25 spent on Ebates, and who doesn’t love a gift card? The gift card is valued at $10, and you can pick from a variety of stores.
The website is free to join and you get a $5 sign-up bonus. All you need is an email address and you are set to join! (If you are using Paypal, remember to set up your Ebates account with the email linked to your Paypal account.)
There is nothing unclear about Ebates. Every cash back offer is explicitly displayed. So if you are shopping at Sephora, you can see the percentage of cash back they are currently offering clearly. The amount is further reinforced when you are going to check out.
Though the payouts are quarterly, cash back points are added into your account almost immediately, so you can see how much you have.
Using Ebates does not take up any extra time. The time you spend shopping online is time you were going to spend either way. This is what makes Ebates a better bet for earning some extra cash than websites like InboxDollars where you have to spend hours of your time playing games or taking online surveys in order to get a pay out.
You can use Ebates no matter where you live (even if it is outside the US or Canada) as long as the store you are purchasing goods from can ship outside of the US and Canada.
The customer service team is great. If on occasion your cash back does not get credited into your account, you can contact the Ebates team with your details and they will ensure you get your money pretty fast.
Ebates has a generous referral scheme. You can earn $50 just by referring two friends and an additional $5 for another friend.
Ebates allows you to cash out directly to a friend or to a charity.
This is a company with experience. Though there are similar cash back schemes out there, Ebates has been operating since the year 2000, so they must be doing something right to still be here!
If you use Amazon a lot, this may not be the ideal website for you because Amazon offers a cash back option in very few categories. Cash back offers are available from Amazon on categories like Shoes, Handbags and Wallets, Beauty and Grooming and Baby products. Some of the categories that are not included are Electronics and Books. If you only use Amazon for those (I know I do), you should probably leave Amazon out of your list of Ebate’s affiliated stores.
Apple does not give cash back anymore either. If you are going to spend a lot of money on Apple products, this is a bummer.
Sometimes (this has never happened in my case) there are glitches in the system and your cash back may not get credited. In this case you will have to take it up with the Ebates customer support team. As mentioned earlier though, they are pretty good and will be able to help you out, though it is still a hassle. This is a link to their customer support page.
There are multiple negative reviews online about missed payouts. This can be a huge pain since the website pays out only four times a year. However it seems the customer services team are able to swiftly handle such situations. It’s not a good idea to count on money from Ebates though in this case, as you may not receive it in time, it is better to think of it as some extra pocket cash.
Some users have complained about an excess of junk email from various companies after signing onto Ebates.
As you can probably see, some of these cons are not really cons because A) if you were to not use Ebates you would still get zero cash back from Apple (thanks, Apple). So nothing really changes on that front, but you do get great cash back offers from other stores. Similarly, B) customer services is usually able to fix any problems with payouts and uncredited money.
Ten Tips To Make Your Ebates Experience Better
- If you are like me, it is likely that you may forget to go through Ebates every time you want to buy something. To help users with that problem, Ebates has come up with a nifty tool called the ‘Ebates Cash Back Button’ that reminds you that you can get cash back if you are on an Ebates affiliated website. The button is an easy-to-download Chrome extension. The cash back button also lets you automatically add promo codes when you are checking out.
- Try the new in-store cash back option offered. You just have to add your credit and debit card details to your account, and then browse all the different in-store cash back offers available. Then just link the offers you like to one of your cards at the press of a button. You can easily check all your linked offers (on your phone when you are on the move). You can also add offers to your card when you are in a store. Just pay with your linked card and you get cash back – even in stores. Current in-store offers in July 2017 include 4 percent cash back at Sephora and The Body Shop and 2 percent at Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic. Plus tonnes more offers! It’s pretty sweet.
- A good way to maximize your savings is by combining the cash back scheme with the discount coupons offered by some stores. Ebates lets you know when a store is offering a coupon or has a discount going, so it is easy to keep track of the best deals.
- Look out for cash back offers that say ‘up to’. Just because an offer states that you can get ‘up to 5 percent’ cash back, does not mean you are going to get 5 percent. More often than not, you will get less. This is not Ebates trying to scam you, they are pretty clear. But some users get confused nonetheless.
- Keep in mind that returning or exchanging a product will result in the loss of the cash back you earned from that transaction. Even if you just returned a shirt to get a bigger size. The reason for this is that a store will treat an exchange as a fresh purchase and it will not go through your Ebates account.
- If you have a good credit score you could apply for an Ebates Cash Back Visa credit card. You get an additional 3 percent cash back when you use the card. But remember to be vigilant with offers like these, there is really no point unless you have the time and patience to use the card in a way to maximize profits. It is not a good idea if you already have a bunch of credit cards.
- Remember that Ebates is a great option for shopping you were going to do anyway. Doing extra shopping or spending cash you were not planning on spending just to get cash back is not earning you any money. Ebates is not a part-time job. It only works in your favor if you were going to already purchase an item.
- Always access stores affiliated to Ebates through Ebates. This one seems like a no-brainer, but remember if they do not get credit for bringing you there (even if you have been shopping at The Body Shop before you knew Ebates existed), you won’t get any cash back.
- Make sure that Ebates is in fact giving you the best deal. Sometimes you may find that a different website is offering a lower price for an item. In that case, ask yourself if the cash back option is worth giving up the better price.
- As a payment option, I would personally choose Paypal any day and recommend that you do the same. It’s super easy to set up, and it eradicates the chance of your cheque getting misplaced in the mail.
Ebates is not a scam, it is a legit way to earn cash back. It is the closest thing you will ever find to free money, if used mindfully. It does not cost anything to join the platform, and once you are in, all you have to do is remember to use the Ebates website to make purchases you were already going to make. Now, with the new reminder button available, you do not even have to do that. Just remember some simple rules. 1) If you do not regularly shop online, do not get an Ebates account to buy stuff you do not need just to get cash back. 2) Check online to see if a different website is offering the item you are going to buy through Ebates for a much better price. Keeping these points in mind, if you still think it is a good idea to get some cash back from your regular purchases (that you would make anyway) without putting in too much additional effort, you should definitely jump on the Ebates bandwagon.