Guide to cashback websites

Cashback websites offer attractive incentives for frequent web shoppers

What are cashback websites?

Cashback websites can help you make money on the things you buy. When you click through from a cashback site to do your online shopping, you get paid a reward.

The sites act as a gateway or intermediary to various well-known retailers and providers.

By going through the cashback site, you can receive cashback credit when you make purchases with the retailer.

Some cashback websites also provide extra money-saving tools, like price comparisons and special deals.

Man sitting at table using laptop to access a cashback website

How do cashback sites work?

Cashback sites have links to a wide range of retailers, from supermarkets and airlines to mobile phone companies and insurance providers.

The sites work through a system that uses online referrals, and these referrals or website visits are tracked.

Every time the cashback site sends a shopper to a retailer’s website, and they make a purchase, the site gets paid a commission.

The cashback site then forwards on a percentage of the money they receive to you.

How do I use a cashback site?

It starts with signing up to one or more cashback websites - most are free to join - and browsing the available products, providers and deals.

The sites will show you how much cashback you can expect to receive for each deal. This is usually shown as a small percentage of your total spend or it’ll be a fixed amount.

Then, follow these simple steps:

  1. Find the deal you want to use

    Compare the deals and cashback offered to see if there are any for the product or service you’re looking for. It’s also a good idea to compare what’s on offer against other cashback websites

  2. Clear your internet cookies

    If you’ve visited the retailer’s website before, make sure you delete your internet cookies before you click through to buy. This helps to make sure your shopping is tracked to the cashback website

  3. Click on the link

    Don’t visit the retailer directly once you’ve seen a deal, instead click on the retailer’s link on the cashback website - this will take you through to the brand’s website where you then can shop as normal and your purchase will be tracked

  4. Complete your purchase

    After you’ve paid for your product or service the retailer will send commission to the cashback site which in turn will give you cashback credit. Some sites will require your cashback earnings to reach a certain amount before you’re be able to transfer them to your bank account or have it sent to a payment system like PayPal

How much money could I make?

The rewards for using a cashback site mean that if you do a lot of online shopping, particularly for high-value purchases - like holidays and mobile phone contracts - you can earn hundreds of pounds a year.

The total amount you can make depends on how much you buy, what you’re buying and the percentage of cashback on offer.

You can sometimes earn more if you choose to receive the earnings in gift cards.

Some cashback sites also offer free cashback for things like completing surveys, signing up for free trials or free quotes, or entering prize draws.

Will a cashback site cost me anything?

It’s free to register for a basic cashback account, but if you want a premium account, you’ll need to pay a fee.

Premium memberships typically provide better cashback rates and access to a wider range of promotions, as well as other features.

Be aware that cashback sites will usually keep a set amount of your earnings - for example, £5 a year or £1 a month, instead of having you pay a membership fee. So this could reduce what you were expecting to receive.

How long does it take to get paid?

When you make a purchase through a cashback website, you won’t receive the reward immediately.

Instead, because the process involves tracking your activity and the retailer registering that your purchase has come through a cashback site, it can take a while.

The payment you get from the cashback site is dependent on the retailer paying commission before a percentage gets passed to you - this process can take from a few days to several weeks or even months.

Typically, if you make a purchase at the start of the month, you’ll have to wait longer for your reward than if you bought something via the cashback site at the end of a month.

What products can I earn cashback on?

The good news is that you can get cashback on pretty much anything, from your weekly shop, to buying clothes or even taking out a new ISA.

Products and services you can earn cashback on include:

  • Clothes and fashion items
  • Electrical items
  • Entertainment and leisure, including online streaming services
  • Insurance and financial products
  • Home and garden products
  • Mobile phones and broadband services
  • Utilities
  • Car sales and services
  • Travel and holidays

Some of the best rewards come from services you can sign up to for several months or years, like broadband or mobile phone contracts.

What payout methods are available?

When it comes to receiving the cashback you’ve earned, you can withdraw your money from your cashback account by directly transferring it into your bank or PayPal account.

