Comparing the Rewards Programs Mentioned in MSN Money Article

May 6, 2010 · 0 comments

I’d like to offer a warm welcome to my new readers visiting from Donna Freedman‘s great article on MSN Money, “How to play the cash-back game.If you’re looking for more information on cashback sites (also called rewards programs), you’ve come to the right place!
I’ve used these programs since 1997 and have saved thousands of dollars on products I would’ve bought anyway. I’ve used my cashback rewards to help finance vacations (just got back from one, courtesy of MrRebates and Bing), to help buy Christmas gifts and birthday presents, and on more than one occasion to pay an unexpected car repair bill.
Is this some kind of scam? You have to do your homework, but most of them are not. Several of the big cashback programs are owned by companies you’ve probably heard of before: Sallie Mae (the student loan company) owns Upromise, Microsoft owns Bing Cashback, and MyPoints is owned by United Online (the same folks who own FTD, Classmates.com, and NetZero). There are other privately-held cashback sites that have been around for years and have very loyal followings — some with over 5 million members!
So if you’re just now finding out about cashback sites…you’re a little late to the party! :)
But it’s never too late to get started, and that’s the purpose of this article today: to help you figure out which programs are best for you!
First of all, I’d recommend joining more than one cashback program. Cashback rates vary between these programs, and even within the same cashback program they change from time to time. Keep in mind, though, that most rewards programs have a minimum balance required to cash out, and using multiple rewards programs will require you to hit multiple cashout minimums.
Here are some of the details you need to know to compare the rewards programs mentioned on MSN Money — the pros and cons, and a link to join (some are my referral links, which help to support CompareRewards.com; feel free to type the rewards program’s name directly into your browser and bypass my link if you’d prefer):
Bing Cashback: Update, 6/4: Microsoft announced it will be closing Bing Cashback in July. Owned by Microsoft, $5 minimum to cash out (get paid by check, PayPal, or Amazon Payments within about 5 days of requesting a payment). Some high cashback rates (including 8% on Ebay BINs), some just average. A bit confusing because sometimes they give cashback rates in a range (like, 3-7% cashback) with the exact percentage depending on the product you buy. Also somewhat confusing because you may be offered a higher cashback rate if you know which “secret search terms” to use on their Bing.com search engine. Bing does NOT allow the use of ANY coupon codes and will NOT pay cashback on the purchase of gift cards. While their rate on a merchant may be highest, you may find that using a coupon code at a competitor with a lower cashback rate will give you a better deal. Another drawback: they’re missing some big-name merchants like Disney Store.
Ebates: Privately held, $5.01 minimum to cash out (get paid by check or PayPal quarterly, about 6 weeks after the quarter ends, payments sent automatically when the minimum threshold is met). Rates are high average. Coupon codes that are combinable with their cashback rewards are provided for you. Site also has a helpful but not comprehensive product price comparison tool. Tell a friend who makes a purchase through Ebates and get $5 bonus to your account. Ebates is the oldest cashback shopping site on the internet (over 10 years in business).
FatWallet: Privately held, no minimum to cash out for PayPal, $10 for a check, payments sent upon request once the minimum has been met. Rates are high to high average. Coupons that are combinable with their cashback rewards are provided for you. Site also has a large and very active deal forum where shoppers share their finds and provide buying advice.
MrRebates: Privately held, $10 minimum to cash out for PayPal or check, payments sent monthly upon request once the minimum has been met (they email a cashout reminder at the end of the month, if you’ve met the minimum). Rates are high to high average. Coupons that are combinable with their cashback rewards are provided for you. Tell a friend who joins and shops, and you’ll receive a 20% bonus to your account of whatever cashback your friend earns. (Your friend’s cashback isn’t impacted.)
Sunshine Rewards: Privately held, $20 minimum to cash out for PayPal or $25 minimum for gift cards, payments sent upon request on the last day of the month following the request. Rates are average to high average. Coupons that are combinable with their cashback rewards are provided for you. Member forum for sharing deals and asking for deal advice is provided. Supplement cashback earnings with earning for completing surveys and offers. Tell a friend who joins and get a $2 bonus to your account once your referral earns $5.
Because I’ve been at this for a long time, people often ask, “Which rewards programs do YOU personally use?” I’m most active in three of the above — Bing, Ebates, and MrRebates — and also the three below, not mentioned in the article:
Extrabux: Privately held, $10 minimum to cash out for PayPal or check, payments sent upon request once the minimum is reached, generally within a week of request. Rates are high to high average. Coupons are provided that are combineable with cashback. Site has a unique and very useful product price comparison tool that allows you to search for a specific product’s price at their cashback merchants, factoring in available coupons, cashback, and shipping costs to calculate the lowest final price.
MyPoints: Owned by United Online (owner of FTD, Netzero, Classmates.com, et al), $10 minimum to cash out for gift cards, payments sent within two weeks of request. Shopping rates are very low but this is hidden by the fact that they offer points per dollar for shopping rather than a percentage of cashback. Given that shopping rates are low, why do I use this program? Because they offer points for reading emails, answering polls, and for surveys and signups. You can cash out a couple of times a year without spending a dime.
QuickRewards.net: Privately held, no minimum to cash out for PayPal, gift cards start at $1 (for Disney Dollars; most other gift cards are $5 and up), payments sent within 48 hours of request. Coupons are provided for some merchants, others available upon request. Shopping rates are average to high average. I recommend this program because they waive the 60 to 90 day “pending period” that other shopping sites have to account for the potential of shoppers to get paid cash back for shopping and then return the item to the store. At QuickRewards.net, you can shop and get your cashback in your PayPal account within the same week. You can also supplement your cashback by visiting websites, completing surveys and offers, and printing grocery coupons. Disclosure: I run QR’s shopping blog so I’m not completely unbiased. :)
In closing: If you’ll just make a few extra clicks to shop through your favorite rewards program’s link to Walmart, Home Depot, Overstock, or Disney, you’ll be charged the same prices while receiving a nice little treat — or vacation-sized splurge — for yourself! Give it a try…you have nothing to lose, and you’ll see just how easy cashback shopping really is!

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