The Minimalist Guide to Cashback Rebates (or Coupons Are For Suckers)

Photo of US dollars close up. Courtesy of Nic McPhee.

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Do you love to save money as much as I do?

You probably know about coupons and online coupon codes, but did you know you can get paid to shop online with cashback rebates?  You pay the same price as everyone else, but then you get 1%, 5%, even 50% of that money back?

Want to learn more?  You’ve come to the right place.

Here at Enwealthen, we’re more about investing your money for long term growth towards financial freedom.  But you know, you have to save the money first, before you can invest it, so being frugal is a good start.

Money For Nothing

I know what you’re thinking – this guy’s crazy.

That’s where you’re wrong.  I’ve earned over $500 in the past 5 months just by visiting Mr. Rebates to look for available cashback rebates before I go to make my online purchase.  That’s $500 of my money, being given back to me.  No catch.  No strings attached.  That’s the kind of money I like.

Coupons Are For Suckers

Or maybe a nice Tootsie-Pop or two.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love a good coupon.  BOGO makes me smile, smile, smile.

But have you ever noticed how frequently the coupon isn’t quite for what you want.  It’s close, but doesn’t quite do it.  Or if it does, you have to search and search for the perfect coupon, taking up so much of your valuable time?

Well, no longer.  Now you can get cold, hard cash, and it only takes a few extra seconds.  No more 10 minutes, 20 minutes, even 90 minutes looking for the perfect coupon code.  Just click, click, purchase, rebate.

So How Do Cashback Rebates Work?

It’s called affiliate marketing.

Online merchants like Walmart, Best Buy, Sears, Target, and more all pay other companies (“affiliates”) for customers that company sends to them.  Sometimes it’s a flat fee, but more often it’s a percentage of what you buy from that retailer.

So if the retailer pays a 5% commission, and you purchase a $100 sweater, the retailer pays the referring company $5.  It may seem like small potatoes, but when you’re talking thousands of customers per day, it adds up quickly.

For online cashback rebate services like Mr. Rebates, they pass on a percentage of their earnings to you.  So if Walmart pays them a 6% commission on your purchase, perhaps they give you half of that, or 3% and keep half for themselves.  This is why you’ll see different cash back rebate sites paying different commissions for the same retailer.

So how do you get your slice of this pie?  It’s so easy you’ll wish you’ve been doing this for years.

  • You sign up for a cash back rebate service, like Mr. Rebates, eBates, or FatWallet.
  • When you want to buy something, go to the rebate service and click through to the online store through their website
  • Make your purchase
  • Check back on the rebate service in a few days to confirm the purchase was recorded
  • Request your check from the rebate service once it’s worth cashing

It’s that simple.

Who’s The Fairest of Them All?

A detailed review of all the many cash back rebate sites is far beyond the scope of this article.  Luckily, there are websites which specialize in reviewing different cashback rebate services.  A few of the more popular ones are:

I recommend checking to check out any new cashback rebate service before you sign up for it.

The Big Dog

You might be sitting there thinking to yourself, sure, I know all about rebate sites, don’t waste my time.

If this is you, do you know about Cashback Monitor?

If you’ve signed up for all the cash back rebate sites you can find, and you do this in your sleep, you need to start using Cashback Monitor.

This site surveys 29 different cashback rebate sites for the best offers, and then lists them by store name.  So if you’re making a big purchase on Blue Nile, you can go to Cashback Monitor, search for Blue Nile, and see which rebate site offers the best reward.

A word to the wise – be careful.  Make sure you research any online rebate service before you sign up, to make sure they’re trustworthy, and most importantly, they actually send you the cash you saved!

A Picture Is Worth $1,000

Or at least a thousand words…

CompareRewards has a good summary of cash back rebate sites if you’re new to the game and want to get an an overview.  Unfortunately, it’s over 2 years old now, and that’s a long time in Internet years.  So I ran my own study, and am sharing the data with you here on Enwealthen.

Using the data from Cashback Monitor, I charted the distribution of retailer cash back rebates by size of the rebate.
cashback rebate comparison chart. Copyright 2013 Enwealthen.

There are many ways to interpret the data.  From a size perspective, the majority of cashback rebates are well below 10%, with the higher the rebate, the fewer there are.

From an online rebate service provider perspective, Coupon Cactus has over 4,000 retailers, so the broadest coverage.  Yet BeFrugal came in second in breadth, but on average pays out the highest cash back rewards.  Then Mr. Rebates comes in third for coverage, and approximately the same level of rewards payments as Cashback Cactus.  From a business perspective, it’s interesting to see these two companies differentiating themselves by coverage and price, respectively.

It’s worth noting, that this is just looking at the general trend to get the larger picture, and does not compare apples to apples as far as specific stores are concerned.  This is where personal preference comes into play – you have to check the stores you use the most, to see which service is the best fit for you.

