I believe that being able to consistently earn cash back from your online shopping activity takes a fair amount of both motivation and discipline – maybe about a 50-50 split of the two. Regardless, it takes a lot of discipline to make sure that you are always doing something about getting $omething back when you shop. I suspect that for many of us, following through on that initial urge to start earning cash-back by actually taking advantage of cash back opportunities is like singing in the shower vs getting up on stage at a karaoke bar: everyone thinks that they sound great in the shower but it takes real dedication to prove that hypothesis on stage in front of a room full of strangers…
For me, having the discipline needed to make sure I am earning even smaller amounts when I shop online or that I am using the right card at the right place when at a brick-and-mortar store, has made it much easier to step up my game, you could say, by going after the cash back double dip and even in some situations a triple dip.
You can probably pull off a double or triple dip with any number of websites offering consumers a cash back incentive for their online shopping. Right now I do the large majority of my online cash back shopping through Ebates (I currently have a membership with both the US and Canadian sites) so my examples of the process are based on my experiences with them. The sites that I use for my cash back might change in the near future but for now I am using both Ebates sites as the basis for my examples.
The Cash Back Double Dip
This one is pretty straightforward. The idea here is that when you make any purchase online you should be aiming to do so with a cash back credit card and also be making the purchase using the link to the retailer from a cash back site like Ebates. This way you are getting cash back twice on the same purchase; your money spent is earning you a little bit back in two ways after one online transaction. So if you are using a cash back credit card at say 1% and taking advantage of a cash back offer for an online retailer at say between 2% and 8% then you look to be getting between 3% and 9% cash back on your purchase from a combination of the two sources. If you have a creditcard that gives you higher levels of cash back for grocery store purchases (and if you already know that they honor gift card purchases made in-store at that higher level) then another alternative is to buy a regular gift card at a brick and mortar location like a supermarkets gift mall where they usually have a wide assortment of various retailers gift cards available and just use that gift card to make your online purchase. That way you could be getting anywhere from between 2% and 4% cash back from your CC for buying the gift card plus whatever % you get from making your purchase through the Ebates link. Just make sure that the online retailer is one that accepts gift cards online. You might think that any retailer that sells gift cards would accept them on their site but unfortunately for whatever reason that is not always the case. Staples is one example of a major retailer that sells gift cards (even selling them through their website) but only allows customers to redeem them in-store.
This is all pretty straightforward so far, right?
The Cash Back Triple Dip
Where it gets interesting is when you decide to ramp up your potential cash back earnings by introducing gift cards into the mix. If you are lucky the retailers that you are interested in are also offering some percentage back on egiftcard purchases which means you will be able to add another percentage level of cash back or another ‘dip’ to the cash back process. Here is how you take advantage of this opportunity:
Say you are shopping for something at chapters online. They currently offer 1% cash back for gift card purchases and 2% for most other items bought online. So to earn that extra little bit of cash back I would buy the e-gift card through the Ebates link using my cash back credit card to pay for it, then after receiving the e-gift card in my email I would go back and make another purchase at the chapters website (through the Ebates link again) for an item I originally wanted and use the e-gift card to pay for it. This time you are getting the 2% cash back for your online purchase. This would net you in total between the two transactions around 4% cash back. (1% cash back from the e-gift card purchase +1% cash back from using your credit card+2% cash back from making the second chapters purchase) Remember these are the numbers based on regular cash back offers but between the US and Canadian Ebates sites you will often find at least one of them offering a higher promotional level of cash back for retailers such as chapters and that is when I usually try and make my online purchases at these retailers. From my own past experiences you can often expect to see something like 2% cash back for the e-gift cards and up to 4% cash back for the regular merchandise which when combined with your CC cash back would net you a total of around 7% cash back. Not bad for showing a bit of patience and timing when doing your online shopping.
The Sucky Part
Ah yes, the sucky part. Sometimes you will come across a retailer that has included restrictions specifically prohibiting any cash back on purchases made with a gift card on their site. I first became aware of this when I noticed Hotels.com gift cards at my local supermarket. After seeing them I rubbed my hands together and thought to myself, ‘Great, now I can double dip if I decide to make any reservations through Hotels.com in the future!’
Not so fast.
Upon browsing the info page for Hotels.com on Ebates, I came across this little tidbit, “Cash Back is not available on airfare or on the purchase or redemption of gift cards.“ Ouch. A nice little dagger to my cash back heart…
Anyway, that is the kind of restriction that you need to browse for before making any sizable gift card purchase if the reason for said purchase is to redeem the gift card online during a cash back transaction. That being said however, it is always worth while to keep your eyes open to see if any of your favorite ebates retailers have decided to add gift card purchases to their list of qualified cash back transactions – or conversely, removed the use of gift cards from their list of non-qualifying transactions.
Regardless of these hurdles however, I hope that what I have shared with you here helps in some way to the expansion of your cash back horizons.
Happy hunting, internet shoppers!
*BTW, if you have not yet signed up for any Ebates site, you should do so – its free to join and you will get a cash back credit just for signing up! Below are the sign-up links for both the Canadian and US Ebates sites:(If you sign up using my links here we will both get a credit for your action, so thank you in advance!)