How to Earn Cash Back on Everyday Purchases

Blog | December 31st, 2019

No matter what product you’re searching for, you can almost certainly find it available for sale online. Shopping online has a few benefits over browsing brick-and-mortar stores, including a larger selection and lower prices.

However, there’s another benefit to online shopping that not everyone knows about. When you buy online, you can earn cashback. Even better, you can earn by shopping for popular products you’d buy anyway. Here’s a closer look at how to earn money and rewards for making everyday purchases.

What are Online Rewards Sites?

Also called Online Rewards Sites or Online Rewards Programs, they’re sites where you can earn cash, gift cards, and discounts by using certain features on the site. Typical activities include:
  • Shopping online, usually through a special browser
  • Taking surveys
  • Watching videos
  • Playing games

Completing activities awards you points, which you use to purchase products or gift cards. You won’t earn a ton of points at one time, but if you use the sites consistently, you can end up claiming substantial rewards.  

Some of the most popular online rewards sites include:
  • Swagbucks
  • Rakuten/Ebates
  • Drop


Swagbucks is the biggest and most famous online rewards program. They almost single-handedly invented the entire concept of online rewards, but that wasn’t their original intention.

Several years ago, Swagbucks started as a charity. Using the custom Swagbucks search engine raised money for charitable organizations.

However, the business model shifted away from charity and more toward market research. Users could now earn SwagBucks with every search. The Swagbucks could then be redeemed for gift cards, products, and even money sent through PayPal.

The shift in focus resulted in a considerable boost in popularity. Soon, SwagBucks was so popular it became featured in major news stories such as this one in The Los Angeles Times.

How Does it Work?

Signup is fast, free, and simple, requiring a name and email address. After you sign up, you’ll get a toolbar to install. That’s it – you’re ready to start earning.

From now on, you’ll want to use the Swagbucks toolbar to search the internet instead of Google or Bing. Searches lead to savings.

The connection between what you search for and how many Swagbucks you get in return is a bit mysterious. Generally, the more you search, the more you earn, although you don’t earn Swagbucks for every search.  

Aside from searching, you can also earn points by watching short videos, taking surveys, and performing other tasks.

Is Swagbucks Worth Using?

Most rewards are PayPal payments or gift cards to major retailers such as Amazon, eBay, Wal-Mart, or Target. Rewards are typically available in increments of $5, although you can also find some $3 options.

Fortunately, there’s no mystery. You can see what rewards are available and how many Swagbucks they require. It’s easy to set a goal for what you want.

If you understand how Swagbucks works, then you’ll feel right at home on any of the other major reward sites. However, there are a few differences between sites, too.

Related: The 5 Best Debt Consolidation Companies

Rakuten / Ebates

Recently, Ebates changed its name to Rakuten. You might’ve seen their ads on TV, which feature folks trying to pronounce the name Rakuten.

Rakuten focused almost entirely on online shopping. Once you sign up, you’ll install the Rakuten browser extension. Now you’re ready to shop.

When you visit a store which partners with Rakuten, a pop-up will appear, alerting you to any cash-back offers available. If you visit a store that doesn’t partner with Rakuten, you might see a pop-up suggesting a similar store where you can earn Rakuten rewards.

Additionally, Rakuten suggests stores with exclusive deals. As a Rakuten member, you’re eligible for fun extras like free shipping, gifts, and BOGO offers.

Is Rakuten Worth Using?

On the downside, Rakuten does suggest alternate sites while you’re browsing, which feels pushy at times. Fortunately, the alternate sites they suggest are usually a good fit.  

Generally, Rakuten is easy to use. It seamlessly integrates into your browser. You can also save even more by pairing Rakuten with a credit card that has cash-back rewards.

Rakuten is usually worth signing up for if you’re a frequent (or even semi-regular) shopper at major online sites such as Amazon, Macy’s, and similarly-sized sites. You’re never forced to buy anything, making Rakuten a useful way to save on items you already wanted.


Drop, also called The Drop App, is the new kid on the block. Hailing from the Great White North of Toronto, Drop is a mobile rewards program where you earn by shopping.

Like the other sites, Drop lets you earn by purchasing from online stores. However, Drop also rewards you for purchasing virtual services from sites including:
  • Expedia
  • Postmates
  • Uber

You can also connect your debit/credit card to the app and earn points when you buy specific brands from any store.

Is Drop Worth Using?

Drop feels innovative and fresh. It’s mobile-based. You can earn points by buying brands, not just from shopping at stores.

On the downside, the point system feels less generous, at least in the beginning. One thousand points equal $1. However, if you connect a debit or credit card to the app, you’ll earn more points quickly, simply by spending online like normal. Once you get the hang of the app, you’ll find plenty of ways to earn.

Final Thoughts

Earning money while you shop online is a consumer-friendly invention made possible only with the internet. With a few simple changes in how you browse online, you can earn cash and gift cards. All of the sites above offer easy ways to save and be rewarded.