Whenever I’m doing any sort of online shopping, I search EV Reward to find the best deal. Most online shopping sites offer some sort of rebates, for instance if I’m going to buy something at Target.com I search Target.com at EV Reward and find that I can get 3% cash back through Ebates (which offers a $5 bonus after your first purchase), 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar, 3 American miles per dollar, or several other options.
Given this information, I’d probably choose 3 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar at Target.com.
EV Reward is a useful tool, but it isn’t updated in real time and offers from the various cash back and mileage sites change all the time. So what they list as currently-available offers may vary from the offer you see when you click through.
And the site isn’t totally comprehensive, not every single cash back site and mileage mall is listed. One that isn’t, for instance, is the new Top Cash Back.
In fact, the site has only been up in the U.S. for about 6 months, and I had just heard of it when reading up on the Radisson/Club Carlson monster promotion, Top Cash Back was providing a 5% rebate on Radisson bookings — and given the excitement around the Club Carlson 55,000 bonus point promotion they upped their cash back offer to 10%.
After I posted about Top Cash Back and the Radisson promo, the Top Cash Back folks reached out to me. They explained they are a 100% commission rate cash back site — a contrast to the usual model for these things which is that merchants pay a commission on sales driven to their site, and cash back websites generate volume by offering to rebate some of their commission to the consumer.
For instance, instead of pocketing the full 3% they might get paid by a merchant, most sites might keep 1% and pay 2% to the consumer. They get less on each transaction, but encourage a whole lot more transactions. And the mileage malls operate on a similar principle, buying miles from airlines or points from hotels and crediting those to consumers rather than cash, but in any case effectively paying out a portion of the commission they’ve received.
But since they effectively offer you something for nothing — miles or cash rebates for things you are going to buy anyway — it makes sense to click through the links and hope for the best, but not get too exorcised if you don’t get the mileage or cash back credit you’re hoping for.
Since the margins on any given transaction are low, and since the site only wants to pay out once it gets paid — there’s a long trail of things that have to happen, and lots of opportunity for technical glitches along the way — customer service tends to be quite bad. Once a site starts providing customer service, it becomes more costly to service a transaction than the site will make off that transaction. (At the same time, a site with a reputation for poor service will lose customers or undermine the brand of the mileage program they’re associated with, so there’s still some pressure for customer service).
Top Cash Back claims to change all of this.
- They promise to rebate 100% of the commissions they receive, and make money off of display ads on their website. If they offer more cash back than anyone else, they’ll drive traffic and serve up more ads. They claim to offer the most cash back of any rebate site for 90%+ of the stores they cover, with oversights accounting for those stores where they aren’t.
It does strike me as strange that their rebates would be lower any time if they’re rebating 100% of commissions, unless they’re getting lower commissions than some other sites, and also seems strange that they could double cash back on Radisson bookings if they were already paying out 100% of what they were receiving, unless they’re losing money on each booking in exchange for some buzz. But that’s what they say they’re doing, and that as a matter of policy they do things like 101% on their U.K. site. So there ya go!
- They promise better customer service. I’m told they intend to respond to all inquiries within 24 hours (outside of weekends and holidays).
- There’s no minimum to cash out. Some sites only pay you quarterly. Others require you to make a certain amount of purchases first. For instance, ebates won’t give you your referral bonuses for signing up members unless you also have a minimum of cash back earned from purchases yourself. Top Cash Back says there’s no minimum to cash out, and no wait, you can request funds whenever you wish.
Looking back at the Target.com example, they’re paying 3% on electronics, books, entertainment and home office .. 2% on baby care… and 9.5% on everything else (gift cards excluded).
Referring a new member earns the existing member $10 after the new member earns $10 in rebates. (Up until yesterday the website said the bonus was $5, I had heard that through beginning of July it was supposed to be $10… so I emailed them and they had this fixed within a day, most impressive.)
You can sign up with my link. If you sign up, feel free also to leave your own referral link in the comments, and readers are welcome of course to use signup links they find there.
Here are some travel provider cashback highlights:
- 16% on Intercontinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, etc) bookings
- 12% on bookings made at HotelClub.com
- 3% on Starwood hotel reservations (Sheraton, Westin, W, Four Points, Le Meridien, etc)
- 3% on Choice Hotels
- 5% on Fairmont
- 10% on Radisson and Country Inns
- 5% on Best Western
- 2.1% on Marriott and Renaissance, 3.5% on Marriott Courtyard, 4.5% on Fairfield Inn
- 1.2% on Air France, 2.6% on Virgin Atlantic, 2% on Qantas
- 8% on Sixt car rentals, 5.5% on Avis, and 4.5% on Budget