Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don't Leave "Money on the Table"

Earlier I mentioned that many people "leave money on the table" when it comes to their spending and travel habits.  The most basic example is traveling on an airline or staying in a hotel without being a member of the hotel's frequent flier program or the hotel's frequent guest program.  If you're here and reading this, that's probably not you.

However, a more common form of "leaving money on the table" is when consumers are unaware that many, if not most, companies will give them some form of "kickback" for shopping with them.  This can come in the form of points, miles, or cashback, and is particularly common for online shopping.  The way this works is that online companies will pay a referral commission to websites (commonly referred to as "shopping portals") for sending shoppers to the company.  Many of these portals will, in turn, pay you for going through them to the website where you want to shop.

For instance, you may have seen ads for Ebates, a website that pays cashback for online shopping.  Ebates is a great site and probably the one with the most exposure and market penetration.  I've used Ebates a lot, but they are not always the best deal.  In fact, they're usually not.

There are numerous competitors, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses.  In the cashback realm, there's Mr. Rebates, Topcashback, and Big Crumbs.  These websites offer cashback (typically paid in 4-8 weeks after your purchase) for online shopping. 

Then there are points and miles earning portals.  Nearly every airline, and many hotel chains has their own shopping portal that will give you points for shopping.  Confused yet?

Seriously, it is this abundance of choice that puts many people off.  A person who's not inclined to spend time figuring out which website will give him the highest percentage of cashback at Jos. A. Bank, may decided not to fool with it at all.  But, the market has produced some excellent tools for sorting all this information.  One of the best is Evreward.  Another is Cashbackmonitor.com. I never make an online purchase without checking there to see if I can earn cash, points, or miles.  As a bonus, they will often list coupon codes that can save you more money.

By using these tools you can avoid leaving "money (or points) on the table."  Each time you earn miles or cashback for shopping at your favorite website, you're one step closer to sipping champagne in the front of the plane!

(Full disclosure:  Many of the links on this page are "referral links".  If you sign up with a website through one of my links, I may derive a benefit from it.  In many cases you will benefit as well, but I will never post a referral link if I know of any link that will get you a better deal.)

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