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Cashback sites

Cashback site pitfalls

By Joe Elvin

Article 3 of 3

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Cashback site pitfalls

Cashback sites are a useful tool to make extra money,  but we've discovered some pitfalls that users should be aware of.

While cashback sites are a great way to earn extra money on purchases, there are a number of aspects that you need to watch out for.

Watch out for cookie trails

The most important thing to understand about cashback sites is the online journey you need to take in order to claim the money. This is tracked by small files called 'cookies' that contain useful information about your browsing history. 

To be paid your cashback, there must be a clear ‘cookie trail’ which shows that it was the cashback website that led you to the retailer's website. 

If you've already browsed an online retailer's website and then decide to take advantage of a cashback promotion for this site, you’ll need to first clear your cookies.  This will wipe away all your earlier records of being on that site and, instead, set up a new cookie trail between your browser and the online shop via the cashback site.

If you don’t do this, the absence of a clear cookie trail could leave you without any cashback. Once you’ve made your first purchase at an online retailer through the cashback site, it’s usually no problem to keep going back.

It’s worth noting that clearing your cookies could result in you also losing some useful information such as pre-filled passwords on other websites that you may use, though most browsers give you options to keep these even as you choose to delete cookies.

Find out more: cashback sites: how to earn extra cash - our top tips

Watch out for cashback site fees

It's free to register a basic account with the UK's two biggest cashback sites, Quidco and TopCashback, although premium membership on both sites will result in the first £5 of the cashback you earn each year being retained in return for benefits.

On both websites, premium membership unlocks improved cashback rates, bespoke promotions, comprehensive customer service and the removal of sponsored adverts, among other features. Quidco Premium also promises faster payments from thousands of retailers.   

Nevertheless, watch out for some of the lesser-known websites which may charge a fee to join or require you to earn a substantial amount of cashback before you can transfer funds into your bank account. 

Also, bear in mind that some sites don't pay cashback on delivery charges or the VAT element of the product's price. 

Find out more: 50 ways to make money - other ways to boost your bank balance.

Cashback sites might not always have the best bargains

The lure of cashback can throw you off the scent of cheaper deals elsewhere. A £300 home insurance policy with £75 cashback is far from a bargain if you can get the same cover on a price comparison site or by going direct for just £150.

It's also worth noting that if you have a discount code for a website, you usually can’t use cashback on top of that. In addition, a code may offer a bigger discount. 

So, in other words, check if you can buy more cheaply elsewhere. Don’t be sucked in by the lure of cashback alone.

Which? Money Compare table: cash back credit cards - our tables are updated daily 

Late or no cashback payments

Cashback can sometimes take many weeks to reach your account. And, in some cases, the transaction may fail to track altogether. 

This is commonly due to a lack of a cookie trail, but could also be down to issues with the affiliate links that transmit the payments between retailers and cashback sites.  

If you fail to receive money owed to you, write to the site as quickly as possible via the site’s official cashback claim link. We'd suggest sticking to the bigger sites such as Quidco or TopCashback in order to reduce the risk of losing out.  

Know your rights: returning online purchases - information on sending a product back

  • Last updated: March 2016    
  • Updated by: Joe Elvin

Which? Limited (registered in England and Wales number 00677665) is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited (registered in England and Wales number 07239342). Which? Financial Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited. Registered office: 2 Marylebone Road, London NW1 4DF.