Shopping portals are a fun way to earn lots of extra cash or points back on your online shopping purchases during the course of the year. After seeing that points couldn’t pay for our food and some excursions on trips, like snorkeling in Hawaii or ziplining in the Caribbean, we wanted to figure out how to generate more cash without dipping into our actual checking/savings accounts.
Using shopping portals is one of the best money-saving hacks that we use to save up for travel expenses! This year alone, Brady and I earned ~$200 in cash back and around ~6,000 Chase UR points (worth ~$90). It isn’t a ton of money, but it’s so much better than nothing – and considering it only adds one extra step to your normal online shopping routine, it’s totally worth it. The important thing to remember here is, just like with credit cards, don’t spend extra money just to get points. Only do this on things you were going to buy anyway.
There are 7 basic steps to using shopping portals, which I’ll outline in more detail individually below:
- Sign up for shopping portal websites
- Check Cash Back Monitor or EV Reward (I prefer Cash Back Monitor) to see what rewards are available for the store you want to buy things from
- Go to the Shopping Portal with the highest bonus (or the points you most want)
- Click on the link for the store/website you’re trying to shop at
- Add things to your cart like you would normally
- Check to see if you can find discounted gift cards
- Get points or cash!
Step 1: Sign up for Shopping Portal Websites
You can either sign up for all the shopping portals initially, or just one at a time based on which has the highest bonus currently for the place you’re trying to shop at. When you do sign up for them, it’s actually best to use a referral link because YOU get a sign up bonus as well as the person who referred you – when you just sign up on the website normally, there usually isn’t a sign up bonus. So whether it’s our link or your spouse/friend/family member’s link, make sure you are always using referrals to spread the love! They usually require you to earn at least $10 in rewards to pay out the bonus, but sometimes that’s just one purchase so it isn’t hard at all.
The following are my favorite cash back portals, because they 1) consistently pay out the most, and 2) are the quickest to deliver your cash back.
- Ebates – sign up here with our referral link or use a friend’s link for a $10 bonus
- Top CashBack – sign up here with our referral link or use a friend’s link for a $5 Amazon gift card bonus
- Giving Assistant – sign up here with our referral link or use a friend’s link for a $5 bonus
- BeFrugal – sign up here with our referral link or use a friend’s link for a $10 bonus
The top card-specific portals or airline/hotel portals don’t have “sign-up bonuses” per se, but can be super beneficial for padding your points totals. Additionally, since 1 Chase point is worth as high as ~2 cents, I tend to take the points when they’re available at a decent rate. Our favorites are the following:
Once again, though, always use step #2 to make sure you’re using the portal with the best rate.
Step 2: Check Cash Back Monitor
Let’s say you want to buy something for yourself (or for me 😉 ) at Nike.com. Go to Cash Back Monitor, search “Nike”, click on the correct one from the list it generates, then weigh the options. Choose the one with the best cash/point back rate! (As a disclaimer, these change often so you might get a better or worse rate depending on when you try to shop. Just make sure to always go with the highest rate of cash/points back.)Well, 12% back at Nike sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I think I would prefer that over 7 UR or 7 AA miles, so I’m going to go with Top Cashback. If you haven’t signed up for it yet, now is the time to do it! Use the link above or a friend’s link and get an extra $5 bonus. If you would prefer points for a certain airline, navigate towards that portal now!
Step 3: Go to Top Cashback (or whichever portal you chose)
You can either click on the portal link in Cash Back Monitor or go directly to the portal website via Google, it doesn’t matter either way.
Step 4: Click Through to the Correct Website
Once you are in the portal website, search for the store you want to shop at. Once you find it, click “Go to Website” or “Get Cashback Now” or whatever else your particular portal says. Either way, you should end up at Nike.com having clicked through a link on the portal website.
Step 5: Shop
Nothing different here than a normal shopping visit! You’re already at Nike.com and the “cookie” that the portal uses will track your purchases, so just add items to your cart like normal and get ready to check out! (P.S. I’m a shoe size 7).
If you want to come back later to complete your order, it might still track your purchase – but I recommend going back through the portal again (steps 3 and 4) to be sure.
Step 6: Check for Discounted Gift Cards
Now this is a fun area where you can potentially increase your savings by 15-30% – but it isn’t a guarantee. Many websites offer discounted gift cards online (from people who didn’t want them and sold them) and you can sometimes get awesome savings in the process. Shopping portals explicitly state that buying gift cards (i.e. buying a Nike Gift Card at Nike.com) won’t earn you cash back, but not all of them state that using gift cards won’t earn you cash back (i.e. buying a gift card elsewhere and then USING it at Nike.com). I have had experiences both ways – sometimes it does track and pay out, and sometimes they deem it an invalid purchase (since you used a gift card) and they don’t pay out the bonus. Truly a shopping roulette, isn’t it? Most of the time (~80%) it works, so I think this is a great savings opportunity.
To check for discounted gift cards, open up a separate window and start searching – my favorite is Gift Card Granny. You might find other better sites and that’s totally fine, but I usually use Gift Card Granny since it aggregates other sites into one searchable area. I filter by “Save” to see the maximum % savings I can get. Nike didn’t have too many discounted gift cards today, so I’ll show you an example for Gap, which pretty consistently has good deals on gift cards.
It looks like there are some discounted gift cards as high as 16% off through Gift Card Zen, so that’s awesome! The gift cards should say whether they are electronic (email) or physical cards (shipped) – most of the electronic ones deliver within an hour, sometimes immediately. Since there is always a chance that you won’t get the portal bonus as well as the savings from the gift card, choose the one that is most important to you, or risk it for both. Then, if the portal DOES work when using a gift card, you can double up your savings! In the case of Nike, I’m not going to risk 12% portal cash back for a 5% off gift card, so I’ll just use the portal and skip this step. In the case of Gap, where portal bonus is 10% and discounted gift card is 16% off, I would definitely do both (since worst case scenario you only get the 16% off on the gift card, and best case you get both!).
This is sometimes called a “Triple Dip” – you get 1) Credit Card points from buying the gift card, 2) Savings on the gift card itself (since it’s discounted), and 3) Points or Cash Back on the portal. Holy points!
Step 7: Get Paid!
Each site is different in how much time it takes to pay out, but you can track it online to see how well it’s going so far. Most of them pay out every few months, and you can usually select payout via PayPal or physical check – totally up to you!
Now let’s recap…
Shopping portals and discounted gift cards can be awesome ways to save money on purchases, extend your budget, and help build up points for future travel. Comment below to let us know how your experience goes with shopping portals or if you have any tips you’ve found that other readers could benefit from!