The Best Ways to Maximize Your Cash Back Rewards

Last Updated: June 4, 2019
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There are many ways to increase your cash back rewards. However, it can take a lot of time to calculate and drill down to the small details. The key is effectiveness - quick, relevant and valuable. Here are the most effective ways to maximize your cash back rewards:

A cashback is a benefit that many credit card companies offer on some of their rewards credit cards.  Cashback refers to the amount of money that the card company gives back to you based on what you spend through your credit card.  Some cards even give you bigger cashback opportunities on your purchases when you enroll in quarterly promotions or by shopping through their virtual shopping portals.

Often, card companies will set a limit or a maximum amount on how much you can earn back on promotions or quarterly rewards programs.  For example, they can let you get 5% cashback at gas stations but only up to $1,500 for the quarter and just 1% cashback on all other purchases.  Just make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions of the offer so you can fully understand and maximize your card’s cashback rewards program.

When shopping around for a cashback card, check out the percentages you’ll get back but don’t forget the annual fees because you might end up paying more than what you earn.

For example, Uber’s new Visa card offers a cashback of 4% on restaurant and bar purchases, 3% on hotels and airfares, 2% on online purchases (including Uber rides) and 1% for other purchases.  Surprisingly, they do not charge an annual fee (for now).

The percentages may not appear material but over the course of time, they do tend to accumulate.  Take a look at this:  if your monthly credit card bill is $3,000 and you always pay it in full, a 1% cashback means an extra $30 for you.  That adds up to $360 a year that you get for doing nothing – or more accurately, for spending.

Redeeming Your Cashback Reward

You can redeem your cashback in several ways, such as:

  • Via a bank deposit to your account. The card company can credit the cashback you have earned directly into your checking or savings account.  Some card issuers will allow you to cash out your balance without having to accumulate so much amount.  But make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions of your cashback program to know the redemption thresholds set by your issuer.
  • Get it thru a statement credit. In this mode, you get to apply your cashback to pay for your current credit card balance.  It may not be sufficient to pay the total amount but it will help defray your card payments.
  • Redeem a gift card. Some card companies have tie-ups with popular merchants that will allow you to get a gift card for your cashback reward.  You can use the gift card or eCertificate to buy items from the merchant.
  • Donate it to charity. If you advocate a movement or support a cause, some card issuers accommodate donations to select charities from cardholders. You may opt to donate some or all of your cashback rewards to a charitable organization that you want to support.

Maximize Cash Back Rewards – Plans, Tips and Tricks

There are many ways to increase your cash back rewards. However, it can take a lot of time to calculate and drill down to the small details. The key is effectiveness – quick, relevant and valuable. Here are the most effective ways to maximize your cash back rewards:

1. Use Your Credit Card for Ongoing Expenses

Most consumers do not realize that they do not need to spend more to earn rewards – they think that they should use their cards to make big purchases.  As a result, they subconsciously start looking for justification to buy things in order to increase their spending totals.

Well, this is a wrong approach aside from it being a dangerous one.  For one, they begin to incur more debt and next, they would have more expenses (most of them unnecessary).  If you’re an average consumer who does your daily spending using cash or debit cards, simply replacing your mode of payment with a cashback credit card will push your card spending total without jeopardizing your finances.

Think about this: almost everything that you buy or pay for your daily needs – gasoline, utilities, groceries, entertainment, rent – you can pay using a credit card.  You can simply consolidate all spending onto your credit card and then pay it off with cash when the credit card due date comes.

2. Buy From Online Cashback Websites

You can find some really good websites that act as the middleman between customers and online retailers.  The cool thing is that they give you a percentage of the commission.

The offers range from a couple of percents when you buy some clothes or book a hotel room to hundreds of dollars for signing up for a new mobile contract.

Just remember that the websites don’t always guarantee the money so don’t buy something through the cashback sites based only on the extra cash you’ll get.  In other words, make sure that the money is in your account before you spend it.  Always keep in mind that the cashback deal isn’t always the best one around – check other sites and promotional offers because you might find a more superior deal even without cashback.

Pay attention to the site’s instructions and follow them carefully so you can build up a reasonable amount faster.

Ebates (for Web, iOS, Android)

Ebates is a free affiliate marketing site and offers cashback to its members when they buy from their partner retailers including Nordstrom, Panasonic, Groupon, and Amazon.  They offer a bonus gift card of $10 (if you use it at Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Target, or Kohl’s) or $5 (if you apply it at Ebates) for your first purchase via Ebates.

Ebates has a partnership with over 1,800 retailers and boasts of 10 million (and counting) members who have already benefited from about $1B in cashback rewards.  Like Coupon Cactus, Ebates sends the cashback rewards once every three months.  Members can opt to receive their money via check or thru PayPal.

Like many other similar sites, Ebates’ retailers offer different deals but most of them give back a percentage of how much a member spends on the retailer’s sites.  The average rates range from 1.5% to 2% but some sites will offer “up to” 12% or even higher.

One cool offer of Ebates is their Double Cashback deals where some retailers give two times as much cashback they normally offer.

Honey/Honey Gold

Honey uses a browser plug-in that searches and applies the best discount codes at store checkout pages and tracks Amazon price dips – though it works a little differently.  “Each reward is a surprise,” the company claims because members won’t actually know the cashback percentage until after they’ve bought from the sites.

For example, it could be 1% to 5% on eBay, up to 10% at Wal-Mart and so forth.  Their model isn’t exactly straight-up cashback.  Members must accumulate points and later redeem them for gift cards and only at around a dozen stores.  You can use Honey Gold if you can’t find a cashback option for one of the other groups.

