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Rewards programs and good rewards programs

Honestly I don’t often use rewards programs which is a special type of service that shares affiliate commission from the sales with anyone who uses the program’s links. They are just too much of a hassle for my daily shopping. When I find a good deal on the web, it takes an effort to go back to the program website and find the same product again, and I am not a big fun of browser plugin’s some of these programs offer to simplify this procedure.

However when it comes to big ticket items like computers or furniture, I tend to make that extra step and find a way to earn an extra buck by having the merchant pay me affiliate commission.

Rewards programs are not the same

They come in different flavors. Some pay cash, some pay points converted to gift certificates, some will donate proceeds, and there is even one that pays back with US Government Bonds, how wicked is that!? The percentage of commission they share also varies from program to program and from merchant to merchant.

All things considered, choosing the program that fits your needs is a pretty confusing exercise,… if it wasn’t for Becky Ford, the Rewards expert at CompareRewards who has been covering rewards programs from her blog since 2001. But even more than the news at her blog I like the charts she compiles each year with these programs compared side by side.

This year edition covers 21 programs and compares the commission they pay at 177 online stores. The amount of information is simply overwhelming and just like I did it last year, I will try to compress it to a more usable format. For the complete details go to her full review and the comparison table at CompareRewards.

Top programs by rewards rate

“Merchant” column shows the total number of merchants covered by the program, number of merchants that the program gives the best reward at (compared to its peers), and number of merchants that the program gives the worst rewards at. You certainly want the first and the second number be more while the last number — less.

Note, these numbers include only the 177 covered merchants. Programs may offer rewards at other merchants that were not reviewed.

Program Merchants Comments
BondRewards 130/50/2 Rewards offered: U.S. Savings Bonds. Minimum to Redeem: 50 Bond Dollars (equivalent to $25)
Mr Rebates 169/32/4 Rewards payable by check after $25 balance is accumulated
Extrabux 103/24/3 Rewards payable by check or by PayPal, after your account exceeds $10
EBates 153/21/4 Rewards payable by check or PayPal quarterly after your balance exceeds $5. Promotion: $5 (or $10 gift card) for joining and making your first purchase.
FatWallet 139/17/5 Rewards go to your PayPal account with $10 payout minimum after a waiting period of 3 to 4 months to allow for returns and adjustments.
JellyFish 57/15/1 Rewards payable by check, any time your balance reaches $10, after a 30 to 60 days pending period.

Here is another spin on the data

These are the stores that I personally use most often. The table lists the programs that give the highest rewards for shopping with these merchants.

Merchant Programs Offering Highest Rewards
Best Buy 2.2% - JellyFish
Buy.com 2.6% - BondRewards 2.5% - Extrabux 2.2% - JellyFish
CompUSA 2.6% - BondRewards 2.6% - GreenPoints 2.2% - JellyFish
Circuit City 3.7% - JellyFish 3.1% - MyPoints 2.6% - GreenPoints
Dell (Home) 3.0% - FatWallet 2.6% - GreenPoints
Half.com 5.0% - Mr Rebates 4.0% - Extrabux 4.0% - LittleGrad
Home Depot 3.0% - EBates 3.0% - BabyMint 3.0% - Mr Rebates
Office Depot 3.3% - QuizPoint 3.1% - MyTroops 2.6% - GreenPoints
Office Max 4.0% - Ebates 3.5% - BabyMint 3.4% - BondRewards
Sears 2.6% - GreenPoints 2.0% - Ebates, FatWallet
Staples 2.6% - BondRewards 2.2% - JellyFish 2.0% - Mr Rewards
Target 8.0% - BondRewards 6.0% - BabyMint 5.2% - JellyFish
TigerDirect 3.7% - JellyFish 3.0% - Mr Rebate, FatWallet, Ebates
Toys’R’Us 2.6% - BondRewards

Looking at the last table here is the list of programs that I should be choosing from (the numbers show how many first, second and third spots the program has taken):

  • BondRewards: 5-0-1
  • JellyFish: 3-2-2
  • EBates: 2-2-0
  • Mr Rebates: 1-1-2
  • FatWallet: 1-2-0

As for my personal preference

I like JellyFish a lot while I find EBates and Mr Rebates interface somewhat 80’s. I never tried BondRewards before and I probably should. The program manages to hold the first spot second year in the row and this sure tells something. I will certainly give them a try when I convince myself to upgrade my CRT TV to something more decent (yeah, call me a cheapcake! ;-) )

Do you use rewards programs? Which ones? Do you find them worth the extra hassle?

