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Side hustles, second jobs, moonlighting, there are plenty of words to describe the various ways in which people try to bring in a little extra cash. But regular online shoppers have found a unique way to fatten their wallets – referral kickbacks.
How it works
Ebates and Mr. Rebates are two of many referral (and coupon) sites that offer you a slice of the referral fee the companies receive from retailers when you click through their site. For example, if you click through Ebates to get to Amazon, Amazon will pay Ebates for bringing in business and Ebates pays you a portion of that referral bonus. It’s just like credit card companies using the interchange fee they charge merchants to give a slice back to the customer in the form of cash back or rewards.
But with plenty of referral sites to choose from, why would you pick one of these two? We put Ebates and Mr. Rebates in a head-to-head competition to determine which gives you the most value (well, cash back) for your buck.
Ebates offers coupons and cash back for a variety of retailers including Amazon, Macy’s, PiperLime, eBay, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom and Sephora.
How to earn
If you plan to make a purchase on Sephora, you would go to Ebates first and click through Ebates to get to Sephora. This simple act will earn the user a percentage (at time of writing 8%) cash back on a purchase.
Combine Ebates cash back with a cash back credit card, and you can stack your earnings. For example, Ebates currently offers 8% cash back on Amazon purchases for Black Friday (but normally is in the 4% range). If a customer clicks through Ebates and then uses an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card at check out, that tacks on additional 5% cash back on the purchase for a total of 13%.
Ebates also offers their own credit card to enable users to stack rewards. The Ebates Cash Back Visa offers 3% cash back on qualifying Ebates purchases and flat one percent on all other purchases.
Ebates pays out earned cash back once per quarter, but you can keep track of pending cash back by simply clicking on your account. An Ebates user needs to accrue $5.01 in cash back before Ebates will send a cash back check. If a you don’t hit $5.01 in a quarter, your outstanding balance is simply rolled over to the next quarter.
Cash back can be claimed in three different ways:
- Big Fat Check: Ebates mails you a physical check.
- PayPal: Ebates deposits your payment into your PayPal account.
- Charity/Organization/Family Member: Ebates will mail your Big Fat Check directly to a person or organization of your choice.
Fine Print Alert
There is a catch though, Ebates only offers the cash back on specific types of Amazon purchases including fashion, Amazon local and sports and outdoor gear. You also need to click back through Ebates for each individual purchase in order to get the cash back. If you are paying for tax and shipping each time, it may not be worth multiple transactions.
Mr. Rebates falls in the “same, same, but different” category. The site functions quite similarly to Ebates, but with a less appealing interface. User experience aside, Mr. Rebates gets the job done and during non-season shopping often offers higher rates than Ebates, according to other reviews and pre-Black Friday research.
Mr. Rebates offers access to deals at over 2,000 stores and there are no limits how much you can earn through a referral bonus with Mr. Rebates.
Just like with Ebates, users can combine Mr. Rebates cash back with a cash back credit card to stack earnings. For example, at publication, Mr. Rebates offers 6% cash back on Amazon purchases for Black Friday and holiday shopping. If a customer clicks through Mr. Rebates and then uses an Amazon credit card at check out, that tacks on additional 5% cash back on the purchase for a total of 11%.
We’ll continue with the Amazon example and Russell.
Russell clicked through Mr. Rebates to Amazon’s Women’s Fashion section. Russell clicks on the jewelry option and finds a nice bracelet for Alexandra, which costs him $78.
At this point, he’ll be earning $4.68.
Russell proceeds to check out and pays with his Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card, which earns 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases.
- Mr. Rebates = $4.68
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card = $3.90
- Total = $8.58
You need $10 in rewards to get paid and can receive earnings through PayPal or a check in the mail. You have the option to cash out monthly.
Fine Print Alert
You also need to click back through Mr. Rebates for each individual purchase in order to get the cash back. If you are paying for tax and shipping each time, it may not be worth multiple transactions. Also be sure to check if your purchase is in a cash back category. For example, beauty products are not receiving referral bonuses through Amazon at the moment. So don’t buy body wash expecting to get 6% cash back.
Head-to-Head Comparison: Ebates vs Mr. Rebates
User Experience: Ebates takes the cake in this category. It’s clean, simple and easy to navigate.
Best Rates: In a random sampling of frequently shopped stores, Ebates currently wins. However, seasonal promotions could be impacting these rates. Be sure to shop around for large purchases. You can also compare deals for yourself with sites like Cashback Monitor and Cashbackholic.com.
Cashing Out Offers: Mr. Rebates offers the opportunity to cash out more regularly. While Ebates provides a lower cash out minimum at $5.01 instead of Mr. Rebates $10, it’s nice to be able to have access to the cash 12 times a year instead of four (assuming you hit the minimums).
Number of Retailers: Mr. Rebates states the site offers deals from over 2,000 retailers, while Ebates claims 1,700+. Swagbucks offers less than 1,000.
Winner: A draw. But we’ll give it to Ebates for currently offering the best rates.
Test Drive: The slightly convoluted ways to find a deal and stack rewards
I decided to head down the rabbit hole of finding a deal and using one of these sites to earn cash back.
The quest started at coupon site RetailMeNot to see which websites were offering deals this week. This led me to Amazon’s Pre-Black Friday Lightening Deals.
I found a perfect Christmas present in the “Sports & Outdoor” section at $13 (normally $16, so a small mark down).
Instead of clicking directly on Amazon, I went back to Ebates. Through Ebates I clicked back on Amazon, found the Christmas present and purchased it with my Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card.
- Ebates = $0.52 (4% back at time of purchase)
- Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card = $.65
- Total = $1.17
$1.17 for about five extra minutes of time. Not a strong valuation of my time, however, if I know I’m going to buy an item on Amazon that would be eligible for cash back via Ebates, Mr. Rebates or Swagbucks, it makes sense to take 30 seconds to click through one of those portals. On larger purchases, say one of $100, I could earn $9 – $11 by simply clicking through a referral site.
Notable fact: I registered for Ebates using my work email, but I’m on Amazon with a personal email. The mismatched emails were not an issue for receiving cash back. It takes two to three days for cash back to post to Ebates.
Check out these other referral sites:
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