Cashback sites are an amazing way to make money you wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to get. Pretty much everyone’s heard that before, but are cashback sites really worth using, and are they more than just a scam? Lucky for you, I’m here to answer your big question; ‘how does cashback work?’
On any cashback site you can search for a retailer (or product, if the site is particularly fancy), and you’ll be shown how much cashback you can get by purchasing through them. If you want to buy a product from that retailer, you click the link which will take you to the retailer’s site, where you shop as normal. Afterwards, in your account page on the cashback site, there should be an amount that you’ve earned by shopping through them. It’s really easy. People just make it sound ridiculously complicated to make themselves seem incredibly smart for using them.
- 1 Are Cashback Sites Free To Use?
- 2 How Do I Get Paid My Cashback?
- 3 Always Take Your Money AS SOON As It’s Payable
- 4 Make Sure You Check The Cashback Amount!
- 5 How Can I Make Sure These Cookies Work?
- 6 Retailers win, customers win, but how does the cashback site make money? How does cashback work?
- 7 Is Using Cashback Sites Worth It?
- 8 Is Cashback Guaranteed?
- 9 NEVER Buy Based On Cashback
- 10 Which Cashback Websites Should I Use?
- 11 A List Of Top Cashback Sites in the UK:
- 12 SEE MORE: How To Get More From Price Comparison Sites >>
Are Cashback Sites Free To Use?
The majority are, or at least offer a ‘free’ version. For example, Topcashback and Quidco both offer free accounts alongside premium counterparts. The premium accounts generally offer better cashback rates, quicker payout times and more support.
How Do I Get Paid My Cashback?
Arguably the most important question on this list – how do you get the dough? This varies from cashback site to cashback site. Normally inside your account page you’ll see the retailer you purchased a product from with one of these 5 options:
- Pending – the cashback site is waiting for the retailer to confirm whether the transaction was tracked successfully.
- Confirmed – the transaction has been tracked successfully and the retailer has confirmed they’ll pay the money.
- Payable – the retailer has paid the cashback site and now you just need to tell them when you want the money.
- Paid – the cashback site has paid you the money.
- Cancelled – the cashback has been cancelled. Normally you will be given a reason for this, if not you should contact the cashback site and ask for one to make sure it doesn’t happen again in future!
Some cashback sites offer you a variety of options for how you’re paid, like through Paypal, BACS, or retailer vouchers. Some of these options will even give you extra cashback, so think hard before choosing one! Make sure you consider your needs though; a site might offer you an extra £3 to take your money as a specific retailer voucher, but would getting your money through Paypal to spend at ANY retailer you want be more useful to you, even without that added £3?
Make sure you check the cashback site you’re using for the minimum amount you need to earn before they pay out to you, and if there’s a limit on how much you can earn using them.
Always Take Your Money AS SOON As It’s Payable
Ok ok, this might sound obvious. But you’d honestly be surprised with how many people leave money in their accounts, only to have certain sites go out of business or even CLOSE their accounts! When your money is payable you should get it paid out as soon as you can – just in case something changes in the future and the cashback site can no longer pay. See the point below on whether cashback is guaranteed for more information. Some cashback sites even remove money from your account if you’ve been inactive for a certain amount of time. For example Topcashback closes ‘dormant’ accounts if they haven’t been used for 6 months to prevent a waste of admin fees.
Make Sure You Check The Cashback Amount!
Most cashback sites say ‘Up To’ before listing the cashback you’ll get from a product / retailer. They’re not trying to be sneaky (otherwise why would we even be telling you this?), honest! It’s because most retailers pay different cashback amounts for different types of products; for example 2% on electricals and 3% on sofas. Never assume that the cashback you’ll receive will be this high price, find out where the full cashback amounts are listed and check which you’ll get.
How does cashback work? With cookies! Not the yummy kind though…
How Can I Make Sure These Cookies Work?
Sometimes tracking fails, and it’s difficult to find out who’s at fault when it does. To try to ensure you’re doing everything possible to get your cashback, make sure you have cookies enabled on your browser (though you should have this by default!). Never use a cashback site with a VPN enabled (if you don’t know what this is then don’t worry, you won’t be using one) or in ‘incognito mode’ on a web browser. A few sources, like MoneySavingExpert, recommend clearing your cookies and browsing history before you start using a cashback website. This shouldn’t make a difference or be necessary though. Even if you do all of these things, there’s no guarantee your cashback will be tracked successfully, but at least you’ll have given it the best chance possible.
You might be worried about using a cashback site; after all, nothing in life is free right? If you knew the answer to ‘how does cashback work’ though, you’d think differently.It might not feel like you’re giving anything to the cashback site for using it, but really you are invaluable in how they function. Simply put; you make them money.
It’s not money for nothing because you’ve done the cashback site a favour. The links used for retailers and products on cashback sites are affiliate (or referral) links. When anyone clicks on this link, and makes a purchase, the retailer has to pay the cashback site a small percentage of the sale price. It’s like advertising, and you’re doing the cashback site a solid by using their link. The more people who use it, the more money the cashback site can make. And this fee they’re being paid is put into your account, to keep you coming back.
Retailers win, customers win, but how does the cashback site make money? How does cashback work?
