We’ve written before about ways to save money for travel, but our methods work no matter what you’re saving for. We’re always searching for new money-saving methods and tricks. Companies don’t always make it easy to take advantage of all of their programs and promotions, but a little leg work can add up to big savings. Once you’re all set up, there’s very little extra effort required to start seeing savings pile up.
Did you know that a simple click means you can get money back on the vast majority of purchases you make online? If you’ve bought anything online from electronics at BestBuy to booking a hotel room on Hotels.com and haven’t clicked through a shopping portal first, you’ve missed out on some serious potential savings. We tend to shop locally for necessary items while we travel, but traveling all the time also means that we do a lot of shopping via the internet. When we shop for gifts, for example, we can have items shipped to the recipient on time no matter where we happen to be. Our jobs in mobile marketing also mean that we spend a fair amount of someone else’s money. We figured, why not earn cash back on those purchases as well?
Shopping Portals / Cashback Sites
There are a handful of main players competing for your loyalty in the online shopping portal game. With most, including all those we’ve tried out, sign-up is completely free. The companies make their money from advertisers, not members. It’s like sharing the commission they get for providing the incentive to shop with certain vendors. Most of these programs work in generally the same way. You log into your account, find the vendor you’re looking for, and click over to their website to make your purchase.
Since most of our online purchases are travel-related, it’s good to note that clicking through a shopping portal does not affect your ability to earn hotel points or frequent flyer miles. Stack your savings!
Our Experience with Ebates and Mainstreet Shares
The first program we joined was called BigCrumbs. I did a lot of research before deciding what company’s philosophy I liked best, in addition to how the cashback options worked. BigCrumbs has rebranded recently as MainStreetSHARES. According to their website, the idea is to be a partner rather than just a member. They say, “Our members earn money each month by shopping at top online stores. They also receive a percentage of company revenue, earn commissions when their referrals shop, and receive a payout when MainStreetSHARES is acquired.” Well, who knows if MainSteetSHARES will ever be acquired, but I like the idea of earning shares on top of cash back. MainStreetSHARES also seems to have higher percentages overall. On the other hand, the total number of vendors they work with is smaller. MainSteetSHARES pays out monthly. It’s easiest to link your PayPal account and get that money automatically. Amazon purchases were not eligible for Mainstreet Shares, so we decided to look into Ebates as well.
Ebates cashback program is one of the most popular out there. Their site is very user-friendly and straightforward too. We’ve earned about $500 so far this year in cashback credits. We’ve used the Ebates site mostly for hotel reservations and car rental. Ebates pays out once per quarter, and we’ve found it’s easiest to link our PayPal account and have the money go straight there. There are also options to have a physical check sent, or to have a check sent to a designated charity!
There was a bit of a catch to the Amazon affiliation in that Ebates only credits certain types of purchases. It seems to be items in a certain department like Fashion, Amazon Local or Sports. It also looks like you have to go through Ebates for each individual purchase, but we honestly haven’t tested that out yet. It always pays to read the fine print, but we figure it’s all gravy anyway. We’ve found Ebates to have some good special promotions though, so keep an eye out for those.
Comparison Shopping: Tips and Advice
Before logging into your shopping portal account, it’s best to comparison shop. Some portals seem to have their own pricing with different partners, so you are at an advantage if you have an idea of the cost of what you’re looking for. For example, we’ve found hotels using Hotels.com or Agoda, only to log in to Ebates and have said hotel not appear in the results.
You should also compare the cashback rates for shopping portals you’re signed up with. There’s often a difference in cashback rates, so see which one is the most advantageous when you’re ready to make a purchase, and use the one that’s convenient and profitable for you at that time. Keep an eye out for limited-time promotions as well. Sites like Cashbackholic are great for this purpose. Oh, and speaking of stacking, if you’re using a cashback credit card to make these purchases, you’re potentially earning even more.
While we wrote this post purely to share our experiences with these tow online shopping portals and help you get some money back on online purchases, the links included are personal referrals. While this doesn’t affect your sign-up in any way, it does mean we will potentially receive a bonus if you do decide to register and use the service. Neither of these sites are going to make you rich by any means, but every little bit helps, right?