Budget-Friendly Shopping Hacks: How To Use Ebates
As someone who does a lot of online shopping — be it for a project or for myself — a question I get asked a lot is how I shop.
While a lot of people think they love to shop, not everyone has the time or patience to research & compare before making a decision — for me, that’s my whole jam!
The time I put in at the beginning saves me time and money in the end. Which brings me to another common question — how do I save money!
How do I stay on budget or not overspend especially when more than half of my shopping is done online?
I’m going share a little secret with you about one of my fav shopping “hacks” that not only helps me save a coin or two, but is basically like getting paid to shop. While a lot of steps go into my online shopping strategy — yes, strategy — this is one step I cannot do without.
So what is Ebates?
Simply put, it’s a cash back shopping platform — using either the mobile app, browser extension, or direct website, you can browse hundreds (or thousands?) of retailers earning back a percentage on what you spend.
So in the same way that you may have a credit card that earns you cash back — typically 1.5% — Ebates is doing the same thing, with the percent being anywhere from 1% to as high as even 10% or more, depending on the retailer.
You’re not paying anything extra — Ebates makes the money from the retailer — and instead, you’re making money on the things you would’ve been buying anyway.
Talk about a win win WIN!
I started using Ebates in 2015 but didn’t really start consistently using it till late last year — sad I know! When I think about all the money I’ve “left on the table” it actually does make me sad, but I also can’t miss what I never had, I suppose.
How does it work?
Like in the example with the credit card, so long as the purchase is from a qualifying retailer, you earn a percentage of your purchase & can either receive that as a check or PayPal deposit once the cash out period closes (please don’t ask me about this part because, to be honest, I’ve never bothered to check since I much rather the surprise of a PayPal notification).
While Ebates doesn’t work with every single retailer, the network is huge & you’ll be hard pressed to find someone not on there, although I have had some “womp womp” moments when looking for a store or 2.
My preferred way to use Ebates is with their browser extensions — chrome & safari — which makes it effortless for me!
Whenever I’m on a partner site, I’ll automatically get a little pop up letting me know to trigger my cash back, with the percentage noted right there. But here’s where they really start to show out — if the retailer has any promotional coupons/deals/codes/etc., it’ll also let me know & often times apply it for me right at checkout.
Because let’s be honest — how many times have you been shopping online completely oblivious of some promotional secret code sale they’re having? This feature is just as clutch as the cash back itself.
Other ways to use Ebates, like I said are through their mobile app or directly from the site itself, but I prefer the extensions because it requires very little extra effort from me. It’s especially cool when it’s a retailer you had no clue was part of their network. That pop up is always a welcome surprise!
While they don’t work with every retailer, I do know that they update & add retailers all the time!
For the longest while, I would get so heated that H&M was not part of their network of retailers because, if you know me, you know I shop H&M Home fairly often. This would infuriate me every single time I’d be making a purchase, so you can imagine my jubilee when a few weeks back I opened my browser, entered www.hm.com, and, not even a second after loading, received an Ebates pop up!
Not only could I shop one of my favorite styling destinations, I could get 1.5% cash back to do so! AND, remember when I mentioned cash back credit cards? Shopping with said credit card meant I could also earn that cash back as well.
*cue the confetti*
Every so often — like now, for back to school shopping — a ton of retailers have DOUBLE CASH BACK!
Stores that didn’t have cash back offers, now do, and others have literally DOUBLED the cash back earnings percentage! Whenever they’re having this promotion is when I start to not only think about if there’s something for my home I’ve been coveting, but also if I planned on doing any shopping for my daughter, some gadgets, or our closets!
So Amazon, another retailer you guys know I shop WAY more than I probably should, typically has no cash back (boooo!) but during the promotion has up anywhere from 1-5% cash back now, depending on the category! P.S. Home is a smooth 4% cash back!
Some of my other FAVS that I’ll be looking to take advantage of during the double cash back are: Overstock and Bed Bath & Beyond, both going from 2% to 4% cash back, Macy’s going from 3% to 6% cash back, and Michael’s going from 1% to 4% cash back — 4x the usual.
Even without the double rewards, I still a lot of my favs that I shop for the home including: CB2 (1%), Cost Plus World Market (4%), Etsy (1%), Hobby Lobby (2%), Lamps Plus (3%), Lulu & Georgia (3.5%), One Kings Lane (2%), The Container Store (4%), The Shade Store (3.5%), and Target (1% depending on the category).
Where else do I shop?
But don’t get it twisted — I shop A LOT of our tech & clothing using Ebates too, with my go-to retailers being Apple (2%), Boohoo (3% normally, but currently 5%), Carter’s (2.5%), Forever 21 (2%), Nike (1.5%), Sephora 4% normally, but currently 8%), and Shutterfly (1%).
I've even used Ebates to earn $2 cash back (some retailers are a fee, not a percentage) when I signed up for ABC Mouse for our daughter!
Well, dear friend, you can take advantage of the in-store cash back opportunities!
While with not nearly as many retailers, yes, you can also earn cash back in stores!
In short, whatever card you have connected to your Ebates account, if you activate their offers, you’ll earn cash back when you shop at those stores with that card.
While I am all for avoiding people & lines, I love knowing that if I pop into any one of these stores unplanned, I can quickly earn some extra coins!
There’s no fee to sign up or use Ebates, and actually, if you sign up as a new user, THEY give YOU a $10 bonus!
Granted, to get that bonus, you have to make a purchase of $25 or more within 3 months of signing up, but I can’t imagine if you’re signing up that you won’t be shopping immediately!
I should add to all of this because I would be remiss if I didn’t, that Ebates isn’t just for shopping trips & splurges!
You can use it on a whole GAGGLE of other retailer types.
While I don’t travel often, you better bet your bottom dollar I will do everything to save when I do!
So how can you make Ebates work for you best?
Here are some of the things I did, to get the most of using it…
1. get the browser extension!
I use the extension for both Chrome & Safari because depending on the day & my mind, I’m using any one of those browsers. Like I said before, I may not always know (or remember) which retailers have an Ebates offer, so having the extension makes it some much easier to make sure I’m not missing out savings.
If for some reason the pop up didn’t trigger my cash back, I can always go to the native site & find the retailer and/or find the shopping trip & report it manually.
The extension also lets you know of any other promotions -- not just the cash back -- that the retailer may be having. By just clicking it (and making sure my desktop notifications are on) I can see a running list of current offers!
2. make a favorites list
On the site, you have the option to “favorite” stores with a little heart, which I love because while I can simply type in the name of a retailer I’m looking for, I’d much rather see all my regularly shopped retailers in one place.
If there are any fun promotions, like double cash back, on their retailers, I’ll see right at the top of the page. And this works on both the app and the site!
3. link your cards to take advantage of in-store cash back
No sense in missing out on perfectly good money, so as long as it’s a Visa or an AMEX, just add it to your Ebates account. BUT here’s the real kicker — you can add more than one card!
Once you add em to your “wallet” you just choose which ones to enable for in-store cash back.
While MasterCard & Discover (and probably some others) don’t qualify, this isn’t to say that they won’t eventually.
If you’re really my people — which I hope you are! — then you should already be using be Ebates, but just in case it slipped your radar & you aren’t, remember that you can sign up & get a $10 bonus when you start shopping.
And I wanna be the first stop you make when you start using it so you can tell me what goodies you bought. Don’t worry, I won’t ask how much you made. LOL.