Note: This comparison was updated in October 2007. To see the latest version, please click here.
Hi, all! I just completed my annual review of rewards programs’ shopping rebates. I analyzed 13 rewards programs’ shopping rebates for 76 popular merchants. This was a little tricky, since many of the programs pay their rebates in points…and the value of a point varies between rewards programs, and even within one program it varies depending on the type of redemption and the redemption amount.
Sometimes I think some rewards programs pay shopping rebates in points to confuse the users, to make it harder for us to figure out how much we’re really earning. I mean, off the top of your head, would you know that when LuckyPoints offers 15 points per dollar to shop at a particular merchant, that you’re just earning a 1.8% rebate?
So… how do the different rewards programs compare when it comes to shopping rebates? Who pays the most for some of the most popular merchants? Which rewards programs should you NOT shop through? Which ones are consistently higher? Want to see the data? Click MORE for the full scoop!
Okay, with all that buildup, you wanna see the chart, don’t you? I spent about 10 days (the first week and a half of Feb. 2004) poring through the data to build a humongous spreadsheet of rewards programs’ rebates by merchant. Before you look (don’t peek yet!), here are the caveats: rebates are subject to change, I’m human and tried to double-check the data but could have made an error here or there (please email me if you catch one), and the points programs were converted to % using the best-value $25 redemption — so if you’re used to cashing out at a lower level, your effective rebate % will be a little lower (and if you hold your points for a bigger redemption, you may get a slightly higher rebate %). Also, Greenpoints’ point value was based on the best $5 redemption (because it’s cheaper than their best $25 one…go figure). I only selected merchants to analyze that at least 6 of the 13 programs I reviewed participated in.
Okay, take a look at the Shopping Rebates Comparison Chart and pop back here for the summary!
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS — The BEST and Worst Rewards Programs for Shopping
Click on the program name to go to my review of it and find out other ways to earn, minimum cashouts, etc.
BEST SHOPPING PROGRAMS
1. Netflip only participated in only 29 of the 76 merchants reviewed…but of those 29, they had the highest (or tied for highest) rebate 22 times, and never offered the lowest rebate for their merchants! They offered the second-best rebate 3 times! In other words, *IF* Netflip offers your merchant (they don’t offer many of the common ones), and you shop through them, you have a 76% chance of reaping the highest shopping reward… and an 86% chance of getting a rebate that’s in the top 2 highest of the 13 rewards programs!
2. QuickRewards participated in many more merchant programs (54 of the 76 I checked) and had the highest rebate 27 times out of the 54. They were the 2nd highest 14 times, too. They had the lowest % just once (Dell) and it was a tie with another program. This means you have a 50% chance of shopping through QR and getting the best deal…or a 76% chance of getting a rebate that’s in the top 2 highest of the 13 rewards programs!
3. Out of 42 participating merchants, ClubMom had the highest % 13 times and lowest 2 times. They were #2 7 times. So, that’s a 31% chance of getting the best rebate if you shop through them…and a 48% chance of getting one of the two highest rebates for a merchant there.
WORST SHOPPING PROGRAMS
1. Milesource is the absolute worst program for shopping, with the lowest rebate on 27 out of the 51 programs they participate in. (That’s 53% of the time!) They NEVER had the highest rebate for a particular merchant.
2. Greenpoints was the second worst, with the lowest rebate for shopping at 20 of the 49 merchants they participate in. (That’s 41% of the time!) They NEVER had the highest rebate for a particular merchant.
3. Memolink had the lowest rebates available on 12 of the 42 rebates they offer. They NEVER had the highest rebate for a merchant.
4. PCHPoints and LuckyPoints were a close tie. They had the same rebate percentages for each merchant, but PCHPoints offers a few more. PCHPoints was the lowest 6 out of 54 merchants, LuckyPoints was lowest 3 times out of 43. They NEVER had the highest rebate for a merchant.
1. Ebates had the highest rebate 11 times (the lowest twice), and participated in the most merchants of the 13 programs surveyed: 69 out of 76 I surveyed.
2. Babymint had the highest % 8 times, and the lowest once (but in their defense, that was for Gateway, where across the board rebates were only 1-2%). They participated in 55 merchants.
3. MyPoints had the highest rebate 7 times (curiously, 6 of them were flat-rate point offers rather than points-per-dollar offers), the lowest 6 times, and participated in 63 merchants.
4. PointPool had the highest rebate 3 times, the lowest 3 times, and also participated in 63 merchants.
5. CreationsRewards had the highest % 1 time and the lowest 4 times, out of 45 participating stores.
Major thanks goes out to Ginger of http://www.sdrawer.com for all her help and the amount and quality of data on her site. If you’re wondering about how another merchant stacks up, visit her site to see which rewards programs pay to shop at that merchant, and how much they pay (in % or points). Thanks, Ginger!
NOTE, JULY 2005: I’m working on updating this information to reflect the most current rates. My work so far can be found at this link.