Top cashback sites 2021
Wouldn't it be great if you could earn money back every time you bought something online? Oh wait, you can! And we could be talking big bucks...
It might sound like a crazy idea, but some brands will actually pay you cash if you buy something from them by going via an external website first.
These are called cashback sites, and they're a great place to start if you're on the hunt for ways to save a bit of money while at uni, without having to completely freeze your spending.
If you're a frequent online shopper, you could be earning £100s a year by using a cashback site.
In five years, our editor Jake Butler has earned over £900 in cashback with TopCashback!
What’s in this guide?
Ways to get cashback
There are loads of different ways you can earn cashback with minimal effort – these are some of the biggies:
Get a cashback bank account
Some banks offer cashback current accounts, where you'll receive some cashback every time you shop with certain retailers or pay your bills, for instance.
This is a great way to get cashback with minimal effort but watch out for potential drawbacks. Most of these accounts will charge a small monthly fee and expect a certain amount to be deposited in the account each month for you to retain the perks.
Sign up for a credit card
If you're good at managing your money, then a cashback credit card might be a better option instead. These basically work by giving you – you guessed it – cashback on some or all purchases (depending on the card).
Most only offer around 0.5 – 1% back on each purchase, but this soon adds up if you're doing a lot of spending. Again, check the offers will work for you and watch out for any monthly fees. Use our guide to student credit cards to find the best deals.
Also remember that if you don't pay off your credit card in full at the end of each month you'll be charged interest, which could end up being more than any cashback you've earned – so only use it to buy stuff you know you can afford (and, if you don't pay it off at all, your credit score will likely suffer).
Switch energy provider
Many energy providers offer deals to entice new customers which include a certain amount of cashback. Just make sure to do the calculations and ensure the new deal is the cheapest overall.
For instance, there's no point in going for a deal which offers £30 cashback if you're going to end up paying £70 more across the year in bills. Use our guide to comparing and switching providers to keep your bills as cheap as possible.
Do online shopping
If you don't fancy making a big commitment in the form of a new bank account or credit card, then you can earn cashback when you make purchases online using cashback sites.
They're super easy to use and you can earn some serious cash over time if you stick at it. Keep reading to find out exactly how they work.
How do cashback sites work?
Cashback deals vary widely, so you could see yourself earning as much as £100 or just a few pennies on a single transaction, depending on what you buy and which brands you buy from.
It might sound quite complicated, but it's actually ridiculously easy.
To get started, simply follow these four steps:
- Sign up to a reputable cashback site like Quidco, TopCashback or Swagbucks.
- Whenever you decide you'd like to buy something online, open a new browser and sign in to your cashback site account (alternatively, you could head straight to the cashback site to see which companies are offering the highest rates or best deals).
- Search for the retailer you want to buy from in the cashback site search bar (e.g. 'ASOS', 'Currys' or even 'Sky Broadband' etc.).
- Follow the brand's link on the cashback site and it will take you through to their homepage.
- Simply make your purchase as normal! The cashback site will have tracked your click so it knows you made your purchase through them, and they'll register your cashback.
How much cashback can you get online?
The amount of money you'll actually receive will vary. For smaller purchases, cashback rates can be around 5% – 10%, but if you're making a bigger investment – a new mobile phone contract or broadband package, for example – you could earn £100 or more.
Here's a list of typical cashback rates for some retailers as of December 2020. Rates will vary depending on what purchase you make, which cashback site you use, whether or not you're a new customer and any special offers available.
- ASOS: 8% – 10% cashback
- Expedia: up to 10% cashback
- Game: 1.7% – 2.75% cashback
- O2 Mobile: up to £180 cashback
- Paperchase: 6.8% – 10% cashback
- Travelodge: 2% – 4% cashback
- Virgin Media: up to £145 cashback.
Does cashback cost anything?
No! A lot of people worry that cashback sites are a scam – free cash does sound a bit suspicious after all.
However, they have quite a nifty business model that makes it all possible.
Cashback sites make their money by earning a commission for sending customers to shop websites, and you get a large slice of it (or all of it in some cases). Genius!
Companies like Argos, ASOS, and even broadband providers pay cashback sites to advertise them and direct customers towards their website. When a customer makes a purchase, the cashback site earns referral money which it then passes on to you.
Some sites give their customers 100% of the cashback, and instead they make their money through bonuses received for referring large numbers of customers, or from premium memberships which typically cost around a fiver (more on this below).
