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Frugal Find: Stacking Cash Back Rewards

   Posted On: December 5, 2014  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

I’m not much of a gamer when it comes to churning credit cards for rewards, travel or cash back. (I’ve only once applied for a credit card in order to get a free flight — which I still haven’t cashed in on because I’m saving up for Hawaii.) But I recently wandered into the wonderful world of stacking cash back rewards.

Full disclosure: this won’t be a long-term game for me because I’m really cashing in on Discover’s 5% cash back for online shopping this quarter and I do most of my holiday shopping online.

For all you rookies to stacking cash back, it goes a little something like this:

1) Find a referral code site like Rakuten or Mr. Rebates*. Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 8.19.49 PM

2) Click through their site to your intended shopping site (ie: Amazon, Sephora or TOMS).

3) Make your purchase on intended site with a cash back credit card.

Confused? Let’s break it down with a real example.

Peach has been harping about wanting a very specific type of gloves. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find them in a brick-and-mortar store (silly millennial), I opted for Amazon. Within a few minutes I found what he wanted, but instead of checking out right through Amazon I went to Rakuten. Rakuten was offering 6% cash back on Amazon purchases.

Once on Rakuten, I clicked through to Amazon. When I made my purchase, I used my Discover It card, to cash in on that  5% cash back for online shopping this quarter.

So, my $16 purchase received 6% cash back from Rakuten plus an additional 5% cash back from my Discover card.

Sure, it was on a paltry $16, so I only earned $0.96 from Rakuten and $0.80 from Discover for a staggering $1.76, but say I make a $100 purchase. That’ll be $11 in cash back on a single purchase. Not too shabby.

As with all things related to credit cards and gaming a system, there are catches.

Screen shot 2014-12-04 at 8.06.26 PMFor starters, referral sites don’t give you cash back on any purchase. Right now, Rakuten and Mr. Rebates are offering cash back on Amazon for purchases in children’s, women and men’s fashion, home & kitchen, toys & games and Amazon local. The amount of cash back also fluctuates rather quickly. During Black Friday, you could score 8% back on Rakuten, but now it’s down to 4%.

Second, your cash back card might not offer cash back on a site you’re going to through a referral. I recently bought a pair of shoes on, and earned $6.56 back through Rakuten for the purchase, but Discover didn’t count it as shopping online, so I didn’t get the extra 5%.

If you have a flat-rate cash back card like Quicksilver, Fidelity or Citi Double Cash, then you’ll be guaranteed some level of cash back above 1% — but I don’t have any of those cards.

Some of you may be wondering how these referral sites work. I admit they sounded a little sketchy to me at first.

Basically, you can think about it just like a credit card reward. Credit card companies offer you a piece of the interchange fee they charge merchants in order to incentivize you to use their cards. That’s why (and how) companies offer cash back deals! And why you should be skeptical of of cash back above two percent — but that’s a post for another time.

These referral sites receive a kick back from retailers for sending you to the retailer’s online store. As a repayment, the referral site offers you – the customer – a little piece of the kick back.

You’re not going to get rich using these sites, but if you believe every dollar counts and you’re already going to be buying something online, it’s probably worth the extra two minutes of your time to see if you can get some cash back!

*If you sign up for Rakuten or Mr. Rebates with my referral code and make a purchase then I will receive a referral bonus.

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20 responses to “Frugal Find: Stacking Cash Back Rewards

  1. Thanks for the reminder. I all too often forget to use cash back portals, although for the big purchases we usually remember to use Ebates. I forget for most small purchases. We do a TON of shopping through Amazon, and I always forget that some categories do indeed offer rebates.

    1. I wish I’d known about it sooner because I’m a regular Amazon shopper. However, the categories aren’t always relevant.

  2. I actually saw commercials for ebates and other sites like it recently when I was in the Bahamas but I’m not sure if this is as popular in Canada yet. Definitely something I will consider, as of right now I’m usually just making sure to grab bonus miles on purchases online but cash back wouldn’t be too bad either. Thanks for the review, it gives me a proof that these things are actually legit!

    1. I’ve never seen commercials for them! I know Mr. Rebates and Ebates are both legit, but I’m not sure about all the other ones. I had issues with TopCashBack never showing my rebate.

  3. Interesting! I’m usually confused by this stuff and then don’t bother to use it, but sounds like I really should. Do you know if you can stack these rewards on Amazon if you’re using cash-back rewards points for your purchase? We have an credit card and we end up redeeming points for most of our Amazon purchases. I’ll have to see if they’ll let us add the other rebates on top. Thanks for sharing!

    1. From my understanding, it’s void on most referral sites if you use a gift card or cash back. But if you stack it with an Amazon credit card, you’ll be making more money!

  4. Ebates have been advertising on TV here in Colorado and I wasn’t sure how it works. You do a far better job explaining it than the TV commercial. Thanks for that. We use on-line coupons and discount codes all the time to save some money. I will have to look at these as it seems like a sure win.

    1. I’ll have to check this commercial out! It’s a shame if they aren’t explaining it well, because it really could benefit a lot of folks.

  5. Really? I admit that these sites are sort of confusing and overwhelming to me so I miss the opportunities on saving and cutting back some money. If I had known it earlier, I would have gotten those deals and offers. That would have really worth it. Next time, I would grab it.

  6. Though it comes with a $75 annual fee, American Express’ Blue card is a great cash back card…6% on all grocery store purchases, 3% on select department stores, 3% for gas stations, and 1% on everything else. It also has immediate reward dollar offers (like $5 back for $20 spent on Amazon or $5 back for $15 spent at too. What I’ll sometimes do is buy gift cards for myself at the grocer store to dining establishments, Best Buy, etc to get 6% cash back and use the gift cards to make the purchases. Plus depending on their offer at certain times, you could get $150 in reward dollars for signing up for the card, sometimes reward dollars and 1 yr of Amazon Prime for free, etc.

    I think though you did a great job detailing how to double up your rewards through referral sites. I guess the drawback of your card, as you mention, is a quarterly reward for online shopping and you won’t know what next quarter’s rewards will be whereas the Blue card is consistent for the year.

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