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Cash-back portals will cut you a check just for shopping online. Here's what you need to know to begin collecting your money.

How much money did you make shopping last year?

I got paid $101.56 to go shopping in 2016.

Well, technically, I earned $101.56 in cash back by shopping online through a cash-back portal, Ebates.com. But the way I see it, I got paid $101.56 to do something I was going to do anyway.

Cash-back portals receive a commission for referring online shoppers to merchants. When you buy something from a merchant that partners with a cash-back portal, the portal passes some of the commission on to you.

That free money is what’s known as “cash back.” You can earn it at thousands of online merchants — retailers ranging from Amazon to Zales, travel booking sites and wireless providers, for example.

How it works

Using a cash-back portal takes a few seconds, if that. Those detailed below are all free.

Just sign up for one — or more.

Then, when you shop online, first visit the portal’s website and click through to the merchant website where you want to shop. Alternatively, some portals offer an app or browser extension you can use instead of going through their website.

That’s basically it.

Once you accumulate enough cash back, you can collect. Some portals pay out at set intervals, and others pay out when you request it.

Picking a portal

We’ve broken down the features of four major cash-back portals so you can decide which one — or more — is best for you.

1. Ebates

  • Sign up: At Ebates.com
  • Partner merchants: More than 2,000
  • Payment frequency: Every three months — sent on Feb. 15, May 15, Aug. 15 and Nov. 15 — as long as you’ve accumulated at least $5.01 in cash back
  • Payment methods: Check; PayPal; or have your cash back sent to a charity, other organization or family member
  • In-store cash back program? Yes
  • App? Yes, for Apple iOS and Android devices
  • Browser extension? Yes, for Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Safari

To learn more about earning cash back at brick-and-mortar stores, check out “Cha-Ching: Ebates Now Offers Cash Back in Stores.”

2. Mr. Rebates

  • Sign up: At MrRebates.com
  • Partner merchants: 2,500
  • Payment frequency: Upon your request, as long as you’ve accumulated at least $10 in cash back
  • Payment methods: Check or PayPal
  • In-store cash back program? No, but Mr. Rebates President Craig Cassata tells Money Talks News that his company is currently in discussions with a vendor that enables technology for in-store cash back.
  • App? No, but Cassata says that apps for Apple iOS and Android devices are under development and slated for release within the next few months
  • Browser extension? No

3. Swagbucks

  • Sign up: At Swagbucks.com
  • Partner merchants: More than 1,500
  • Payment frequency: Cash back is earned in the form of points, known as “SB.” You can redeem SB in various denominations of PayPal cash or gift cards, starting at $3 for an Amazon gift card (which costs 300 SB). Additionally, you get a 12 percent discount on the first $25 non-PayPal card you get each month.
  • Payment methods: Gift card or PayPal
  • In-store cash back program? No
  • App? Yes, for Apple iOS and Android devices
  • Browser extension? Yes, for Chrome and Firefox

Note that Swagbucks is more than a cash-back portal. To learn more, check out “Earn Up to $2,700 a Year Watching Videos, Answering Surveys.”

4. TopCashBack

  • Sign up: At TopCashBack.com
  • Partner merchants: More than 3,500
  • Payment frequency: Upon your request — with no minimum threshold
  • Payment methods: Bank account, PayPal or Amazon voucher; and a TopCashBack spokesperson tells Money Talks News that the company has plans to introduce additional payment methods
  • In-store cash back program? No
  • App? Yes, for Apple iOS and Android devices
  • Browser extension? No

Maximizing your cash back

While some folks stick to one portal to keep the process of earning cash back simple, others use multiple portals. That enables them to increase their cash-back earnings because portals offer varying percentages of cash back at a given retailer.

For example, when I wrote this, the portals above were offering as little as 2 percent and as much as 6 percent cash back at Target.

I’ve used Ebates exclusively for more than five years, although I’m now considering signing up for an additional portal.

Another way to boost your cash back is by paying with a cash-back credit card. For my household, this adds as much as 5 percent cash back.

If you’re considering getting a new credit card, visit the Money Talks News Solutions Center for help finding the perfect plastic.

Have you ever used a cash-back portal? Let us know which one and what you think of it — you can leave a comment below or over on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

It's not the usual blah, blah, blah

I know... every site you visit wants you to subscribe to their newsletter. But our news and advice is actually worth reading! For 25 years, I've been making people richer without making their eyes glaze over. You'll be glad you did. I guarantee it!


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