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Tag Archive for 'rewards-programs'



Shop and get your money back with CrazyRefund

CrazyRefund LogoThe concept of getting cash back on things you buy is nothing new. Many websites offer a percentage of the commission they receive from the merchants as an incentive for you to buy things using their links. I covered these so called “Rewards Programs” before and you can find some tips on how to choose the program that fits you the best here and here.

I have recently received a review request via ReviewMe from a New York based startup which attempts to approach the problem of attracting customers in the over-saturated online shopping industry from a different angle.

Instead of giving a percentage back, CrazyRefund will give back the entire amount you spend on your order if you happen to be the lucky shopper number N, where N is a number that varies from merchant to merchant.

For example anything you buy from Foot Locker using links at CrazyRefund has 1 out of 25 chance of ending up being free. Some merchants have higher chances, some lower, depending on the commission they pay. You can see the complete list at the CrazyRefund front page.

Here is how Mark, the founder, explains the idea behind CrazyRefund:

It’s like gambling on your everyday spending, but it isn’t really gambling – because you are just buying whatever you need with the chance of winning it free. So why not put a little excitement into things

In addition CrazyRefund is running a few cash back programs for signing up to services like IP telephony from SunRocket or SUPERPASS from Real Networks. I have not tried these but I found at least one person who did and he seems to be pretty happy about the deal he got.

According to Mark, the website was launched in December 2006 and hasn’t had time to generate much buzz yet however if you trust the winners page, they have been giving people back their money, and a lot!

This post is sponsored by CrazyRefund via ReviewMe

Hot Deals Forum + Rewards Program = FatWallet

This post continues the weekly series of website reviews which I started last week with SlickDeals. The bargain hunting site of this week is FatWallet, the second popular site in my list. In fact it held the first position for a long time and gave it up to SlickDeals just recently.

Just as in case of SlickDeals, most of the popularity comes from very active community forums, which bring a lot of visitors to FatWallet.

The major difference between FatWallet and SlickDeals is the fact that FatWallet offers a cash back program that visitors can participate to sweeten all the deals they find in the forums (to get the cash back you need to be a registered FatWallet user and to follow certain steps when you make the purchase). Based on November 2006 data the cash back percentages FatWallet offers look pretty competitive compared to other similar rewards programs. FatWallet’s strength compared to other programs is the fact that they offer their rewards in the context of very popular deals forums. The forums community is generating hundreds of bargains a day and it is very hard to compete with the combined intelligence of hundreds of thousands of people.

In addition to the forums, FatWallet offers plenty of other tools aimed at helping you with bargain hunting. Let’s go over each and see what they are worth.

Stores

This page lists stores and the current cash back percentages for each. When you click on a particular store link you get to a page dedicated to that store which lists current promotions applicable to that store and also usually has a few links to specific parts of the store (e.g. different departments). This is very convenient however I wish the deals themselves were also integrated so when I choose to shop in a particular store I could do it all from one page. And hey, where is the Best Buy store page?

OfficeDepot by Fatwallet

Hot Deal News

Hot Deal News is a sort of a blog where a person by the name K. Sebring hand picks deals from forums posts and summarizes them in a more readable format (as well verifying that all the links are accurate and nothing is missing). This is the place to come if you don’t want to swipe crowdy forums. The big problem with this blog is that deals often get here after a week or more since they are posted in forums. I am not sure who K. Sebring is but he should cut on those 4 hour lunch breaks. ;-)

Forums

Forums is ultimately where all of the action takes place. Functionality-wise the forums are inferior compared to those at SlickDeals however this simplicity may appeal to some (too much functionality may look overwhelming). In addition the forums are more restrictive. You will not find fancy avatars or long signatures. In fact you will not see any signatures ever since they were found inappropriate. On one side it takes away individuality from posters, on the other side it eliminates clutter. Pick what you prefer.