Best cashback sites 2021
These are the top cashback sites:
TopCashback is definitely one of the best cashback sites out there, if not the best. They generally offer higher rates than their competitors, and most users give them glowing reports!
Their Classic membership is free, but the Plus membership offers a bonus extra 10% cashback when a company isn't offering an exclusive deal, as well as extra money for referring friends and other perks. However, they will keep up to £5 of the cashback you earn every year as payment.
Be careful when you first sign up, as you'll automatically be assigned a Plus membership that you have to opt-out of.
You can also trade your cashback cash for vouchers through Reward Wallet, and get an extra up to 15% value added!
Quidco are another leading cashback site and are normally seen battling it out with TopCashback in the quest to offer users the best exclusive rates.
They claim their average user makes £280 a year – that could bag you an extra holiday!
Like TopCashback, you can also choose to pay for a Premium membership that will get you higher cashback rates, better payout bonuses and other benefits. In exchange, you'll need to sacrifice £1 of your earned cashback each month.
If you register your debit or credit card with your Quidco account, you can earn cashback on purchases you make in store as well as online.
Swagbucks is a site leaning more towards rewards than purely cashback.
Earn your cashback and rewards by saving up 'swagbucks' (or SBs as they call them) as a sort of currency that can then be exchanged for rewards.
Again, Boom25 is a bit different to your traditional cashback sites like TopCashback and Quidco.
If you make a purchase through the site, you have a 1 in 25 chance of winning a 100% refund on whatever you buy. Basically, every 25th purchase wins.
The site is completely free to use, and if you win they'll transfer the money straight to your PayPal account.
There's the potential to earn much more cashback than you would with the other sites, but it's more like entering a competition. There are no guarantees, and there's only a 4% chance you'll win.
If you're lucky with this, you could win some serious cashback, but obviously don't bank on it!
As all of the sites we've listed are free to join, we'd recommend joining a few of them so you can compare the cashback amounts between them. What's there to lose?
Top tips for using cashback sites
If you're keen to give this cashback lark a serious go, there are a few things worth taking into consideration before getting started.
Here are our ultimate cashback dos and don'ts!
Things to do on cashback sites
- Clear your cookies – Cashback sites use your cookies to track if you have arrived at a retail site through them or another site. Therefore, if your browser history gets pages mixed up and doesn't register that you've come via a cashback site, you won't get your reward. Clearing your cookies just before making your purchase will ensure this doesn't happen.
- Transfer any money you make out of your cashback account ASAP – Leave it in your account too long, and it won't be protected if the website goes bust.
- Do the maths before making your purchase – Cashback won't always necessarily get you the best deal. Shop around for student deals, check for promo codes and daily deal sites as well and work out what the best option is before making your decision.
- Register your credit card with your cashback account – Do this so you can start earning cashback on purchases you make online and in stores too.
- Refer your friends – You'll earn extra cash for getting your friends to sign up with a referral link. For example, Quidco currently offer you £5 in their 'Tell-a-Friend' scheme.
- Remember to use the price match – Both TopCashback and Quidco guarantee to match each other, so if you find you could have got a better deal elsewhere, you can submit a claim and get extra cashback. However, there are strict time limits on this (Quidco only give you 72 hours), so don't hang about!
Things to avoid on cashback sites
- Don't be led astray by flashy deals – It's easy to get excited by a £100 cashback deal on a new broadband package, but if you don't actually need a new contract, don't go for it. Broadband providers also don't have the best reputation for being easy to understand, so even if they're offering great cashback, they might be stinging you with other charges.
- Don't assume anything – Just because you've followed the instructions, it doesn't mean that the money is yours. Complications can, unfortunately, occur that might lead to you missing out on your cash. To avoid disappointment, try not to rely too heavily on getting your rewards – just think of it as a bonus if you make some cash! If you have any issues, contact the cashback site's customer service department.
- Don't think that every deal is set in stone – There can be disputes between brands and cashback sites that might prevent you from getting what you're due. Admittedly, this is a pitfall of going for cashback – nothing is guaranteed until it's safely in your bank account.
So there you have it! You should be armed with all the info you need to get started on earning back some serious cash when you shop online.
On the hunt for a quicker way to earn some cash online? We have a whole list of tried and tested methods to make a quick buck on the web – check them out.