Portal finder fight! Round 2

When shopping online, it’s always a good idea to start with a shopping portal that gives you extra points, miles, or cash back when clicking through to merchants you would shop at anyway.  The problem is that depending on where you want to shop, your favorite portal may not have the best (or any) rebate available.  That’s why I use websites designed to help find the best shopping portal.  I’ll call these “shopping portal finders.”

In March, I did some tests with a number of shopping portal finders.  At the time, I tested Ev’reward.com, Nerdwallet Shopping, Cashback Holics, RewardsDB, CashReporter, Webflyer’s Mileage Mall, and CashBackMonitor.  In the post “The best portal finder” I revealed my new favorite web site to be Cashbackholics.  In four separate tests, Cashbackholics consistently provided the best answers.

The downside of Cashbackholics is that it doesn’t report on sites that earn hotel or airline miles.  It does, however, list Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Mall.  I’ve found that Chase’s mall almost always offers better point earnings than hotel or airline portals, so for me that has been an OK trade-off.

Why Round 2?

In the comments of my original post, one of the co-founders of NerdWallet wrote:

Hey, thanks for the post! It clearly looks like NerdWallet has some catching up to do…  We’ll touch base again soon and see if we can’t change your mind

Recently, he contacted me via email and said:

I’ve made a lot of changes to the way we aggregate the data, so that our numbers are up-to-date (more often), and I’ve been gradually rolling out more features as well. For example, a lot of these rewards malls offer special offers and coupons in addition to bonus miles and cash back, so I’m grabbing those now too.

Coincidentally, around the same time, I received an email about a new portal finder called SavingCashback.  They described some cool sounding features on their site and asked if I would give feedback.  Great!  Let the feedback begin…

Round 2 Setup

In this test, I picked 11 merchants and I dug around to find the best portal options for each one.  One of the difficulties in finding the best option is that some portals offer fixed rates for a merchant (i.e. “5% cash back”) whereas others offer different rates depending upon what you buy.  In those cases, the portal finders usually list the amount as “up to X%”.  So, in reality, “up to 10% back” can be worth less to you than “5% back” depending on what you plan to buy.  Another difficulty is that miles and points usually aren’t worth exactly a penny each, so 5X hotel points earned can be worth much more or much less than 5% cashback.  To compensate for these issues, I tried to identify multiple “best answers,” as you’ll see below.

Here are the merchants I used for this test and the best portal options I could find (note that these were, in my opinion, the best available on the day I ran this test, but may not be best today):

  • Sears: Chase 10X (Freedom cardholders only) or ShopDiscover 10%
  • Bloomingdales: Chase 10X (Sapphire cardholders only) or Chase 6X (Ink and Freedom cardholders)
  • Buy.com: Chase 10X (Ink cardholders only), BeFrugal Up to 10%, ShopDiscover 5%, or uPromise 5%
  • Marriott: BeFrugal Up to 7% or ShopDiscover 5%
  • Intercontinental Hotels Group: ShopAtHome 9%
  • Avis: TopCashBack 5.5% or Chase 3X
  • Budget: uPromise 4%
  • Travelocity: TopCashBack Up to 6.25% or ShopDiscover 5%
  • PlasticJungle: TopCashBack 4%
  • Shoebuy: TopCashBack 17%, BeFrugal 17%, Amtrak 14X, or Chase 10X
  • Magazines.com: Chase 30X or BeFrugal Up to 35%

 

Round 2 Battle

This time around, I only tested four portal finders: Cashbackholics, Nerdwallet Shopping, ev’reward, and the new contender SavingCashBack.  I scored the portals on two factors: 1) how often did they list at least one of the answers I identified as best?  And, 2) how often were their answers flat-out wrong?  In other words, how often did they list the wrong cash back % or point multiplier for a given portal?  Note that this second metric wasn’t as thoroughly researched as the first.  Each portal finder gives a long list of results for each search.  I only tested the top answers.