Store Ratings

This is in essence an aggregation of ratings for all stores. I don’t see much value in doing it since you can see the same information from the individual store pages (see above). The only case when this could be useful is if you decide to compare stores by their rating side by side (I wish I could pick individual stores and compare them separate from the rest).

Store Ratings

It should be noted that FatWallet has built their own user feedback database which may not be as comprehensive as that of ResellerRatings but which still looks very impressive (for example Amazon has 467 reviews at FatWallet and 1002 at ResellerRatings).

Prices

Prices page is a price comparison engine co-branded with PriceGrabber and it doesn’t represent anything significant. It would be much more useful if it was better integrated with FatWallet store rating and cash back information.

Wiki

Wiki is the company’s attempt to aggregate the static information from forums into a more structured format. The forums are very well suited for limited time deals and promotions but they don’t work well as a reference for longer lived information (for example shopping tips or product specifications). In addition, since Wiki is much more search engine friendly, this can also be looked at as an attempt to monetize on FatWallet’s high Page Rank by bringing all those visitors that don’t land on the site forums pages.

FatWallet Wiki

Wiki is currently in Beta stage and doesn’t seem to be very active. There are some interesing pages (mostly ripped from forums) but it is still a long way before it becomes useful. If I were Tim Storm I would hire a couple of full time technical editors and would start filling in the content.

Big Fat Deals

Big Fat Deals is where FatWallet lists all the new promotions they collect via affiliate channels. These same promotions are available at the individual store pages and Big Fat Deals simply offers another way of looking at this information: chronologically and by category. They also bring together “popular” promotions to a separate list but God Chief Mucky Muck only knows what is considered popular. Are these the ones that bring FatWallet higher commission?

Conclusion

FatWallet offers a greater variety of tools for bargain hunters compared to SlickDeals. Store pages look impressive and Wiki is a step in the right direction. Forums is still the most popular part of the website and functionality-wise they are inferior to SlickDeals.

The main FatWallet strength is integration of a rewards program with active user forums. This is probably what appeals most of the FatWallet’ers and this is what makes them come back.

I think the best way to improve the site is by adding a price comparison engine (similar to JellyFish) integrated with store ratings and cash back information.

I want a part of your commission, Mr. Affiliate

Have you ever wondered why we have as many bargain web sites as we do? What makes these people wake up in the morning, sift through the internet for online shopping deals, and post them on web pages?

When I was reviewing Deals.com going public Scott from OzBargainBlog commented that at this rate soon we will have more bargain sites than we have bargains. ;-)

Well, there is no magic here. The market decides how many is enough and there is a very good explanation why the websites keep coming dozen a day.

Bargain sites live off of commission

When you use a bargain site to buy stuff the owner gets an affiliate commission on the sale. This is how most of them operate and this is their bread. The commission is not big, often under 3%, however for a popular site the sales quickly add up. Fatwallet for example is building a new office in Machesney Park, IL to house the growing team of 35 employees (March 2006 data) and was nominated to Fast 50 list by the FastCompany magazine in 2006.

Here is an interesting example from my own experience. You might remember the table with Amazon Discount Shopping links I published back in January. These links retrieve products discounted up to 90% from each of the Amazon’s 28 departments. The links use my affiliate id and generate a commission each time you buy something from Amazon. Ever since I published the table that page alone has brought more revenue than all Google ads I run on my blog.

Some sites share their commission

The overall saturation of the niche produced a new type of business — rewards programs. These are proxy shopping sites who are ready to sacrifice part of their commission just to make you click on their links when you go shopping. In essence they share the commission with you by crediting your account, giving you flier miles, gift certificates or offering other perks. This is very similar to how dividend or cash back credit cards work.

I have reviewed several of the programs in the past and even compared the rewards they offer. Becky Ford at CompareRewards is doing an excellent job covering most of them and I usually resort to her blog when I need an independent opinion on a particular program.

Which of them share more commission?

