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WHAT IS EBATES?

Ebates is an online portal where you can start your online shopping for most stores. From there, you’ll get cash back for a percentage of your purchase. This makes the most sense if you had already planned on shopping on the sites that participate with Ebates–because you’ll get cash back rebates for stuff you were going to buy anyway.

Founded back in 1998, it is one of the largest, free member-based savings programs in the U.S. In fact, more than 10 million members have already earned over $800 million in cash back since the site came online. I’ve been an Ebates member since almost the beginning. Right now Ebates lets you get cash back from nearly 2,000 different store sites.

HOW DOES EBATES WORK?

Ebates saves you money by using a simple business model: stores pay Ebates a commission for sending shoppers to their websites. Ebates then splits that commission with you, in the form of a cash back rebate.

You don’t have to pay to use Ebates–it’s always free. And Ebates makes its money through those commission fees that the stores pay to it. You wouldn’t think that stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond or Barnes and Noble would need help getting customers. But I guess in today’s competitive marketplace, the stores are willing to pay a site like Ebates to get customers through the virtual door.

WHAT IS A CASH BACK REBATE?

A cash back rebate is basically money you get back on your purchase. It is very different from product rebates. That’s when you have to send in your receipt and maybe the barcode you cut out from packaging.

With cash back rebates you are getting a percentage of your purchase back, thanks to Ebates. Ebates sends you your cash back statement every three months or every quarter. You can choose to get your big fat Ebates check as a paper check or you can have it direct deposited in your PayPal account.

Here are some examples of how I earn cash back from shopping through Ebates:

CASH BACK FROM TRAVEL

Shopping online for cash back isn’t just about buying physical products. You can make money on your travel, too. Recently, I booked a Marriott hotel stay and will be getting $1.56 rebated to me. You can also get cash back for travel you book through TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and others.

CASH BACK FOR PERSONAL PRODUCTS

Although I’m not very good at its application, I am a sucker for all things Sephora. So I got $8.32 back on my recent order. In addition, an order on the Overstock website for things I needed for the home earned me $38.44.

Again I realize that with these examples I’ve offered, I’ve only gotten cash back in the equivalent of $46.76. That’s not a lot of money. But it’s money that I wouldn’t have coming to me next quarter if I hadn’t shopped through a cash back site.

Think about it this way–$46.76 is not an impressive amount. But $2,158.26 is. That’s the total amount of cash back I have earned since starting to use Ebates. What could you do with an extra $2,000?

GETTING CASH BACK FOR HOLIDAY SHOPPING

For years, I’ve always shopped through the Ebates site to get cash back for holiday shopping. A few years ago I tallied up how much I’d saved by doing my holiday shopping this way. Here’s what I found:

  • 2012: Of the gift buying I did, I earned $173.37 in cash back.
  • 2011: I got $55.19 back for gifts I bought online
  • 2010: My cash back this year was $79.83

Mostly recently Amazon.com joined up with Ebates, allowing you to qualify for cash back when you shop for jewelry, watches, musical instruments, and certain health and beauty products.

HOW CAN I GET MAXIMUM CASH BACK?

One of the best ways to get maximum cash back is to choose to shop at stores that offer the best cash back offers. Ebates usually lists stores under the heading “double cash back offers” which is pretty obvious what the benefits are. You’ll get double the cash back that you normally would on the site.

At the holidays you’ll usually find these maximum cash back offers listed under Black Friday deals or holiday deals. In years past, at some stores offering the maximum cash back offers, I’ve been able to earn back between 25 and 50 percent of what I was spending on gifts.

Sometimes getting maximum cash back might mean shopping at stores you’re not the most familiar with or have never shopped on before. But don’t worry: just because you’re not familiar with a store doesn’t mean the cash back won’t work.

In fact, if you have a problem getting your cash back, you can always reach out to Ebates. There have been a couple of times that I’ve shopped cash back, and my cash back never showed up. When I reached out to Ebates customer service, they fixed things right away. All I had to do was provide the store where I shopped, my order number, and Ebates credited my account for the rebate I should have received.

This is one of the reasons I feel safe using Ebates. I know that if enough people filed Ebates complaints about a store not coming through with their cash back offer, Ebates would step in and fix the problem. I’m sure the company doesn’t want people asking “Is Ebates a scam?” or “Is Ebates legit?” That would be bad for business. And, like I said, on occasion when the cash back stores on the site didn’t come through as promised, Ebates credited my account, which was the right thing to do.

WHAT IS THE EBATES REFERRAL CODE?

Here’s one of the things I love about Ebates: it offers every shopper an Ebates referral code. What that means is this: when you make an Ebates referral–that is, you send a friend, family member, colleague or anyone else to the Ebates site–you can earn extra money for yourself. Actually, you earn $5 for every referral.

Ebates rewards you with this referral fee the first time anyone you directed to the site makes a purchase. From time to time Ebates bumps up the referral fee so that you can make incrementally more with each referral you make. You’ll usually find this referral bonus during the holiday season. Refer more people using your unique Ebates referral code, and you’ll earn more money.

You get this money from the Ebates referral code when you get your cash back payment. You get those payments every three months. Layering referrals with your money back for your shopping is one of the best ways to get the most cash back.

USE THE EBATES CASH BACK BUTTON

When I first started using this cash back site, I had to start my shopping on Ebates.com. Then I had to click through to whatever participating online site where I wanted to shop. Now Ebates offers a cash back button that you can install on your web browser.

The Ebates cash back button makes using the program easier in two ways.

  1. It lets you know whenever you land on any site that participates in the program. You’ll know that when that little “E” button on your browser bar will light up in red. Or at least it lights up in red on my Firefox browser. If you haven’t already “activated” cash back, it reminds you to do so.
  2. At any time you can click on the Ebates cash back button on your web browser and see how much you’ve earned on your last cash back shopping trips. In addition, it tells you how much you’ve earned over your lifetime using Ebates. Plus, it offers a quick link to your Ebates referral code. Just look for the tab that says, “Get $25.”