Ebates Review

In our last article, we talked a bit about what Ebates is and how it works.  We explained that Ebates is an affiliate revenue-sharing website, which basically means that it pays you for shopping at certain websites when you use referral hyperlinks (so that those sites know that you came to them because of Ebates). 

In this lesson, we'll allay your fears on whether or not Ebates is safe and legitimate, or is an outright scam.  We'll also weigh the pros and cons of using it.

Just to be clear… Is Ebates a scam?

Ebates is not a scam; it is an affiliate revenue-sharing program.  Basically, it's a way for advertisers to say "thank you" to consumers like you for proving to people who sell stuff that their advertising works really well.  Other advertisers who work this way include Swagbucks.com and MrRebates.com.

So, Ebates is safe and legitimate?

Yes, Ebates is a perfectly safe and legitimate affiliate revenue-sharing website.  However, there are a few quirks to be aware of, most of which will be covered in the "pros and cons" section below.  Basically, you have to make sure that you shop through Ebates and not directly at the store, or you won't get cash back.

The pros and cons of Ebates


  • Keep more of your money, for free! — Ebates is completely free to sign up for and use.  Just start your online shopping there, and you will earn a percentage of what you spend at Ebates's affiliated online stores as cash back rewards.  Ebates will then send you that money later in the year.

  • Pick where the money goes — You can have Ebates send your money through a cheque in the mail, or you can have them send it directly to your PayPal account (if you have one).

  • Lots of stores to save at — Ebates is partnered with over 1500 stores around the world, so you're bound to find one that you can get cash back while shopping at!

  • It's right there in black and white — Ebates is one of the better affiliate revenue-sharing websites when it comes to simplicity of use.  It tells you exactly what percentage of money you will earn back when shopping at a particular store, and it will give you clear instructions for avoiding any technical problems that you may encounter.  Plus, it's safe to use, and has relatively good customer service.


  • Some restrictions apply — Some popular brands, such as Apple, do not have affiliations with Ebates, so you can't get cash back while shopping for their products.  Other retailers have conditions on getting cash back, such as having to shop in specific departments.  Be sure to read the fine print on the deals.

  • Waiting is the hardest part — Ebates only sends out your payments four times a year, and they are spaced out so that you have to wait two months after your purchase deadline to get cash back.  Some users have also had problems getting their payouts, but fortunately, this is often because they haven't earned enough money on a payout yet (so it's carried over).  And if it's not, its customer service is pretty good about resolving the problem.

  • You may have to get a bit technical — There are certain technical quirks that may cause Ebates not to work, such as if you have an add-on to your web browser that blocks advertisements, or you shop directly at the store or its website instead of clicking through to it through Ebates.  Be sure to start at Ebates and be careful about closing web browser windows or tabs to make sure that it works!

The bottom line: 8.5/10

The value of Ebates fluctuates greatly, depending on how often you go shopping online and what stores you shop at.  If you like the convenience of purchasing things online and having them sent right to your door, then Ebates is a great way to get money back for doing shopping that you would have done anyway.  It's free to sign up for, has lots of shops that you can get money back for, and you can choose where you get your money: in person, or through PayPal.  The amount of money that you get back per purchase may not be much, but multiple purchases can add up to lots of extra money for you!

On the other hand, if you're not a fan of online shopping, or of the stores that the company is affiliated with, then it isn't going to be all that useful to you.  It requires you to shop through Ebates in order to get cash back, and there are some technical privacy tricks that may accidentally prevent Ebates from working (though they can usually easily be fixed).  Again, Ebates isn't a scam; there may just be some precise things that you need to do in order to get it to work properly.


Anyway, you're probably curious to see how Ebates works in practice, right?  Well, that's what our next article is all about!  We'll show you how to use it by signing up for an account, choosing where you get your money, and finding affiliate stores to shop at so that you can get cash back!

What Is Ebates and How Does It Work?

Day in and day out, we are surrounded by advertisements for so many things.  Cars, food, clothing, entertainment… the list goes on and on.  Wouldn’t it be nice if advertisers compensated you for your time and energy spent consuming ads and buying stuff?  Well, that’s exactly what Ebates.com does!

So what exactly is Ebates?

Ebates (www.ebates.com) is a website that features promotional codes and discounts for online stores.  It also features an affiliate revenue-sharing plan for its users.  It allows its users who visit online stores through Ebates to earn cash back on their purchases, which Ebates then pays out to its users quarterly.

