The ultimate guide to cashback
If you love shopping then using cashback is a no-brainer, it’s money back on almost anything you can buy online, and you can even earn cashback shopping in store with your credit or debit card.
Once you know how cashback works, it’s a fairly easy process. With just a few carefully-placed clicks, you get a nice little top up on your online or store-based purchases. This can add up to as much as hundreds of pounds a year. But, like anything, cashback has its dos and don'ts.
Check out our best practice guide, which shows you the best places to go for cashback and, most importantly, how to stay safe on the wild wild web!
The basics & best cashback sites
The two major cashback sites you need to know about are Quidco and TopCashback. Both fundamentally do the same thing, but there are subtle differences in the services each one offers as well as exclusive deals you’ll only be able to get on one site or the other. It’s definitely worth signing up to both, but be aware that you can’t earn cashback for the same transaction on both sites, so choose well!
How cashback works is by retailers like Topshop, eBay, Tesco etc. offering a percentage commission on sales, and this goes to voucher sites like us, or bloggers, or magazine websites, but cashback sites offer that money back to you, the customer. It’s a great way to cut out the middleman, but you have to remember that the commission will go to whoever’s link you click through last before you make a purchase, so we recommend doing one final click through a cashback site before you check out to give you the best chance of earning that money back.
You’ll earn the most money for big purchases like broadband and mobile contracts, with some retailers paying as much as £80 for a sign up, but even the odd 2% back on clothes shopping can soon add up.
TopCashback has a good reputation for paying out, offering a whopping 105% back to its customers. Feedback for the company is also strong, which always helps when deciding who to give your business to. In recent years, TopCashBack has drawn attention for its eye-catching ad campaign, featuring a bespectacled comedian sitting on a giant hippo.
Quidco prides itself on returning approximately £300 per year to its users. It’s thought to be second place to TopCashback in some quarters, but the companies are both at the top of their game, so this isn’t an entirely fair assessment. They are available to join for free, though be careful as they do have a pay option (read more about this below). Signing up will automatically get you a reward, such as a £10 cashback offer, to thank you for selecting their site. It pays you just for introducing yourself to them!
If you’re after something a bit different, and which makes you feel a little less greedy, then KidStart is an intriguing cashback option to think about. It can bring in high amounts - nearly £300 over the course of a few years according to some reports - and has links to top retailers such as Next, John Lewis and, of course, Amazon.
Is there a catch? Well it depends how much you care about the next generation. Because the purpose behind KidStart is to use cashback as a fund for children, something that will make you either go all gooey inside or thump the table in frustration! Its rates of 2 or 3% don’t compare to the 5% offered by TopCashBack or QuidCo, though helping a young person with their financial future may be satisfaction enough.
How they pay out
Using our TopCashback payout is our favourite way to earn Clubcard vouchers, and you can also get up to a 5% bonus by paying out as a gift voucher instead of cash, and there are lots to choose from including Starbucks, Boots, River Island and restaurant vouchers.
Cashback safety tips
Is cashback really as good as it sounds? It certainly can be, but that doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. As with any transaction, you can fall foul if you don’t keep your eyes open. When you’re clicking here, there and everywhere that can be more challenging than it seems. Let us steer you in the right direction by offering some tips to help you stay safe on the cashback trail…
You have to watch you don’t end up paying to access cashback. For example, on signing up with TopCashBack you are placed on a free trial of their ‘Plus’ membership. While this has its advantages, like no ads and exclusive deals, it also charges you for a year if you fail to downgrade within the trial period. Should you change your mind and opt for Plus, you can get it for a £5 fee. Generally we would advise against going for cashback unless it’s free to obtain. Things are less complicated and more fun that way!
Quidco offer a Basic Membership that you have to select to avoid charges. As with TopCashback there is an upgrade available called ‘Premium’, which again costs a fiver. KidStart is free.
Is it worth upgrading your account?
Quidco and TopCashback both have the option of upgrading your account to “Plus” or “Premium” for £5 a year. Payment is taken from the first £5 cashback you make in a year, so you don’t actually have to “pay” for it, but if you’re a low earning cashback user then it’s probably not worth it, just keep the fiver for yourself!
