London - Like most families with three young children, Richard and Lucy Gilliard are always on the look-out for easy ways to save some money.
They have used credit cards that give cash back on their purchases and they cut out vouchers to use in thesupermarket.
So, when they heard about new websites that combined these two perks, they signed up. Six years on and this gamble has made them £7,000 (about R90 0000) richer.
The Gilliards were one of the first families to experiment with so-called cashback websites.
These typically pay you a commission of between 3 pc and 10 pc of purchases you make online at any of 3,500 High Street shops, including Argos, Debenhams and Tesco.
To claim the kickback, you have to log on to a website, such as Topcashback or Quidco, and then click through to the store where you want to shop.
When you complete your order, the retailer pays the money you’ve earned into your account at the cashback site. It can then be transferred to yourbank.
And it’s not just shopping where you can earn money. Backhanders are also paid by travel companies and mobile phone operators. Some of the biggest perks per pound spent are offered by energy suppliers.
Last year, Mr Gilliard, 40, earned £80 by switching to E.On through Topcashback. He received £34.90 when he changed his broadband provider to Plusnet. And he got £338 by booking a holiday to Disneyland Paris with his wife and three children Joshua, ten, Hannah, eight, and Daniel, six.
A further £11.44 was handed to him for booking Eurotunnel train tickets.
Mr Gilliard, who is managing director of an IT firm in Leeds, set up an account with Quidco in 2006 and has since earned £3,978.
Two years ago, he opened an account with Topcashback, too — and has made £2,462 with them. Wife Lucy, 41, has built up £236 with Topcashback.
To get a further boost, Mr Gilliard spends on an American Express Platinum Cashback credit card, which rewards him with 1.25 pc of his totalspend.
He also has a Play.com credit card to use in places where Amex is not accepted, which pays him 1 pc.
“I’ve never bought anything I wasn’t going to buy anyway, so this is effectively free money,” says MrGilliard.
“I’m always on the look-out for ways to save a few quid. It all adds up. Many people can’t be bothered, but it is second nature to me now.”
So, how can you join the cashback boom, too?
TWO million pocket free money
You are going to need a computer or a smartphone. Unfortunately, cashback companies run only on theinternet.
You’ll need to log on to a website such as Topcashback.co.uk or Quidco.com. They are the biggest and most reputable — with more than two million members each — though there are other sites.
To set up an account, you register your name, email address and a password. It’s free and once you’re logged in you can start making money straight away.
Just shop as you normally do on the internet — browsing stores until you find what you want.
But instead of going straight to the checkout, visit the cashback website and see if that retailer is listed.
If it is, or there is a similar store with the same product at the same price, click on that retailer.
There will be a button next to a logo saying ‘Get cashback now’ or ‘Visit shop and get cashback’ or a variation of that. This will take you to the retailer’s website where you can buy what you want as normal.
Once you’ve bought your goods, the shop pays commission into your cashback account.
There are a variety of ways to get your hands on this. Topcashback lets you withdraw your money whenever you want.
You can opt to have your cash paid straight into your bank or a Paypal account. Alternatively, you can choose to redeem your money in Amazon vouchers, which earns you an extra 5 pc on top.
For example, if you’ve got £200 inyour account, you’ll get £210 worth of vouchers.
Quidco pays you automatically twice a week.
Alternatively, you can set your preferences so that your account pays out only when you have a set amount of cashback.
If you opt to be paid via Paypal, you can receive a maximum of £25 in one go. Anything you’ve earned above this will be held back until the next payment date. It can take a couple of months for the cash to materialise in your account as the website needs to be paid by the retailer before it can shell out to you.
And if, for example, you book a holiday for six months ahead, you won’t get the cashback until you’ve taken the trip.
‘Using cashback websites really is a no brainer and avid online shoppers could easily pocket more than £100 a year by using them,’ says Justin Modray, founder of Candid Money.
‘They are a way to help people stretch tighter household budgets further and fight back against poor savings rates.’
sharing out the kickbacks
WHILE these sites are free to sign up to, they do make a healthy profit. Quidco pockets £5 of your cashback every year. If you don’t make £5 then you won’t owe anything.
Topcashback is completely free to use with no annual fee.
So, how do they make money?
Whenever you click on an advert on the internet or sign up to a recommendation on a comparison website, the company you first visited makes a small commission as a thank-you from the advertiser for sending on the business.
This can be as little as a few pence if all you did was click through to the retailer’s website.
However, if you go on to make a purchase, the initial firm gets an even bigger commission. What cashback websites do is share out some of this kickback with you.
So, for example, instead of making£10 profit from something you bought, it takes just £5 and gives you £5, too.
As these cashback websites have become successful, retailers have started to give them special offers and discounts for members. This makes the perks of using the sites even greater.
Be warned: sometimes the sytem goes wrong and your bonus won’t get paid. This can be down to computer systems rather than dishonesty.
For you to earn the cashback, your transaction has to be tracked by data held on your computer. Unfortunately, though these systems are sophisticated, they are not perfect.
All the big cashback websites have complaints processes — though they can be hard to find.
Our research shows that when customers have complained about non-payment the commission has generally been paid pretty swiftly.
So, don’t give up the ghost on cash you haven’t received.
GET 5PC off your argos shopping
The amount of cashback you get depends on how much you spend and what deals the website is offering at the time.
Offers change daily, and can differ between the websites.
Right now, with Topcashback you can get 12.12 pc on all online bookings made through the travel website Hotels.com and 20.2 pc cashback when shopping at The Body Shop.
Among Quidco’s best deals are 4 pc cashback on Tesco Direct Shopping. There will be 10 pc cashback on Hertz car hire worldwide and 5 pc cashback on Argos sports and fitness purchases.
Cashback websites also offer a wide variety of discount vouchers.
These are special codes that get you even more money off your purchases. The vouchers appear on your computer screen just before you click through to the retailer.
The biggest rewards on offer are usually for switching utility providers, buying insurance or taking out a mobile phone contract. - Daily Mail