Of all the areas associated with personal finance, my greatest weakness has always been around the subject of frugality. I don’t mean the task of budgeting – how much money I should or shouldn’t spend to manage my budget. Rather the perspective of saving money by clipping coupons or searching for 2-for-1 deals in the local newspaper. Even cash back offers didn’t appeal to me because most of them require you to send something in to get something back.
I guess I have always viewed these opportunities to save money as a hassle, a means of saving money by wasting my time and energy. Or maybe it’s just my type A personality that says if I need something and can afford it, look for the best price and then go buy it.
Don’t get me wrong, if this is how you save money or stick to your budget, by all means, keep doing it, it’s just not for me.
My Perspective Has Changed
Why the change?
Somewhere I saw a slogan “get paid for what you’re going to buy anyway”, and it resonated and stuck in my brain. So I researched Ebates and decided to sign up, and give the “cash back” way of saving a try.
Incidentally, one of the other reasons I never tried Ebates before was because I never thought the stores I shopped at would be included in their cash back program. Like agricultural supply stores where I buy my dog food, goat food and a whole bunch of other hobby farm products. (If you’re not familiar with my hobby farm adventures you can see them here)
I have been using Ebates now for a couple of months earning cash back and it has changed my perspective on cash back programs – specifically because if I am going to buy the products I need anyways why not save or make (depending on how you look at it) money.
With two months under my belt, I thought I would provide a quick review of the Ebates program for the FTP community, as a means of providing another way to save some money.
Here is my quick review of the Ebates program.
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First, What is Ebates?
Ebates is a website service that pays you cash back when you shop at stores. The program works like this.
Ebates has agreements with over 2000 stores when you shop at one of these stores Ebates gets a percentage of your purchase from the retailer. Ebates then gives you a percentage of what they get in the form of cash back. The service is a win-win for everyone. The retailer gets your money from your initial purchase, Ebates gets paid by the retailer and then Ebates pays you a percentage of what they get.
You can use the Ebates service by shopping online or at local brick and mortar stores as long as they are associated with Ebates. Some of the more prominent store names are Macy’s, JC Penny, Walmart, Best Buy, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, eBay, Amazon and of course my favorite Farm and Fleet.
In general, cash back savings will be anywhere from 1-6% but could be as high as 40% if special promotions or coupons are available.
Ebates provides all the tracking functionality at their site so you can see what shopping trips they have tracked for you, and how much you have earned in cash back.
Here are the pros and cons and more detail on how the service works.
- Easy to Use – Very easy to sign up and create your account and its Free. At the time of this writing, Ebates will provide you an additional $10 sign up bonus once your purchases exceed $25.
- Large Selection of Stores – From clothing, electronics to home furnishings over 2000 stores that will provide cash back. Ebates provides a search function so you can find out right away if your store is associated with their program.
- Online Purchases – To make purchases online you simply log into your Ebates account and then access your store through the Ebates website, then make your purchases just like you normally would. Ebates tracks your purchases through their portal.
- In-Store Purchases – If you are shopping locally and have a smartphone you can download the Ebates smartphone app. Once you download the app you can add a credit card to the app. The credit card is used to track the purchases you make in-store, so Ebates knows what to pay you for. In addition, the app will provide you with the latest in-store deals so you can maximize your cash back opportunities.
- Refer a Friend Bonus – Ebates will provide you with a referral bonus when you have others sign up through your account. Once you sign up and create your account Ebates will pay you $5.00 for each referral. For the first two referrals, you can earn an additional $40.00. The more people you refer to Ebates the more money you can make. Their current referral plan is shown below.
- How You Get Paid – Your cash back money is paid out via check – mailed to your address, or directly into your PayPal account if you have one. Payments are made at the end of each quarter four times per year. You will only receive a payout if your balance exceeds $5.01 if you don’t meet the balance requirement the balance will carry over to the next quarter until your balance is greater than $5.01.
- Customer Service – I am sure you can find some negative feedback on their customer service somewhere on the Internet. However, my personal experience with their customer service team over the last two months has been great. They follow-up quickly and have answered all my questions.
- Payments – Your cashback payments are only paid out four times per year, at the end of each quarter, don’t expect a check each month.
- Items Not Eligible for Cash Back – Depending on the store, some items may not be eligible for cash back. For example, Amazon Kindle accessories and eBooks are not available for cash back, but their E-readers are. If you’re expecting cash back on every item you purchase you should check to make sure your purchases will be eligible first.
- Blow Your Budget – It’s one thing to purchase the items you need and are going to purchase anyways and get cash back – that’s a good thing. However, if the Ebates cash back program causes you to spend more money than you have, or if you take the approach you can spend more because you’re getting cash back – that would be a bad thing. Ebates should not be a reason to blow your budget.
The Final Word
So is Ebates a good deal? Here’s my take.
The service is easy to use, accommodates both online and in-store purchases, and I personally have received good customer service. From my perspective, if you need to buy food for your pets, new clothes for work, electronics or back to school items for the kids and you have to buy them anyway, why not get some money back if you can.
For me, the most important aspect of the program is its simplicity. I will never be one to search the universe to save a few bucks on goat feed. Ebates has done a good job of keeping things simple, providing good detailed information and that allows me to save some money.
Interested in trying Ebates out? Sign up here.
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Have you used Ebates before? Comment below.