If you have to buy something it makes sense to spend as little as possible, so getting money back through ‘cashback’ schemes must be a good idea… but sometimes the money doesn’t arrive. So what can you do to maximise your payouts?
Topcashback or Quidco?
If you want to squeeze every penny of cashback out, then you will have accounts with both of them and check which one is offering the highest discount at the online shop you want to use. This may feel like a lot of hassle – often they are offering exactly the same. But don’t give up on cashback because of this – it’s better to just pick one and always use that every time you shop online.
Both cashback sites are working at getting more “in-store” cashback offers, either through you up-loading receipts or through using a debit/credit card which you have registered beforehand with the cashback site, but the retailers and the size of the cashback are pretty limited at the moment, so I will be concentrating on online shopping.
How much can you get back?
It can vary a lot, but sometimes the cashback can be significant. Here are a few of the rates in January 2017, but the offers change frequently:
- TopShop – 10.5% for new customers, 3.5% for existing customers
- Vodaphone – £35-£85 for 2 year handset contracts depending on how much you are paying each month
- National Express 3% or 4% depending on your journey
- AA breakdown cover £140 cashback for a new policy costing over £241
- Tesco Pet Insurance £50 for a new policy
- Expedia hotel bookings 7% , 1% flights
- Currys – 2.6 for washing machines, 2.1% for most other large kitchen “white goods”
How to use them
To get cash back, you have to make your purchase at an online retailer when you have got to the online store through a link from the cashback site. After you have made the purchase, you will get an email at some point hopefully to say your cashback has tracked. For example:
and then another email, which can be months later, to say the cashback has been paid. Some retailers are slower about paying than others, but it mainly depends on what you are buying. If you are booking a hotel room which can then be cancelled, then you are unlikely to get the cashback until you have actually stayed in the hotel.
Avoid “Failure to track”
The main thing that goes wrong with this process is that the retailer doesn’t ‘track’ that you got to them and bought something after going through the cashback site, so no cashback is paid. In theory you can raise a query with the cashback site who will refer it to the retailer – I’ve never had much luck from doing this. But if you follow the following procedure without fail, cashback will pretty much always track:
- If you want to buy some slippers or get a new phone contract or get travel insurance, the first thing to do is find the cheapest place online to get what you want.
- If your ideal slippers are being sold at slippersRus.co.uk, check to see if your cashback site has them as a retailer. Let’s assume they do.
- If the retailer has a range of cashback rates on offer, double-check exactly which you should get: many retailers offer higher rates for new customers; mobile and insurance contracts can be especially complicated etc.
- Be very wary about using any voucher codes which aren’t mentioned on the cashback site – most retailers say you can’t combine offers, so your cashback may be declined.
- Open a new browser that you haven’t been using to compare different slippers. If you usually use Chrome, switch to IE or Firefox say. Go into the cashback site in this new browser, find the link for slippersRus.co.uk and use that to get to the slipper site. Find your slippers and buy them.
- Always use the same email address with the retailer that you use for the cashback site. If you don’t, it won’t track.
Why switch browsers? This avoids the problem of the retailer deciding that you shopped for the slippers before you went through the cashback site, in which case they won’t pay you. An alternative approach is to empty the shopping basket AND clear your cookies after you have found the slippers, then go into the cashback site, back to the retailer and pick your purchases again – personally I prefer the “always make the purchase in a browser you only use for this” method.
Even if it tracks, it may not be paid
Until the money is in your bank account, things can go wrong. Have a look at this sad example a reader sent me :
£100 cashback tracked from his new mobile contract from phones4u, who then went bust. It tracked properly but my guess is the chance of him getting that money is about zero :(
Cashback is a nice addition you can’t rely on
Firms going under are of course rare, but when that chance is added to tracking errors, the implications are clear:
- never buy something if you can’t afford it if the cashback isn’t paid; and
- don’t choose to buy at a more expensive retailer because they are offering more cashback.
And if you are tackling a debt problem so money is tight, remember that you will always be better off if you don’t buy it, whatever the cashback promised is. Think – “is it in my budget?” A bargain isn’t a real achievement if you didn’t need it!