Money for Shopping

Shopping portals offer different types of rewards; usually points, miles or cash.  At this point I shop with cash and points portals more than ones offering airline miles.  The ratios are better.

How do you find the best rewards when shopping?  I use Ev'reward (and see below for other portals) to check.  Since sprograms change quickly or offer special limited promotions, check yourself as well.

The best way to get cash back?  Decide on your purchase and where you can find the best price and service for what you want.  Then check the databases to find the portal that gives you the best reward for it.  If prices are within 1-5% apart the reward might make a difference.  Don't forget tax and shipping costs.

The newest development in cashback portals are those allied to credit card reward programs.  Several credit card issuers (Chase, Discover, Capital One, Citi) now have them; their rates are competitive and should be explored.  For instance, Discover gives 5% cashback on Hotwire; more than anyone else. On the negative side, you're (theoretically) limited to using the portal's co-branded card, and the customer service is worse than traditional portals - Capital One doesn't  have a way to make a purchase credit inquiry on the website; Discover won't even investigate an unposted cashback credit if you used any discount coupon as well.  Added 6/2/12: Nerdwallet keeps tabs on credit card cashback; check both there and Ev'reward. Added 10/12/12: Cashbackholic is another comprehensive comparison portal.

Maximizing your reward takes some research and there is no one portal that is consistently the most advantageous. Special offers pop up from time to time as well; once upon a time (before it was swallowed up by Delta) Northwest's World Perks Miles Mall offered a promotion fo 500 bonus miles for every $50 spent.  That's 10 miles to the dollar, so I shopped there during the promotional period.

Service matters as well. If the cashback isn't reliably credited or paid, the ratio is immaterial. For casual users who can't be bothered comparing portals with each purchase and want simpler, reliable cashback, I'd recommend Mr. Rebates, Big Crumbs, Topcashback or Ebates.

Shopping for Cash or Reward Points

Name Referral link -
please use and throw me a few bones!
Value of individual unit Expiration Type of reward Cash out level
Shopping portals. These sites are straightforward.  Do your shopping through them and get back cash or points.
One of the newer portals with extremely competitive ratios. I've only done one payout so far, but it worked well.
Mr. Rebates .01 None Cash $10 via check or Paypal
Straightforward cashback on purchases with very competitive cashback ratios. Cashback becomes available after three months, and they pay reliably, but you need to keep track and request payment.
Big Crumbs .01
Cash Monthly payout via Paypal.
Similar to Mr. Rebates, except with an automatic monthly payout of whatever you have on account (they paid me .04 the first time!)

Ebates .01 None Cash $5
Another good cashback portal.
Shopathome .01 Cashback forfeited if you have not made a purchase once yearly. Cash $20
Shopathome can take more followup to get credit, but also has very high cashback rates (at the time of this writing, 6% for Priceline.) Their customer service is slow albeit well-meaning. They offer a downloadable "rebates toolbar" that I would strongly advise against using as it will probably interfere with using any other portal. 
Fatwallet .01 None Cash No minimum for paypal; $10 for a check.
Good customer service and reliable. Always a competitive ratio, but I would suggest checking others as well. I’ve gotten about $170 back. 
All the mixed programs (CreationsRewards, Mypoints, Inbox Dollars or Memolink) have somewhat less attractive reward ratios for shopping, but you can augment them with clicks or surveys.  They may also have a vendor that isn't with one of the other portals.  
Creations Rewards .005 None Points 1000 points = $5
I've used CreationsRewards for shopping occasionally.  In my experience, customer service and payment is extremely prompt. They've changed to a system where you need to email the order confirmation for credit, so read the terms at the site carefully and follow them.
Mypoints Would you write me so that I can refer you? .007 None Points 1400 points = $10 cert.
Points can be used for merchandise gift certificates (including Marriott gift checks) or Hhonors points (1:1 in 5000 point blocks) and United miles (2:1 in 5000 point blocks) ). Their ratio of spend to reward is not usually at the top, but every now and again it has been.  Keep your email receipt of whatever shopping you do and make a note; they almost always need to be reminded to award credit (but then do it quickly.)  Both merchants and rewards can change without notice so check before shopping.  Since 9/03  I have gotten $375 of gift certificates.  Redemption is very quick and I do not believe that points expire. 
Inbox Dollars .01 None Cash $30
This program is a sleeper that I thought would be less attractive than it's turned out to be.  Inbox Dollars is a mixed site offering shopping, surveys and pay-to-read emails.  I have made most of my money here on surveys; their shopping ratios are not bad, but not the best.  I've needed to remind them for shopping credit when I've used them, so save your receipt.
Memolink .005 I believe points do expire, but I didn't touch my account for three years to find the points still there. Points 19,200 for a $10 Gift Certificate.
Memolink has a low payback ratio, but periodically they have "Pointpalooza" promotions that can be very good. Their customer service is a good deal more responsive and reliable than it once was and reward payment is very prompt now. Worth considering if they have a decent ratio or a store your other programs do not. 

Cashcrate .01 unknown Cash $10
Cashcrate is primarily trial offers, but there is also a cashback mall with some high ratios, including

Shopping for Miles

I tend to shop for cashback a lot more than miles nowadays. I've only listed the a few malls; there are more.  Check Ev'reward to maximize your return.

I think the best strategy with miles and shopping is to shop at the portal giving the best return for a large purchase, but for a smaller one at the portal that gives you points in your slowest or weakest programs to keep your miles from expiring.  Got United miles that would expire after 18 months of inactivity?  Make a small purchase at the Mileage Plus mall.

Airline Malls
Delta  American Airlines  United Airlines

Train Malls

Hotel Malls       
Marriott  Priority Club 

Page last updated October 12, 2012.