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'Free money': The shopping hack that could save you hundreds every year

The set-and-forget programs that give you cash back on your purchases.

Personal finance and shopping guru Joel Gibson with family
Personal finance guru Joel Gibson says shopping cash-back programs are essentially "free money". (Source: Joel Gibson)

Ever wished you could get paid to shop? If so, you should consider signing up for a cash-back rewards program.

These programs are similar to traditional loyalty schemes, in that they reward you for simply going about your regular day-to-day shopping. However, unlike store loyalty programs, they don't confine you to shopping at one particular retail group, and rewards are paid as cash money, rather than loyalty points.

So how do cash-back programs work? Once you sign up to a program such as ShopBack or Cashrewards, and shop from the program's website and app, they receive a commission from their partner retailers on each purchase you make, and part of that commission is then returned to you as cash.


The amount you get back varies wildly between programs and retailers, ranging from as little as 1 per cent to as much as 80 per cent of purchase price, but most cash-backs fall in the 2 to 10 per cent range. Savvy shoppers can compare same-store rewards across different programs to land the best deal and take advantage of time-limited offers, which can be remarkably rewarding.

A range of cash-back offers at leading brands from Cashrewards
Time-limited offers can be very rewarding and some programs even let you shop in store. (Source: Cashrewards)

Although setting up a cash-back account is free and straight forward, it can take up to 90 days before your purchase is confirmed and you actually receive cash in your account. Purchases also generally have to be made online through the cash-back site or app, but some cash-back programs also work in-store when paying through a linked debit or credit card. As with any promotion, it's important you read and understand the terms and conditions of an offer before making a purchase.

Joel Gibson, money-saving guru and author of Easy Money, says that cash-back sites fall into his category of "free money" that you'd be mad to miss out on. "It's so easy to set up and then it's just automatic," he told Yahoo Finance Australia. "I don't have to think about it and then as I get to the end of the year I'll take that money out and use it to buy Christmas presents."

"Given that every time you buy something, someone is potentially getting a kickback on the internet, why shouldn't you get some of that money as well?" Gibson explained. "Cash-back sites are a real money saving no-brainer. Sure it's not going to save you as much as switching your mortgage or energy plan, but it is an easy one. You set it up and then you can forget about it."

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