Over the last several years, Canadian shoppers have come to love cashback websites, and it’s easy to see why.
Cashback websites partner with hundreds of popular retailers, such as Amazon, Indigo, and Sportchek. They even connect you with special discounts through online travel providers like Expedia and Hotels.com.
If you’re unfamiliar with how rebate sites work or want to know which one is right for you, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, I’ll explain exactly how to get paid by shopping online. I’ll also review the major Canadian rebate sites, and a few of the popular U.S. ones as well.
You’ll learn tips that will help you maximize earnings, as well as what to look out for. After all, the more you know, the more you can earn.
How Does It Work?
The first step is to register with the cashback rebate site you want to use. This only takes a couple of minutes.
Once you’re setup, search for your favourite online retailer by clicking on links to specific discounts, or by typing in the name of the store in the search bar. Do this instead of going directly to the retailer’s website.
Providing that the cashback site you’re using has a partnership with the retailer you’re searching for (Amazon, for example), you will earn a percentage of any money that you spend in the form of a cashback rebate.
The amount of cashback can vary. For many everyday items, it can be as little as 1%, as high as 5 or 6%. Big-ticket items can sometimes carry even larger rewards.
As you shop at various retailers, the rebate site keeps track of your total earnings. Once the funds are in your account, you can request to receive payment in a variety of ways, including via PayPal, or a cheque in the mail.
How Does a Rebate Website Make Money?
Cashback rebate sites like Rakuten have what’s referred to as an affiliate partnership with the retailer that you are buying products from. When you make a purchase, the retailer sends them a commission for referring you, the customer, to their site.
The rebate site then splits that commission with you, as a reward, and an incentive for continuing to shop through them.
A Review of Canadian Cash Back Rebate Sites
With so many to choose from, you may be wondering which rebate site you should be using, in fact, you may end up using more than one. Either way, the following review of six leading Canadian cashback sites will help you decide.
Rakuten (Ebates Canada) Review
Previously known as Ebates, Rakuten is a U.S. company that has become a major player in the Canadian market over the past few years. As per their website, they have paid out over $40 million in cashback rewards, and partner with over 750 online retailers.
When you earn cash with Rakuten, they will send you payment on a quarterly basis, either through PayPal or via a cheque in the mail. An indicator in the top right-hand corner of their homepage notifies you of your current cash balance, as well as your lifetime earnings.
With Rakuten, you don’t have to visit their site to be notified of current discounts. Their Express Cash Back Button, which you can download, will alert you to any Rakuten cashback offers that are available, when you visit partner sites. This works to make the shopping experience even more seamless.
- Rakuten In-Store Cash Back. By adding a credit card to your Rakuten account, you can trigger cashback offers when you shop in a store. This short video explains exactly how the process works.
- Rakuten will allow you to shop for items online, and pick them up in-store.
- Rakuten has a dedicated Gift Card Store, that allows you to earn cashback discounts when you purchase gift cards on their site. They also offer free shipping on gift cards purchased.
- $5 sign-up bonus.
Check out Rakuten here.
Great Canadian Rebates Review
Great Canadian Rebates (GCR) is the longest-running player in the Canadian cashback game. They are Canadian owned and similar to Rakuten, partner with hundreds of retailers and online merchants.
GCR has a couple of unique offerings for customers. For starters, they have a very comprehensive credit card marketplace, which you can access from their main menu.
If you’re in the market for a Visa or Mastercard, or even American Express, you can be eligible for cash rebates of up to $75 if you apply for the card through Great Canadian Rebates. Make sure you understand all of the conditions of the card you car selecting, however.
GCR also offers additional cash bonuses when you refer a friend. For example, by signing up someone you know, you will earn 15% of any cash rebates on your friend’s purchases, for five full years.
- A longstanding player with over 500 retail partners.
- More lucrative cashback offers than some competitors.
- Comprehensive credit card marketplace, offering cash rebates.
- A referral bonus pays out 15% of your friend’s cashback for five years.
Visit Great Canadian Rebates here.
Swagbucks is another popular rebate website, but one that works a bit differently than GCR or Rakuten.
With Swagbucks, you can earn points in a variety of ways, not just through shopping online. You can also complete surveys, watch entertaining videos, find great deals, or just search the web, and earn points in the form of Swagbucks.
For more details, check out my full Swagbucks review here.
SB points can be redeemed for gift cards, rather than a cash payout. That said, they offer a broad selection of gift cards, including PayPal cards, which you can convert into cash by redeeming into your PayPal account.
If you’re interested in collecting points in a variety of ways, Swagbucks may be the site for you.
- Large rebate website with over 1500 retail partners.
- Earn points a variety of ways, including survey responses, and watching videos.
- Points can be redeemed for a variety of Gift Cards, including Amazon and PayPal.
- Earn points on-the-go by using Swagbucks mobile app on your phone.
Click here to check out everything Swagbucks has to offer.
Air Miles Shops Review
If you love to collect Air Miles, this is a website you’ll definitely want to check out. Air Miles Shops allows you to earn Air Miles when you shop online, by connecting you with hundreds of retailers through their website.
To register, you need to login to the website using the Collector Number on your Air Miles card. Online stores must be accessed through Air Miles Shops to qualify.
While the base offer is 1 Air Mile for every $20 you spend, you can multiply the rewards a couple of different ways. For starters, you can earn bonus miles (multipliers) for shopping at select individual stores. A purple badge on the store’s button will indicate when these multipliers are available.
In addition, from time to time, Air Miles will offer site-wide promotions for additional bonus miles. These promotions have various names, such as Shop The Block, And Mega Miles.
Shop the Block Promotion
Under their current Shop The Block promotion, you can earn 300, 1000, or 2000 Air Miles, by making qualifying purchases from 3, 5, or 7 Air Miles partners, within a specific time frame.
