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Cashback hack: My 4-step guide to get the best price

Aussies are looking for any way to cut back on costs.

Composite image of hands holding a phone showing the Cashback app, and a woman smiling broadly.
There are a number of ways to use cashback apps. (Source: Getty) (Getty)

Saving money is high on everyone’s agenda right now as the cost of living continues to bite. While sourcing savings apps can help to minimise expenses, there is one powerful four-step hack that can help you combine the lot and tap into extreme savings.

Here’s how I do it.

Step 1. Use cashback services… differently

I have written the basics of these cashback services before. These are intermediaries - much like Uber - which lead shoppers to particular merchants, for which the merchant both pays the intermediary and remits cash back to the shopper.

Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

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If you need to make the purchase, you may as well get some of your 'cold hard' back, right? Except, there are a few limitations. You may be able to source the same sales available if you go directly through the merchants' websites, but they won’t always be available or as good.

Sometimes, you also can’t use promo or discount codes and, often, if you enter the merchant’s online store through that service, you won’t be able to pay with gift cards either (or forfeit your cashback if you do).

But my supersize savings strategy – to combat all of the above – starts by using cashback services not to buy actual products, but to pre-purchase gift cards for the stores you want to shop in.

Similar cashback rates - around 4 per cent - are mostly available for gift cards. This effectively means your ‘cash’ now has more than face value. You’ve paid a net, say, $96 but have $100 to spend.

Just watch if there is a larger, boosted cashback offer for purchases from a merchant, that makes it worth buying the item upfront.

Step 2. Take your extra dollars direct

This is one option. You are guaranteed to now be able to use your discounted gift cards directly with the merchant. You’ll be able to take your pick of the most advantageous promo or discount code (there may be a cap). If you are a new or a lapsed customer, these will often be more generous.

The bonus here is you won’t forfeit your cashback if you return your item – you will simply get the exact amount refunded that you paid. But there is a second transaction potential tactic that could give you even more free value.

Step 3. Use your extra dollars to fly free too

Your even-more-sophisticated payment strategy involves another ‘middle man’: an airline.

While I’m determined to use my points to fly free, I’m also a big fan of Qantas Shopping. Like with a cashback service, you click from this site through to the merchant’s site and, by doing so, you earn frequent flyer points in deals like 3-for-$1 spent.

Like with cashback and merchant websites, from time to time they also offer bonuses to entice you, such as bulk points of 10-for-$1 spent.

The beauty of cleverly ‘skinning’ your purchase like this is you can also use gift cards and still access the same sales as the general public. There will be additional ones you can click through from Qantas too, just choose the one that will save you the most money.

This hack will help you to benefit from any bulk points offers and also your chosen discount promo or coupon code. It also doesn’t have the same limitations as cashback services because you’re simply earning bonus points. If points are your priority and/or you do not want to use gift cards, you could even consider doubling up on them by paying with a rewards credit card.

Either way, it’s a multi-way win for your bottom line.

Step 4: Add to cart… then wait

My final piece of advice to save on purchases is not just combo the available transaction techniques for the biggest savings, but click it, search it, add it to cart, then wait for the incentives to secure your business.

And your discount could go bigger still. You might even find the cashback you are subsequently offered for direct purchase makes it the better alternative.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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