Update (5/9/2019): Ebates.com has moved and been rebranded to Rakuten. Nothing’s changed though (confirm for yourself). All the previous Ebates accounts have been moved to Rakuten.com with the same interface and features. It’s a simple rebranding. I still stand by everything written in this post.
What is Ebates? Ebates is a company that gives you cash back for shopping through their affiliated stores. Ebates has relationships with thousands of stores and offers discounts or cash back when you shop at these stores through Ebates.com.
Confused? I was too.
You might be wondering, “Is Ebates a scam?” If you didn’t have questions, you wouldn’t be on my blog looking at an Ebates review.
I’ve been using Ebates since 2011 and have made over $800 in cash back during that timespan.
My biggest payday from five years ago:
My cash back from this year:
I’m going to show you how to use Ebates, why the system works, and why you should be using it.
$10 Bonus Link
How does Ebates work?
If you don’t understand business or business partnerships, it might sound too good to be true. But it isn’t. Ebates is legit (not a scam), and you should be using it every time you shop.
The process is simple.
You (the customer) go to Ebates.com, search for the store you want to shop at, click the “shop now” button, and shop at the online store (as you normally would). Once you’ve made a purchase, a percentage of the purchase shows up in your Ebates account.
If Ebates offers 10% cash back for shopping at Target and you buy something for $500, you’ll get $50 in cash back.
If you’re still confused, check out the walkthrough video I made on how to use Ebates.
How does Ebates make money?
You’re probably asking yourself, “How can Ebates give you money for free? What’s their business model?”
You need to understand how affiliate marketing works to understand Ebates’ business.
Affiliate marketing is a business model where companies (i.e. online stores) pay people a commission for referring sales.
Ebates is an affiliate to over 2,000 stores. When someone clicks on an Ebates link to a retail store, Ebates get a commission.
Ebates gives you half of their commission (via cash back). This is a win-win-win. The store gets more sales. Ebates makes a commission. You make free money just for shopping.
Example: You go to Ebates.com and click through to the Best Buy store. You buy a MacBook from Best Buy for $1,000. Ebates gets a 4% ($40) commission from Best Buy for referring the sale. Ebates give you half of their commission ($20) in the form of cash back.
You may wonder if this approach really increases the stores’ sales since customers could make purchases regardless of Ebates’ existence.
Here’s my take: the stores would opt out of their deal with Ebates if they didn’t think it was helping their sales. Here’s the store’s logic: because the customer is saving money, they will be incentivized to spend more money.
How long does it take Ebates to register a purchase?
Once you click through to your store of choice and make a purchase, the cash back will show up in your Ebates account within seven days.
Once your cash back has been in the account for 60 days, you’ll get paid via PayPal on the following dates: February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15.
My cash back didn’t show up during two purchases this year. I’m not sure why this happened. But if it happens to you, go to this page and fill out the information. Once you do that, the money instantly appears in your Ebates account.
Five Tips to Maximize Earnings:
- Check Ebates for coupons before you check out. Not only do you get cash back from Ebates, they have coupons for most of the stores too. Coupons help you double down on your savings.
- I used to forget about going to Ebates before buying something. If you don’t go to Ebates first, there’s no way for Ebates to track your order and you won’t get cash back. This is where the Ebates browser extension comes in. The Ebates button will sit at the top of your window, and when you visit an eligible store, a message will pop up that says “Activate Up To __ % Cash Back”. Click on the button, and you’ve created the tracking ticket needed to track your order. You don’t even need to visit Ebates.com.
- For years, the only way to get cash back was to shop at online stores. Last year, Ebates introduced offline cash back. You go to the offline cash back page and link your credit card. After you link your credit card to your Ebates account, find a store you want to shop at and click “link offer.” When you tie the offer to your card and buy something at the store, the cash back posts to your Ebates account. This feature is fantastic!
- If you’re using an ad blocker, you should whitelist Ebates.com. Ebates doesn’t work well with ad blockers enabled.
