Shopping Portal Roulette
One of the greatest tools of a miles & points maximizer is a shopping portal. While a lot of people impulsively click and buy stuff, the maximizer uses a comparison site like Cash Back Monitor and finds which portal will give them the best kick back. Generally most portals have cashback in the same range.
There are a couple of times where a portal will have higher rates than everyone else. Once in awhile a portal will run a promotion with a merchant where they have a much better offer than anyone else. Also, from time to time a new portal will launch and offer really great rates. We saw this phenomenon in the recent past with Inbox Dollars and Splender and now we are seeing it with iConsumer.
iConsumer is offering very very good rates at a number of merchants. For example, they are offering 8% cashback at eBay up to a maximum of $20. They also have fantastic rates at a number of other merchants as well. They are basically losing money on their rates in the hopes that you will start using their portal long term. The rates WILL go back down.
Shopping Portal Fatigue
When it comes to shopping portals, the maximizer has to make a decision. Do you ALWAYS go for the absolute best rate or do you stick to the known trusted portal brands? In addition to the “trust” consideration, there is another one. More portals = more tracking = more work. You also have to deal with more logins and different user interfaces. It is a subtle stress, but a stress nonetheless.
New Portals Good & Bad
I mentioned before that we have seen two new portals burst on to the scene in a big way. The first was Inbox Dollars which offered 5% cash back at eBay. The problem is that purchases never seemed to track and a lot of us lost money. In other words, people’s worst fears became true. It was too good to be true. (Note: Some people have had success after going through a manual review process, but it takes time and effort.)
We also saw the Splender portal come on to the scene before the holidays. They offered some tremendous cashback deals in December. I was a little more comfortable with them since they are backed by Cartera and it seems to have worked out. All of my cashback tracked properly and I expect my first payout from them to come in a few days.
Concerns with iConsumer
Which brings me back to iConsumer. Their rates are so high that I worry they won’t be able to deliver. I don’t have any evidence that they won’t payout properly, but one little thing that happened yesterday is slightly alarming to me. In the morning they advertised double cashback and increased their offer from 8% to 16% at eBay. Then, without notice they pulled it and lowered their rate back to 8%, despite the fact that they are still calling it “double”.
Which Portals I Use
Note: Links below are personal referral links.
I am torn about whether or not I will use iConsumer for the majority of my purchases. At this point I will probably use the portal to test, but don’t think I will shift the majority of my spending over there. With that said, here are the cashback portals I use on a regular basis and have always had good experiences with:
In addition, I have no issue using any of the mileage portals from the major airlines, the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or the Discover portal. With Discover I now always make sure to pay with the Discover card linked to that account and track my purchases carefully.
To me portals are like friends. It takes awhile to build a relationship and trust. All of the portals I mentioned above are trusted in my book. That means I will use whichever of those portals has the best rates. No questions asked. When a portal not on my trusted list has higher rates, then I consider whether the increased payout is worth the uncertainty. More times than not I choose my friends, but of course it really matters how much higher the payout is.
In the end I do recommend you check out iConsumer and any new portal that comes along to see if it makes sense for you, but don’t feel obligated to use it. While conventional wisdom says you should always go for the highest payout, other factors like time, organization and overall hassle need to come into the equation.
Have you used iConsumer? What have your experiences been like with Inbox Dollars, Splender and other new portals? Let me know in the comments!