The coronavirus pandemic has made us more reliant on online shopping than ever. According to the latest Digital Commerce 360 analysis, consumers in the U.S. spent $861.12 billion online in 2020, up 44% from $598.02 billion in 2019. Statewide lockdowns and fear of contracting the virus deterred consumers from visiting brick-and-mortar stores, resulting in the spike in e-commerce sales last year. With a simple click, consumers can have orders delivered straight to their door in the comfort of their home, worry-free and hassle-free. Yet, many shoppers have failed to take advantage of an additional benefit brought by online shopping–the convenience of tracking and comparing prices to secure the best deal possible. In what follows, I will introduce you to Cashback Monitor, a website that lets you easily compare deals on most of the major online shopping portals. I will discuss how you can benefit from using some of its key features to maximize your savings.
What is Cashback Monitor?
Many of you have probably heard of or used one or more shopping portals. A shopping portal usually issues rewards when its users complete purchases of goods or services via its affiliate links. These portals are most definitely intuitive to use: you go to the portal, complete your purchase, and earn bonus cash/mileage/points when your purchase gets cleared. However, what’s less straightforward is knowing whether or not you are using the best shopping portal for your purchase. With a hundred dollars’ purchase, it makes a difference whether you receive 2% or 12% cash back. But how do you know where to shop to max out the merchant’s payback?
Cashback Monitor (cashbackmonitor.com), a shopping portal comparison tool, is here to help. It keeps track of reward rates issued by different shopping portals almost synchronously and provides a summary view of how reward rates are compared by shopping portal for each featured merchant. Cashback Monitor saves users the hassle of checking, comparing, and looking for the best rate when making purchases because it helps collect and sort the information for them.
Though the name Cashback Monitor seems to suggest that it only tracks cash back rewards, the website also monitors travel miles/points, credit card points, or anything that has or can be transferred into equivalent cash value such as Swagbucks. Currently, Cashback Monitor tracks 52 reward portals (e.g., Top Cashback, Rakuten, RebatesMe, etc.) and covers more than 15,000 stores (e.g., Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Amazon, etc.). You should be able to search just about every shopping portal out there for whatever store you may be interested in buying from, and easily compare earning rates with Cashback Monitor.
How Does Cashback Monitor Work?
If you are new to Cashback Monitor, you may not know how to take advantage of its many functions to maximize your reward earnings because the website does not have the most user-friendly interface. To give you a better idea of how the site works, let me explain with an example.
Say you have your eyes on a T-shirt sold at Macy’s, and you are ready to order it online. So, instead of going straight to Macy’s website, 1) you go to cashbackmonitor.com to check reward rates currently offered by different shopping portals.
2) You then search the store in the search bar at the top left corner of the page. Because Cashback Monitor tracks a wide variety of online merchants, unless you are buying from a locally-based boutique store, you should be able to find just about every mainstream merchant.
3) Select the right one and wait for the page to load. You will then be led to the page where reward rates of your selected store are displayed. Store information is also visibly displayed at the top of the page.
4) View and compare reward rates to determine which portal works in your best interest. Shopping portals are organized in four categories by type of rewards offered–cash back, travel miles/points, credit card points, and other reward points. In each category, shopping portals are arranged by the amount of rewards, with the ones offering the highest rate at the top and those with the lowest rate at the bottom.
5) Once you decide on which portal offers you the best reward rate, simply click on either its name or the rate next to it, and you will be directed to the corresponding portal to make purchases. One thing to note is the website will receive compensations for some of its affiliated links should you choose to utilize them.
How to Maximize Cashback Monitor?
Now that you’ve learned the basics, let’s move on to the more advanced features.
Use “View Best Rates History” to predict price changes
Remember those articles published weeks before each Black Friday that helped predict deals that some retail giants would offer? What are those predictions based off? The answer is: deals from previous years. In the same light, through collecting how reward rates vary daily across portals, Cashback Monitor generates a historical chart that documents rate changes over the past 15 months.
True, the economy is changing rapidly; besides, the present economic climate is hardly predictable as a result of a seemingly-unending pandemic. Nonetheless, marketing efforts and retail promotions still follow some particular trends as long as we analyze them closely enough.
Once you click on “View Best Rate History,” you should be able to see four charts–one chart for each reward type. They should resemble something like the chart below.
Personalize monitoring results
Even though Cashback Monitor tracks more than 15,000 stores across 50 portals, most of us only have a few places where we shop frequently, and most of us don’t have an account for each shopping portal. That is to say, the enormous amount of information can be a little inundating because most of it is irrelevant, or even downright useless. To avoid information overload and best streamline our online shopping experience, Cashback Monitor allows us to personalize monitoring results by creating “my monitor.”
Users with a free registered account can take advantage of this feature to configure their monitoring results. After you create an account and log in, click on “▽” next to your account name. Then, in the dropdown menu, choose “configure my monitor.” You will then be led to a page (shown below) where you can select portals of interest to you.
Simply select portals of interest by checking the box before the portal listed. You can pick up to 8 portals and 20 merchants for your monitor to track. Be sure to hit “save configuration” at the bottom of the page to save your preference setting. Once you are done, your “my monitor” page will display only the portals and merchants you have chosen in a chart format, making web browsing simpler and easier.
Get alerted when a rate increases
Another great way to individualize your hunt for deals is to create alerts on Cashback Monitor. This way, you are kept in the loop whenever reward rates move up to your desired amount. In the dropdown menu, choose “manage my alerts,” and you will be directed to a page where you can set up 10 alerts. Once Cashback Monitor finds out that your desired amount of cash back/points/mileage is being offered by your select reward portals, your alert will be triggered, and you will be notified through a direct message to your regular email address.
Note that an active alert will become dormant, or be moved to “alerts sent,” once triggered, but a new alert can be set up if needed. For those of you who think that 10 alerts are not enough, no worries, because you can always come back to replenish your stock. Considering most standard households don’t shop at more than a dozen stores, 10 alerts should be just enough to serve you right. Speaking from my experience, the best way to organize this 10-alert-at-a-time quota is to include both merchants where you are a frequent customer and high-end stores where you can afford an occasional splurge.
Log in to modify conversion rates of miles/points
With a registered account, another really neat function is that Cashback Monitor allows you to assign cash value to mileage and points. Experienced credit card holders and frequent travelers are well aware that points and miles are no less valuable, if not more valuable sometimes if used right, than cash back. For example, you can earn 1 Chase Ultimate Rewards point for each dollar spent on purchases with Chase credit cards. Each point has an equivalent cash value of 1 cent, though the value of points varies depending on what you do with it. With some Chase credit cards, you will be able to maximize your points’ value by 50% if you book tickets through the company’s travel portal. This unique feature let you easily compare between cash back, mileage, and points and determine which platform helps save you the most.
Cashback Monitor is a great tool, without a doubt. It has helped me save a ton from online purchases, which makes me feel good because I enjoy being frugal and spending every penny wisely. But this does not mean that you have to make purchases every time you come across a good deal just because it is too good to be true. A friend of mine always falls for this type of marketing trap. She buys lots of stuff even though she does not need or may not even like, simply because, in her words, “[she] cannot afford to lose this deal.” For her, she feels like she is losing money if she does not take advantage of a deal. To me, this is deeply troubling and problematic. If I don’t need or want anything, I won’t be swayed to shop no matter how great the deal is. In fact, since I always keep an eye on deals and rebates, I know for a fact that retailers put on sales regularly to attract traffic, so it does not tantalize me as much. In sharing this wonderful shopping tool with you, I hope that it not only helps save you money but also make you a smarter shopper.