“Cash back” basically means that Ebates takes the advertising money that they earn from referring you to a shopping website, and they pay you a portion of it equal to a percentage of how much you spent while shopping.  This makes Ebates different from other coupon and discount websites, such as Groupon.com and Woot.com. They point you towards sales, discount coupons, and deals-of-the-day, but they keep all of the advertising revenue from you using them to find what you’re looking to buy.  Ebates, on the other hand, shares the wealth.

How does Ebates make money?

In a nutshell, Ebates makes money by referring people to shopping websites in order to buy things, thereby earning advertising revenue.  They also offer to pay some of their advertising revenue back to site users, which encourages them to keep shopping through Ebates, which makes Ebates more advertising money.

To explain further, we’ll briefly discuss affiliate advertising and affiliate revenue-sharing.

What is affiliate advertising?

Affiliate advertising is when a non-store website provides special hyperlinks to another website that’s running a store.  These hyperlinks tell the store website that they are coming from the non-store website.  So, when a person clicks on those hyperlinks and makes a purchase on the store website, the store website pays a commission to the non-store website for bringing in customers for them.

To illustrate, imagine two websites: website X and website Y.  Website X runs a store, and website Y does not.  However, website Y contains hyperlinks that lead to website X.  A person comes to website Y and clicks on the hyperlinks that lead to website X, and then buys something at website X.  Website X then pays a percentage of how much the person spent to website Y as an advertising fee, since it was because of website Y that the person found and spent money on website X.

Another visualization of it looks something like this, from a shopping website’s perspective:

Ebates affiliate marketing model example
(Image source: BD Information Website)

Click here to learn more about affiliate advertising and how it works.

What is affiliate revenue-sharing?

Affiliate revenue-sharing is a strategy that some websites use in order to make their advertising more valuable, and thus earn more money off of it.  Basically, they do this by offering to share some of the affiliate advertising revenue that they earn with people who are using the website.  The idea is to get people to come back to a particular website and use it to find other websites to shop on.  With more people being funneled through a particular website in order to find shopping websites and buy things, that particular website becomes a more lucrative advertising partner, and thus ends up earning more advertising revenue.

A slightly more technical explanation of revenue sharing, and how it applies in both business and beyond, can be found here.

How Ebates works: 4 steps to earning cash back on online shopping

1. Set up your free account

Getting started with your Ebates account is free, and it takes very little time at all.  You can sign up through your Facebook or Google account, or you can simply enter an email address and password.  It’s up to you!

Signing up for Ebates in various ways

2. Choose how you want to get paid through Ebates

Once your account is set up, you’ll need to enter your address so that Ebates knows where to send all that cash back that you’ve earned!  After you do, you can choose whether to get a cheque in the mail, or have your money sent to your PayPal account!

Payment options from Ebates

3. Select a store (and deal) on Ebates that you want to shop

Ebates is affiliated with over 1500 different online retailers, so you’re bound to find one that you like to shop at AND can earn cash back with!  Plus, it often lists other promotions that are going on at the website, so you’re sure to save even more money!

Choosing an Ebates affiliated store or deal

4. Shop through Ebates and save!

Once you’re redirected to a shopping website through Ebates, just shop as you normally would.  When you check out, a percentage of what you spent will be added to your account within a week.  Then, four times every year, you’ll get a cheque in the mail or on your PayPal account.  That’s all there is to it!

Starting your shopping through Ebates

What stores can I get cash back for with Ebates?

Ebates has over 1500 stores at which you can earn cash back when you shop through them!  Here is a sample of some of the most popular stores by category:

CLOTHING: Macy’s, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Saks Fifth Avenue, Land’s End

HEALTH AND BEAUTY: Philosophy, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Sephora, MAC Cosmetics, Estee Lauder

HOME AND GARDEN: Wal-Mart, Pier 1 Imports, J.C. Penny, iRobot

SPORTING GOODS: Eastbay, Finish Line, Golfsmith, MyProtein, Columbia Sportswear

BOOKS AND MEDIA: Kobo, Magazines.com, Rosetta Stone, Better World Books, Textbook Underground

For a full list of stores that you can find deals and cash back for through Ebates, click here.

When do I get my money from Ebates?

Ebates sends out cheques quarterly, so if the following information will show you when you get your cheque based on when you’ve shopped.  Note that if you haven’t earned at least $5.01, your cash back will be carried over to the next period until you earn at least that much.

January 1st – March 31st: paid on May 15th

April 1st – June 30th: paid on August 15th

July 1st – September 30th: paid on November 15th

October 1st – December 31st: paid on February 15th


That’s a brief introduction to Ebates and how it works!  We’ve also explained what affiliate marketing and revenue sharing is, and given you an overview of some of the stores that you can get cash back at with Ebates.  Next up, we’ll review the pros, cons, and legitimacy of eBates.