Feb 13 2017

How to decide which cash back portal to use?

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I have used cash back portals for years for my online shopping, and I’m sure you have, too. My usual go-to has been Ebates, but sometimes it isn’t the best value. Other times, the retailer isn’t an option at all with Ebates. It can be time-consuming to compare multiple portals to weigh the best deal for your purchase. I have two suggestions:

  1. Pick one rewards portal and stick with it. If you can get a deal through there, great, if not, move on with your life. It also simplifies your follow-ups to make sure your points are properly awarded. Easier to follow up with 1-2 portals rather than a slew.
  2. Use a site that quickly compares all of your options.

I’m using Cash Back Monitor and I’m pleased with the results. I have the bookmarklet pinned in my browser and I use that before making a purchase. What’s neat about this one is it has a customizable monitor. You can add up to 8 of your favorite cash back/points back portals and quickly see the best option among choices you’re likely to use. It has a “best rate history” to get a sense of deals in the past, which is helpful for knowing if you’re getting a standard deal or a great deal.

I have added Ebates, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott, Southwest, American Airlines, Delta, Alaska Airlines, and Swagbucks. My preference is either Ebates or Chase, unless there is a standout bonus for the other options.cash back monitor screenshot

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Some portals have restrictions on which coupons you may use. For instance, Chase and Southwest both often have verbiage like “Not eligible on purchases made with coupon or discount codes that are not found on this site.” Be sure to read the terms for each offer. If you don’t have a coupon code or it is listed on the portal directly, cool, use it. If not, you might not get the rewards points and you might consider using a portal without restrictions for that purchase.
  • You sometimes have to follow up with a portal to make sure points are properly credited. Kind of a pain.
  • This doesn’t show AmEx Offers or other credit card offers of the sort. For instance, I logged in to my American Express account and saw an AmEx Offer for $10 off a $50 purchase at eBags when I used my AmEx card. That offer isn’t visible in these portals, so you just have to keep an eye out for exclusive deals. You might be able to stack such offers, say Ebates to eBags + an activated AmEx offer.
  • A point doesn’t always = a point. Eight percent back on a $100 Chase Ultimate Rewards purchase might be worth way more than $8 to me, depending on how I redeem it, since there are a variety of redemption possibilities. It depends on how you value a point. You can even assign value to points within the Cash Back Monitor interface (so, if you are getting $0.025 value for every Chase point, you can adjust that; if you are getting $0.007 per Marriott, put that in just to see it in those terms). I haven’t fiddled with assigning value within the interface, myself.

One last trick, if you’re looking for a certain item but aren’t sure which retailer might be the best deal: You can try the Marriott portal, Shop My Way. I used it recently when I was trying to find options on Smartwool socks. I typed in the search terms, clicked “search products” and I could see various prices at retailers and the points back for each.

Bottom line:

Use cash or points back portals to maximize your online purchases. Use coupon codes when applicable of course (while weighing in whether that code negates your points back), and pay with a rewards credit card to rack up the savings.


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Hey! I'm Kacie, wife and mother of 3. I write about my family's finance: how we save money, improve our spending, and plan for the future.

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