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May 17, 2009 · 0 comments

If you’re just discovering CompareRewards as a result of Gregory Karp’s Spending Smart column in the Tribune, welcome to the site! Glad to have you here! I’ve been posting reviews and news on rewards programs, including online shopping cashback sites, since 2001. I’ve been using them myself for much longer than that!
Online shopping portals, as discussed in Mr. Karp’s article, are one of several types of rewards programs which allow you to earn cash or gift cards for shopping online. This is how cashback shopping sites work:
Instead of typing into your browser “www.Target.com”, for example, you instead go first to your favorite online shopping portal like Ebates or MrRebates, and click through the link THEY provide to Target.com.
Either way, you end up at Target.com. But when you shop through the portal’s link to Target, the portal is paid a commission for your purchase…and they SHARE IT WITH YOU in the form of cash back! Pretty sweet, huh?
Many of the shopping portals will even provide coupon codes for the stores to help reduce your out of pocket cost.
Each rewards program is different — for example, they vary in the cashback rates they offer for each merchant, the way you receive your cashback and the waiting period for it, who can participate, etc. The mission here at CompareRewards is to lay out the differences so you can decide which program or programs are best for you!
When Mr. Karp asked for my top 3 most highly recommended shopping portals, these are the three I chose and why. I’ve been a member of all three of these programs since their doors opened, and I can vouch for them as being reputable — I know people in management at all of them and all three have paid me many times.
In no particular order:

  • Who can join: Anyone 18 or older
  • Payment method: PayPal or check (checks only available to U.S. residents)
  • Coupon codes: Provided where available
  • Minimum in accumulated cashback to request payment: $10
  • Length of time between shopping and receiving reward: Up to 90 days plus 5 business days for processing
  • Ways to supplement your balance besides shopping: Referring a friend to the program
  • Notes: Every year I do an annual comparison to see how much each rewards program pays for shopping at a selection of popular online retailers. Extrabux did an outstanding job in 2008′s cashback comparison, offering the highest, or second highest, percentage of cash back for 59% of the retailers I compared! They’ve also increased the number of stores for which they pay cash back from 775 to over 1,000 in the past few months.

Microsoft Live Cashback
Microsoft Live Cashback

  • Who can join: U.S. residents only
  • Payment method: PayPal or check
  • Coupon codes: Not permitted. Using coupon codes will void your cashback.
  • Minimum in accumulated cashback to request payment: $5
  • Length of time between shopping and receiving reward: Usually 60 days (but up to 90), plus 7 to 21 days for processing
  • Ways to supplement your balance besides shopping: None
  • Notes: Annual cashback’s limited to $2,500 a year, and purchases made for resale or business purposes aren’t eligible for cashback (except some eBay purchases). They do pay the highest cashback rates online for most of their participating retailers…BUT they don’t reward for many of the top retailers like Target, Kohls, Macys, Dell, Borders, Office Depot, etc. If you use their Live.com search engine, though, within the sponsored results for a search you’ll sometimes be offered cashback from an unlisted retailer, or a higher cashback rate than normal on a listed participating retailer.


  • Who can join: Households in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.
  • Payment method: PayPal, gift cards, merchandise (including magazine subscriptions and t-shirts; merchandise is only mailable to the U.S.)
  • Coupon codes: Provided for some merchants; others available upon request
  • Minimum in accumulated cashback to request payment: None for PayPal (request payment at any time), gift cards start at $1 but most are $5
  • Length of time between shopping and receiving reward: Usually within a week for PayPal, within two weeks for gift cards or merchandise
  • Ways to supplement your balance besides shopping: Complete online surveys, visit websites, enter contests, play games, print coupons, watch videos, request catalogs/brochures, sign up for newsletters, refer friends
  • Notes: Unlike other programs, they waive the “pending period” that other programs have in place to account for shopping order returns. As a result, it’s fairly common to receive your cashback within a few days of making a purchase versus up to 3 months on the other programs. The tradeoff is that cashback rates, while still very competitive, may be slightly lower.

There are many other great online shopping rewards programs that I can recommend, but having to narrow it down to just three, these would be my picks.
I provide news and reviews on many other types of rewards programs than just cashback shopping portals. For example, you’ll find news here on “clip and redeem” points programs like Kool Aid Points. I also cover store-based rewards programs that give you store credit for your continued patronage like JCPenney Rewards and Best Buy RewardZone.
But there are still other rewards programs that allow you to earn cash and gift cards without spending a dime! These include survey sites like Lightspeed Panel, search and win sites like SwagBucks and Winzy, and the fairly new YouData which pays you to visit websites targeted to your demographics.
Use the links on the sidebar for more information on other programs, and if you have questions or would like other program recommendations, I have a real passion for this subject and would be happy to chat with you in email!
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