You may use cash-back shopping portals when you’re purchasing goods online. Did you know that you can do the same when booking certain types of travel?
It turns out that some cash-back portals will save you some moola on travel bookings, without any downside. Free money? Yes, I’ll take that!
A Primer on Shopping Portals
A shopping portal is a site you visit immediately prior to making an online purchase. You log in to the shopping portal and then click a link on that site to hop over to the website from which you’ll make a purchase.
The folks running the shopping portal get a commission from the company you buy from. The shopping portal company then shares with you a portion of the commission they receive.
As an example…. Let’s say that Macy’s is generally willing to rebate 10% of a sale to a shopping portal company that refers the purchaser to the Macy’s site. The shopping portal’s management team may decide that they can be profitable even when giving half of that 10% to the purchasing customer. It’s a win-win-win situation. Macy’s gets a purchasing customer they might not have otherwise landed, the shopping portal gets half of the commission as revenue, and the purchasing customer effectively gets 5% off their purchase.
Now, shopping portals come in many flavors. You can get your “rebates” in the form of cash, miles or points. I’ve mentioned some of the points and miles-earning portals in previous posts.
Sometimes though you may want cold, hard cash though. With those scenarios in mind, let’s dig in to two of the best cash-back portals and see what they offer in terms of travel booking rebates!
Ebates is My Favorite Cash-Back Shopping Portal
The first site that comes to mind when I think of cash-back portals, is Ebates. It’s been around since 1998. I’ve found Ebates reliable and easy to use. They have partnerships with over 1,800 online retailers. At the time I wrote this post they had 196 companies listed in their travel category.
If you apply through this link you’ll get a free $10 gift card to a retailer like Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Target or Kohl’s after signing up and making a $25 purchase.
Ebates pays out quarterly through a Big Fat Check mailed to you (or a charity of your choice), or via PayPal. Minimum payout amount is $5.01.
Ebates will often run promos during which the cash back rate for certain retailers will spike higher than normal. As an example, as I’m writing this post Ebates is temporarily offering up to 10% cash back at Expedia!
Select, Example Ebates Cash-Back Offers (as of writing)
|Alamo Rent A Car||2.50%|
|Best of Vegas||4.00%|
|Booking.com||4.0% was 2.0%|
|BookIt.com||Up to 2.5%|
|BookVIP||Up to $20.00|
|British Airways||Up to $17.00|
|CheapOair||Up to $12.50|
|CheapTickets||Up to 5.0%|
|CheapTickets Air||Up to $4.00|
|Choice Hotels||7.0% was 3.5%|
|Expedia||Up to 10.0% was up to 4.0%|
|Fairfield Inn||5.0% was 2.5%|
|Fairmont Hotels and Resorts||2.50%|
|Four Points by Sheraton||2.50%|
|Groupon Getaways||6.0% was 3.0%|
|Hertz||5.0% was 2.5%|
|Hilton Hotels & Resorts||4.0% was 2.0%|
|HomeAway||Up to $10.00|
|Hotels.com||Up to 6.0% was up to 3.0%|
|Hotwire||Up to 6.0% was up to 4.0%|
|InterContinental Hotels and Resorts||4.50%|
|JW Marriott||5.0% was 2.5%|
|LivingSocial||6.0% was 3.0%|
|Orbitz||Up to 10.4% was up to 8.1%|
|Paris Las Vegas||2.50%|
|Priceline||Up to 12.0% was up to 10.0%|
|Radisson Hotels & Resorts||2.50%|
|SpringHill Suites||5.0% was 2.5%|
|Travelocity||Up to 8.0% was up to 7.0%|
|Undercover Tourist||Up to 1.0%|
|Zipcar||Up to $5.00|
Ebates also offers browser extensions to make getting cash back almost automatic. I don’t recommend using an extension though as they can cause problems when you attempt to get a rebate through another shopping portal.
With many appealing travel partners and great reliability, Ebates is at the top of my list for cash-back portals.
Mr. Rebates is Another Strong Cash-Back Portal
In the same vein as Ebates, Mr. Rebates has partnered with about 2,000 retailers across many categories and pays out in cash. The Mr. Rebates website isn’t as professional looking as the Ebates site but it’s completely functional. I’ve found them to be reliable also.
You can get your rebate as a mailed check or via PayPal, once you’ve earned at least $10 in rebates. It will generally take about 90 days from purchase date until the rebate is deemed available.
I like that when you initiate a shopping experience through Mr. Rebates, a window is opened which has a link to leave a note. This helps in keeping track of purchases that should generate cash back.
At the time I’m writing this post, Mr. Rebates has 191 retailers in the Travel category.
Select, Example Mr. Rebates Cash-Back Offers (as of writing)
|Alamo Rent A Car||3%|
|Avis Rent A Car||3%|
|Best of Vegas||5%|
|Country Inns & Suites||5%|
|Courtyard by Marriott||3%|
|Crowne Plaza Hotels||6%|
|Four Points by Sheraton||2%|
|InterContinental Hotels & Resorts||6%|
|Jet Blue Getaways||2%|
|Marriott Hotels & Resorts||3%|
|Princess Cruise Lines||2%|
|Wyndham Hotel and Resorts||3%|
Some Additional Notes on Using Cash-Back Portals
Now that you’re aware two of the best cash-back portals offer rebates on travel purchases, there are a few points to keep in mind.
One, using coupon codes that aren’t listed on the cash-back sites can sometimes invalidate the cash-back. This can be something to focus on if you’re buying from a retailer such as a Macy’s, which might have many coupon codes floating around the web. If you’re about to book through, say, the IHG website though, you’re probably not likely to be using a coupon code. If I do have a coupon code for a purchase I’ll still go through the cash-back portal and use the coupon code. The worst that can happen is that I don’t get the cash back from the shopping portal. However, I almost always have. In a lot of cases the best available coupon code is actually listed on the cash-back portal site and so there is no issue whatsoever.
Two, the percentages listed above may not seem huge, because, well, they’re not. However, some travel purchases can be quite expensive. If you’re booking, say, a five-night stay at a JW Marriott, it could cost you $1,000. If you go through Ebates, and get 5% cash back, you’ll be getting $50 cash back. That’s nothing to sneeze at. It’s free money so to speak. And you can still use any credit card you want for the booking, meaning you can maximize credit card rewards also.
Three, you may run into some issues with cookies or certain ad blockers messing up a shopping portal’s tracking system. I generally avoid these issues by opening a new “incognito” or “private” tab (Ctrl+Shift+N in Chrome; Ctrl+Shift+P in Firefox) in my web browser and then going to the shopping portal site from there.
Ebates and Mr. Rebates are definitely worth a signup. If nothing else, sign up for Ebates and be sure to use it for at least one $25 purchase and then you’ll get a free $10 gift card.
I suggest signing up for both sites. Then when you’re going to book travel (or make any purchase) online, check both sites to see which is offering the better return at that moment and go through that site for the purchase.
There are other websites that purport to show the returns of all the different shopping portals but I’ve found that they are often inaccurate. The shopping portal sites simply change their offers too frequently.
I advise selecting one or two cash-back portals and focusing on them. If you use more than two or three different cash-back portals you’re likely to lose track of rebates due to you and perhaps never hit the minimum amounts for payouts.
Good luck with your bookings!!
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Do you prefer Ebates or Mr. Rebates? Share your thoughts, or your questions, in the comments section below!