Before you go on to the next section, with lots of information on how you can earn rebates by shopping online through rewards programs, I want to share with you a list of common questions you might have. If you’re an absolute newbie to rewards/rebate programs, you may be a little intimidated at first…I know I was! I hope that this section will help address some of those concerns.
After I shop, how long do I have to wait to get my points/miles/rebate?
It depends on the program. Keep in mind that some programs are better than others at crediting points! The variance can be tremendous — some sites may credit your account within a day or two; others take a month or more! It is VERY IMPORTANT that you always start shopping at your rewards program and click from there to the online store to place your order. If you go directly to the online store first, they won’t pay a commission to the rebate site (so the rebate site can’t give you your cut!). Also, always keep a copy of your purchase confirmation email in case you need to follow up with customer service.
The rewards program says my purchase didn’t track, or that they don’t see a record of it. But I have the confirmation email! What gives?
There are several things that might have happened:
1. Your computer has to allow cookies — these markers help match up your sale to your rewards program. It helps if you clear your cookies before going to a rewards program to make a purchase, because if you visited the merchant’s site through a different rewards program or deal site first, THEIR cookie may be on your computer instead…so they will get the commission for your sale instead of the rewards program you intended!
2. Do you have a program or toolbar installed that “alerts” you to point-earning possibilities when you visit a merchant? Ebates’ MoeMoneyMaker is an example of these, and they can interfere with you getting credit for shopping through one of their competitors’ rewards programs. Uninstall it if you plan to use more than just one rewards program for online shopping!
3. Did you use a coupon code when you made your purchase? Some coupon codes are specific to a particular deal site or rewards program, and although you may get the percentage off or dollars off when using them at a different rewards program, the commission for your purchase will go to the site where the coupon originated. You CAN sometimes combine coupon codes and online rebates, but it’s best to either use coupon codes that come directly from the rewards program, or to email them first to ask if you can use a particular code.
I’ve earned enough points to cash them in for a gift certificate or on a merchandise prize. How long does it take to get it?
It depends on the program. Generally, emailable rewards, like Virtual Visas, Webcertificates, or PayPal, will get to you faster. Check with each program’s terms to find out when they promise the reward. And make sure you follow up with the program if they exceed the stated wait time; sometimes prizes get lost in the queue, or (worse) the postal service loses them. A conscientious rewards program will work with you to ensure you receive your reward.
I’ve been waiting and waiting…and I still haven’t received my reward! What now?
Follow up with customer service. Try email at first, giving as many specifics as possible including your user name, the transaction date, and attach a copy of your purchase confirmation email. If you don’t get a response back quickly, try contacting them by phone. A contact phone number is provided, where available, in each rewards program’s review here on CompareRewards. If all else fails, contact the Better Business Bureau in the city where the rewards program is physically located. (You can usually find this by going to the About or Contact link on the rewards program’s website.)
I’m ready to spend the online gift certificate I received as a reward. Can I use a coupon code when I redeem the gift certificate?
Usually, yes. Some stores like Sephora and Amazon have restrictions. Many people choose Webcertificates or Virtual Visas as their reward because they are basically stored value credit cards — they can be used at any online store, combined with coupon codes, and you can also earn points as you spend them. (Don’t forget to start your shopping on your favorite rewards program’s site!)
Can I earn points when redeeming my gift certificates?
With the exception of Webcertificates or Virtual Visas, which are basically just electronic debit cards…the answer is no. You can earn points on any part of your total that exceeds your gift certificate balance…but not on the part of your total that was paid for by a GC.
Can I earn points for BUYING a gift certificate?
Usually not. However, ClubMom has one section of their shopping area set aside just for GCs you can purchase and receive points for. You have to go through their special GC purchasing area to get the points — going to the merchant’s site in the regular shopping area and buying it from there won’t earn you the points. Many rewards programs also offer points for purchases at GiftCertificates.com, a site that sells GCs for many different stores. However, the general answer here is no, and your best bet is to assume you can’t, unless the rewards program tells you otherwise.
Can points be transferred from one friend to another or from a family member to another?
Not in most programs, no. A couple of exceptions: S&H Greenpoints will let you, but with restrictions (the recipient has to have made a purchase of their own before they can redeem points given to them). The college savings programs (Upromise, BabyMint, and LittleGrad) will allow you to donate all or a portion of your earnings to a third party if you choose.
Can I have more than one account on a program? What if I sign up my spouse, is that allowed? How about my dog? What if I legitimately forget and sign up two different accounts on the same rewards program — can I combine them?
Treacherous territory here, my friend. Almost every rewards program limits you to one account per person. Most limit you to one account per household, or one account per IP address. See each program’s terms of service. Have people been able to get around these rules? Yes, sometimes. But people have also lost all their earnings in each of their accounts for breaking the rules, too. Accounts do get audited, and rewards programs do notice. I’ve heard cases where a program allowed one account per person, and the program looked at the IP address, the login times, watched the account activity, and concluded it was one person working two accounts… and both accounts were closed. In my opinion, it is NOT worth it to try to get around a program’s terms of service. As for what to do if you create a duplicate account by accident, keep it to yourself — sometimes you’ll get in trouble just for reporting the mistake. Your best bet is to stick with whichever account you’ve used to cash out in the past, and to delete the duplicate account (most programs have a button that you can click when you’re logged in to “delete my account”).
So, those are some of the more common questions I’ve heard…but if you have others, please email me and I’d be more than willing to help!
Next section in Rewards Program Basics: Beginner’s Guide to Online Shopping and Rewards Programs
Return to CompareRewards Home.
Frequently Asked Questions