Note: This comparison has been updated for 2007! Please click here to read the 2007 Shopping Rebate Comparison.
Points, tokens, miles… how are you supposed to know which rewards program is best for shopping when they use these cryptic systems for rewarding you instead of just giving you a good old-fashioned PERCENT REBATE?
Well, my friends, that’s why ya got me — your own personal MBA with way too much free time on her hands.
After a week of looking at way too many numbers, I’ve just finished up the 2005 CompareRewards Shopping Rebate Comparison Chart. I reviewed 18 rewards programs and their rates for 103 merchants. Points/tokens/miles were converted to percentages for ease of comparison — after all, how else would you know how 60 tokens per dollar compares to 1.5%, for example?
How did your favorite rewards program do? And with the Christmas shopping season right around the corner, is there a different rewards program you should shop with to maximize your earnings?
For the full scoop, Continue Reading!
I know you want to see the chart, but first I have to make some disclaimers:
- This is for comparison only; rewards programs can (and do) change their shopping rates — in fact, I expect some to do so as a result of this chart being released!
- There may be mistakes or omissions due to human error. Always double-check with the rewards program before making your purchase.
- For those programs using points, tokens, miles, or something else “per dollar”, I converted those to percentages using the point cost of their cheapest $25 redemption. This was done for consistency (to be fair when comparing across programs) — but if you’re used to cashing out at a different level, your results may vary. In other words, your points, thus your rebates, may be worth slightly more if you generally hold out for a $50 or $100 redemption or slightly less if you cash out at $5 or $10.
- The merchants on the chart are the ones I used last year, plus some others that I just thought were probably pretty popular. I added in some that my users suggested.
- The rewards programs on the chart are: BabyMint, ClubMom, CreationsRewards.net, Ebates, FatWallet, Freeride, Freestyle Rewards, Giving2Gether.org, Greenpoints, Memolink, Milesource, MyPoints, NetFlip, PCHPoints, PointPool, QuickRewards.net, QuizPoints, and uPromise. I review most of these on the website if you’d like to read more.
Before you go to the chart, let me explain the color-coding: As you read across, the “greens” are the highest rates offered for that merchant; the “reds” are the lowest. As you read down, you can see which rewards programs have the most “greens” and which have the most “reds.” Another interesting thing to look at as you read across is the difference between the green and red — that’s the rate the best rewards program pays for that merchant compared to the worst available rate. Sometimes picking and choosing which rewards program to use can mean a HUGE difference in the rebate you earn!
Now, on with it, already! Please click here to see the 2005 Shopping Comparison Chart… then pop back here and continue reading for my analysis.
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS — The Best and Worst of Show. Click the program’s name for my review including information like minimum cashout level, possible redemption choices, and a link to join.
MY AWARD FOR OVERALL HIGHEST REBATES GOES TO:
Giving2Gether.org. A relatively new rewards program, G2G is trying to make a name for themselves by offering aggressive rebates. They had the highest rebate percentage for 37 of the 49 merchants on the chart that they reward for! Definitely the program to shop through if you want to be sure that about 75% of the time G2G’s rates beat all of the other 17 programs reviewed!
1. NetFlip. Although NetFlip had the fewest merchants of all the programs reviewed (26 out of 103), NetFlip had the highest rebate 15 times, or for 58% of their merchants! If they could get some more merchants (and some half-way decent customer service), they would really be a force to be reckoned with.
2. Ebates. One of the oldies-but-goodies, Ebates also performed well this year, with (also) 15 of the highest rebates on the chart. They have a huge number of merchants, though, so as a percentage of their total merchants, it’s not as impressive as the other two sites. In their favor, however, Ebates does have a lower minimum payout ($5, versus $20 for G2G and NF).
THE AWARD FOR THE LOWEST SHOPPING RATES GOES TO:
Greenpoints. With a SHOCKING 39 “reds”, that is, offering the lowest rate for 39 of the 52 merchants they offer that are on our chart, you can bet your bippy that you’re going to get screwed if you shop through Greenpoints: 75% of the time they pay less than the other 17 rewards programs reviewed! They’re planning improvements to their shopping portal. Um, here’s a thought: PAY MORE.
1. Milesource. Tsk, tsk. The worst program in last year’s analysis, they’ve done nothing to improve their position. The worst rates for 27 of the merchants charted, and with 75 of their merchants on the chart, that works out to about a third of the time you’d earn more through any of the other 17 programs reviewed.
2. PCHPoints. 19 reds out of 68 merchants they offer on our chart. And they should be thanking ol’ Greenpoints and Milesource, because if it wasn’t for them, they’d have even more. These three are really the bottom of the barrel as far as shopping rates go.
OTHER NOTABLE PROGRAMS (in no particular order):
1. QuickRewards. My own personal favorite, with rebates credited on average in 2-3 days of placing your order, no minimum to cash out to PayPal, and generally you get your PayPal the day you request it… or save up for other GC options. QuickRewards had a pretty good showing this year with 11 “greens”, and because I was curious, I checked and found QR came in second-highest an additional 28 times. Not bad at all. They also carry 95 of the 103 merchants surveyed. QR carries a huge variety of merchants, 885 to be exact!
2. FatWallet. Also weighing in with 11 “greens”, FatWallet has established itself as a formidable competitor. They also have no minimum payout to PayPal, though rebates earned remain pending and unavailable for withdrawal for 91-121 days. Their deal forum is so extensive and so popular, the term “FatWallet Effect” was coined to describe how deals are pulled quickly once they’re posted on FW and their many rabid fans jump on them.
3. MyPoints, one of the biggest rewards programs out there, had a mediocre showing, but much improved over the days of just offering a flat “2 points per dollar” (ya listening, GreenPoints?). Just 4 “reds” — not that bad — but the “greens” they had were mostly flat-rate awards (like, “earn 500 points for any order”). And while I marked those as green, the rate you’re getting really depends on your order size. For instance, $6.25 for any FTD order is pretty decent if your flowers just cost $62.50 — but if they cost more, you’d earn more by shopping through one of the three other sites that pay 10% instead. So, of their 12 “greens”, 7 are kind of iffy. Not terribly bad, but not terribly good, either.
IN DIRE NEED OF REMODELING:
Putting together the numbers for this comparison should have been an easy feat — go to each program, pull up an alphabetical list of merchants, and plug the rebate (in % or points) into a spreadsheet. Calculate the dollar value of a point, convert points to %. Format, color-code, analyze. Okay, no…so it isn’t all THAT easy… but it was made even more time-consuming because several sites have terrible, TERRIBLE, merchant lists. I list these here because they really ticked me off.
1. PCHPoints. They have no master list of merchants. They have no search box to plug in a store name and see if it comes up. There’s a merchant list within each category, but it’s not alphabetized, and it spans multiple pages. How do you find out if they reward for purchases at, say, CollectionsEtc? Would you look under “Flowers/Gifts”? There’s no “Home/Garden” category… maybe look under “Art”? TOO MUCH TROUBLE. F-
2. ClubMom. A close second to PCHPoints and it only fares better because its unalphabetized merchant list in each category at LEAST is all contained on one page. They also have no master list of merchants. They also have no search box. So, these guys’ shopping layout JUST warrants an F.
3. Milesource. While they do have a master list of merchants, it doesn’t show their rates next to the store name; to find out how much it pays, you have to click through. They don’t have a search box, either, and within each category, merchants aren’t alphabetized.
Pushing those “reds” up closer to the “greens” is really what I’d like to see happen in the near future. Rewards programs need to stop hiding behind the smoke-and-mirror point systems and offer clear and truly competitive rates. In the past, rewards programs offered a lot of “free,” non-spending points, which in many users’ minds helped to offset the fact that they earned inferior rebates. And perhaps that is a consolation to Milesource fans, as they see their site in the bottom 2 again this year. But as we’re seeing those free points dry up, what’s left is online shopping…and rewards programs need to really compete on rates to attract members’ business.
But rates aren’t the only thing that determines where a shopper spends her dime. Customer service is also a huge factor. Are my orders credited reliably? Will the site communicate with me in a timely and courteous manner if there are problems? What about when I cash out — are there enough good options for redemptions? How long will I have to wait to have my rebate credited to my account? How long will it be after I cash out before I receive my redemption?
I, personally, have a prejudice against points. I think they’re intentionally unclear for the purpose of hiding what the program really pays (with a few exceptions, like CreationsRewards and ClubMom, which both have one straightforward and easy to understand point value). Further, while I can guarantee that my 5% earned at Ebates will translate to a specific dollar amount, the 500 points I earn at another site may translate to $5 now…or if they change their point cost to cash out, it may mean 50 cents in the future. Who knows?
In closing, there are many factors that go into a user’s decision of which rewards program to shop through. While the rebates as illustrated in this chart are one factor, please take other factors into consideration, like customer service, redemption options, and points vs. percentages. I hope you’ve found this information useful and I’m more than happy to answer any questions you may have.