2018.10 Update: Discover Deals will be ended on 2018.10.31. It was good especially for Apple stuff. R.I.P.
Shopping portals provide a phenomenal way to earn extra miles and cashback while making online purchases through thousands of different vendors. From Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Amazon to smaller stores, you should never make an online purchase without first checking to see if there is a portal rate available. Cashback Monitor is the best resource on the internet for checking both real-time and historical portal rates across all of the major shopping portals for thousands of online stores.
How Shopping Portals Work
Shopping portals are generally connected to affiliate networks. Affiliate networks signup merchants like Staples, Macy’s, and Sears, then direct web traffic to specific portals, and in turn receive a negotiated percentage of the sale. The affiliate network then gives a percentage of that sale to the portal, who in turn gives a percentage of the sale to the consumer for clicking through the portal.
For example, an affiliate network will contract with Best Buy for either a negotiated percentage or flat-rate of each converted sale they direct to BestBuy.com. The affiliate network will then contract with a portal for a negotiated percentage of converted sales the portal sends through the affiliate network. Using this example, the affiliate network might negotiate a 3% rate for completed purchases they send to BestBuy.com, then pass on 2.5% to the portal who sent them the consumer. The portal then passes on 2% to the consumer for clicking through their link.
Portals “track” clicks to the merchant through their site via cookies stored in the consumer’s web browser. When a purchase is made, that cookie tells the portal that the purchase was made through their link. The best shopping portals are the ones that track efficiently. The best rate on the internet doesn’t mean anything if you click, and therefore your cashback, doesn’t rack.
How Do I Get My Money?
There is generally a four to eight week lag between the date you make a purchase through a portal and when your cashback or points become available. This is because the portal has to confirm the purchase with the vendor and ensure you don’t return the item. If the portal pays out and you then return an item, the portal will generally clawback the rebate you received.
Depending on the portal, you will be able to receive your cashback once it posts via either ACH transfer to a checking/savings account, PayPal, or receiving a physical check. Many portals also offer a bonus for redeeming cashback for third-party giftcards The cashout options for each portal are presented below.
Shopping Portal Options
Shopping portal options are organized below based on the type of rebate you can earn: cashback, airline miles, credit card points, and “other” rewards points. Note this is not an exhaustive list of available portals, rather it represents the primary portals I use.
The BeFrugal network is connected to over 5,000 online vendors and provides one of the better online user interfaces available. Your “click” through a vendor on the website appears immediately. Once a purchase tracks, a green “money bag” symbol appears in your account. As shown below, I made a purchase through Amazon, but did not make a purchase after clicking through Avis and Dell.
BeFrugal offers all users a free $10 after you signup and make your first tracked purchase. Cashback is generally available four to six weeks after a purchase.
Cashout options with BeFrugal include PayPal, bank transfer, or a mailed check. Additionally, you can receive bonus cashback if redeeming for vendor gift cards. For example, you can receive an additional 2% cashback by requesting a Visa Gift Card, 3% for an eBay gift card, 1% bonus for an Amazon gift card, etc.
The TopCashback network is connected to almost 4,000 online vendors and is one of the more reliable portals available in terms of tracking. Clicks through the portal generally appear within 24 hours, and they send you an email once the purchase tracks. Cashback is generally available within 6 to 8 weeks. Additionally, you can earn $10 free after your first purchase by clicking through our referral link.
Cashout options with TopCashback include PayPal, ACH bank transfer, or 3rd party gift cards. Similar to BeFrugal, you can receive bonus cashback if redeeming for vendor gift cards. You can receive an additional 5% cashback by requesting a Visa gift card, 3% bonus for an Amazon gift card, 5% for a Hotels.com gift card, etc.
The eBates network is owned by Raktuen, Inc, a publicly traded company, and is comprised of approximately 2500 online vendors. While eBates tracking is quite good, the portal cashback rates are generally inferior to other portals. Like the portals presented above, you can receive $10 free by signing up and completing your first purchase through eBates. There is also an eBates credit card offered through Synchrony Bank, which offers an additional 3% cashback on every purchase through the portal.
As shown below, your tracked clicks are shown on the eBates portal, and once a purchase is tracked you will see a green check mark under “cash-back” within your user profile.
eBates is unique in that you can also earn cashback by making in-store purchases at a variety of vendors, including Best Buy, Office Depot/Office Max, and many others. You simply link a credit or debit card to your profile, link the vendor to your online account via the eBates website, and once you make a purchase with the linked card you will receive cashback to your eBates account.
eBates automatically cashes out all earned cashback every 3 months via a linked PayPal account. I also believe you can request to have your cashback mailed via check.
The UPromise network is owned by consumer banking giant Sallie Mae, the largest (indirect) backer of private student loans in the United States. The UPromise network is comprised of approximately 600 online merchants. UPromise allows you to directly use earned cashback to payoff the balance of student loans or contribute to a 529 College Savings Plan. You can also simply request a mailed check payout. Checks are distributed once per month.
The UPromise interface does not show tracked clicks, only tracked purchases. Once a purchase is tracked, it will show a funding status of “pending.” Once cashback is available, pending will change to the date the funding will be made available.
Generally speaking, it will require special offers at certain times of the year, particularly consumer holidays like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Valentine’s Day, to benefit more from shopping through an airline portal than a cashback portal. Regardless, the option is a great way to keep your miles from expiring. Be sure to check Cashback Monitor for the best rates. Below is a list of the available airline-mile earning portals:
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- British Airways
- ANA Airlines Global Mall
- Delta SkyMiles
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
- United Airlines Mileage Plus
Credit Card Portals
A few banks offer the ability to earn their proprietary points by shopping through their online portals. The only one I have ever used is the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which sometimes is competitive with cashback rates. Additionally, Discover has a very competitive cashback portal with some vendors, and if you’re in your first card member year with the Discover It or Discover It Miles, your cashback earned through the Discover portal will be doubled! You will need to have a credit card issued by one of the banks noted below to shop through their portals. Note that depending on the Chase card you own, you’ll have to click through the specific portal shown below.
- Discover Deals
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Freedom)
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Ink)
- Chase Ultimate Rewards (Chase Sapphire)
- Wells Fargo Rewards
- BarclayCard Rewards Boost
Other Reward Points
In addition to cashback and miles, some portals offer the ability to earn their proprietary “points,” which have varying degrees of value. Honestly, I just keep my shopping to one of the portals described above. However, if you want to check out some other options, here they are: