Thursday, November 03, 2011

{Christmas Wishes} Shopping online? Check for the best rebate program first!

Shopping online is something that's becoming far more common these days.  Cyber Monday deals are gaining shoppers and there's even Black Friday deals available that let you avoid the horde at the mall.  But before you get caught up in the thrill of the hunt for a deal, make sure you're getting the best deal you can by checking for a retailer relationship with a rewards program that offers rebates back to you in the form of cash back!


Now, you know that I am a loyal Discover card customer and that while Amazon hasn't partnered with rebate sites (sigh!), they have partnered with Discover so that you can use any accrued cash back bonus to pay for items on the Amazon site. If there's anything above and beyond your available Discover cash back bonus, you can put it on your Discover card (which, of course, earns you a little cash back bonus.)  You should check the Discover ShopDiscover retailer list often for a retailer relationship. Most retailers offer 5% back, but there are others that offer more. 


Ebates is another rewards program that I use. When I can't get the best cash back amount back at ShopDiscover, I head to Ebates to check their reward rate. Joining is easy and can be done in just a few moments and will give you access to their list of retailer relationships so that you can plot your online shopping to get the most bang for your buck. If you're interested, this is my referral link. One nice aspect about Ebates is that they do list coupon codes that are available to use.  So besides earning cash back for purchases, they help you save more by providing you with coupon codes to use at checkout.  ShopDiscover retailers don't offer less than 5% cash back, but retailers at Ebates do.  This is why you need to check both sites to get the best deal.


Because the holidays are upon us now, MyPoints generally will offer more points for some retailers.  With MyPoints, however, you need to be able to do some math to determine if shopping online through their site will get you the best reward.  Since they reward in points, which are traded in for gift cards of differing denominations, it is important to know what type of reward you would want to be able to effectively calculate what your purchase is truly valued at.  For instance, shopping through their site at Kohl's will net you 2 points per dollar.  If you spend $50, that's 100 points.  If you typically redeem for certificates and it costs 3,950 points for a $25 code, that means that 158 points = $1 of that certificate.  A 100 point purchase means you've earned less than a buck, in reality.  Now, shopping through Ebates gets you 4% cash back, which on that same $50 purchase equals $2.  Shopping at ShopDiscover gets you even more at 5% cash back, so $2.50.  So for me, I would be better off shopping through Discover's site.

A quick note about MyPoints:  You can earn points for activities outside of shopping, which include printing coupons and redeeming them, surveys via email, clicking on opportunities via email (usually 5 points per if they offer), BzzAgent's tie in (get MyPoints for campaign activities), and more.  If you are close to a reward, it may be best to lose a little and get the points because that while it is important to get the best reward amount possible, there is the danger of having too many sites building rewards and spreading them out so thinly that it takes forever to accrue enough to cash in.  So my advice is to find a few rewards programs that fit you and your shopping habits and stick with them so that your rewards build faster and more consistently.
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