Cashback shopping is a growing Internet shopping experience, you not only get all the online discounts, promotional giveaways, free trials & special offers that the company you are buying from normally offer, but you also earn money back, for things that you would be buying anyway!

Cashback websites pay the money earned to members via various payment options (BACS, PayPal or cheque) within a stated time period and this is in cash, not points, so the member can use the money to buy anything they like, not just what a particular retailer wants to offer them, such as you would get with a Nectar Card or Clubcard, or a site that offers you points towards items in their “gift catalogue”.

Cashback shopping in the UK is relatively new, but it is growing, with more sites appearing every week. As 1 in every 10 retail purchases in the UK is now made over the internet (according to figures published by the Interactive Media in Retail Group), there are certainly good sums of cashback available to claim by clued up consumers.

Cashback sites have clickable links to online retailers that are provided by the retailers through companies called affiliate networks. Many cashback sites have over 1000 links, meaning there’s a great choice of retailers, in many different categories, for you to get cashback from. Many of the well known high street brands are available on cashback websites.

Merchants advertise their products on websites & when a surfer clicks on the ad & then buys the product or service, the retailer pays a fee (commission) to the website owner. You will see these ads all over most of the websites you browse everyday. Cashback Shopping sites act as an interface in between retailers and online shoppers, offering to share that payment with their members. Once an online shopper clicks on the links of the retailers listed on these portals he is redirected to the retailer’s website as normal and upon buying the product, gets the cashback percentage, or flat rate payment promised by the portal for that particular retailer.

You register with your chosen cashback site; the registration allows the website to know which member made which purchase & match the cashback paid from the retailer (via the affiliate network) to their account. You will need to be logged in to the cashback site & choose a retailer you want to buy from. The cashback offer for the retailer will be displayed against the link & will generally be a percentage of your purchase total, (e.g. 5%) or a set amount, (e.g. £30) for a contract mobile phone, or for opening a bank account.

When you click the link to a retailer, you are taken to their site and you make your purchase in the normal way. From the moment you click, the affiliate network will be tracking the transaction using (cookies stored on your PC), which identifies that you clicked on a link from a particular website (i.e. the cashback site). Commissions paid to other websites such as MSN, Yahoo etc. are tracked in exactly the same way, so don’t be wary of the tracking cookie.

Usually within a day or two, the affiliate network reports the transaction back to the cashback site and states how much commission is due to be paid to them. The cash back site then credits your account with a share of this commission (see the site for exactly how much – some sites pay around 50% of the commission earnt, whereas others pay 100% of the commission, but charge an administration fee).

The money becomes payable to you when the commission has been received by the cashback site from the retailer via the affiliate network, but only when you have reached the minimum payout level for the cashback site (again, this varies from site to site). Once both these things happen you can claim your money from the cashback site.

Typically your cash-back from purchases will become confirmed/payable about 2-3 months after the transaction. This is to allow for return of goods etc so that retailers don’t get stung. Uncleared payments usually show as “pending”.

The prices you get via cashback site links are the same prices that everyone else gets. The only difference is that you are getting money back on top & as well as this, you’re usually able to use retailers’ online discount codes in conjunction with cashback offers, making for even greater savings! Most sites will display lists of the special offers & codes that each retailer is offering, without you having to go hunting through the site.

Most of the UK cashback sites are free to join and even give you a sign-up bonus to get you started! They may also pay you an additional bonus if you get friends and family to join up, using a referral link that they give you. There are some sites that don’t do this, but they do claim to pay 100% of the commission they receive from the retailers!

The only restrictions are those the cashback sites set in terms of minimum payout levels, but with just one big-ish purchase (e.g. insurance policy or mobile phone contract) you may exceed this in one go.

Why else might you shop online, other than just for cash back? Well, the top reasons for shopping online include avoiding crowded stores, the availability of lower prices and the wide selection of goods and services available. Basically, you can sit at home, not get stressed by the crowds, still buy what you want, but get it cheaper and choose from a wider selection, not to mention if you use a cashback site, get some of your money back too!

Finally, there’s no limits on the amount of cashback you can earn with cashback sites and with 98% of retailers you can make repeat purchases and get cashback every time!

You can literally start saving money right now, in the next couple of minutes. It won’t cost you anything at all. And you just go on saving year after year. Just think how much money you are going to get back over the next year, the next 5 years, the next 10 years, just for using a cashback site to buy what you were going to buy anyway!!!

We would suggest that you register with at least one cashback site & then use a comparison site like Kelkoo or Price Runner to find the lowest price, or in the case of insurance confused.com, comparethmarket.com or moneysupermarket.com, but then return to the cashback site to click through to the retailer; that way, you are getting the best price & cashback too!:o)

Beware! As mentioned earlier, the cashback site relies on a tracking code (also sometimes known as a cookie) to record which site you came from & who is entitled to receive their cashback. If you initially visit a retailer through one site & then return to it through the cashback site, you may not get the cashback you expect, because the first cookie is the one used by the affiliate network.

Therefore, before using your cashback site, we recommend removing cookies from your browser, using the tools already built in to your browser, or by using an excellent free piece of software: CCleaner! This ensures that the “click” through the cashback site is the one registered by the affiliate network, not one from a comparison site, who would then get the money & not share it with you!!