- Try to make your purchase within 24 hours of clicking the Ebates link. You’re normally given 30 days; but play it safe and reclick the link!
- Ebates is free. I’ve been a loyal user for seven years.
- Obviously, I love the fact that you get cash back for doing absolutely nothing. You shop online like you normally would and buy the things you normally would. The only difference is clicking a link before you shop and making some extra cash. I normally make around $200 a year in cash back. Below is a screenshot of my earnings from last quarter.
- Ebates came out with “in-store cash back” a couple years ago. This applies to a limited number of stores, but it’s still a great feature. Go to the in-store cash back page, click on the store you’re going to shop at, and link your credit card. Afterward, all of your purchases will show up in your Ebates account and you’ll get receive cash back.
- We’ve all scoured the internet for coupons before checking out online. But Ebates streamlines the process so you don’t have to waste time testing coupons that may or may not work. Their goal is to be the one-stop shop. You can search for coupons and get cash back at the same time, allowing you to get double the savings.
- In the early days of Ebates, you had to go to Ebates.com before you made a purchase. But now there’s an Ebates button plugin for all the major browsers, so you won’t forget to use Ebates. With the browser plugin, there’s a cash back button at the top of any eligible site you visit. All you do is click the button and it creates a tracking ticket for you, then you can shop as usual.
- They have a refer-a-friend program (I’m in it). They give $5 for every new member who signs up for Ebates and makes a $25 purchase. This gives their diehard fans a chance to make more money, a smart marketing tactic.
- I’ve spent $40k on Amazon over the last seven years (find your Amazon.com spending total here). Amazon is where I buy everything and all my products to review. But unfortunately, only a few categories on Amazon are eligible for cash back. Amazon might as well not be an option because the current categories are Amazon Devices, Furniture, Jewelry, Luxury Beauty, Handmade, and Home Services. I don’t buy products from these categories. I would love to get cash back for all my tech purchases! This isn’t an Ebates issue though, so I don’t blame them.
- The cash back percentages are always changing. I’m not sure if Ebates does it for marketing purposes (to promote certain stores), deception, or because their affiliate deals with the stores change often. It’s annoying to see to see a different cash back amount every time you sign in. BUT, we’re talking about FREE money, so it’s tough to complain.
- Sometimes the tracking tickets (the thing created when you click their link) don’t always work like they’re supposed to. If this happens, fill out this form and your cash back will automatically appear in your account. It’s an annoying extra step, but it’s not a huge deal. My problem is when you have to talk to customer support. They’re not always the most supportive or competent.
- The cash back is posted in your account within a week, but you’ll only get paid out via PayPal every three months (February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15). Ebates does this to avoid someone buying an item and returning it to the store (Ebates would have their cut stripped by the store) and if Ebates already paid out to you, they’d be at a loss.
$10 Bonus Link
Who is this for?
Ebates is free and will never cost you anything, so you can only benefit from using the site. You shop for something you would normally buy and then get money back in return.
If you don’t shop much online, Ebates might not be for you. Let’s say you only spend $20 per month online. With an average cash back rate of 5%, you’re only looking at $1 cash back. Is it worth your time? Probably not.
For me, I spend thousands on electronics and buy lots of web hosting accounts (hosting accounts give around $20 in cash back), so this makes Ebates worth my time. As I mentioned before, Ebates has sent me an extra $800 for just clicking their links.
Just so we’re clear, people can’t make a living off Ebates and shouldn’t buy things they don’t want on the site. Think of Ebates as a way to take home some side money.
See the annoying red “try now” buttons on this post? If you register on Ebates through MY link, you’ll get a $10 bonus from Ebates.
What’s in this for me? If you sign up via my link and make a purchase of $25 (through Ebates), I’ll get a $10 commission from Ebates. This decision costs you nothing yet provides me with a commission. Don’t want to use my link? That’s cool; but I appreciate it if you do.
I wrote this review because not enough people understand how cash back works, and I want to change that. It’s a great system that benefits everybody. You’ve got nothing to lose!