TopCashBack is a game changer

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Recently reader John W tipped me off about a new cash back site named TopCashBack.  He had found that TopCashBack offered the best cash back rates for buying and selling gift cards through sites like PlasticJungle and Cardpool.  TopCashBack’s rates were so much better than the other cash back sites that I had to redo my entire “cheat sheet” showing how to buy and sell gift cards (you can find the cheat sheet here, or under the “Resources” tab on my site). 

How do they do it?

TopCashBack has affiliate relationships with merchants (through affiliate networks) and so they are paid whenever someone makes a purchase after clicking through their site.  Where they are different from other cash back sites (much different!) is that they give 100% of that money back to the consumer!

Impossible, right?  I mean, they need to somehow cover their employee salaries, office space, and hosting costs.  Right?  I checked a couple of merchants who make their affiliate percentages public and found it to be true:  In those cases, the amount the merchant pays their affiliates is the same rate given by TopCashBack.  So, how do they do it?

“My prices are so cheap, I’m losing money on every deal, but I’ll make it up in volume”

-Car salesman Madman Muntz’s advertising pitch

Yes, they make it up in volume.  Really.  On Monday, I had a great chat with TopCashBack’s Natasha-Rachel Smith.  Natasha is the head of communications and public relations for TopCashBack overall, and (as if that wasn’t enough) she is the head-honcho in charge of TopCashBack’s US site.  You see, TopCashBack.co.uk started in the UK and has become quite popular there.  Only recently (about 6 months ago) have they ventured across the sea to try to take over the colonies.

What I learned from Natasha is that TopCashBack earns money almost entirely from ads on its site.  Each ad is accompanied by a disclaimer saying “Sponsored advert – Zero cashback.”  After several years of losing money with this approach in the UK, they are now the top cash back site in the UK.  They now get enough traffic on their site to make their revenue model work.  Their hope and intent is to do the same in the US.

Testing the Service

I haven’t used TopCashBack long enough to actually deposit money in my bank account, but I do have over $60 pending. I have about $16 from buying gift cards at Cardpool, $14 from selling gift cards to Plastic Jungle, and $30 from “tell a friend” referrals. I also have 15 cents pending because I clicked through to a site called HotelsCombined and I searched for a hotel. I didn’t make a reservation or buy anything, I just searched.

Impressively, most of my pending transactions appeared the next day after I clicked through TopCashBack. Last night I made purchases at Staples.com and Drugstore.com. Those haven’t shown up yet, but hopefully they will soon. The Drugstore.com purchase was made using gift card credit I had left over from previous experiments. In those experiments I found that portals did not give cash back or points for such purchases. It will be interesting to see if the same happens here.

I’m Selling Out

TopCashBack isn’t paying me in any direct way to write this post, but they are paying me:  Just like anyone else who signs up for TopCashBack, I get money back when I shop and I get $5 each time I successfully refer a friend.  And, I now know the boss:  I asked Natasha if she could add Staples to the site, and the very next day it appeared!  Even better, after reading comments on prior Frequent Miler posts, she proactively began an effort to find out which merchants give cash back for gift card purchases!  As that information trickles in, the site will be updated to make payout amounts more clear.  This has huge implications for future gift card churning schemes!  So, yeah, I’m selling out.  TopCashBack has provided a path to help my readers save more money, and a way to make Frequent Miler schemes more lucrative.  So, yes, I’m happy to help them in return by crowing about their service.

So, what do you think?  Am I right to “sell out” here?  Do you think that it’s in our best interest to help TopCashBack succeed in the US?  If you’ve used TopCashBack, how has the experience been?


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Comments

  1. Works for me and I’m happy to get the cash back and to find out about it here.i don’t know if I would have found the service so easily on my own. Tx

  2. I have been following your blog for about week now. I did an experiment last week. I had to buy new Washer and Dryer from Home Depot. I had already placed an other through Chase UR Mall (10 extra points). But after reading your blog. I cancelled the order. Did the following:

    1. Bought a $753 gift card for $701 from Cardpool. This being the first order they called me to verify.
    2. Placed the above cardpool order through TopCashBack to get 2% (credited to my account with 2 days).
    3. The cardpool purchase will give me 701 points as I used my Chase Freedom card.
    4. Placed the new order through Chase UR Mall and payed the balance (after gift card) of ~12 through my Chase Freedom Card.
    5. So far this saved me $65. If I get my Chase UR Points correctly I should have ~7800 points. This is $65 more than ~7800 points I would have gotten with my original order.

    ~150 back on ~750 order (if I get Chase UR points). Not bad. Will have to wait and see if it works. Thanks for your informative articles.

