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Updated on Wednesday, December 17, 2014
With a wealth of cash back and coupon resource sites to help you save money in your online shopping, it can be overwhelming to try and narrow down your options to the right website for you. Magnify Money reviews aim to make this process a little easier by doing the legwork for you.
In the past, we’ve compared Ebates and Mr. Rebates and TopCashBack vs FatWallet. Let’s continue to narrow the field to determine which site can save you more money, and look at two other rebate and reward sites today: BeFrugal vs ShopAtHome.
How These Sites Work
BeFrugal and ShopAtHome both offer cash back rewards and coupons or promo codes. By shopping through these sites when you make online purchases, you can be eligible for a certain percentage of cash back on what you bought.
Of course, many sites work this way. So what sets BeFrugal and ShopAtHome apart — and which site provides you with better savings and a more enjoyable consumer experience?
First up: BeFrugal. This site originally launched as a resource for online coupons and promo codes, but eventually evolved into a cash back site. If you shop online through BeFrugal, you can earn money back at over 4,000 stores or through referring friends to the site.
BeFrugal still provides coupons and promo codes, which you can use for additional savings on top of the percentage of your purchase you’ll receive as a rebate.
Getting Cash Back: How It Works
Each purchase you make through BeFrugal earns the site a commission for the referral. The site then turns around and offers you a set percentage of that commission — which is listed out beside each of the store links you can click on to shop with.
You can receive your cash back via mailed check, PayPal or a gift card. You get to choose how you receive what you’ve earned (although consumers should note this is only available to users over 18 years old). Users do not pay fees, regardless of what method they choose.
BeFrugal even guarantees that their cash back rates will be the best available. If you find a better rate on another site, you can file a claim and BeFrugal will match 125% of the better rate. However, you must notify them within 24 hours as cash back rates change often. Keep in mind TopCashBack makes the same claim.
You can request a payout when your cash back balance reaches $25 or more. BeFrugal says that users will see their cash back posted 90 days after purchase, so there is a bit of a wait for the savings you’ll earn.
Other Ways to Save
In addition to cash back rewards, BeFrugal allows users to grow their balance with the site in a couple other ways:
- Sign up bonuses: these are periodically offered during promotional events
- Referral program: you can refer-a-friend with special invites provided in your account. You’ll earn a bonus for referring someone else to sign up with the site, although that bonus won’t appear until your reward balance is at $25 or more.
- Finding a coupon that doesn’t work: BeFrugal also guarantees all the coupons and promo codes they provide — so if you find one that doesn’t work, they’ll reimburse you $5.
Users can also save by pairing coupon codes with cash back offers.
Additional Things to Note
BeFrugal has an A rating through the Better Business Bureau, which certainly provides a bit of consumer confidence. The live chat feature is an added consumer bonus as well, allowing users to quickly troubleshoot issues or receive answers and solutions to questions and problems.
Still, because of the long period between the time you make a purchase at one of BeFrugal’s partner stores and the time your rewards post to your account (remember, that’s at least 90 days), it’s wise to keep all your receipts and records of your transactions. You’ll want this information on hand if there’s ever a discrepancy or you aren’t credited with the cash back you’re entitled to.
Not to mention, the threshold for accessing your rewards — no matter how you earned them — is extremely high when compared to other cash back sites. Earning $25 means spending $250 at partner stores, assuming a 10% cash back rate (which is on the high side).
ShopAtHome is very similar to BeFrugal, although the two sites look very different. ShopAtHome looks more modern and feels easier to navigate. While both sites pair digital coupons with cash back offers, ShopAtHome displays these right on the homepage so that they’re easy to find.
In comparison, BeFrugal feels clunky and more difficult to navigate (but certainly not impossible).
ShopAtHome offers cash back rewards and the process works the same way it does for BeFrugal: ShopAtHome receives commissions for the items you buy when you shop through their portal, and they share those commissions with users in the form of cash back rewards.
We can’t speak to ShopAtHome’s Better Business Bureau rating, unfortunately. That’s because they don’t have one, and the BBB does have an alert on the company. According to the Bureau, “On at least one occasion, the BBB sent mail to this company in an attempt to develop a report. The mail was returned by the Post Office; therefore a complete BBB report at this time is unavailable.”
UPDATE: A ShopAtHome.com staff member reached out to me after this post was published and explained why the site as a stand-alone entity does not appear on the Better Business Bureau’s website. ShopAtHome.com is actually a DBA and the company itself is Belcaro Group, Inc. Belcaro Group and the website is listed with the BBB and has an A+ rating, which you can view here. I apologize for the initial omission and am happy to report that ShopAtHome.com is indeed recognized by the BBB and has an excellent rating, which does a lot to increase my confidence as a consumer in their site.