The more stores you buy from, the more points you earn.
The best part of promotions like Shop The Block is that the bonus miles are stacked on top of the individual store multipliers you receive. Just make sure you understand all of the conditions before you shop.
- Earn Air Miles by shopping online at hundreds of participating retailers.
- Use your existing Air Miles Collector Number to keep track of miles.
- Take advantage of Air Mile multipliers at selected retailers.
- Stack your bonus miles by taking advantage of site-wide promotions.
Head to Air Miles Shops.
Honey works differently in that it’s a free browser extension that instantly searches for and applies coupon codes when you shop online.
To use Honey, you need to install their extension in your web browser. Honey makes this easy by providing instructions on their website. If you see the small “h” in the top right corner of your toolbar, you’ll know that Honey has been added properly.
Honey is available to shoppers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia. Look for more international locations to be added in the future.
- Browser extension that takes the work out of finding the best deals online.
- Honey searches over 30,000 online shopping sites.
- Earn random rebates, called Honey Gold, at over 4,000 partners. Redeem Honey Gold rewards in the form of Gift Cards at participating retailers.
- Honey Gold Bonus is a Welcome Reward of a limited time, cash rebate, for U.S. shoppers only
Click here to learn more about Honey.
Rebate Sites for Cross Border Shoppers
Perhaps you prefer a “cross border” online shopping experience. Let’s take a look at a few of the popular cashback sites south of the border.
TopCashBack is a company founded in the U.K., that advertises itself as the USA’s fastest-growing cashback rebate company. They are definitely a major player, with over 8 million members worldwide.
TopCashBack promotes the use of their mobile app, which makes it easy to find shopping discounts while on the go. They also source coupon codes from a number of leading merchants, which can be used in conjunction with any available cashback rebates.
Be Frugal Review
Be Frugal is another large U.S. cashback rebate website. Similar to Rakuten, they offer a $10 sign up bonus. Be Frugal also has a very lucrative referral program. They will pay you $25 anytime you refer a friend, and your friend will still receive the $10 for signing up.
In reviewing the offers at Be Frugal, they appear to be very competitive. At a glance, I was able to find cash back rebates of up to 14% on a number of items.
Another unique feature of Be Frugal is their restaurant offering. They have a section of their website dedicated to restaurant coupons, which you can print from the site, and take with you next time you’re dining out. They have over 250 restaurants listed, ranging from fast food to fine dining.
Rakuten (Ebates US) Review
Rakuten is a major competitor in the U.S. online cashback rebate scene. They advertise up to 40% cashback (although most discounts will be far lower), and offer a $10 sign up bonus, in the form of a WalMart gift card, or a Rakuten cash bonus.
When you shop through Rakuten in the U.S., you have access to over 2500 online retailers. Cashback rebates are managed similar to the Canadian site, in that you can receive payment in the form of a cheque in the mail, or through your PayPal account.
Shop at Home Review
Shop At Home offers new members a $10 sign up bonus. Members can request payment once they exceed $20 in earnings. This can be in the form of a cheque, via Paypal, or with an Amazon Gift Card.
Similar to Swagbucks, Shop At Home also allows you to gain credit for other activities like completing surveys. If this is something you enjoy doing, they may be a great option.
How to Get the Most Out of Cash Back Rebate Sites
Easily the best way to maximize your cashback rewards is by stacking deals. For example, if you were to visit Air Miles Shops to purchase a heavily discounted deal through Groupon, you’re not only getting the Groupon discount, but you’re also collecting Air Miles.
Better yet, if you make your purchase using a cashback rewards Visa or Mastercard, you may earn an additional 1-2% of cashback, depending on the card you own.
Shop with a Cash Back Credit Card
Using a cashback credit card of any kind when shopping online through sites like Rakuten, or Great Canadian Rewards, is a great way to maximize your savings.
If you don’t have a cashback rewards card and would like to know more about how they work, check out my review of the best cashback credit cards in Canada, updated for 2019.
Don’t assume that the cashback site you’re using will always offer the best deal. If you’re willing to put in a little extra time, sign up for 2-3 sites, and compare between them when shopping.
Take Advantage of Seasonal Offers
Most rebate sites offer more lucrative cashback rates during seasonal periods, to entice shoppers.
Make sure you check out what is being offered in the weeks leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Also, look for seasonal promotions like Shop The Block and Mega Miles (Air Miles Shops). Their competitors will also have similar, limited time promotions.
It’s important to exercise your due diligence anytime you shop online, and using cashback rebate sites is no different. Here are a few tips on what to look out for.
Read the Fine Print
Some sites will advertise very attractive cashback percentages, but the more lucrative offers are usually limited to select product categories.
Also, it’s good to know what amount qualifies for a rebate. In most cases, cashback is calculated on the subtotal of your purchase, prior to any taxes or shipping being added.
Follow the Rules
Often, you must meet certain conditions to qualify for special promotions. Make sure you understand the rules, to avoid being disqualified. Take Air Miles Shop The Block for example. Purchases must be made between specific dates, and only products and services from select retailers are included in the promotion.
Make Sure You’re Using the Correct Site
For companies that have sites in more than one country ie. Rakuten, make sure you’re using the correct site. If you happen to do a lot of cross border shopping, you’ll benefit from signing up on both sites.
Save Your Verification Emails
It’s always a good idea to save the email verifications that the rebate sites send you upon purchase. In the rare case they lose track of your cashback credit, the email confirmation will come in handy.
Getting Your Cash Back Can Take Time
Lastly, remember that it takes time to receive your cashback credit. The website needs to make sure any product return windows have closed, and your purchase is finalized, before paying out your rebate.