Top cashback sites
Cashback websites pay you when you go through them to spend with retailers or providers. You can make £100s a year using them properly. Here are the top cashback sites, along with some serious rules to make sure you protect yourself. You can also 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 sums range from pennies for groceries to more than £100 for some mobile or broadband contracts.
You'll have to sign up to the cashback site, which should be free (though you can sometimes pay an annual subscription cost, and potentially benefit from boosted cashback). Then simply log in and search for the online retailer you want to buy from, such as Argos or BT. 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 withdraw this once it arrives, which can take a few weeks, or even months. For some cashback sites, you need to reach a set threshold before you can withdraw.
The following table gives you an idea of the possible savings – though remember rates fluctuate every day and differ between sites:
|AA car insurance||£15-£20 per policy|
|Admiral travel insurance||£3.75-£12 per policy|
|Asos||1.6%-6.8% of purchase's cost|
||£46.75-£89.25 per package|
|Clarks||2.25%-6.8% of purchase's cost|
|Currys||0.75%-25% of purchase's cost|
|New Look||0.75%-6% of purchase's cost|
|O2 mobile||£5.62-£76.50 per contract|
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 (MSE does this – see the foot of the page for more details) 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, 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 with companies, which means they can offer a wider range of providers, earn more and negotiate their own exclusive deals.
How much money could I make?
The total amount depends on how much you buy, what you buy, and the cashback being offered. But many MoneySavers make £100s a year using cashback sites. These are just a few examples...
So far I have got back around £300 from buying things that I would normally have bought and not received anything back for. Things like my garden shed, washing machine, car insurance, home insurance and every day items.
I've made £2,500 from Topcashback alone over the last three years – booked holidays, offered to book hotels for family members for occasions like weddings, and bought all insurance and Christmas and birthday presents.
Let us know about any success you have using cashback sites, and any other feedback you have, on the Top cashback sites forum thread.
The 5 MAJOR cashback safety rules
While cashback sites can generate some users £100s a year, it's very important you understand there can be substantial pitfalls in using these sites – and you need to understand them BEFORE you begin.
Tracking problems can occur when using cashback sites. There are times when you'll expect to be paid but won't be.
However, problems don't only arise with tracking. Cashback sites get the money they pass on to you from retailers and service providers. Disputes in this area are common, so sometimes the cashback site doesn't get the cash - and therefore can't pay it to you.
You've few rights to claim unpaid cashback. The best way to approach this is to consider cashback as a bonus if you get it, but not to let it drive your purchasing decisions.
If you do have problems, remember you need to contact the cashback site directly, not MSE – we just tell you what the top-paying sites are.
Never count on the cashback as being yours 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.
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 in a cashback site account 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, your money could be lost.
It's easy to be seduced by £50 cashback for buying an insurance policy or a 7% discount when shopping for clothes. Yet never let the cashback tail wag the purchase dog. Not because of the warnings above, but simply because it may not actually be the cheapest option.
Regardless of the cashback, you want to get the best deal possible. If you've chosen something purely because of the cashback on offer, and the cashback doesn't happen, you could find you've dug yourself a hole.
Example 1: You want a new telly. A cashback site brings up Korma Electrical World, offering 5% cashback, which means a £20 discount on a £399 TV. Yet two minutes using a price comparison site would've found you the same TV on sale at £299.
Example 2: Your car insurance is up for renewal. You spot the Commodore Insurance £100 cashback offer on a cashback website, so grab its £540 policy via the site. Yet if you'd used car insurance comparison websites, you'd have found an equivalent policy from Chamberlain Insurance for £370. As Chamberlain is also on a cashback site, you could've got a further £25 off, saving £95 in total.
This is especially important for bigger transactions, where the cost of making the wrong purchase can dwarf the cashback received. So read our relevant guides first, like Balance transfer credit cards, Cheap car insurance, Cheap breakdown cover, Cheap home insurance, Best bank accounts, Cheap broadband deals and Cheap mobile tips.
So when making your purchase, make sure you click through from the cashback site and not from anywhere else, as the general rule's 'the last cookie wins'.
To be doubly safe, especially if you're expecting a lot of cashback, clear your computer's cookies first to ensure the cashback is tracked. Learn more about controlling and deleting cookies at AboutCookies.org.
The top-paying cashback sites
Don't think all cashback sites pay the same. When we checked in March 2022, we found big differences, for example, up to £120 vs up to £160 on RAC breakdown cover, 6% vs 15% at Iceland.