Getting Cash Back: How It Works
Again, the way the sites can offer cash back to users is the same. But how you get your rebate is a bit different with ShopAtHome.
Instead of having to wait until your balance reaches $25, you can request money when you have earned $20. This does allow you to access your cash back rebate a little faster, although it’s still on the high side when compared to a wide range of cash back sites (who usually offer redemption options at about $10).
You have fewer options for receiving your cash back at ShopAtHome; although there’s no fee for receiving money, the only way to do so is via mailed check.
ShopAtHome also has a referral program that can help you earn more cash back, called the Tell-A-Friend Program. When someone you referred makes a qualified purchase within the first 30 days of signing up, you receive $5 to your ShopAtHome account.
Additional Reward Program for Added Savings
In addition to the cash back rewards and coupons, ShopAtHome provides “ShopGold,” another type of reward program. This is a new addition to the site, and according to ShopAtHome, it allows you to accumulate points.
Here’s more from a recent blog post about ShopGold:
“It’s a new program that allows you to accumulate points, called ShopGold, by doing stuff you’re already doing online, like shopping, checking out offers and sharing with your friends. Then you can redeem those points for free gift cards to some of the nation’s top online retailers.”
In other words, this is like task site Swagbucks. Arguably, these aren’t additional savings since you have to perform some sort of task to “earn” the points — but it does offer another option for consumers, and it’s one that BeFrugal lacks.
The Rate Comparison
With so many similarities, choosing one site over another may come down to personal preference — and the percentage of cash back you can receive.
We randomly pulled up a selection of stores on both sites to compare what you could get on each. Here’s what we found:
- BeFrugal: 4% cash back; various coupons
- ShopAtHome: 2.5% cash back; various coupons; opportunity to earn ShopGold points
- BeFrugal: 2.5% cash back; various coupons
- ShopAtHome: 1.5% cash back; various coupons; opportunity to earn ShopGold points
- BeFrugal: 4%-8% cash back, depending on department; various coupons
- ShopAtHome: No cash back offers, no ShopGold points offers; various coupons available
- BeFrugal: Up to 4% cash back; various coupons
- ShopAtHome: 7% cash back; various coupons; opportunity to earn ShopGold points
BeFrugal certainly does have the better rates* with the exception of WalMart, where ShopAtHome has a big advantage for consumers. It may still be worth comparison shopping on these sites if you’re looking for specific coupons, however. Both sites offered different coupons, though there was some overlap.
And of course, ShopAtHome has the ShopGold reward program which may help make up for the lower cash back rates, depending on your online shopping and activity habits.
But ShopAtHome loses serious points for not offering any kind of cash back rewards or ShopGold points for Amazon purchases. It’s hard to believe a site that offers rewards for online shopping doesn’t provide anything in conjunction with the world’s largest online retailer.
*Note that cash back rates do change, sometimes as often as day-to-day.
Head-to-Head Comparison: BeFrugal vs. ShopAtHome
User Experience: Personally, I prefered the look of ShopAtHome. It’s more modern and looks newer. But once I started clicking around on both sites, I felt more comfortable with BeFrugal because I could see more information in one place.
Best Rates: From a random sample, BeFrugal has the best cash back rates. I’d choose BeFrugal as the winner for their straightforward program. However, others may prefer ShopAtHome and the additional ShopGold program, as it provides additional opportunities to earn rewards faster (and without spending money).
Caveats and Other Considerations: As a consumer, I feel more trusting of BeFrugal because I found less complaints online about the company and it’s established with the Better Business Bureau.* (Please read the update below to see ShopAtHome is on BBB, however, it’s under a different name.)
Both sites have high benchmarks to hit before you’re allowed to access your rewards, however, which means that users of each need to either be patient and remember to shop through the portals over a long period of time — or spend lots of money upfront (which is not the best option if you’re looking to save).
Though I wouldn’t personally use the ShopGold program, I can see the benefits for others because it allows you to earn rewards without spending money.
This section feels like a toss-up between BeFrugal and ShopAtHome. What’s “better” here likely comes down to personal preference and shopping habits.
Winner: I’m declaring the winner of this comparison review BeFrugal, primarily for:
- Having better cash back rates
- Providing a best-rate guarantee
- Maintaining a good grade from the BBB*
- Being more accessible for customer service needs (via live chat)
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*UPDATE: A ShopAtHome.com staff member reached out to me after this post was published and explained why the site as a stand-alone entity does not appear on the Better Business Bureau’s website. ShopAtHome.com is actually a DBA and the company itself is Belcaro Group, Inc. Belcaro Group and the website is listed with the BBB and has an A+ rating, which you can view here. I apologize for the initial omission and am happy to report that ShopAtHome.com is indeed recognized by the BBB and has an excellent rating, which does a lot to increase my confidence as a consumer in their site.