Cash back. Those two words should be music to your ears. You’re going to shop anyway, so you might as well be rewarded for it. Saving money doesn’t have to involve a fiesta of coupon-clipping or rebate-searching.
There are some super simple ways to get cash back that require little to no effort on your part.
Are you still shopping online the old-fashioned way by just going to a retailer’s website and browsing? You’re letting some free money slip through your fingers. Cash-back sites reward you for starting your shopping expeditions on their home pages.
Get paid back for online shopping
They get a commission by sending your business to an online retailer and then give some of that commission back to you in the form of cash back or other rewards. Here are two popular options that also offer apps to make mobile shopping easier:
Ebates: Ebates may be the most recognizable name in cash-back sites. It’s free to join and pays out by check or PayPal. Ebates partners with over 2,000 stores ranging from big names like Amazon and Walmart to smaller specialty boutiques, so chances are good your favorites are on the list.
BeFrugal: BeFrugal is just as big on offering coupons as it is on cash back, which makes it a convenient jumping off place for general bargain hunting. The big savings comes when you can stack coupons with cash back offers for bonus bucks. BeFrugal also guarantees its coupons will work and that it will give out the highest cash-back rates for its partner retailers. Look for printable coupons to save offline as well.
As with any financial venture, you can shop around between the cash-back sites to see which one offers the best rate of return, especially if you’re planning on making a big purchase.
Take full advantage of your credit card
Cash back credit cards are all the rage for a good reason. They reward your spending by giving a certain percentage back to you and all you have to do is shop like normal.
There are a ton of cash-back credit card options out there, so how do you choose which one to go with? Be sure to check the terms of the deal. You want to look for the usual perks, such as no annual fee, but the specifics of what gets you cash back can be complicated. Some cards will offer a flat percentage back on all purchases, while others will reward spending on specific categories like groceries, restaurants, or gas. If you commute or eat out a lot, then this can add up to your advantage.
You can max out your cash-back benefits by using your card for every purchase where it makes sense. Those seemingly small percentage points can net you a nice bonus over the course of a year.
Sometimes merchant-specific cards can pay off if you’re an avid customer. Check out the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card as an example. It gives you a healthy 5 percent back on most Amazon purchases when you have an eligible Prime membership. Amazon makes those rewards available in your Amazon account so you can keep right on shopping with your cash back.
Get even more cash back from your credit card buys
If cash back straight from your credit card isn’t enough for you, then you’ve got some interesting new options to try out. There’s a new frontier of services that tie in with your credit card to give you extra cash back on certain purchases. The catch is this only works under specific conditions with participating retailers or restaurants.
Groupon+: Everyone is familiar with deals site Groupon, which built its business on discounted vouchers you can use at restaurants and stores. Groupon+ debuted in September in 23 US markets with over 1,500 local restaurants on its list. You enroll your Visa or Mastercard in the program and then get up to 30 percent cash back on purchases at those participating restaurants. As a bonus, you don’t have to print out vouchers, but you do have to check on which restaurants are a part of the deal.
Reviews site Yelp already offers a similar service called Yelp Cash Back, which offers up to 10 percent back at select restaurants. Both are worth checking into if you dine out a lot and your favorite restaurants happen to participate.
Dosh: If restaurants aren’t your main thing, then check out newcomer Dosh, a cash-back service that works through an app for iOS and Android. It’s currently in a public beta mode. You connect your credit and debit cards to the app. When you shop at participating stores, you get cash back. Dosh is currently working with some big brand names, including Target, Gap, The Home Depot, and Holiday Inn. It works for offline shopping as well as online purchases made through the app with participating merchants.
How can Dosh pull this off? It’s a similar process as with the cash-back services like Ebates and BeFrugal. Dosh keeps a percentage of the merchant’s deal and gives the rest to the buyer. As with many of these opportunities, Dosh also tracks your purchases and gathers data on consumer buying habits, so make sure you’re comfortable with that before you sign up.
And a bonus way to save:
Walmart Savings Catcher: Walmart always wants to trump the competition when it comes to prices and you can use this to your advantage. Go to the Walmart Savings Catcher, enter your receipt number and date of purchase, and the site will automatically search for lower prices from local competitors. If it finds a cheaper price tag, you get the difference back. This also works in the Walmart app, which conveniently lets you scan your receipt's bar code with your phone.
With so many easy ways to get cash back, you can look forward to having some extra money in your pocket. While big buys may get you bigger lumps of money, making these cash-back services a regular part of your shopping routine will add up even with smaller purchases.
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