In yesterday’s post, “Help friends, earn points,” I showed a number of ways in which you can be rewarded by helping friends earn points, miles and travel credits. Today’s post has a similar theme, but the focus is on earning cash. First I’ll show the basics of referring friends for cash back, and then I’ll show ways to earn cash back from portals without spending money.
Online shopping portals
Shopping portals are websites that pay you rewards when you start your online shopping at their site. For example, if you want to shop at sears.com, you can earn a rebate in the form of cash back, miles, or points by starting in a portal, finding a link to Sears.com within the portal, clicking through, and then making an eligible purchase. With cash back portals, you’ll see rebate offers listed as percentages or fixed amounts. For example, Sears.com might offer 3% cash back. Another merchant might offer a fixed amount, such as $45 for a new cell phone activation. To find the best portal offer for a given merchant, I recommend using a tool called CashBackMonitor (to see why it’s a favorite, please read “The best portal finder. A new king is crowned”).
Cash back for referring friends
Many cash back portals offer a reward for referring friends. Usually, your reward is contingent upon your friend earning a certain amount of cash back through the portal. Some portals simply offer you a percentage of whatever cash back your friend gets from the portal over time. Here are a number of current portals, listed alphabetically, and their current (at the time of this writing) refer-a-friend offers:
- BeFrugal: You will earn $5 when someone you invite makes their first eligible purchase through this portal.
- BigCrumbs: You will earn cash back whenever the person you invite earns cash back. Your percentage is dependent upon the total purchase amount and varies by merchant. For example, at the time of this writing, BigCrumbs is offering the primary shopper 4.2% cash back at Nordstrom, and the person who referred that person earns 0.7%. Interestingly, the referrals go two deep, so the person who referred you will also earn 0.7%.
- Coupay: You and your friend will receive $5 that will become payable once they reach $25 in cash back. Plus, you will earn cash back that equals the cash back they receive on their first purchase.
- EBates: Standard offer is for you and your friend to earn $5 once they make a total of $25 in purchases through the portal. Currently, however, they are running a big promotion in which the opportunities for you are much larger (see Ebates Promo, below).
- MrRebates: Your friend will earn a $5 signup bonus and you will earn 20% of any rebates that your friend earns.
- MyPoints: This one actually earns points that can be redeemed for gift cards and other gifts. You will earn 25 points when your friend accepts your invitation. You and your friend will each earn 750 points when your friend purchases $20 or more. You will also earn 10% of all points earned by your friend. Points are worth between about .55 and .85 cents each depending upon what they are redeemed for.
- ShopAtHome: This portal doesn’t seem to be running a tell-a-friend promotion right now, but it may be worth checking their site periodically
- SwagBucks: This one actually earns points that can be redeemed for gift cards and other gifts. You will earn 10% of all points earned by the friends you refer. Points are worth 1 cent each towards cash (PayPal) and sometimes more towards gift cards or other gifts.
- TopCashBack: You will earn $10 once the friend you refer earns $10 themselves.
EBates is currently running a promotion through June 30 2014 in which you earn cash back bonuses when you refer multiple friends. For example, in addition to the $5 earned per referral, they’ll give you a $20 bonus for your first referral, a $25 bonus for your second referral, etc. It’s theoretically possible to earn up to $25,000! The details are shown in these images:
Helping friends earn free cash
Since most of the referral offers depend on the person you refer actually earning cash back, it makes sense to help your friends find the best portal deals. Obviously, if they plan to buy things anyway then going through a portal to do so makes a lot of sense. Even if they don’t plan to buy anything, though, there are ways they can earn cash back, which is good for them and for you.
Cash back for free trials, free membership signups, surveys, etc.
Sometimes, merchant offers found within portals do not require a purchase. Its not easy to find these, but they do exist. Some portals are more helpful with this than others. TopCashBack, for example, actually has a “Free Cashback” tab on their site. One option I found through that tab is Microsoft Azure. Microsoft is offering a flat $15 for signing up for a free trial of their cloud hosting service. Yesterday, I clicked through the TopCashBack link to Microsoft Azure and signed up (it took all of two minutes to do). The site required a credit card for authorization, but promised never to charge it unless I explicitly changed permissions. A few hours later I received an email from TopCashBack acknowledging that the $15 payout was now “pending” (it usually takes a few months for portal rebates to go from pending to payable). So, a simple approach to helping your friends and helping yourself is to tell them about this easy opportunity to get $15. And, if they use your link to signup, you’ll get $10.
100% cash back
It’s rare to see such a thing, but occasionally a portal will offer 100% cash back for a purchase from a particular merchant. In fact, I posted a Quick Deal recently about one that still appears to be available at the time of this writing. For details, see “100% cash back for hosting services.”
Free After Rebate (FAR)
Another option is to look for online Free After Rebate (FAR) deals. Deal sites like SlickDeals and FatWallet are great sources of information about deals like these. For example, this SlickDeals page currently shows a number of FAR deals available at NewEgg.com. The buyer can go to CashBackMonitor to find the portals that support NewEgg, then click through a portal to NewEgg to buy the items. This way, the buyer gets their cash back from the rebate plus a bit more from the cash back portal. There are a few significant downsides to this option: 1) Dealing with rebates can be a lot of work; 2) Rebates often take months to process; 3) Rebates are sometimes in the form of Visa or MasterCard gift cards rather than cash or check; and 4) The buyer may have to pay sales tax which is not rebated.
Sign up links
You can find signup links for all of the portals discussed in this post on my Sign-Up Links page, but please consider instead using links (soon to be) posted in the comments of this post by readers. And, of course, feel free to post your links below. Ideally you would use a format like this (assuming someone named Dan posted referral links first):
George: Signed up to TopCashBack with Dan’s link. Here are my TCB, Ebates, and Coupay links.
Rick: Signed up to Coupay with George’s link, here’s my TCB link and five other links (BigCrumbs, Mr Rebates, …)
Rene: Signed up to all of Rick’s links. Here are mine…
Matt: I don’t have (or want) any links, but here are some from my friend Drew…