Cashback sites: Make money back when you shop online

Cashback sites
Cashback Sites

If you shop online and haven’t tried out ‘cashback sites’ yet, you should. You can save extra money on what should be an already good offer. In this guide I’ll explain the similarities and differences between the main cashback websites in the UK, and how to use cashback apps, to help you get the most out of your money.

How do cashback sites work?

Cashback sites and cashback apps offer you financial rewards when you use them to buy products like electronics or fashion, financial or communication services such as mobile phone and broadband, or insurance contracts. You can also fill in surveys and do online competitions, which pay out less money, but are simple and quick. 

There are a few major cashback sites in the UK, for example Quidco and TopCashback, and some smaller but no less viable sites which will help you earn money on your purchases. 

They all have similar rules and regulations, methods of payment and tracking — I'll cover all of this to help you to maximise your earnings and savings when buying online.

Saving money with cashback sites

When you pay for something via a cashback site, rather than directly through the seller site, then the cashback site makes a commission. A small percentage of this is then passed on to you as a reward for using the cashback site. 

Basically, cashback sites use affiliate links which allow the retailer, for example Currys PC World, to track what you have bought, where its website traffic is coming from, and how its consumer base likes to spend money. 

Currys then pays the cashback site for this information, and the cashback site gives some or all of this money directly back to the consumer, you. Cashback sites earn money in various ways — per click, per transaction, per application, or per accepted applicant if it is a service agreement or contract. 

Joining a cashback site

Choose a cashback provider, then join for free — there are premium paid-for memberships where you get a higher percentage of cash back, but most are free to join first of all. Of course, you can join more than one, as some will have better options for your specific needs. 

Then all you need to do is search for deals on the site, by looking for your favourite retailers or particular providers, to see if they have an arrangement with the cashback site.

When you find a deal, you can visit the retailer by clicking through the link provided, but be aware that you should clear your internet cookies before doing so, to ensure the cashback site is acknowledged as the referral source.

Saving money with cashback sites
  1. Visit your chosen cashback site

  2. Find a brand or retailer and use the link to visit the retailer’s website (this link will track your purchase)

  3. Make your purchase

  4. Once the purchase is confirmed and tracked, the cashback site will reward you the cashback earned (this could take several weeks)

  5. Withdraw the cashback via PayPal, bank transfer, or as gift vouchers

What are the main cashback sites?

  • Quidco

    Established in 2005 and now with more than 10 million users worldwide, Quidco is the original and still one of the biggest fish in the UK market. 

    It is free to join and use, and gives you back up to 110% of the cashback it receives from the merchant, making money for itself in other ways — such as bonuses for generating sales. You can also join a premium membership, for more cashback and so on. 

    Quidco works with 4500 merchants and retailers, including having some exclusive partnerships on cashback, so it is worth being a member of both of the top two. Quidco also offers an in-store cashback service, by using an app, and will give you up to 15% bonus if you convert to e-gift cards.

Quidco Website
Quidco's Website
  • TopCashback

    Similarly to Quidco, TopCashback (TCB) was formed in 2005 and has more than 11 million members — to be honest, they are very comparable. 

    Again free to join and use, TCB gives you back up to 105% cashback it receives from the merchant. Plus you can join a premium membership for additional bonuses. 

    You can choose to earn cashback from more than 5000 retailers, merchants and service providers, and you can also exchange your cash to e-gift cards to receive a further bonus (up to 12.5%).

TopCashback Website
TopCashback's Website
  • OhMyDosh

    Clever name, but does it have any substance? Well yes, actually. You can earn money by filling in surveys, free trials and of course, finding cashback deals. You can even play bingo and gamble if you want, but I’ll leave that alone. 

    One thing of note is that you can cash out your earnings at £10, which is lower than sites of this sort, and will be transferred to you within five days so you don’t have to wait the customary weeks. 

    The OhMyDosh website is very easy to use and you can earn money on surveys, which can be completed in minutes.

