Who doesn’t want to save money and get cash back on internet purchases? Everybody knows about discount codes that can be entered to get free shipping or a lower subtotal amount. With cashback shopping portals, you can receive these discounts and receive an additional cash back rebate when you shop through a third-party website.
How Do Cashback Shopping Portals Work?
Cashback shopping portals are the 21st-Century version of mail-in rebates, except shoppers must take the additional step before making a purchase instead of after to get cash back. Portals are also similar to rewards credit cards. Cardholders earn additional cash or travel rewards when they make a purchases with certain merchants.
The one main difference is that cashback shopping portals are a “middle man” between the shopper and the merchant. Shoppers need to use a portal to earn additional money. Otherwise, they only receive the discount that retailers are offering to the general public (assuming they have a discount). Portal users might pay the same price for an item at checkout as a non-portal user, but they will see the additional savings later.
How To Use A Cashback Shopping Portal
Cashback shopping portals make agreements with online retailers to pay customers with cash rewards when they make a purchase using the portal. To receive the reward, an online shopper must first visit the website of the portal (i.e. Ebates, Swagbucks, etc.) and choose the online store they want to shop at. The portal will open a shopping session and redirect the shopper to the store’s website.
Any purchases made during this session will be awarded the advertised cash reward that the store has agreed to pay.
Regarding reward payouts, every portal is different. There are several cashback shopping portals that you can choose to shop with. Some portals offer higher payout rates for a particular store than another portal. For instance, Portal A rewards 5% @ JC Penney, but Portal B only rewards 3%. It’s not uncommon for avid cashback shopping portal users to “reward shop” to use the portal that will give them the most cashback for a purchase.
When it comes time to actually getting the rewards into your bank account, portals also pay on different schedules. The one downside to portals is that most do not offer immediate access to cash rewards. It can take up to a month for some merchants to reimburse the reward to the portal.
Portal payouts are typically on a quarterly basis (i.e. rewards earned January-March are paid on May 15th). Also, portals usually require a minimum reward balance of at least $5. Some portals will pay rewards via PayPal on a more frequent basis (i.e. weekly or monthly) once you earn the minimum balance amount. Shoppers preferring check payments have to wait for the next quarterly disbursement.
Let’s use a real-life scenario to help make the cashback shopping portal process easier to understand:
- Jane wants to buy a new outfit from JC Penney.
- She visits her favorite cashback shopping portal and sees they are offering a 5% cashback reward on all items purchased.
- Jane clicks the “Shop Now” button and the portal takes her to the JC Penney homepage.
- After adding the new outfit, Jane completes the checkout process.
- Within 24-48 hours (for most merchants), Jane receives an e-mail from the cashback shopping portal saying she was rewarded $3 from the shopping session!
“Fine Print” About Earning Rewards
There are some tips that portal shoppers need to know about to make sure their purchases qualify for rewards. It can be easy to make a mistake and not get credit.
1. Must Checkout Through the Portal Session
If Jane had gone directly to JC Penney’s website or a brick-and-mortar store instead of visiting the portal first, she would not have earned the 5% reward. By shopping through the portal, she still had to pay the same upfront price for the outfit as any other internet shopper, but will receive additional savings that retailers do not advertise to the average shopper.
2. Open New Session If You Do Not Checkout On Original Session
Also if Jane started the shopping session with a portal and added an item to her cart but doesn’t complete the checkout process with that same browser window, she may not earn reward credit. To earn credit, she will have to visit the retailer using the portal and check out with a new session.
If she checks out by going directly to the JC Penney website, she will not earn the reward, even though she put the item in her cart during a portal shopping session. It can be easy to forget to open a new session if you wanted to wait a day or two just to make sure you didn’t want to purchase any additional items.
3. Retailers Do Not Remember Previous Portal Cashback Purchases
Just because you made an online purchase with a cashback shopping portal at a store before doesn’t mean you will automatically receive rewards for future purchases. Retailers provide rewards as an incentive to attract shoppers, but will only reward those who go the extra mile. If you want to save money on each purchase, you need to use the portal every time.
4. Portal Shopping Sessions Have A Different Web Address
The reason why portal shopping sessions have a different web address is because of an affiliate code. This lets the merchant know that you are shopping with a portal and qualify for additional cashback.
Here is how to tell if you are in a portal shopping session by looking at your web address if you shop at JC Penney:
The above image is what your browser’s web address bar looks when you visit JC Penney without using a portal. The below image is visit JC Penney with a portal.
Notice how one address is shorter than the other? The additional characters are what tell the merchant that any purchase made while this browser session is open is eligible for cashback rewards. This is an easy way to remember if you activated a shopping session or accidentally went directly to the store.
What Stores Award Portal Rewards?
The largest cashback shopping portals offer rewards at over 2,000 online stores. Most major retailers participate in the program. You can earn rewards in just about every category including gift cards, home improvement stores, clothing, and travel.
Certain stores have exclusions or tiered reward payouts. Most major retailers will not offer rewards on gift cards, although you can earn rewards by buying the same cards through gift card merchants.
Cashback Shopping Portals To Consider
If you are new to the cashback shopping portal scene, below is a list of four of the most popular portals. There are plenty more available on the internet. Some stores like Walmart even have a cashback shopping portal of their own.
- Ebates – This is the original and the largest cashback shopping portal. For additional rewards, you can also sign-up for the Ebates Cashback Credit Card that rewards an additional 3% on all purchases made through Ebates.
- Giving Assistant – Giving Assistant is a portal with a social mission. For every purchase made using GA, they will donate a meal to the charity Feeding America. As of this post, they have donated 600,000+ meals.
- Ibotta – If you like to save money at the supermarket, this is the portal for you. While most portals are online only, you earn rewards with Ibotta by sending a receipt of your purchase at one of the 189 participating stores to earn rewards. Despite making a purchases in-person, you need to “unlock rewards” on the Ibotta website prior to making a purchase.
- Swagbucks – With Swagbucks, you earn gift cards instead of cash. Rewards can also be earned by taking surveys, playing games, and surfing the web. Swagbucks is popular because you can earn shopping portal rewards, but can also earn rewards without having to spend money.