Best Cashback Rewards – Mr. Rebates

Given the broader coverage of CouponCactus, and the higher payout of BeFrugal, why would I choose Mr. Rebates?  One word.


Mr. Rebates has been in business over 10 years.  They have a great Better Business Bureau rating.  And they have paid me, on time, every time.

In fact, the one time a cash back rebate didn’t come through from the retailer, I contacted them and they immediately contacted the retailer and sorted it out in a few weeks.  Very impressive customer service, and that’s getting rarer by the minute in today’s rush rush rush culture.

Moreover, their website is simple to navigate.  Stores.  Rebates.  Coupons.  None of the weird graphics, hidden codes, funky links or other craziness that permeate eBates, FatWallet, etc.  It just works.

Finally, when I checked the stores I use the most frequently, Mr. Rebates consistently had equal or better pay back rates.  If you check your favorite stores on CashBack Monitor, perhaps you’ll find the same, or perhaps another online rebate service would be better for you.

So, what are you waiting for.  Sign up for Mr. Rebates and start earning your cashback rewards now.  I’m glad I did, and let me tell you, so is my bank account!

Like this tip?  Join the free Enwealthen mailing list for more info on saving and investing your money.

Questions?  Suggestions?  Have a great cash back tip?  Leave your thoughts in a comment below.


Photo of US dollars close up courtesy of Nic McPhee.


    • Welcome, Holly!

      I’d never heard of them either, until I was talking wedding rings with a recently married friend. He turned me on to Mr. Rebates and I saved a ton of money getting a rebate on the loose diamond for my fiance.

      That got me hooked, and now it’s second nature to go to Mr. Rebates first when I’m buying online, and I get a regular check from them that makes it worth my time.

  1. I like the idea of getting money for nothing! I haven’t really used cashback sites yet as I’m trying not to buy much at all these days. I tend to use supermarket coupons – when I remember that is. I really should keep them in the car for when I go shopping!

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Supermarket coupons can be good for the day to day expenses. My wife likes Safeway because their membership coupon program is available online – she picks the coupons on the computer at home, and they’re automatically applied when she checks out at the store. No paper required.

  2. Thanks for sharing – Glad to see someone else uses Cashback websites. I’ve been using Ebates and Fat Wallet for about a year now. I’m not an exclusive online shopper, but I really enjoyed using these sites especially during the holidays. I also purchase many items throughout the year from Amazon.

    I recently used Ebates to purchase my domain name and host for a blog I’m starting soon. Logged into Ebates, purchased from Go Daddy, also looked up a Go Daddy Coupon Code (for additional savings), and made my purchase. I did the exact same thing when I subscribed for a web host (I chose iPage). The savings were amazing for such little time it took.

    • Yep, they’ve done wonders for me. It’s great how easy it is to save money – no time wasted digging through endless coupon codes.

      Thanks for the tip on the hosting & DNS. I hadn’t heard of cash back rebates when I started this blog, but the next one time I’m setting up a new blog, I’ll have to remember the rebates.

    • Glad you found it useful, Joe!

      Keep in mind, it’s not just big box stores. You can get cash rebates on hundreds, if not thousands, of stores. I only highlighted the big box stores as they’re most likely to have the day to day items you need.

      For example, Mrs. Enwealthen and I buy our cat food online now. It’s fast, convenient, cheap, and now we get a nice cash back rebate every month.

  3. I’ve been learning a lot about cash back sites in the last year, and now that I’m hooked I find myself putting things back on the shelves in stores because I know that even if I can’t get it cheaper, I can get cash back for buying it online -and sometimes even pick it up in the store anyway! Good post.

    • So true! I’ve gradually been switching my repetitive commodity shopping, e.g. pet food, to online stores where I get the best prices and the best rebate. It’s fascinating seeing the price differentials before and after rebate on the different stores, and seeing the balance growing in my Mr. Rebates account is just as fascinating!

  4. I wouldn’t call coupons for suckers 😉 after all good coupon always get you through.

    I love rebates, my favorite cash back sites are and have been using both of them ( mostly the last one because of the number of stores ). Both sites offer up to date coupons ( so it is even better to have the combo of coupons and cash back )

  5. Interesting. So you buy the card to get discounts but then as you use it you also gain points you can rebate for cash?

    I haven’t tried that. I’ll have to keep an eye out for one of those the next time I’m at the mall.

    • I know. It’s hard to figure out which one is best since it really depends on where you do most of your online shopping.

      That’s why I did this analysis, to get a better idea of the depth and breadth of coverage for each one.

      It’s been a few years though. I still use Mr. Rebates as my primary cash back rebate site, but it’s probably time for an update.

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