Ebates Coupons and Cash Back My apologies to any readers outside the United States, since this hack is apparently only open to U.S. residents. But for those of you who fit that bill, have you discovered Ebates yet? It’s my favorite new way to save when shopping online.

I tend to shop for holiday gifts year-round; this minimizes the overall impact on our budget, and allows me to take advantage of sales as they come up. I’m also not the world’s biggest online shopper. I first signed up for Ebates years ago, but never really used it until recently – when several other bloggers reminded me that it’s a super-easy way to get cash back on many of the online purchases I’m already making.

For anyone who has experience with saving cash register receipts and proofs-of-purchase, then filling out a rebate form and mailing it in to get a rebate on a product purchased – well, Ebates is the same general idea. Only it’s way easier. The Ebates folks have even made handy little buttons that you can install in your web browsers, to alert you whenever an online retailer you visit has a cash back offer. All you have to do is click on the button to “activate” the rebate offer, then finish your shopping trip and collect your cash back. Checks are mailed every three months, and cash back offers vary from 1% to 12%; most of the sites I visit seem to average between 2%-4%.

If you want to be super-vigilant about collecting your cash back, you can log into your Ebates account as often as you like and check out your projected check total. I also have a small text file I keep on my desktop, where I keep track of the dates I buy something that qualifies for Ebates, and the total amount I spent. That way, if something doesn’t show up in a timely manner in my account, I can have them look into it. (Travel partners seem to be especially slow in getting the details of your purchase back to Ebates; I’m still waiting on a $7 rebate from a hotel room I booked about two months ago.) If you want to file a claim for a missing rebate, you’ll need to send them the text of your confirmation email, so don’t delete those when they reach your inbox.

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