As a bonus for becoming a Premium member with Quidco you get no ads, exclusive offers and a 2% bonus when you cash out for an Amazon voucher, so to make it worth it, monetarily you’ll need to be earning £250 cashback a year (and want Amazon vouchers).
For TopCashback Plus members you also get no ads and exclusive offers, but you get a 5% cashback boost on everything you earn, so if you’re bringing in £100 a year then it’s definitely worthwhile. You also get an additional 10% boost on Cineworld payouts, so it might be worth it for cinema fans.
The path from your purchase to getting your hands on that cashback can sometimes be quite complex. Money has to find its way from the retailer, through the cashback site to your bank account or however you choose to receive it. This can become pretty tangled, either due to slowness on the part of your site, or a delay in them receiving the money from the retail company. Your cashback provider may even be a small outfit that’s gone under, leaving you high and dry, at least in a minor sense!
Add to this the reduction in rights you have as a consumer as part of agreeing to cashback’s terms and conditions and it’s best to treat the experience as a bit of something extra, rather than a binding agreement to pay.
Thresholds are frequently overlooked on cashback sites and very important to bear in mind. For most sites, you’ve got to hit a certain level before the money can be released to you. Our recommendation is withdrawing your money as soon as you reach the threshold. Interest is added onto the sum, which can evaporate if you leave it in there. Crucially the rules of cashback sites are fluid and change a lot, so whip your hard-earned loot out of there asap!
Cashback reels you in as much as it offers you value. It’s very tempting to go for a major purchase with the promise of mega-cashback, but that is no replacement for shopping around to find the cheapest deal in the first place. And if there’s cashback on that deal then all the better. Don’t rely on cashback because it may not arrive, potentially leaving you with a financial headache.
As you may know, surfing round the web involves lots of cookies. These attach themselves to your digital presence, enabling companies to track your online journey. Tracking is vital to the cashback process, and you want to make sure the route between you and your money is as clear as possible. Whatever you do, remember to buy stuff by clicking through the cashback site, otherwise too many cookies could jeopardise your payout.
Ways to get extra cashback
Sign up bonus
If you’re new to TopCashback or Quidco you can get an initial ‘freebie’ for signing up. It’s usually a 100% cashback offer worth around £10, and it could mean a free pizza, DVD or box of chocolates for you. Keep an eye on our Quidco and TopCashback brand pages, as well as the freebies section for offers like this.
You’d be surprised how many people have never heard of cashback at all, even some of the savviest shoppers will have never been tempted to sign up. The amount you’ll get for referring a friend from both cashback sites goes up and down, so wait until you get an email telling you that it’s boosted - you could get £15/£20!
Get cashback in store
You can also earn cashback when you use your credit or debit card in store, just go to TopCashback and Quidco, enter your card details and activate some of the offers for shops you always go to. Quidco is our favourite for this, there’s a massive range of shops you can earn in store cashback for, including Argos, River Island, Caffe Nero and Halfords. Check out our article on Quidco High Street.
We usually forget that we ever signed up for it, then it’s a nice surprise when we receive cashback for it!
Get cashback at the supermarket
You can use Quidco ClickSnap and TopCashback Snap and Save to earn cashback on groceries by scanning in your receipts into the site. There are plenty of freebies to pick up each week, and it’s quite painless to use because the money goes in with the rest of your normal cashback and there’s no fiddling with external apps.
If your family is anything like our’s, then they’re probably always asking you to do stuff for them online. And guess what, every time your Mum wants you to get something on eBay for her, or your Nan asks you to help her book a hotel online, you can rinse them for the cashback. Just think of it as commission for your technical know-how.
Although, if you were really good, you’d refer them and get the bonus that way!
Remember to use it
The hardest thing about getting cashback is remembering to actually use it! But you can solve this problem by downloading cashback reminder browser extensions from Quidco and TopCashback. Then when you go onto a site that offers cashback you’ll get a little pop up reminding you to click through and earn some extra money!