In recent years I have become something of an obsessive when it comes to cashback and rewards. I aim to make every single transaction one where I can get some form of cashback or reward – that might mean loyalty points, cashback or a combination of both.

When I excitedly tell people about this, I’m often met with a blank stare; most people understand the concept of loyalty points like a Tesco Clubcard or Boots Advantage Card, but the idea of getting cashback on shopping seems a bit mad. 

How do cashback sites work?

If I want to buy something online, instead of going to XYZ website I go to a cashback site and see if they are affiliated with that particular brand.

Assuming the site does offer cashback for that brand, I click through to the site of my choice using the link on the cashback website. This means “cookies” in the site track that I have been directed to the retailer by the cashback site.

After this I carry on as normal with my purchase. The difference is that once I’m done with my purchase, the retailer pays a percentage of my total purchase amount into my cashback account.

The majority of sites will offer perhaps 1 or 2% of transactions, so it might only be a few pence here and there – but there are also often bonus deals where a site will offer 10% back on a particular weekend. You can also get bonus cashback on things like finance products or signing up for utilities, mobile contracts or broadband suppliers.

The biggest cashback site, and the one I use the most, is Top Cashback. If I can’t find what I want through them I will use Kid Start, which works in the same way but allows you to save cash for your child – which is then paid into their savings account. 

The important thing is to ensure you go through the cashback site before making your purchase. And if you use any coupon codes or discount vouchers that aren’t supplied by the cashback site, you might not get your cashback. 

You might think that this doesn’t apply to you because you don’t buy much online, or because you don’t buy expensive things from big name brands. You might be surprised though. I started using Top Cashback properly around October last year, and have managed to earn more than £190 in cashback – just by doing the things I would normally do.

how to earn cashback

Here is how I have maximised my cashback:

  • Whenever S is invited to a birthday party or friends or relatives have a birthday, we order a gift online from The Entertainer, going through Top Cashback. If your order is over £10, you can have it delivered to the shop for free and can often collect it within half an hour. They always have all sorts of sales and offers on, and we’ve managed to get some quite good gifts for friends doing this. If I’m really on the ball I’ll also order birthday cards and wrapping paper at the same time so that I get the cashback on that too.
  • It goes without saying that all of my Christmas shopping was done through Top Cashback too!
  • Instead of randomly picking up bits and bobs while I’m in town, I try to make a list of what I need during the month, and then to order it online. This might be vitamins and supplements from Holland & Barrett or shampoo etc from Boots. Unless I really need to try it in person before buying it (for example, a new foundation) I try to order online. Again, you can usually collect in store the next day or have it delivered to your home. With Boots, you also get Advantage card points and although you can’t make use of other coupons or codes when you purchase, it does mean that you’re getting 4 points per pound (so 4%) as well as whatever percentage Top Cashback is currently offering. 
  • When we moved house last year, I tried to do as much as I could through Top Cashback or other cashback sites. I hired a removal company through Top Cashback; I bought curtains and other furnishings for our new home using Top Cashback. Our new shed, our garden furniture and even seeds and potting compost were all bought through cashback sites.
  • Every time I travel somewhere by train, I book online through Top Cashback and collect my tickets at the station. As a blogger my travel expenses are sometimes refunded by event organisers, so on those occasions I have earned cashback and actually not paid out any of my own cash!
  • Whenever S or I need new clothes (or school uniform) I order it online, through Top Cashback. This might be from M&S, George at Asda, Debenhams or many others. With M&S there’s the added bonus that you get Sparks card points too – though I’ve yet to figure out what value comes with accruing those points!
  • The largest single payments I’ve received in cashback have been for things like insurance for our new home and changing our utilities provider – both things I needed to sort out any way.
  • Earlier this year I got my Top Cashback balance paid out as an Amazon giftcard, and then went through KidStart (who offer Amazon cashback) to spend it – so I got cashback on my cashback.
  • I downloaded the Top Cashback notifier to my browser, so that if I go to a site that is affiliated with Top Cashback, a notification pops up telling me to go to Top Cashback first. This reminds me to claim my cashback each time. You can also get this from KidStart, and probably from other cashback sites too.

It probably sounds like a lot of work, but anyone who uses store loyalty cards will soon understand how and why this works so well. Similar to using a store loyalty card, it’s just about getting into the habit of doing things slightly differently. 

For a long while now, if I’ve needed to buy anything in town I’ve opted first for a shop where I had a loyalty card – and if I could get it in one of several places, I’ve opted for the one with the best reward scheme. For example, Tesco give you 1 point per pound spent, whereas Boots give 4 points per pound spent – so all of my toiletries come from Boots. Especially during June, when I get double points as a birthday treat.

Now this savvy shopping has just been amended to include shopping online when I can. 

Top Cashback does have a couple of ways you can earn cashback through in-store shopping, but from what I’ve seen so far, you need to be using a Mastercard to do it. There are certain offers if you buy a certain item in a certain shop and then scan your receipt, but these are rarely items I would normally buy. You can also earn cashback by filling in surveys but I don’t have the patience!

Basically, anything you might spend money on, large or small, there is probably a way to get cashback on it. If you take the time to just go a couple of extra clicks through a cashback site, you can save up cash for treats for yourself.

You can join Top Cashback here

You can join KidStart here

Do you have another way to make the most of cashback sites? Leave a comment and let me know!

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


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