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Top Cashback Sites Make £100s when you shop online

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Cashback websites pay you when you click through them, go to retailers or product providers and spend. You can make £100s a year using them correctly.

This is a full guide to the top cashback sites, along with some serious warnings to make sure you protect yourself. It includes our unique Cashback Sites Maximiser tool, which finds who pays most for what. You can even earn an extra 5% on top using a cashback credit card.

How do cashback sites work?

If you want to buy something online or sign up to a finance product; rather than going direct, click to the company via a cashback site and you get paid for it. The amounts range from pennies for retail items to - at the top end - more than £100 for some insurance policies.

You'll have to sign up to the cashback site, which should be free. If it's not, avoid it. Then simply log on and search for the online retailer you want to buy from, such as Argos or Tesco Direct. If it's listed, click the cashback site's link to visit that company.

Your visit is then tracked. If you buy something, an amount is put into your cashback site account once the transaction's processed. You can then withdraw this once it arrives in your cashback account, which can take a few weeks, or even months. For some cashback sites, you need to reach a set threshold before withdrawing.

Typical cashback sites payments
Debenhams
3% of product's cost
Marks & Spencer
6% of product's cost
Aviva home insurance
£60 per policy
Tesco Direct
3% of product's cost
Esure car insurance
£35 per policy
Play.com games
2% of product's cost
Correct at Nov 2012

Why do they pay out?

Cashback sites take advantage of the way commercial payments from one website to another work. They use affiliate links, which allow the retailer to track where the traffic is coming from and then pay the cashback sites for the lead.

This is a common system, used by sites that send people through from comparison results, unique content or using links on advertising promotions. Cashback sites simply drive traffic by giving their users some of the money they're paid.

The amount of money depends on what's spent on what as well as the commercial deal, so can vary widely. The cashback site may earn its money per click, per transaction, application, or accepted applicant.

The technology's simple. Ready-made paying links are available from 'links warehouses'. Big cashback sites also have direct relationships, which means they can offer a wider range of providers, earn more or negotiate their own exclusive deals.

The five MAJOR cashback safety rules
Don't use cashback sites without reading these

While cashback sites can and do generate some users £100s a year, it's very important you understand there are substantial pitfalls in using these sites and you need to understand them BEFORE you begin.

Rule1

Think of cashback as a bonus only - it's not guaranteed

Tracking problems occur for many people using cashback sites. There are times when you'll expect to be paid but won't be. One study showed 40% of cashback users don't get paid. We think that figure's overblown, but it shows this is an issue.

If you do have problems getting paid, remember you need to contact the cashback site directly, not MSE. We just tell you about the top paying sites.

However, it's not just problems with cashback sites. They get the money from the retailers or product providers. Disputes in this area are common, so sometimes the cashback site doesn't receive the cash either.

Plus, unlike when you get cashback from a retailer, which is part of the product T&Cs, here you've fewer rights. The best way to approach this is to consider cashback as a bonus if you get it, but don't let it drive your purchasing decisions.

Rule 2

The cashback isn't yours until it's in your bank account

Never count the cashback until it's in your bank account. This isn't just because of tracking and processing issues. Cashback sites are easy to set up and many are small companies which can go bust (and some have done just that).

If it happens, you've little protection. You may count as a creditor to the company but in all likelihood, your money will be gone.

Rule 3

Never store cash in a cashback site - withdraw it ASAP

Most cashback sites set a threshold which you must reach before you can withdraw cash. The best practice is to withdraw as soon as you hit that level.

Never leave cash building up when you can take it out. Not only are you missing out on interest, but if the company goes kaput or changes its payout policy, the money's lost.

Rule 4

Focus on the cheapest deal, not the cashback

It's easy to be seduced by £50 cashback for signing up to an insurance provider or an extra 5% discount when shopping. Yet never let the cashback tail wag the dog. Not because of the warnings above, but simply because it may not actually be cheapest for you.

If the cashback doesn't happen, you need to be left with the best deal anyway and it might not be the cheapest without it.

Deirdre Deal wants a telly. A cashback site brings up Asteroid Electricals, offering 5% cashback; meaning a £20 discount off a £399 TV. Yet two minutes using a shopbot would've found her the same TV on sale at £299.

Boris Bargain wants car insurance. He spots the Suffolk Mutual £100 cashback offer on a cashback website, so grabs its £540 policy via the site. Yet if he'd used car insurance comparison websites he'd have found Hippo Insurance at £370. As Hippo is also on a cashback site, Boris could've returned to get a further £25 off.

This is especially important for bigger financial transactions, where the cost of making a mistake can dwarf the cashback received. So read our relevant guides first, like Top Balance Transfers, Cheap Car Insurance, Cheap Home Insurance and Top Bank Accounts.

Rule 5

Consider clearing your cookies

Cashback sites track your visits by putting cookies (little bits of info that identify you) onto your computer. Many other sites, like comparison sites, also use cookies.

So when making your purchase, make sure you click through from the cashback site and not from anywhere else, as the rule's normally 'the last cookie wins'.

To be doubly safe, if you're expecting big cashback, clear your computer's cookies first to ensure the cashback is tracked. More on deleting or controlling cookies is available at AboutCookies.

The top-paying cashback sites

Don't think all cashback sites pay you the same. Many pay out 50% or less of what they get paid. We checked 10 of the biggest cashback sites for the top rates and feedback.

The best sites are 100% payers, which ostensibly give all the money they earn to you. Here, we focus on those. Find out how they do it

Topcashback The overall winner

Both on user feedback and overall payouts, Topcashback* is the winner.
It pays out 101% of the cashback it receives. Sounds strange, but it's able to do this as it passes on a little of the bonuses it gets for generating large amounts of sales. Plus it has no annual administration fees.