Retailers win because by being shown to all the people that use the cashback site, they make more money. Customers win because, by shopping using these links, they make money-back on purchases. But if the cashback sites are giving you the money that they’re earning to keep you using these links, what are they getting from it? This is different for each site, but we’ll list a few ways this can work:
- Not 100% – The cashback site doesn’t give it’s user 100% of the commission it gets from the retailer. Say, for example, a shop offers 5% of a sale to the cashback site for any customer that uses their referral link. A cashback site might offer 4.5% of this money back to it’s users, and keeps the other 0.5% itself. This might not sound like a lot, but with enough customers it starts to add up!
- Higher commission – They manage to send so many customers to certain shops that the retailers actually offer them a higher percentage of cashback to keep this happening. Take the above 5% example again – in this case they might offer the cashback site 6%. The cashback site still offers it’s users ‘100%’ of the commission it receives – 5% – and keeps the extra 1% itself.
- Advertising – Some cashback sites place adverts around their site. Others allow retailers to pay for ‘premium’ spots on their pages. For example, if you searched for a new washing machine on a cashback site, a retailer could pay to be in the top 3 results you’re shown.
- Premium accounts – a few cashback sites ask for a payment to use them. For example, Topcashback and Quidco both offer their users the choice of either a free account or a premium account. You pay £5 out of your annually earned cashback for quicker payment processing, extra support, no advertising etc.
So, although it might feel like ‘money for nothing’, without a good number of users cashback sites wouldn’t be able to operate. And although you might think it’s selfish that some might keep a portion of the cashback you’ve ‘earned’ for them, or hate seeing the adverts around their site, remember that they need to pay the bills too!
This depends on the cashback site you’re using, and the retailer you’re looking at. Generally all retailers offer different cashback amounts to each other. Different cashback sites have different relationships with retailers too, so some might offer more money than others.
Is Using Cashback Sites Worth It?
Yes, I obviously think so, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this. Although cashback amounts tend to look small (sometimes less than 1% even) this all adds up. You might earn just pennies on a new pen, or £100s for a new laptop. There are massive success stories, like Christine Holden who’s earned £700 using cashback sites! MoneySavingExpert even mention big users who’ve earned over £10,000. The most amazing thing is that they’d never have seen 1p of this money without cashback sites.
Is Cashback Guaranteed?
Absolutely not. No matter what any cashback site tries to say, check their Terms and Conditions carefully, because cashback is never guaranteed. There are a number of reasons for this, but the best way to explain would be in this example:
- You buy a product through Quidco, but the retailer couldn’t track your transaction because of problem with the cookies on the page. Because of this, the retailer doesn’t pay Quidco. Quidco then has no money to pay you with. This problem could be with the cookies on Quidco’s page, on the retailer’s page, or with your computer.
Its unfortunate that this happens, but keep in mind that NO ONE benefits from this. Cashback sites don’t hide money (or at least they shouldn’t!), they don’t profit from this, and neither do you. It might seem like the retailer profits from this, but by not being able to pay out they could hurt their reputation and have a non-returning customer. If cashback can be paid, it always will be.
NEVER Buy Based On Cashback
Because cashback is never guaranteed on any site, never base your purchases on cashback. If you’re looking for the lowest priced product, make sure you consider the product with the lowest price BEFORE cashback. If you’re more interested in buying through a retailer you love or trust, or getting a good warranty, obviously the amount of cashback you get shouldn’t factor into your decision. Always consider cashback as an added bonus. You wouldn’t have gotten anything back without using a cashback site. You might get something back if you do use one. Most of the time you WILL get something back, but it’s better for you to consider the worst case scenario!
Another reason not to base your purchases on how much cashback you’ll receive is how long you’ll wait to physically get this cashback.
Some cashback sites, will offer you the money you’ve earned as soon as they receive it from the retailer. Others, like Quidco, will offer members with premium accounts quicker payouts than members with free accounts.
In either case the time it takes for you to get your money depends on how long the retailer takes to pay the cashback site. This time is different for different retailers, and some are much faster at paying than others. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m going to be honest, getting your cashback isn’t a quick thing. But the up side is, when it does become payable, it feels like an unexpected present!
In all walks of life there are dishonest people, and because of this retailers have to be careful and pay out cashback only after a product is past the time it can be returned. For example, if you buy a phone case with a 14 day returns policy, the retailer might pay quicker than another you’ve purchased hotel rooms 4 months in advance from. This prevents cashback scams, where users would buy products, get the cashback, and then return the products to make a profit. Although most cashback sites would love to speed this process up for you, they’d have to pay out of their own pocket to do it.
Which Cashback Websites Should I Use?
This completely depends on your preference and what matters the most to you. Some sites offer more cashback than others. Some have exclusive deals, or pay out your money faster. Some only offer you the opportunity to search through retailers and not products, whereas others act as price comparison sites with cashback. We’ll have a breakdown of the pros and cons of each cashback site in a future post.
A List Of Top Cashback Sites in the UK:
If you’re worried about starting up a deep and meaningful relationship with a cashback site, don’t panic. Even the best of us find it hard to commit sometimes.
If you’d like to try a site out, the three above all let you search without creating an account with them. You never have to sign in, and you don’t need to shop through us! If you click to buy a product and don’t login through your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts then you’ll be taken to the retailer’s page and can shop as normal, without the cashback.
We’ll have a more detailed look at some of the common questions people have about cashback sites in later posts, but hopefully you’ve found this blogpost useful and it’s finally answered the question of how does cashback work for you.