Round 2 Results

Here were the results:

  • Cashbackholics: 10 best answers, 3 errors (all errors were ShopAtHome %s)
  • Nerdwallet Shopping: 6 best answers, 4 errors (2 Amtrak errors, 1 FatWallet error, and 1 Chase error)
  • Ev’reward: 6 best answers, 3 errors (all were Ebates errors)
  • SavingCashBack: 5 best answers, 1 error (ShopDiscover error)

Cashbackholics wins again!  Cashbackholics nailed a best answer for all but one merchant (Buy.com).  While Cashbackholics had 3 errors, all were with a single cash back site which had probably recently changed its payout amounts.  Nerdwallet Shopping and Ev’reward ended in a virtual tie.  SavingCashBack trailed the pack with the fewest best answers.  While I found fewer errors with SavingCashBack, that may be due to the fact that the site rarely found the best options so I didn’t test as many of it’s recommendations for accuracy.

Other factors

All of the portal finders listed here provide benefits other than simply finding rewards portals.  So, you might find them worth using even if they don’t always give the best answer.  Here are some top features of each:

  • Cashbackholics: Shows user ratings for each portal.  This can be really helpful when you are pointed to a portal you’ve never heard of before.
  • Nerdwallet Shopping: Lists additional discounts & coupon codes with each portal/merchant combination. 
  • ev’reward: Lists additional discounts & coupon codes for each merchant
  • Savingcashback: Provides a quick-find browser bookmarklet.  Also lists discount gift cards to further stack savings.

 

Bottom Line

This new round of tests has not changed my shopping pattern.  I start first at Cashbackholics and sometimes also check Nerdwallet Shopping or ev’reward to see if there are any good mile-earning opportunities.  I really, really hope that one of these sites will be enhanced to do it all and get it all right, but they’re just not there yet.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »

Pingbacks

  1. […] Originally Posted by StartinSanDiego I always check evrewards.com and choose my online shopping mall accordingly. I used to as well, but i don't think Evr is the best. See FM's post where he compares several and the results…regardless of his results, it gives you 4-5 of the top ones that you can use to compare several different places that sell the phone: http://boardingarea.com/freque…fight-round-2/ […]

Comments

  1. Topcashback never captures my AVIS reservations and I did contact them about this. Got a wait 1-3 month notice. After 3 reservations not being captured I gave up on topcashback altogether

  2. Maybe this isn’t logically correct, but I tend to favor point/mile based rewards vs cash rewards, even when cash rewards seem to be a better “value.” My reasoning, and I think you have posted about this previously, is that I use shopping portals to eliminate “orphan miles” and top of miles in random hotel/airline programs. I have a few hundred to a few thousand points/miles in various programs that I will never rack up a ton miles/points in because I don’t plan to ever own their credit card.
    A couple hundred points are worthless- you need a certain amount of points for them to have any value at all.

    For instance, hawaiian airlines allows you to transfer points to Hilton, but only is blocks of 5,000. I buy from Amazon.com alot, so I have ~700 Hawaiian miles right now. They have a value of 0.000cpm until I get to 5,000 miles. Whenever I buy something not from amazon.com, I check evreward.com to see how many miles the Hawaiian shopping portal will give me. If its more than 1pt/$ to try to top off this account until I get to at least 5,000 pts.

  3. I am fed up of topcashback. They never track my cash back and I have to open a support ticket every time. I have stopped using topcashback

  4. Same here as far as Topcashback. It took months to get any money posted from a Lowe’s card purchase. I will not use them any longer.

  5. Cashbackoholics also has a bookmarklet to quickly bring up relevant entry on their site

    Another site that lists tons of cashback rates is Cashbackmonitor.com
    Plus, they update all results daily!

  6. Ditto regarding Topcashback–they tracked & confirmed my Radisson /Country Inn stays, then denied 7 out of 8 claims! I lost out on over $35 due to their incompetence

  7. Why does nobody have 3 extra tabs for chase?
    like:
    “chase freedom” 4%
    “chase sapphire” 6%
    “chase ink” 10%
    why does all portals have only one tab for chase?
    and most of the times the one they have is not the “top cash back”

  8. I love this post!
    Another Great Work FM!!

    I use Cashbackholic ever since you introduce it to me awhile back. My second is ev-reward, never went to nerdwallet much, so I’ll give that a try in my future purchases.