ShopAtHome

Being in existence for more than 30 years, ShopAtHome has helped 80 million users get discounts, offers and cashback rewards from 4,000 online merchants that include Wal-Mart, Ralph Lauren, and Crate&Barrel.  With this site, you can save money on just about anything that you buy.  The site pays cashback thru Amazon gift cards, check, or PayPal.

Creating an account is free and easy and by doing so, you already start to earn a reward.  Once you’ve logged in, you can start looking for online and in-store cashback deals.  Remember that you must log in to your ShopAtHome account before visiting the retailers’ sites or you may not get any cashback rewards even if you make a large purchase.

Another way to earn cashback is by accumulating points in their ShopGold Rewards program.  This segment of the site gives points to members for answering surveys, playing games and referring their friends to become members.

2,000 ShopGold points equal $20 in gift cards, 4,000 points equals $40, and so forth.  However, you can only redeem your Gold Rewards for gift cards only – they will not pay via check or PayPal.

3. Pay For Large Purchases With a Credit Card Instead of Cash or Debit card

Are you ready to buy that state-of-the-art home entertainment system?  How about the latest MacBook Air?  All set for that family grand cruise you’ve been saving for?

You can use your rewards card for all these purchases and reap great benefits.  Imagine that with just one swipe of your card, you can add hundreds – or even thousands of dollars to your spending totals and get a truckload of points for them.

What’s even better is that you get extra benefits to using your credit card for making these purchases such as better fraud protection and extended warranties on the goods.

But listen carefully.  You should only do this if you have the equivalent cash on hand to pay for these items and were really decided to go ahead with the purchase in the first place.  You can say that you are simply optimizing your planned expenditures to get the most out of them.

Do not deceive yourself into justifying a major purchase that you don’t want, don’t actually need, or can’t afford in the guise of the rewards you can get in return.

4. Shop at General Credit Card Cashback Websites

Here’s an amazing (but pretty easy) way to get cashback.  There are new services that link directly with your credit card and you don’t have to do anything out of the usual to get rewards.  Just dine at restaurants, book a hotel room and purchase your regular stuff and get cashback like magic.  Oh, did we mention that they work even if your credit card provider already gives you cashback?  If that isn’t a home run deal, we don’t know what it is.

The small catch is that this isn’t going to work everywhere but only from stores that are part of the given program.  This means that you will have to do a bit of an advance check.

Does the idea of getting a 30% cashback savings when you eat out appeal to you?  We know it would.  And would you want this offer to be available to many popular restaurants?  Obviously, you would.

Well, here are some examples of these services:

Yelp Cashback

You may as well call this “Dosh for restaurants” because the process model is very similar:  enroll and link a credit card, dine at partner restaurants, and earn cashback.

However, you can’t link the same card for both Dosh and Yelp although they both leverage third-party e-commerce company Empyr which handles the actual payments.  This could be why there are a lot of overlaps between the two sites both in restaurant and cashback rates.

Between the two, you stand to save more with Dosh but if you spend a lot on restaurants, Yelp Cashback is worth checking out.

Dosh

Members can get a lot more from Dosh because their merchant partners include in-store and online purchases in the cashback program – including hotels.  The process is simple:  just link one or more of your credit cards to your Dosh account then browse for current offers.

Like what?  How about 5% back at Payless, 10% cashback at Double Dave’s Pizzaworks and a $25 bonus for your first hotel booking using their app?  They also offer the option to transfer your cash to your bank account, donate to charity or receive it via PayPal.

5. Avail of Post-Purchase Cashback Services

The last option for maximizing the cashback till is a post-purchase cashback service.  It works by providing rebates after the fact but usually by looking at your purchases.

If you’re saying that it could be invasive of your privacy, well, you’ve already read this far.  Many of these services required your credit card number to be able to do what they’re supposed to do for you.

Let’s check out three notable providers by starting with the one that can score you price-match refunds without you having to do anything.

Walmart Saving Catcher

If you’re a regular Wal-Mart customer, you should be using this.  Use the Wal-Mart app when you pay then scan the QR code at the bottom of the receipt.  Submit the receipt to Savings Catcher and wait.  The app compares what you paid for against the advertised prices of local competitors.

If it finds an eligible item with a lower price, Wal-Mart gives you the difference in the form of a Wal-Mart e-gift card or a Bluebird card credit.

Paribus

There are many online stores that offer price-matching or price protection schemes for their customers.  If you buy something and then the price drops, you can get a refund for the difference between the old and the new prices.

What Paribus does is to track your purchases and when they find a lower price, they contact the store’s customer services on your behalf to get a refund.  The service is free but you have to give them permission to monitor your email so they can automatically look for electronic receipts.

To learn more about this, you can read articles about getting price-drop refunds without even trying.  You may find a similar tool (Earny) that provides the same service – but they keep 25% off whatever refund they collect on your behalf.

Receipt Hog

Would you have any objection to sharing your receipts for market-research purposes?  If not, scan them and send the images to Receipt Hog. For every qualified receipt that you send, you earn coins that you can accumulate and exchange for cash or gift cards. They also give opportunities to members to earn additional coins by participating in surveys, playing online games, referrals, and connecting Amazon accounts.

Some people don’t like this app because it always wants to know your location (in order to work).  This is not the only player in this field, there’s also ReceiptPal and other apps that also give you rewards for your electronic receipts.

You be the judge if the effort you put in merits the small reward you can get. We’re mentioning it because it is another form of cashback for free.

Bottom Line

Cashback is an added benefit that many credit card companies make available on some of their reward credit cards.  There are a handful of ways how you can get the most of your cash rewards; we’ve given you the most common ones.

Admittedly, since technology is constantly churning out new ideas, there could be other tools and services we did not mention or cover here.  If you’re actively using one of them or if you know a site or app that’s worth sharing to others, please mention it in the comments section.

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