    • avp: Thanks for sharing your success story! Sadly, it is looking more and more like Home Depot does not give Ultimate Rewards points for buying gift cards OR using them. Please let me know if you do get any points from that transaction. My guess is that you’ll only get about 120 points for the portion of your order that was paid with your Freedom card (but I hope I’m wrong!)

  3. Ahh, so you’re saying
    – Buy gift cards from magazines.com at 40x UR points
    – Use them through topcashback to get magazines at a huge discount

    right?

    • Ryan from MA: It’s worth doing a test, but Magazines.com seemed to have closed that loophole since early January. I ran several experiments (see my Laboratory page under “Resources”), but none panned out.

  4. Hrmm on 3/16 and 3/23 I bought gift cards and used them on magazines and books, and got the 40x points posted. do you think I made it through bc of the magazines or just got lucky?

    • Ryan from MA: Magazines.com has been great about giving points for buying gift cards, but not for using gift cards. So, I do expect that you got 40X for buying gift cards, but I doubt you received extra points for using them. I hope you tell me I’m wrong about that! If so, would you mind listing the amounts you paid and how many points you got?

  5. Ryan: are you saying you got 40x points both for the purchase of the gift cards and for the actual magazine order using the gift cards? FrequentMiler is saying you only get it for the gift card purchase, but not for orders placed with a gift card.

  6. So Staples is 1-5.5% cashback, but the topcash website doesn’t say which purhcases get what cashback,
    like bigcrumbs says:
    All other items – 0.7%, Gift cards-2.8%, and Staples Promotional Products-1.75%

    I’d hate to go through topcash, expecting to get 5.5%, and end up getting 1%, when I know I can go through other portals and get more than that…

    thoughts?

    • Steve: I’ve been discussing that with Natasha. Apparently Staples gives affiliates a different rate for each product. Crazy! Anyway, she’s trying to get it cleared up, but for now I’d say use the UR Mall because we know from experience that they give 4X for all purchases at Staples (including gift cards and FAR items).

  7. Thanks for the quick reply. I’ll use a different portal this go around so I know what I’m getting. I do like the topcashback.com site though.

    now time to go get my internet security.

  8. Good site. Maybe you could ask her to add ‘livingsocial’ to the site too. Unlike groupon, which gives cashback from most sites, i haven’t seen living social on any one. This might drive a lot of traffic to their website IMO.

  9. So just tonight, under giftcards.com, it says “Please click through and purchase as normal, but note that we are unable to offer cashback discounts on any purchases made at GiftCards.com.” Kind of confusing, but looks like NO cashback anymore at giftcards.com??! What about the other GC sites? Has everything changed? I just signed up for this site and really like the idea.
    I was about to suggest/ask for a couple of merchants to be added, like Travelzoo and Google Offers- thought you could ask your company contact. But now I wonder what is going on?

    • guest: Natasha actually did give me a heads-up about this. They work through affiliate networks and every now and then the terms change temporarily or permanently. TopCashBack will update their site once new terms for giftcards.com are made clear. In the meantime, PlasticJungle and Cardpool are still great options for getting cash back for gift cards.

  10. Hmm. I’m currently working a deal selling Exxon cards to Plasticjungle. I note that Topcashback’s referral T&C for PJ says the sales commission is earned on sales “completed immediately and wholly online.” That sounds like sales where the card must be mailed in (Exxon for example) don’t qualify. Anyone have experience with that?

  11. I have read on this blog that TopCashBack will only give 4% for gift cards sold to Cardpool up to 1,000 in sales (so $40 cash back). Is this certain? I can’t find this info on the topcashback site or cardpool site.

    • niko: On TopCashBack, you have to click the “more” link and then you’ll see this:

      Once a unique user has reached the threshold of $1,000 in purchased items, in total across all publishers, they are not eligible for any more cashback from Cardpool.

  12. Many thanks! That’s great that they’re offering 12%, however I did a compare by using cashbackholic.com and evreward.com for GNC, it shows ShopDiscover pays the highest cashback @ 15%… not sure why TopCashBack states they “give 100% of that money back to the consumer!” Unless I am missing something here?

  13. So nearly a year after your post, how have things worked out with your TCB transactions? Curious to know how long it takes for a TCB portal purchase to convert into cash in your bank account.

  14. Matthew: my experience with TCB varies by merchant. PlasticJungle paid quickly every time. Marriott paid quickly. Some others go for many months without moving from confirmed to payable. Worst is Vision Direct. I have a purchase from July 2012 that still isn’t payable.

  15. I just bought my first gift card at Cardpool and referred a friend. Does anyone know how that works? Does my friend need to buy a gift card? Do they send you a coupon code to your email?

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