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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Couponing and Shopping Online

Two of the easiest ways to save when shopping online are by going through cash back websites EVERY time and trying to NEVER leave the promo code option blank. My two favorite cash back sites are Ebates and Shop At Home.

Ebates has hundreds of participating online retailers. It is the primary cash back site I use and is incredibly user-friendly. They are currently running a promotion that automatically gives you a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble, Target, Home Depot, or Magazines.com when you sign up (sign-up bonuses are usually only worth $5 so now is a good time to join). When you sign up, you can select whether you want to receive your cash back either through a check or PayPal deposit, or you can choose to donate your earnings towards charity.

All you have to do to earn money is to log into Ebates, search for the store, coupon, or product you are looking for, and then click "Shop Now." A tracking number is created and a new window or tab will open. Now, anything you purchase through that tab/window will earn you the cash back.  Checks are sent out every three months if your earnings are over $5.01. If you haven't earned $5.01 your balance will carry over to the next quarter until you meet that minimum.

Shop At Home works very similarly but there a few differences in when you can receive checks. With Shop At Home, checks are mailed monthly but there is a $20 minimum you must meet before they will mail your check. A nice feature this site offers is the Shop At Home toolbar that alerts you when you are on a site that offers cash back through Shop At Home; so there is no excuse for forgetting to go through a cash back site.

I do also occasionally use upromise.com as well. In my experience, the percentage of cash back tends to be lower than the other two sites but it does come with its own advantages. You can transfer your earnings monthly to a High-Yield Sallie Mae Savings Account, transfer quarterly to a participating 529 plan (a great idea for those of you with young kids), transfer quarterly to an eligible Sallie Mae-serviced student loan, or request a check of $10 or more once per quarter. You can also sign up friends and family members so that they can earn for you when they shop online.

I always check the cash back percentage each site offers when I am shopping at a particular store. Usually the difference is negligible but sometimes one will be offering a special promotion or double cash back and that can mean big returns. For example, my husband and I bought a new MacBook Pro this summer. At the time, Ebates only offered 1% cash back at Apple but Upromise was giving 10% which translated to an extra $135 in cash back.

Both Ebates and Shop At Home show available coupon codes when you search for a store or product but their lists are not always exhaustive. Be sure to Google either the store name and promo code before finishing your online orders or visit retailmenot.com for a more complete list of available codes. Codes can be used in conjunction with cash back and can get you free shipping or percentages off your purchase.


THE LEAST YOU NEED TO KNOW
  • Create accounts through EbatesShop At Home, or upromise.com
  • Check at least one of these sites before shopping online EVERY time
  • Check out retailmenot.com or Google the store you're shopping at + promo code before placing an online order 
  • If you remember to go through one of these sites and use promo codes when available every time you shop, you will be earning some of the easiest money you'll get when couponing

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