Top cashback sites 2020
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 just four years, our editor Jake Butler has earned over £800 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.
Also check whether the cashback deals on offer actually match your spending habits, otherwise you might be better opting for other account benefits instead.
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 bill 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.
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 purchase 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. 'Topman', 'Sainsbury's' 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 tend to 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 September 2019. Rates will vary depending on what purchase you make, which cashback site you use and any special offers available.
- ASOS: 8 – 8.4 % cashback
- Game: 2 – 3% cashback
- Interrail: 5 – 8.4% cashback
- Paperchase: 6 – 8.4% cashback
- Virgin Media: £160 – £220 cashback
- O2 Mobile: Up to £105 cashback
- Travelodge: Up to 12% 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 Waitrose, 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, like TopCashback and Quidco, give their customers 100% of the cashback, and instead they make their money through bonuses they receive for referring large numbers of customers, or from premium memberships which typically cost around a fiver (more on this below).
Best cashback sites 2020
We've reviewed the cashback sites that we think offer the best return, as well as the best user experience.
However, we'd recommend joining a few sites so that you can compare the cashback amounts between them, as they often vary from one site to the next.
All these cashback sites are free to join, so what's to lose?
Their Classic membership is free, but the Plus membership offers a bonus extra 5% cashback on most transactions, as well as extra money for referring friends and other perks. However, they will keep £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!
Also, look out for their Free Cashback feature. This enables you to earn cashback just by completing certain tasks online. Currently, you can earn £2.25 just for creating an account and checking your credit score with Experian.
Your cashback should appear in your account within seven days of your purchase, and once you've chosen a payout method, you should leave another seven days to get your hands on the cash (although it'll often arrive much quicker than this).
They claim their average user makes £300 a year – that could bag you an extra holiday!
Like TopCashback, you can also choose to pay £5 annually for a Premium membership that will get you quicker payment, ad–free browsing and other bonuses.
If you register your credit card with your Quidco account, you can earn cashback on purchases you make in store as well as online.
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.
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 back more here than you would with the other sites, but it's more like entering a competition. There are no guarantees, and there's only a slim chance you'll win.
However, there are also hot deals, where the odds are stacked more in your favour – for example, every 7th or 10th purchase wins, as opposed to every 25th.
If you're lucky with this, you could win some serious cashback, but obviously don't bank on it!
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!
- 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 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!