Are you using the best rewards program?

Becky at CompareRewards has compiled an excellent comparison review of shopping rewards programs. These would be web sites like EBates and FatWallet that give you cash back on purchases you make through them.

The review covers a total of 17 programs and compares what they pay at 155 merchants. Here is a quick run down of the finalists. For full details go directly to the review and the comparison table.

“Merchant” column shows the total number of merchants covered by the program, number of merchants that the program gives the best reward at (compared to its peers), and number of merchants that the program gives the worst rewards at. You certainly want the first and the second number be more while the last number — less.

Note, these numbers include only the 155 covered merchants. Programs may offer rewards at other merchants that were not reviewed.

Program Merchants Comments
BondRewards 109/56/0 Rewards offered: U.S. Savings Bonds. Minimum to Redeem: 50 Bond Dollars (equivalent to $25)
EBates 138/27/2 Rewards payable by check or PayPal quarterly, with a $5 payout minimum. Promotion: $5 for joining and making your first purchase.
FatWallet 123/28/3 Rewards go to your PayPal account with no minimum after a waiting period of 3 to 4 months to allow for returns and adjustments. Promotion: $5 bonus for first-time shoppers.
JellyFish 60/16/0 Rewards payable by check or by PayPal, any time your account reaches $10, after a 3 to 4 month pending period.
BabyMint 105/16/1 Rewards Offered: check or deposit into a college savings account
QuickRewards 140/8/5 Cash out for shopping within days with no minimum amount. Payable via Paypal or Gift Certificates.
GreenPoints 49/5/10 Rewards redeemable for gift cards or merchandise. Minimum redeemable - $25

Here is another spin on the data. These are the stores that I personally use most often. The table lists the programs that give the highest rewards for shopping with these merchants.

Merchant Programs Offering Highest Rewards
Best Buy 2.6% - GreenPoints 2.2% - JellyFish
Staples 4.0% - FatWallet 3.0% - Ebates 2.6% - BondRewards
CompUSA 2.6% - BondRewards 2.6% - GreenPoints
Buy.com 2.6% - BondRewards 2.2% - JellyFish
Dell (Home) 3.0% - FatWallet 2.6% - GreenPoints
Half.com 4.0% - QuizPoints 3.7% - FellyFish 3.0% - FatWallet
Circuit City 2.6% - BondRewards 2.6% - GreenPoints
Home Depot 3.0% - EBates 3.0% - BabyMint 2.6% - BondRewards
Office Depot 6.0% - BondRewards 2.6% - GreenPoints
Office Max 4.0% - Ebates 3.4% - BondRewards
Snapfish 10% - Ebates 10% - FatWallet 10% - BabyMint
Shutterfly 12% - BabyMint 8.0% - EBates
Toys’R’Us 4.0% - BabyMint 3.1% - QuickRebates 3.0% - EBates
Starbucks 8.5% - BondRewards 8.0% - EBates 7.5% - JellyFish
Payless Shoes 8.0% - FatWallet 6.0% - EBates

I couldn’t find Amazon and Outpost/Frys (the other two stores I use frequently) in the list of merchants. Either no one offers rebates or they were not included in the analysis.

Looking at the last table here is the list of programs that I should be choosing from (the numbers show how many first, second and third spots the program has taken):

  • BondRewards: 5-1-1
  • EBates: 3-4-1
  • FatWallet: 3-1-1
  • BabyMint: 2-1-1
  • JellyFish: 0-3-1

As for my personal preference - I am torn apart between EBates and FatWallet. I will try both and will use what is more convenient. For big price items I might end up using the best choice rewards-wise at the time of the purchase. As for BondRewards - it seems to offer good rewards but I don’t like the idea of getting bonds as opposite to cash.




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