OhMyDosh Website
OhMyDosh's Website
  • SwagBucks

    Seemingly straight from the mind of TVs’ Tom Haverford (Parks and Recreation), SwagBucks is a US-based version of OhMyDosh, where you can earn SwagBucks — 1000SB is worth $10

    Like OhMyDosh, you can fill in surveys and competitions to earn rewards, or you can shop online with coupons. You can even earn by watching ‘entertaining videos’, but how entertaining they are is up for debate.

Swagbucks website
Swagbucks' website
  • KidStart

    One for parents, grandparents, guardians and so on of younger children, this site allows you to earn cashback which can be directly linked to a trust fund or an ISA in a child’s name. Pretty clever way of making money for them to use at a later date. 

    One major selling point for KidStart is that it allows cashback form John Lewis and Partners, which the others do not, and has better rates for kid friendly stores like GAP and H&M. That said, it doesn’t always have the highest rates, so it's worth checking first. 

    A great way of building up savings for your kid’s future. There is a free membership and a premium option called KidSave. You must be saving for a child (or school or children’s charity), otherwise your account funds can be deleted — and KidSmart has its ways of checking.

KidStart Website
KidStart's Website

What to consider when using cashback sites

It might sometimes take weeks for the earnings to reach your account, and sometimes it will fail altogether — normally due to bad tracking of the cookie trail. 

However, sometimes it is to do with issues with the affiliate links, which transmit the payments between retailers and cash back sites. If this is the case, then you’d need to get in touch with the cashback site as soon as possible, through its claim link. 

For this reason, it may be best to stick with the more established cashback sites, to reduce the risk of missing payments.

Cashback is a bonus, it isn’t guaranteed

This is the main reason hotukdeals Deal Editors don’t add in the cashback on a deal, because whilst it is a nice bonus to make some money back via the sites when buying things, it is never a guaranteed payment. 

Things can and will go wrong, from bad tracking links to worse case scenarios like the retailers going bust or into administration. That said, don’t get in touch with the retailer if the latter happens, always contact the cashback site. 

Retailers and service providers can also dispute the affiliate information (ie, where you clicked from before buying), for various reasons, and not pay — so the cashback site won’t get the money to forward on to you.

Look for the deal, not the cashback

Much like the above, if you accept that cashback is a bonus, then the same goes for always looking for the best deal first. Sometimes, the cashback element will sway you to pay more for a product or service than is necessary. 

For example, a cashback site might offer £50 cashback on a £200 insurance policy, but that same policy can be bought ‘on offer’ for £125 using an insurance provider directly. Had you bought the policy via cashback site, you would have paid more in the long run.

Look for the sale!
Source: Karolina Grabowska / Pexels.

Cookie trails might disrupt your payment

Once again, it is worth noting that you should clear your browser’s cookies before starting out on a buying frenzy via cashback sites.

If you have browsed on the retail site previously, then this will potentially scatter the crumbs of your cookie trial, if you will, and you may not get the cashback promised.

You’ll need to start a new cookie trail between the cashback site and the retailer, with clear tracking between A and B. That way, you are less likely to be disappointed. 

How to get cashback paid

Firstly, cashback sites do not accrue interest, so there is little point keeping money in the account unnecessarily. Withdraw it as soon as you can, as the retailers could go bust or - as they are easy to set up and often small companies - the cashback site itself could disappear or change its policy. 

The most common way of getting paid is via PayPal or via bank transfer, but you can also get paid in gift cards for specific retail stores. This will depend on which retailers the cashback site works with. 

Each site will have a threshold of money before you can take it out and will have varying timescales too.

Cashback FAQs

Why has your cashback been declined?

Sometimes your claim is ineligible for payment, this could be for a number of reasons. Such as: 

  • You cancelled or returned your order or part of your order
  • You used a promotional code, voucher code or another form of discount not approved by by the cashback site
  • The merchant pays cashback to new customers only, and you have shopped with this merchant before
  • You did not meet any other of the Terms and Conditions set by the merchant or cashback provider

Do you need to pay tax on any earnings from cashback sites?

Is cashback guaranteed?

Why is there a wait before cashback is paid?

Which shops offer cashback?

Are cashback sites worth it?

Are cashback sites safe?