The best cashback sites are those that pay out up to 100% of what they get from the retailer - that is they give a large part or all of the money they earn to you. Here, we focus on those sites (yet don't forget there are other ways to boost cashback, which can often be used in combination with these sites).
|- Membership is free, but you'll need to actively downgrade from its 30-day 'Plus' free trial).
- Plus membership* is £5/year – it pays extra top up on cashback and up to 10% higher payout bonuses.
|Pays the best rates most often in our spot checks. Topcashback* offered the highest rate of cashback for 15 of 20 spot checks (though it's worth checking both before buying, especially for larger purchases).
You can take your earnings as cash, but if you prefer it's possible to get up to 12.5% extra by exchanging your cashback for e-gift cards.
- Basic membership is free
Can beat Topcashback, so worth checking too. Quidco* is Topcashback's big rival, with the two sites often competing on exclusive deals. It's always worth checking both, especially if you're making a big purchase. It pays out as cash, but gives up to 15% more if you agree to take earnings in gift cards.
|Another option if you have (or know) a kid...|
|- Membership is free
- You can only withdraw once you've £10+, but you'll need to add a child's details to do so.
|Rare cashback on Apple and John Lewis. KidStart lets you earn cashback with over 2,300 retailers in total, and offers cashback on some retailers the sites above don't. That said, though, KidStart isn't always competitive. Eg, it pays up to 2% on Asos, compared with up to 6.8% at Topcashback and up to 6.4% at Quidco, so always compare, especially when making a big purchase.
In 2005, Quidco launched the first 100% cashback site. On the surface, the system doesn't seem sustainable, yet actually it's a very clever way to work. It's earned Quidco, and fellow 100% operator Topcashback, a massive share of the cashback market.
These sites do exactly what they say on the tin. They give you 100% or more of the cashback allocated to you, meaning you get a bigger payout. It's been hugely profitable for many customers, but that doesn't mean these sites don't generate income.
They may keep a fiver or up to £12 a year. If you join their 'premium schemes', some retain £5 of your cashback earnings each year, while others keep £1 of your cashback earnings per month that you're active. There's nothing wrong with this – it's far better than charging a membership fee upfront. And of course, it means £5/year or £12/year from every active member, which helps sustain the sites.
They get 'bonuses'. Let's say a retailer pays a cashback site 5% of every transaction. While that money is passed on to customers, many retailers will also pay affiliates bonuses – for example, if they generate £10,000 of sales, they get a bonus. These aren't and can't be allocated to customers, which is how 100% cashback sites earn a living.
How to boost your cashback by £100s more
There are a few ways to boost your cashback:
You can get money back on in-store spending at a few different retailers with Topcashback by registering your debit or credit card to your account, you can earn in-store cashback*. There aren't as many offers available through this method as there once was though – when we checked in March 2022, examples included Ann Summers paying 8% and Cotswold Outdoors paying 4%.
Previously, the Topcashback app* let you earn cashback on in-store grocery shopping with deals on specific items. Using the app you would unlock the offer, scan the barcode of the product with your phone and then take a photo of the receipt to get the cashback approved, but this has been "temporarily suspended" since at least November 2021.
Quidco used to offer in-store cashback too, but doesn't any longer unfortunately.
There's no conflict between cashback sites and cashback cards, as when you spend on a cashback card, whoever you spend with, the card will give you money back. The top card pays 5% back on spending over the first six months. See the Credit card rewards guide for all the top payers.
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 just for generating traffic.
For example, when we checked in March 2022, Topcashback paid £6 for signing up for a free Experian account. Its Free Cashback* section lists all the offers.
Quidco has a similar page with free cashback offers, which include earning £3 for getting your credit score for free from ClearScore.
Topcashback will beat the competing rate by 1% (or 5% for Plus members). You have to submit a claim within 14 days of your cashback tracking. Quidco will beat the competing rate by 2% for basic members or those who upgraded to Premium before 13 November 2019, and pay double the difference to newer Premium members. It employs a more strict 72-hour policy for submitting claims.
Other restrictions and limitations apply, so check all the T&Cs before making a purchase on which you're planning to claim.
There are two warnings to heed with this type of cashback though. First, be careful when applying for financial products, especially bank accounts, credit cards and loans. Applications usually add a search to your credit file, which can potentially diminish your credit score.
Secondly, each cashback site has its own rules. They may ban you if they think you're abusing the scheme, because if too many people do this, they'll lose their links as they're not generating enough money.
On a similar theme, it's possible to earn £100s a year without any special skill or talent by stashing cash from filling in online surveys.
You can earn cash or Amazon vouchers by taking part, and surveys are often short enough to fill in during breaks at work. For a full how-to, see the Top 25 online survey sites guide.
Clever ways to calculate your finances