I’m talking about cashback sites.
Now I’ve heard some pretty mixed messages about them in the past…
“are they a waste of time… do they really pay up?”
I’ll be blunt. If you’re not using them already, you’re losing money.
The best cashback sites can be very effective.
What are ‘cashback’ websites and how do they work?
Imagine if every time you bought something online you got a percentage of your purchase back. It could be 1%, 12%, 20%… more in some cases.
That’s what exactly these websites do.
They act as giant gateways to thousands of online retailers like Tescos, Expedia, Sky and lots of other brands.
When you use a cashback site you’re effectively using an affiliate link each time you pay for something – except this time the person who gets the kickback commission is you.
Once this money’s cleared it’s automatically transferred into your bank account. Virtually no effort on your part.
It’s a no brainer. You register for free, click the links they provide when you want to buy something, then when you’ve accumulated enough for a payout (you specify how much) you get paid direct.
Once you get into a routine you’ll wonder why you weren’t taking advantage of this sooner. It adds just a couple of seconds to the purchasing process and really could save you hundreds of pounds a year.
Which are the best cashback sites to use?
There are two cashback sites which are streets ahead of the rest.
These are the best I’ve come across in terms of a) reliability b) range of services offered and c) the scale of the rewards.
The first is a site called Quidco.
They’ve got a huge range of retailers on board from mobile phone giants to satellite TV providers, as well as big name high street retailers, food outlets and travel agents.
The layout of the site is a tad confusing at times but I found the search facility useful. For instance you can type in the name of the brand or retailer.
It’s worth signing up with these guys (it doesn’t cost anything) if only for their in store cashback scheme – which I’ll cover in a moment.
My favourite cashback site is called Topcashback.
They have many of the same merchants on offer but seem, in most of the cases I looked at, to offer considerably more cashback.
I also find the site itself somewhat easier to navigate.
I’m subscribed to both of these because occasionally you’ll find one of them represents a retailer that the other doesn’t.
And there’s another very good reason!
With Quidco you can get cashback in shops
I’m talking about real shops with people and physical objects. Not a keyboard, mouse or an error screen in sight.
On the Quidco site there’s a section where you can register cards that you use for purchasing items in the real world.
That means when you then use one of these cards to pay for goods in one of the high street retailers they represent you’ll get the cashback added to your account (invisibly, behind the scenes).
Some of these include Debenhams, Halfords, NCP carparks and a number of others.
If you do register with Quidco remember to put these details in before you next go out shopping – it’s an easy thing to forget and very frustrating if you miss out.
A couple of things to bear in mind if you want to get the most out of these sites…
1. Try and keep a clear head!
There’s a temptation when using these sites to only use the retailers they feature. It’s an easy habit to get into because they’re readily accessible and you know you’ll get cashback when you use them.
But… remember why you’re there in the first place – to get a better deal!
It’s important, especially when you’re buying a ‘big ticket’ item (like a flight or a car or expensive electronics), to check a wide range of sources.
Getting a 1.5%… 10%.., or 40% in cashback is great, but only if you’re getting the best deal in the first place.
2. Don’t expect instant results
You won’t get your cashback immediately. Both the retailer and the cashback website need to verify the transaction. On some occasions it can take as long as 60 days for that money to become available.
3. Keep an eye out for any errors
The two sites I’ve mentioned (Quidco and Topcashback) have an excellent track record. However sometimes glitches in the transaction may occur where the cashback isn’t calculated. Make sure you get in touch with their support team if this happens. You’ll be unlucky if this happens to you – but keep it in mind because mistakes happen.
Avoid this downright sneaky ‘deal’!
When it comes to cashback websites if it’s not free, I’d steer clear.
There’s one exception here and that’s Quidco. They take £5 a year admin fee for their services, but this money doesn’t come off your card, it comes off any cashback you might make over the year.
So if you don’t make any, you don’t pay any. If you make say £300 – £400 over the year, which is very achievable, £5 is a very small chunk of that.
(Topcashback don’t take any of your commission as a fee).
Be VERY sceptical of any cashback sites that do ask you for money or require some sort of paid membership subscription. With the two sites we’ve talked about you don’t actually even have to enter any card details if you don’t want to (they can pay you via PayPal) and the whole process is very transparent.
On the other hand, Shopper Discounts and Rewards, who I came across recently, are one to AVOID in my opinion.
When you sign up you’re enrolled in a £10 a month membership – a cost which certainly isn’t made clear enough upfront.
You may have come across them before. They market their membership deal quite aggressively – often after you’ve bought a product from one of their partners (like a train ticket for example).
My long suffering girlfriend got stung by this one the other week. She quickly cancelled her account with them when she noticed they’d taken £10 out of her account.
I should say that they do offer a refund policy, but obviously you have to spot the payment going out!
Not a good business ethic and incredibly these guys seem to be endorsed by companies like thetrainline.com and ryanair.com. It goes to show that you need to stay vigilant and read all the T&Cs.