Ebates gives you what you want: cash.
Jun 21, 2004 (Updated Feb 19, 2006)
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Wow - its true, Ebates actually pays you to shop on the internet. There are relatively few gimmicks and they send a real check - no store coupons or paypal. What could be better?
WHAT IT IS
Many people don't realize that internet retailers pay a kickback to sites that send shoppers to their site. So, for example, if you click through yahoo shopping or a coupon site to get to an internet store, that site will get some kickback, usually 2-5% of whatever you purchase. Ebates gives you a way to get some of that money back.
HOW IT WORKS
The first thing you have to do to even access the Ebates site is to sign up for the program by entering in all of your personal information. The sign up is relatively painless.
After you sign up, you can shop through the site. The site itself is pretty well organized and it is usually pretty easy to find out if a store you are interested in participates in ebates. Hundreds of stores participate in ebates so there is a good chance you will find what you are looking for.
There are two ways to save money on ebates. One way is to earn a rebate on your internet purchases. Rebates from most participating stores are in the 2-6% range. A few stores pay back even more. For example, some magazine sites may rebate as much as 25%.
To get to the store, you have to first go to the ebates site. Find the store name on ebates. Then, click on the store name. You will get a new window allowing you to shop at that store. If you make a purchase, your purchase will generate a rebate on ebates. The rebate is not instantaneous and can take a few days to much longer to appear in your account, depending on the store. Ebates will send you an email when your account is credited. You can also check the ebates site to see how much you have earned.
The thing to remember is that you have to click through the ebates site. If you leave the store site and come back later, they might not know you started through ebates. So, if you close the store window and come back at a later time, remember to open the ebates site first and click back through to the store again.
The other way ebates saves you money is to offer coupons. Some stores don't have rebates but simply give you money off at the time of purchase. If a store listing on ebates has a little coupon tag next to the store name, click on the coupon to see what it offers. Happily, some stores offer both coupons and rebates so you can maximize your savings.
YOU DON'T HAVE TO JUST USE EBATES - OTHER WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
Many internet stores offer coupons to customers on their email lists or repeat customers or other subsets of customers or potential customers. These coupons often take the form of a "code" that can be entered on one of the checkout screens as you purchase items on a site.
To see if a store offers a discount code, go to a search engine (such as yahoo or google) and type the store name plus the word "coupon" or you could try "coupon code." There are many sites out there that offer codes you might not find on ebates. If you find several codes, write them all down because many do not work.
After you find some potential codes, go back to the ebates site. You still have to remember to click through the ebates site to do the actual shopping. If you click through another site, you will not earn any potential rebate.
WHAT IF THERE ARE NO COUPONS OR REBATES AVAILABLE ON EBATES?
If a store is listed on ebates and there is no coupon code or rebate available, then you have nothing to gain by clicking through the site. You could try another site such as Upromise that also offers rebates. Or you could go to the site where you want to shop directly.
There are a couple of catches you should know about when using the ebates site. The first catch is that you have to accumulate $5 in your account before you are eligible for a check. If you are getting only 2% of a rebate on your purchases, you would have to spend $250 to get anything back at all. If you never earn over $5, you don't get anything.
The other catch is that you can only get a check quarterly so there can be a long wait between when you earn the rebate and the check actually arrives.
Like most internet shopping sites, ebates will send you out period emails identifying stores that are having sales. I found these emails to be too frequent, more than once a week, and they became annoying so I turned them off. I also noticed that they didn't offer a ton of useful information. Generally, the sale ebates was advertising was easy to find just by going to your favorite site. The emails don't really offer any inside track or information you couldn't get elsewhere.
Ebates offers a referral program. If you get a friend to sign up to use ebates and they actually use it, you can get a $5 referral fee. I have used the refer a friend program and have actually earned $20 in the last year from this part of the program. If you use Ebates - I would appreciate it if you put down my email as the person who referred you - my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I really like ebates and have used the site several times to save money. There is little effort and saving even a buck or two per purchase can add up - particularly for a diehard internet shopper like myself. I would recommend this site to anyone that spends over $200 per year internet shopping.
DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP ON THE INTERNET? HERE ARE SOME MORE REVIEWS OF WEB STORES:
Clothing and Accessories: Talbots; The Gap; CWD Kids; Hanna Andersson; J. Jill; Tote Le Monde ; Blu Pyxie ; Miniboden; One Hanes Place; Nordstrom; Gymboree; Simple Shoes; Sierra Blue; Ebags.
Clothing and Home Goods: Lands End; Bluefly; Soft Surroundings; Garnet Hill; Sundance; L.L. Bean.
Home and Garden: Smith & Noble; Restoration Hardware; Gardeners Supply Company; Unicahome; Homeclick; FaucetDirect; Gardens Alive; West Elm; Crate & Barrel; MyKnobs; CB2.
Books and Magazines: Amazon.com; ValueMags; Magazine Values; Dover Publications.
Office Supplies, Furniture and Services: Staples; Officemax; Topdeq; Efax.
Electronics: HP Shopping; Buy.com.
Travel: Amtrak; Hotwire; Orbitz; Hotels.com.
Discount: Overstock.com; Target.
Photo Developing: Shutterfly; Snapfish.
Baby Stuff: Babystyle; Babys Here Birth Announcements; Baby Universe; SoZo; Baby Center; Baby Age.
Miscellaneous: 1-800 contacts; Movie Tickets.com; Drugstore.com.
Rebate Sites: Upromise.
Before you start shopping, check out my tips on how to save money by shopping on the internet . I have also included some coupon codes and plan to add more as I find them.