Tag Archive for 'rewards-programs'

Microsoft launches yet another rewards program

Microsoft just announced from their blog the launch of a new loyalty program, Bing Rewards. It is nothing like Bing Cashback which the company shut down back in June and reminds me more of SearchPerks, the very first rewards program from Microsoft.

To participate you must install Bing toolbar and have a Windows Live ID. You get 250 credits at sign up and then one credit for every five Bing searches, and up to eight credits per day (according to Search Engine Land). You can exchange the credits for swag and other goodies. E.g $5 Amazon gift card is 541 credits (roughly 2 months of using Bing every day) and one Fandago movie ticket is 1506 credits (or 6 months of Bing punishment).
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Microsoft to shut down Bing Cashback

Microsoft has just announced on their blog that they will be closing their popular rewards program, Bing Cashback. It is a dark day for all the bargain hunters in the US and a celebration for all the smaller rival businesses.

The explanation given is that the revenue Microsoft was pouring back at the shoppers didn’t result into new search traffic acquisition, and keeping the program as a business of itself (which it once was) apparently hasn’t been in Microsoft’s plans.

Is it another evidence that “money cannot buy happiness” as Techcrunch puts it, or am I just being sarcastic here? Which ever way it is, my strongest sentiment is a feeling of sadness about all the great technology wasted by the company in an attempt to salvage a fairly unrelated business.

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 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 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?

Beware of points based shopping services

InflationI have just reviewed BarterBee yesterday, an online marketplace for swapping videos, music and games, and after giving it some thought today I decided that there was one aspect of BarterBee that I haven’t stressed out well enough, and that is the fact that the website uses points as a way to make trades between users possible.

All points based services have an important disadvantage compared to money based ones — the value of points is supported by your faith in the service and its owners, and sometimes that value can go down. The reasons can be different but the result is similarly unpleasant.

One recent example is MyPoints, a points based rewards program, that I mentioned in the past. Back in April 2007 they devalued reward points by approximately 5% and people who had large amounts stashed in their accounts were not happy about the money they lost.

In the case of BarterBee, the points value is backed by new users who join the service and offer their DVD’s and CD’s for trade. If for some reason offers start to decline, points will have lesser value for you since you will have to give more of them to pay for the same items. In the ultimate case, if all users were to abandon the website, all points you accumulated would have become worthless (BarterBee Terms of Use specifically mention that Points “may not be redeemed for cash, and have no value outside of”).

I don’t mean to say anything negative about BarterBee as a company. They have been running the business for some time and have done a good job adjusting the model to keep the supply fresh and users happy (the service was originally subscription based, then $1 transaction fee replaced subscription, earlier this year BarterBee abandoned all fees). Nevertheless understanding drawbacks of the system you will be part of is important so you can make an educated decision about whether you want to join it or not.

Do you know other points based services? What was your experience with them, good or bad?

Photo courtesy of tico24 at Flickr

Froogle no more, deceptive rewards, best cameras

Google renames Froogle to Google Product Search

Along with the name change comes some minor redesign as well: the search customization options are moved to the bottom of the results. In addition Google is actively promoting the new brand using regular search. Once in a while you will see a tip to use Product Search come up as the top placement in search results.

Read the official announcement at Google blog.

Google Product Search

MyPoints Giveth; MyPoints Taketh Away

Becky at Compare Rewards writes about the disappointing experience one of her readers had with MyPoints rewards program.

This morning I received an email from a member who was happy to report having won over 100,000 points in the latest MyPoints point giveaway. She noticed, however, that by the time the contest had ended, her points were worth less. “…what was a 7500 points for $100.00 gift card is now a $50.00 gift card,” she wrote

This is a reminder for all of us: the points are just points and their cash value is not guaranteed, and in fact can change any time. To avoid issues like this, use the programs that offer real cash back.

To find the program that fits you best, head to the comparison review I did last November, or use tools like evReward that automate the process for you.

Which digital camera is the best?

I will not answer this question for you, but I will help you find which digital camera is the most popular. Here are a few websites that publish this data:

Below is the popularity chart of Point & Shoot Cameras from Flickr. Do you know other sources? Put them in your comments.

Best Selling Cameras

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