I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience including the time I demonstrated how to do it, on location, live on TV from a large supermarket.

It’s a great way to save money but it’s a lot of work and limited mostly to grocery and drug stores.

Imagine a world where you had the equivalent of a big stack of coupons for all the other places you spend money—like Target, Amazon and Kohl’s, Groupon, Old Navy, even LifeLock.

You do and it’s called Ebates.

Young man using internet computer and counting coins at home. Asian man relaxed and sitting on sofa indoor.

What it is

At Ebates, instead of presenting a coupon, you have a digital account that earns you cash. Think of it as the grocery store clerk handing you that 25 cents when you bought the can of soup with a $.25 coupon and you putting that quarter straight into a savings account.

With Ebates, you earn those small cash-back amounts by using Ebates’ online shopping portal. It is so easy. You don’t have to search and clip, you don’t pay any fees. You don’t have to mail in forms or keep track of points to get your money.

Isn’t it a scam?

I must confess that for quite some time I mistakenly assumed Ebates was something it is not—some kind of scam. Then I wised up. I looked into it. I asked the questions, did the research and hit myself in the forehead. Why hadn’t I been using Ebates all along?

I shop online. I spend money at more than a couple of the 2,500 retailers that make up Ebates. I can’t imagine how much cash-back money I’ve left on the table over the years since Ebates launched in 1999—they started out offering up to 25% cash back from about 40 online retailers.

Sign up

First, you sign up for Ebates with an email address or Facebook or Google. Two seconds later you’re a member.

It’s free so no one will ask for a credit card number. You don’t give your Social Security number or any other personal information, either.

Next, you can choose your sign-up bonus—currently, it’s either a $10 Walmart Gift Card or $10 Ebates cash in your account.

Last, you need to add a mailing address to your account so Ebates knows where to send your “Big Fat Check,”—love that!—or you can opt to get your cash sent to your Paypal account. Personally, I’m old school and love to get a check in the mail. I like cash.

How it works

Instead of going directly to Amazon or Old Navy or the store where you want to shop, go to Ebates and type the name of that store in the search bar. Or just click on a shopping category. Hit the “shop now” button and you’ll be at that site in a flash. Now when you check out, a percentage of your purchase will go to your Ebates account—the percentage that retailer is offering on that day.

As I write, Macy’s is 6% cash back, Sephora 8% and—hold onto your hat—LifeLock is offering 80% cash back (not a typo, yes 80%). That means, by way of example, if you spend $50 at Macy’s, $3 will be funneled into your Ebates account. You don’t have to do a thing for that to happen.

Where’s my money?

You can watch your account grow because you can see your current balance right there at Ebates.com. That’s kinda’ fun!

Once each quarter, in February, May, August, and November, Ebates pays by sending you the entire balance with no fees deducted (did I say that already?). Coolest thing ever.

What’s the catch?

It doesn’t take a genius to wonder how Ebates makes its money. Lots of people (OK, me) assume it’s a big fat scam to get our personal information and do us harm. We’re wary of stuff like that because we’ve been warned for so many years to maintain our personal privacy, right? Trust me, I steered clear of Ebates for many years for that very reason. Dumb.

You can relax. I’ve done my due diligence and am fully convinced that Ebates is legit. Ebates is huge and has a great reputation. Retailers spend much of their advertising dollars with Ebates.

All of those retailers pay Ebates a commission every time you go to its portal to reach a retailer and then make a purchase.

Ebates then shares that commission with you. Think of Ebates as your personal salesperson who arranges the contract, collects the commission and puts your share right into your cash-back account. Granted, your commissions won’t be huge amounts, unless you are a huge shopper (Ebates does have a $50 cap for how much you can earn on a single purchase).  But all those small amounts add up. It’s a great way to build a cash stash.

Should you?

I can’t be certain that Ebates is right for you. I can assure you it is not a scam. If you’re an online shopper, you might as well get paid a commission on the things you are buying anyway. Just be careful. It’s so much fun to earn a commission, you could find yourself buying things just because you’ll get that cash-back rebate. Don’t do that. Buy only what you would buy normally.

Sign up now

You can go ahead and sign up now select your bonus without using it to make a purchase. You have 90 days to use it for the first time to get the bonus.

One last thing: You may discover that you don’t really shop online enough for this to work well for you. But there is no harm or penalty at all for giving it a test run.

Do you have an Ebates account? How is that working for you? Let us know in the comments area below.

PREVIOUSLY: Cheap, Yes, But Not at the Expense of Other


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