Or you can choose to convert your cashback credit into gift cards that you can use in high street stores and with online retailers - doing this will often earn you extra cashback.

Does cashback get declined?

Yes, this can sometimes happen and you might find that although you’ve waited several weeks or months, the cashback never arrives.

This might happen because:

  • Your cookies weren’t cleared before you used the cashback site
  • You cancelled or returned your order
  • You used a saved or renewal quote to make a purchase
  • You completed your order by phone rather than online
  • You returned part of your order
  • You didn’t meet the retailer’s terms and conditions
  • The retailer or provider has gone into administration

If these reasons don’t apply to your purchase, you can follow this up with the cashback site. They may investigate it further, but some retailers don’t allow claims which means the enquiry will stop.

Do you pay tax on earnings from cashback sites?

No, because any earnings you get from cashback sites are viewed as a discount from the merchant, so they don’t need to be declared as income and there’s no need to pay tax.

Cashback site safety rules

There are some downsides you should consider before you use cashback sites. Following these tips can help you avoid the pitfalls:

  • Compare deals - Cashback sites don’t always give you the best price, so shop around to make sure there aren’t other deals for the same item that will outweigh the cashback on offer
  • Clear your cookies - This is worth repeating. For the cashback tracking to work, you need to leave a ‘cookie trail’ between your computer, the cashback site and the retailer. If you’ve previously visited the retailer online and don’t clear your cookies, you might miss out on your cashback deal
  • Look out for fees and fund limits - Many cashback sites are free to join but will take the first £5 of the cashback you earn as a fee. But others may charge a fee to join or have a much higher threshold before you can withdraw your money. Some will even pay in vouchers rather than cash, so make sure you find this out before you start using the site
  • Don’t let your cashback build up - It’s risky to leave the cash you’ve earned in a cashback account. For a start, you’ll be missing out on interest, but there’s also a risk that the site could go bust or change its payout thresholds
  • Be prepared to wait - Make sure you don’t rely on cashback as a financial safety net or spend the money before you get it. You may have a long wait and it could be months before you receive anything back

How to boost your earnings: Top ways to get cashback

Cashback sites can be a good way to get the most from your online shopping but keeping these simple rules in mind can help you maximise what you make.

Earn by shopping in-store

If you register your card with the cashback site, you can earn cashback when you spend money on items in-store. Some sites will also let you scan receipts to add to your online account to help you get more money back

Use them every time you shop

Cashback sites aren’t just for goods, you can also earn rewards for most things that you spend money on. So if you remember to use one for holidays, car MOTs, telecoms and energy tariffs, your earnings will soon add up

Use refer-a-friend schemes

Spreading the word and getting friends to sign up can earn you a bonus. You’ll need to use the website’s referral page so it can track them, but you may not get the cashback until your friend has built up a set amount of credit

Make some free money

Many of the cashback sites have offers for earning free money by completing surveys, signing up for free trials or getting free online quotes by clicking a link. Websites like Quidco and TopCashback have dedicated areas on their site for free cashback offers

Compare cashback sites

Before you click through for a cashback deal, check the other main cashback sites to see if there’s a better offer. If you shop around, you might find a better bargain or a bigger cashback percentage elsewhere

Boost earnings with cashback credit cards

By using a cashback credit card on a cashback site, you can increase what you earn. Whenever you use a cashback card, you’ll get a percentage back of what you spend. Just make sure you pay back your balance in full each month to avoid paying interest

Drawbacks of cashback sites

While cashback sites can offer good value, there are some downsides that you should be aware of before you use them.

One of the biggest drawbacks is that the cashback isn’t guaranteed, so there’s a chance you may not get any money back.

Plus, you might have to wait a long time before you do receive any cashback. And when the cashback comes through, it could still take you a while to earn over the withdrawal threshold.

Fees can also be an issue, especially if you’re using several sites where you might be hit with multiple fees or thresholds. You also need to watch out for fake cashback sites.

However, as long as you keep these points in mind, it’s still possible to earn sizeable rewards that can make using a cashback site worthwhile.

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