When withdrawing your cashback, you can opt to get an extra 5% on top by selecting Amazon vouchers instead of cash. For example, if you've £50 in your account, you get £52.50 in vouchers.

Opt for free membership


It has no annual administration fees, unless you opt for the Plus membership. This gives members a 5% bonus on all cashback rates on its site. For example, if you sign up to a new mobile phone contract via TopCashback that normally earns you £100 cashback, as a Plus member you'd get £105.

Members of TopCashback's Classic package can trial 'Plus' membership free, for three months. However, TopCashback retains the first £5 of a Plus user's earnings each year.

Trade cashback for Tesco Rewards

Alternatively, Topcashback now lets you trade in every £10 of cashback for 1,050 Tesco Clubcard points. This equals £10.50 to spend in in-store, but up to £42 in Tesco Rewards (see Top 10 Tesco Rewards guide).

There's no minimum amount of cash you can exchange - every 20p cash is worth 21 Tesco points. But you can only swap a maximum of £50 Topcashback earnings for Tesco points per account – that's up to £210 in Rewards. For more in this, see the Tesco Clubcard guide.

On average, MoneySavers rated it: 4/5

See Topcashback poll results

"Minor glitches, got all / vast majority of my cash through."

Last updated: 5 September 2011

Quidco In second place

In second place is Quidco*, which has similar payout levels. The two sites usually compete on exclusive deals.

Quidco has recently introduced a two-tiered level of membership. Basic membership is now free while premium membership costs £5/year.

On average, MoneySavers rated it: 4/5

See Quidco poll results

"Minor glitches, got all / vast majority of my cash through."

Last updated: 5 September 2011

Advanced users only Speedily find the max cashback

If you use cashback sites regularly, you can use our free Cashback Sites Maximiser tool to compare how much the top sites pay for each retailer/product provider, helping you get the best deal every time.

If you're using this tactic, though, here's some specific issues to watch out for:

Don't spread your cashback too thinly

Don't spread too thinly

Most cashback sites only pay out once you hit a certain threshold. So for small transactions, trying to maximise the cashback may mean you're never paid. If you're going for an insurance product or something else which is likely to pay over the threshold in one hit, then go for the highest.

Check whether you'll get all the cash

All sites which charge an upfront joining fee are barred from the Maximiser. But some cashback sites do charge an annual fee out of any money you've earned - it's worth remembering this if using multiple sites.

Watch out for unreliable sitesBe careful about reliability

The Cashback Sites Maximiser is simply an automated list of what the sites say they pay. Always double-check you'll actually get that cashback - results are auto-generated, so errors can and do happen.

Also, we include some smaller sites. As explained in our warnings, they come with an implicit risk. While they may offer the best payout, there could also be reliability issues.

Cashback successes

Plenty of MoneySavers have had huge success using cashback sites. Here are some stories for inspiration:

Have been paid out £1,200 + from Topcashback, 110% all round ace from my experience.

On track to clear over £200 in 9 months with Topcashback, don't know why I've not used them before.

How to boost your cashback by £100s more

There are three ways to boost your cashback:

  • Earn in-store cashback

    You can get money back on in-store spending at a few retailers with Quidco*. Simply register your credit or debit card with Quidco, spend on it, and your purchase is tracked. Once it's processed, an amount is put into your cashback site account.

    It says card details are encrypted so no-one can access them. If you don't already have a Quidco account, you need to sign up before you can earn. Remember it takes the first £5 you earn each year as an admin fee.

    This is limited to 10 retailers, including Debenhams (2%), H Samuel (7.2%) and Halfords (4.5%).

    Get paid to enter shops

    Another Quidco* feature is free Android and iPhone apps that let you earn cash on the go. Walk into shops with your mobile and you get 5p-50p a time - without getting your wallet out. 37 retailers are included.

    As an example, swing by a participating Homebase store, check in on Quidco's app and it pays 50p into your account. You also get a bonus for sharing your check-in on Facebook or Twitter - you'll be prompted to do it. Read a full guide to how the Quidco app works.

  • Cashback credit cards: 5% spending boost

    Cashback credit cards give cold hard cash every time you spend on the card. Always make sure you pay it off in full so you're not charged interest.

    There's no conflict between cashback sites and cashback cards, as when you spend money, whoever it's spent with, the cashback credit card gives you some of it back. The top card pays up to 5% back on your spending for the first three months. See the Cashback Credit Cards guide for the top payers.

  • Make free cash from cashback sites

    You don't have to buy anything to earn cash via cashback sites - you can earn cash just for clicking links on the internet. Cashback websites give you a share of their ad revenue, and sometimes get paid paid just for sending traffic.

    For example, Topcashback* pays £1.51 when you click through to get a Gocompare car insurance quote or 5p when you search for flights on Fly.com. Its Free Cashback section lists the top offers.

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What the * means above

If a link has a * by it, that means it is an affiliated link and therefore it helps MoneySavingExpert stay free to use, as it is tracked to us. If you go through it, it can sometimes result in a payment to the site. It's worth noting this means the third party used may be named on any credit agreements.

You shouldn’t notice any difference and the link will never negatively impact the product. Plus the editorial line (the things we write) is NEVER impacted by these links. We aim to look at all available products. If it isn't possible to get an affiliate link for the top deal, it is still included in exactly the same way, just with a non-paying link. For more details, read How This Site Is Financed.

Duplicate links of the * links above for the sake of transparency, but this version doesn't help MoneySavingExpert.com: Giveortake, Quidco, TopCashBack

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