Reward credit cards, and especially cash back cards are immensely popular among consumers. The idea of getting paid for buying things you need anyway is so appealing that credit card issuers keep coming out with more and more products offering new perks and new twists to entice more customers to sign up. Buying something while getting something back without having to fill out and mail back cumbersome rebate forms is a great concept that works for both credit card companies and consumers alike.
Earning Cash Back
There is one problem with cash back we would like overcome. Earning more points! In most cases, your cash back with a rewards card is a mere 1% of the purchase. A consumer would have to spend thousands of dollars in order to get sensible cash back. Fortunately, you have options. One of the easiest, but often most overlooked options to increase your total cash back when shopping online is by clicking through online shopping portals.
There are a lot of cash back online shopping portals. Here are some of the most popular.
- Mr. Rebate
- Coupon Cactus
- Shop Discover
- Shop At Home
- Extra Bux
...and many, many others, of course.
So which shopping portal should you choose? Well, this was a trick question. There is no one portal that is good for everything. They all offer different cash back options for different stores, hence you should sign up for several programs that give you the best bang for shopping at your favorite store(s). Do not go overboard and sign up for all of them, though, if you value your sanity — tracking cash back from two dozen portals is not for the faint of heart.
When you deal with cash back portals, you need to understand marketing gimmicks. Don’t fall for the old “up to” trick. Unfortunately, even legit and reputable marketers are using this “gotcha” tactic when they advertise something as “up to” 20% cash back. Dig a little deeper, and you will find out that they’ll only pay 20% for one or two categories of products, while everything else in the store commands a lousy 1.5% cash back. Don’t be lazy and read the fine print.
How do you know when to use one portal or another? There are a few websites that can come in handy. The one I like the most is Cash Back Monitor. All you need to do is to enter the name of the store you want to shop at, and the site will tell you how much cash back you’re getting from them.
A word of caution: use of vouchers in many cases invalidates the cash back one could get via an online cash back portal. When you do have a good coupon, the payoff is often better than cash back you can get via the portal. It always pays to do the research before buying things, so check some coupon sites like this one to make sure you don’t miss out on a higher return.
Earning Miles & Points
Also, if you are like most Americans, you probably carry at least a couple of reward credit cards that offer their own cash back, which does not invalidate the use of coupons or shopping portals. There is a simple software at Card Watchdog that helps you keep your credit card information organized and lists your cash back and bonuses in one place so you can compare the benefits before deciding which card to use.
There are other shopping portals, as well, those operated by loyalty programs, such as airlines, hotels, and credit cards. With these programs you don’t get cash back, but you get miles and points that you can use to redeem with a travel provider of your choice.
Here are some examples of loyalty program shopping portals:
- AAdvantage eShopping (American Airlines)
- SkyMiles Shopping (Delta)
- Rapid Rewards Shopping (Southwest)
- Mileage Plus Shopping (United)
- Hilton HHonors Shopping
- Marriott Shop My Way
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
So which is better — cash back or loyalty miles and points? That depends. If you love traveling, then points from loyalty programs can take you much farther than simple cash back, which is usually set at 1:100.
However, learning how to optimize your miles / points earnings and redemptions has a learning curve. Cash back, on the other hand, is simple and versatile. An example of a nice compromise can be Chase Ultimate Rewards program. It awards points instead of cash, but these points can be easily converted into cash should you so desire.
This is an article from Geoff Whitmore, the lead traveler/writer at NoobTraveler, a blog dedicated to educating its readers on reward travel.