    Reflecting from the above commenter, topcashback has lost my business as well. I also have been running to problems dealing with their Customer Service

  9. Fully agree with the above commenters about TCB. They are a scam shopping portal and ripped me out of all my 10% kickbacks on all my Radisson bookings. I urge EVERYBODY here to never use them again. I sure wish FrequentMiler had never written a post about those thieves.

  10. Obviously the ratings are subjective. If you value hotel/airline points/miles more than cash back, then Cashbackholics isn’t even in the running, because they have neither. As of right now, I value AA miles over everything else, so it’s still evreward for me.

  11. TopCashBack clearly has a LOT of work to do if they hope to compete with the other portals. Having the best payout % isn’t enough. I’m hoping that they’ll learn from FatWallet how to do it right.

    Scott: that’s true, but if the difference is high enough you could use the cash back to buy miles. I know it doesnt help your example, but for those interested in United miles, Chase’s mall almost always has a better payout than the United portal, so people can earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points and transfer them one to one to United (or to several other airline and hotel programs) as long as they have a Sapphire Preferred, Ink Bold, or Ink Plus card.

  12. I just got my 15% back for my Radisson booking in July for the Big Night give away promotion with TopCashBack (and 50,000 Club Carlson Points!). It wasn’t much ($13.70), but it did take about a month to process with Radisson and then a few more weeks to become payable. My Bloomingdale’s transaction from mid-August is still pending review with the merchant. I do think TopCashBack does have some work to do, but I have not had payout issues or had payments denied.

  13. I’m one of the few that have received money regularly and reliably (but not quickly) from TCB, but I use it for office supply shopping and not hotels.
    I wouldn’t expect TCB to match fatwallet’s customer service; I believe their business model is built on having almost no customer service overhead.
    I’d be interested in a database on the reliability of each of these portals in actually getting points. I’m waiting for miles from a Cartera order through the AAdvantage mall that I don’t expect to receive. I should have learned my lesson and not gone there to begin with. Here’s hoping that the seemingly more integrated UA and US shopping malls have better records. Of course Chase UR is at the top in terms of reliability, which may not be saying much; love ya, you big evil bank!

    • NerdWallet: I hope the feedback helps more than hurts! Personally I’d rather see TopCashBack in the results and decide for myself whether to go there or not. I find TCB very reliable with some merchants (PlasticJungle, for example), but less so for others (Radisson, Cardpool, …)

  14. The can always be a rating system following the result Nerdwallet.

    I would like to follow what Frequent Miler just said, I like to see the options there, (data), and I’ll decide if I want to gamble.

    In my experience, I would not use TCB, but YMMV.
    I have yet receive any payments, since our officemax amazon, coupontrade, transaction.

    I’m so surprised that its been since May, 2012.

    It “would” have been my goto because of the payout, but the turn around, is just not my cup of tea. There’s other portal out there, so if sites like yours, Nerdwallet, can list them all, it’ll allow me to see all my options.

    Its my responsibility to research the reviews on the portal.

    I do suggest a rating after the portal, or a comment space for consumers to post their feedback.

  15. As always, great post, FM.
    I am moving away from using evreward, and for a few reasons:
    1. Incomplete results. They do not show enough cash back sites.
    2. Errors on the UR results often occur.
    3. I’m not sure I trust them. I recently found out (through an email exchange with the Mr Rebates people) that evreward has a special deal with Mr Rebates. Evreward is able to offer a $7.50 sign up bonus, while other sites offer only $5. I have no idea if evreward receives any extra benefit in this special deal, but my guess is they are trying to steer more traffic towards Mr Rebates, because it benefits them, evreward, more.

  16. All feedback helps more than it hurts 🙂

    Keep your eyes out over the next few months, and we’ll see what we can do to make NerdWallet Shopping the go-to cash back & rewards portal.

  17. Great reviews! Your reviews helped us to improve our website. We appreciate your work.

    Will you perform Round 3? We have added rate comparison for Mileage/Point rewards to CashbackMonitor.com.

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *