This post should probably be called ‘how to save money online’, but it depends which way you look at it! You may well use a cashback site already, but if you don’t, read on. If you’re going to buy anyway, it’s a good way of getting a little something back, and it all adds up.
How does it work?
Cashback sites list hundreds of merchants and other sites where you can earn money as either a percentage of your sale value or a lump sum – and you don’t have to be buying a product necessarily; some sites pay you to use their service. So whether you’re buying a new dress or using a comparison site, there’s cash to be had.
You need to find the company you want to purchase from on the cashback site and click through to them from there. Ideally you should complete the sale in one session. This is because the sites track using cookies and most are based on a ‘last click wins’ policy – your cashback claim might get turned down if you later click through to the site from another source (even Google) and purchase from that click instead.
The cashback site relies on the retailer’s sales data to verify whether you made a sale, and because of these moving parts, cashback isn’t guaranteed – so best to think of it as a bonus instead of a certainty.
Different companies, different cashback
You may find that different companies pay differing rates of cashback for the same merchant, so it’s worth signing up to as many as you can and doing a quick check of the rates before committing to a click. One may also have access to merchants that the other doesn’t.
The top 2 cashback sites – Top CashBack and Quidco
Top CashBack offer two types of account – Classic and Plus. Plus costs £5 a year, and you get a whole host of additional features. Top CashBack pay a cashback bonus with all transactions, but for Plus customers it’s 5% rather than the 1% for Classic members. You also get higher payout and referral bonuses, no ads around the site, exclusive deals and 7 days a week priority customer support. They also have a helpful list of ‘free cashback’, where you don’t have to purchase to earn. I prefer Top CashBack because of the additional cashback bonuses plus the varied ways you can get paid. Payments:
- Bank Transfer
- Gift cards / e-certificates at various retailers including Amazon, M&S, Love2shop, Cineworld, Argos, Homebase, TK Maxx, Debenhams, Currys PC World, Boots, Arcadia Group, Starbucks, Toys R Us, New Look, BHS, House of Fraser, River Island, plus a few restaurants and pub groups. What a choice!
- Tesco Clubcard points
Quidco.com is perhaps the more well known site and while I prefer TC overall, I prefer the Quidco interface. It’s a bit easier to navigate and I tend to find account information, payments etc easier to find on here. There’s a lot more obvious in-your-face merchant ‘recommendations’ (advertising) though. You can also pay to be a Premium member (£5 a year) – where you get faster payment terms with selected retailers, support, no ads, exclusive offers and ocasionally payout bonuses – right now you get an extra 2% on Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificates.
- Bank Transfer
- Amazon.co.uk Gift Certificates (+2%)
Charity cashback sites
There are a few charity cashback sites, where rather than the money coming to you, it goes to your nominated charity instead. The rates tend to be lower though, so if you can trust yourself (!) you’d be better off earning from Top CashBack/Quidco and donating. If you do decide to use these sites, make sure you tick the GiftAid box if you’re eligible to do so, to maximise the amount the charity receives. Examples of these include Giveasyoulive and Easyfundraising.
Most sites have toolbars you can install / add on to your browser which will indicate when a site offers cashback. This is a good way of making sure you don’t forget!
Cashback vs Voucher Codes
Unlike a voucher code, where the discount on your purchase is instant in the basket, with cashback you will need to pay the full price upfront, and then wait a while for your sale to be validated by the merchant before the money can be paid to you. The cashback site will tell you a rough idea of how long this will be, but be warned – it can take longer and as mentioned elsewhere, isn’t guaranteed to be paid.
As a voucher code gives a guaranteed discount, you should weigh up which is better – a lower voucher code which is provided then and there or a higher cashback amount which may not be paid.
One problem with voucher codes is that it’s hard to keep track of the savings as you go along – a few pence here and there does add up, but unless you put that money aside, you could just end up spending it on something you didn’t mean to! What I like about getting a payment from a cashback site is that it’s much easier to keep track of and move directly into your savings account.
Cashback AND Voucher Codes?
Sometimes you might see a voucher code and cashback and think – I can use both! But the only time you can, is if the voucher is shown on the cashback site. If you get it elsewhere and use both, you’ll get the voucher code discount but in most cases, not the cashback. Merchants are much more savvy to this now as they de-dupe across traffic channels.
Don’t forget to link up your bank cards so that you will receive in-store cashback with participating retailers without even trying! Some sites require you to ‘opt in’ to the offers, but on Quidco for example you get it anyway. I got 5p from Caffe Nero the other day when I bought two coffees – which OK, isn’t going to change my life by itself but every little helps!
I bought something but the cashback hasn’t tracked / it’s been declined. What do I do?
There’s an option to put in a cashback claim with all of these sites who will investigate whether they can track a sale back to you. Sometimes though this may still be declined if they can’t connect a sale back to you or if you’ve gone via two conflicting traffic sources as mentioned above. Worth trying though!
Transfer your payments to your savings account as soon as you receive them. Or, take the payout as a store voucher and use as gifts, or to purchase gifts at Christmas. You could easily pay for Christmas over the course of a year!