“Why didn’t I get my cash back?” I hear this question again and again, and it’s usually followed by a declaration that “MyPoints [Ebates, Memolink, MrRebates, insert any other cashback program name here] is a scam!”
There are some unproven rewards programs out there (although these sites are NOT among them!), but if you don’t get credit for shopping at your favorite cashback store, don’t take this the wrong way, now, but… the problem MAY be YOU!
Here are some things to avoid when you’re shopping through a rewards/cashback program:
1. DO NOT use a coupon code you obtained elsewhere, whether it came from a big coupon code site, a competing rewards program, a random Google search, a catalog, or an email directly from the merchant. Using an outside coupon code can send the commission for your sale to the source of the coupon code. If the cashback site doesn’t get commission for your sale, they have nothing to pay your cashback out of.
Most rewards programs have pretty substantial databases of valid coupon codes that CAN be combined with cashback. If you find a code elsewhere that your favorite rewards program doesn’t have, send them an email and ask if you can use it first…or ask if they have access to a similar code. Most programs are happy to oblige — they want your business!
If you don’t have time to wait on an email reply, compare the cashback rate and the coupon code’s value. If cashback is higher than the coupon savings, don’t try to use the coupon you received elsewhere. If the coupon’s value is more than the cashback offer, go ahead and apply it for the immediate coupon savings, but don’t be surprised if the cashback doesn’t show up.
2. DO NOT click through any link to the store other than the one at your favorite rewards program. Any time you click through a banner ad to a store, a link from an email that the store sends you as a frequent shopper, or a results link from a price comparison search (like through PriceGrabber or Google Product Search), it will fire off a cookie that resides on your computer to claim your sale as THEIR commission. Although credit for your purchase should go to the last link to the store that you clicked through (ideally the rewards program’s), sometimes it doesn’t work that way.
If you searched around for low prices, maybe clicked through a deal site’s link to your desired store on accident, and now you’re ready to buy and want to get cashback, the best thing to do is STOP WHERE YOU ARE, clear your cookies, then go to the cashback site and click through their link to the store. That makes them (in your computer’s eyes) the ONLY one who can claim your commission.
3. DO NOT install a toolbar unless that rewards program is the only one you intend to use. I would ordinarily say, “do not install a toolbar at all,” because I have concerns about the data collected on your browsing and shopping habits…but there are people who will simply forget to shop through a cashback program unless a toolbar pops up a reminder prompting you to shop through the rewards program’s link.
If you don’t mind having your every click reported back to the rewards program, and you feel that the cashback you might otherwise miss out on is worth giving up your privacy, by all means, install the toolbar. However, you should know that there is a possibility that this will interfere with your ability to receive a higher cashback rate through a competing cashback site.
4. BE AWARE that the portion of an order paid for with a gift card is not usually eligible for cash back. For example, if your order is $60, and you pay for $50 of it with a gift card, only $10 of the order will be eligible for cashback.
The reason for this is that many retailers now offer cashback when you buy a gift card. To allow someone to earn cashback for buying a gift card, and then cashback when they use it to pay, would be double-dipping, and the merchant would be paying commission twice on one sale.
5. TURN OFF ad blockers and pop-up blockers before you visit the cashback site. If the rewards program can’t mark you as their customer with a cookie, they won’t get commission for sending you to the store to make a purchase. If they don’t get the commission, they can’t share it with you in the form of cash back.
6. DO NOT expect cashback on orders that are returned, canceled, or modified in some way after the purchase. Most rewards programs have a “pending period,” where your cashback will appear in your account but won’t be available to cash out. The purpose of this is to prohibit unscrupulous people from making a large purchase, being paid cash back for it, and then returning it to the store. If you return an item or cancel an order, the merchant reverses the commission (meaning, the cashback program has to give the sales commission on your purchase back to the store). This cancels your cash back — again, if they don’t get credit for your sale, they have nothing with which to pay you.
These are the major reasons why shoppers are surprised to find that they didn’t receive cashback on their purchases.
Most members who avoid these six pitfalls will find that their cashback credits magically as promised every time! However, if you’re one of the unlucky ones, all hope is not lost: contact your rewards program’s customer service department and ask them to investigate. Be prepared to provide a copy of your order confirmation email, as it contains valuable information needed to track down your purchase, such as order date and amount and order number. Always save your order confirmation emails at least until your cashback reward has been paid.
If you have any difficulty getting a satisfactory response from the cashback program, let me know. I have some contacts who may be able to help.