The information you find in the blogs is good for general reference but shouldn’t be used to make a decision on what program to use for a particular store since the numbers will not be up to date. Rewards programs adjust the percentages all the time based on contracts they have with merchants and other market conditions.

So how can you make that educated shopping decision? This is where websites like evRewards come handy.

At ev’reward, we scour the web daily for the best shopping rewards available. Our directory includes over 14,000 rewards for over 3,000 online stores, available through more than 40 leading cash back, frequent traveler, savings reward and points programs.

In practice it looks like this. You enter the store name, evRewards will list the programs that offer rewards for shopping at this store and will compare the value each has for you in a form of a nice looking chart. Here is for example a result for Circuit City.

CircuitCity Rewards

It is clear from the table that BountyZoo gives the best cash back on things you buy from Circuit City. In addition AMEX Rewards program offers similar rewards when the points they give are converted to cash.

Make them share more commission!

As you find what program offers the best cash back go to that web site and open an account (if you don’t already have one). This (with rare exceptions) is free. All you need to do next is use the links provided by that program to complete the sale (refer to each program website for detailed instructions).

This especially works well for big ticket items like computers, cameras, and TV’s since the difference is obvious right away. Your $1500 laptop at Circuit City will cost you $45 less if you use the program above. Spend the difference to celebrate the event at your favorite stake house and have a drink to smart shopping! ;-)

JellyFish launches Smack Friday 24 hour auctions

JellyFish is a relatively new startup that makes its way in the busy comparison shopping niche competing with the behemoths like Shopping.com, Shopzilla and PriceGrabber. The revenue model they use is not unique however is quite different from most of the other guys and in general works in favor of consumers.

Smack FridayYou might have already heard about Smack Deals that JellyFish is doing every day at 1pm Eastern time. They sell a limited number of items at a full reverse price auction. So far the auctions have been a great disappointment for me. I have missed every single one! The time falls on 12pm here in Chicago area and that is the time I usually spend with my friends eating out.

Well guess what... they heard my prayers. Next Friday, November 24, JellyFish is launching Smack Friday 24 hour auctions. Starting 6am and for the next 24 hours they will sell one product every 2 hours in their usual reverse price auction format. To spice up the event they are even throwing a special Playstation 3 offer that day. That just sounds awesome!!! I already speculated if I should spend Black Friday at home in my previous post. Now I have an extra excuse to do so!

Not so fast cowboy. Let's get my left part of the brain involved into decision making. Are the deals JellyFish catering us really worth looking into? Let's examine their past deals archive (you need to sign up to see it). Sony Hard Drive camcorder was the one I really got upset about when I learned I missed it. Let us see if I should be.

According to, huh, JellyFish - the price comparison engine that is - there are currently 23 stores offering the product with the lowest price being $474 (before the cash back). According to PriceGrabber and Shopzilla the lowest price is $449 (huh?). If I bought the camera on November 9 then I would have paid $480 (the lowest JellyFish price back then) and my cash back (which averaged around $175 that day) would be locked out for the next 2 months (that is their policy to prevent cashing out and returning the item). Meanwhile 2-3 months later the prices for Sony would fall down and though the levels would likely stay above $305 (the final price after cash back) they may well reach $370-$380 as the new camcorder models roll out.

So how much could I have saved? It is not the whopping $175-$195 they advertise on this page but a more modest $65-$75. Not to say it is very bad but this is a kind of discount that you can generally find if you read forums like FatWallet or SlickDeals.

Another point to consider. As the auctions make more and more buzz on the Internet the deals like free iPOD Nano's they had during the first day will be non existent. In fact the average Smack Deal cash back will likely gradually reduce as more and more people get into the game.

Oh well, let's give JellyFish a credit. The team built an awesome web site with a very stylish user interface and now badly needs new customers. The latest PR stunt is doing just that. Now, should you go and shop out next Friday or should you stay in and enjoy the bit of entertainment that the auctions offer is totally up to you. I am here to help you discover bargains and make educated shopping decisions. So stick around!

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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