how to shop online, part 4: reward programs

first we discussed why i shop online and how reading reviews can make for smarter purchases. then we talked about how to save money with very little effort using coupon codes and members-only sale sites. this week we’re discussing how you can get cash back via reward programs.

please note: you must be a lucky magazine subscriber to take part in this reward program.

here’s how it works:

  1. sign up. you’re already a member if you subscribe to lucky magazine (which you have to do), so just visit the website and enter the 10-digit code from your lucky magazine mailing label.
  2. shop. search for the store from which you want to purchase. (there are more than 600 eligible merchants, so most likely the one you’re looking for will come up.) when you click on the store name, you will be redirected to the store’s website, where you can then checkout. i usually have it set up so everything i want to purchase is already in my shopping cart. (and don’t forget to read reviews and search for coupon codes before checking out!)
  3. earn. you get a percentage (usually between 1% and 6%, but up to 25%) back in cash rewards. as soon as you’ve earned $15 in reward dollars, they mail you a prepaid VISA gift card.

it’s that simple.

now, i do most of my shopping online, and in the past few years i have only received one $15 prepaid VISA gift card. so while this reward certainly didn’t pay me back for the subscription price of the magazine (which my husband got me as a gift for our first anniversary), i was able to buy a skirt and hair accessory using my gift card (i actually spent it at a members-only sale site). so i basically got two things for free. it’s just another small reward for smart online shopping. (however, i must admit that most of the time i get so excited about my online purchases that i completely forget to use the rewards program…so now my handy dandy how to shop online guide will help even me.)

of course, i do not recommend buying things that you don’t need just because you will get cash back. this, like most rewards programs, may not generate a significant amount of cash back. you’ll likely get less money back using reward programs than you’ll save using coupon codes. (and actually, if you use a coupon code combined with the rewards site, you’ll get less cash back than if you didn’t use a coupon code.) but, i use lucky rewards to make shopping online more worth it and thought it was worth mentioning to y’all.

there are other rewards programs out there as well. if you are a teacher or buy a lot of books, you should check out borders rewards. what rewards programs do you use?

do you have questions about shopping online that you want me to answer?