How to earn cash back online

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 talkin' big bucks…CasbackIt might sound like a bit of a crazy idea, but some brands will actually pay you cash back into your pocket if you buy something from their site by going via an external site first.

These sites 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.

Looking for a cashback credit card? Our guide to the best student credit cards has the lowdown on which are the best to go for!

‘Cashback' has become one of these discount shopping buzzwords that can be a bit confusing if you've never tried it before – “Pay me to shop at Topshop! Where's the catch?”, right?

We've got everything you need to know about how cashback works right here, so you can get started on raking in the cash while you spend online ASAP!

Student Cashback

Bonus side note: Since our Editor-in-Chief, Owen, joined Quidco three years ago, he's earned over £730 in cashback!

How does cashback work?

Tiny turtle - show me the moneyThe sorts of cashback deals that are available vary widely, so you could see yourself earning as much as £100 or as little as £2 on a single transaction, depending on what you buy and which brands you buy from.

Although it might sound complicated, earning cashback online is actually really easy!

To get started, simply follow these 4 easy steps:

  1. Sign up to a reputable cashback site like Quidco, Topcashback or Swagbucks
  2. Whenever you decide you'd like to buy something online, open an extra browser and sign in to your cashback site account (another option here is to browse the cashback site first to see which shops have the highest rates, and base your purchases on that)
  3. Search for the retailer you want to buy from in the cashback site search bar (e.g. ‘Topman', ‘Sainsbury's' or even ‘Sky Broadband' etc.)
  4. Follow the brand's link on the cashback site and it will take you through to their homepage 
  5. Start searching for your item! The cashback site will have the data it needs to know you arrived at the site by going via them, and will register your purchase for cashback.

Generally, you can expect to get between 5-10% cashback on retail purchases, but these rates vary a lot from store to store and often fluctuate.

Where does the cash come from?

Cashback sites make their money by earning a commission for sending customers to retailer websites, and you get a large slice of it. Genius!

Companies like Waitrose, ASOS, and even broadband providers pay cashback sites to refer customers to them. The cashback site then simply takes a cut of the referral money for themselves and sends the rest to you.

Therefore, although you're paid by cashback sites, the money you receive comes from the brands themselves.

Which cashback sites are best for students?

choiceWe've selected some cashback sites that we think offer the best return, and the best user experience more generally for students.

However, we'd recommend joining all three of these sites so that you can compare the cashback amounts on each purchase, as they can often vary from one site to the next.

All these sites are free to join, so what's to lose!

  1. Topcashback

    Topcashback-LogoTopcashback is definitely one of the best sites out there, if not the best.

    They generally offer higher rates than their competitors, and most users give them glowing reports!

    Topcashback also have lots of internal deals to help users make even more on their cashback.

    For example, you can earn 15% extra on top of the going cashback rate or 30% on top if you choose to pay £5 a year for a premium membership (this is only useful if you shop online a lot as you'll have to claim over £100 of cashback each year to make it worthwhile). You can also trade your cashback cash for vouchers instead, and get an extra 8% value added!

    Check out Topcashback »

  2. Quidco

    Qiodco-LogoQuidco are another leading cashback site, and are normally seen battling it out with Topcashback in the quest to offer users the best exclusive rates.

    You can also earn a bonus on top of your cashback of 10% with Quidco.

    Like Topcashback, you can also choose to pay £5 for a premium membership that will get you top class service, such as loyalty bonuses, slightly higher cashback rates and a browsing experience that's totally ad-free. How you spoil us!

    If you register your credit card with your Quidco account, you can earn cashback on purchases you make in store as well as online.

    Check out Quidco »

  3. Swagbucks

    swagbucks_squareSwagbucks is a site leaning a bit more on the side of a rewards site than purely cashback.

    As well as getting cashback offers, you can also use the site for a whole host of other benefits such as getting reward points and free gift cards for making purchases with certain brands.

    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.

    Check out Swagbucks »

Cashback dos and don'ts

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's our ultimate cashback dos and don'ts!


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  • 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 – so you can start earning cashback on purchase you make online and in stores too.


don't do it

  • Don't be lead 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 doesn't mean that the money is yours. Complications can unfortunately occur that might lead to you missing out on your cash. Try not to rely too heavily on getting your rewards so you're not left disappointed – 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.

Good luck, and let us know if you find any great deals worth sharing!

On the hunt for a quicker way to earn some cash online? We have a whole list of tried and tested inside methods to make a quick buck on the web – check it out!

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