Top cashback sites and how to use them

Best cashback sitesPic: Getty

Internet shopping is now the preferred choice for many Brits, and the e-commerce boom has given rise to a useful online tool - the cashback site.

If you're new to the idea of cashback and what it entails, here are the ins and outs, as well as a few tips on where to get the best deals.

How does it work?
Just as comparison websites get paid for driving traffic to providers such as insurance firms or retailers, cashback sites also receive money for providing potential customer leads. The difference is, in order to drive that traffic, they pay the user some of the commission they're paid.

The rewards range from a few pence to sometimes hundreds of pounds, depending on the product, and most sites are free to join. The shopper then logs on to the site, searches for the online retailer they wish to buy from, and if it's listed, the visit is tracked. Should the user buy an item, the transaction is logged, and an amount put into their cashback site account. In many cases, though, you'll need to reach a certain level of earnings before you are able to withdraw.

Where do I sign up?
Cashback sites vary greatly in what they pay out, with some giving you 50 per cent of their earnings back, while others reward you with 100 per cent of what they get paid.

Topping the payout list is Topcashback, which actually pays out 101 per cent of the cash it receives for your custom. It's free to sign up for a basic 'Classic Account' and there are no administration fees, but a 'Plus Account' will pay you an additional five per cent on purchases, while retaining your first £5 of earnings in any twelve-month period. The site has a number of advantages over its rivals too. Every £10 of cashback earned can be swapped for 1,050 Tesco Clubcard points, and you can gain an extra five per cent on your earnings if you take the option to get paid in Amazon vouchers instead of cash.

Closely matched with Topcashback is Quidco, which gives users similar levels of payouts. Once again, there are two types of membership - basic is free, premium costs just £5 a year. Furthermore, with Quidco you can even earn money back when you shop in store by registering your credit or debit card to their secure, encrypted site. Only ten retailers are listed on this option, but with the likes of Debenhams and Halfords on the list, it could be worth checking out. As soon as your card registers a payment at one of the participating retailers, you'll earn money in your cashback account. The site also offers a free app for both Android and iPhone, which means you can earn money simply by walking into one of the 37 listed retailers' stores.

Bear in mind...
To make the most of cashback sites, it's essential you don't base your purchase decisions on the possibility of getting money back. Some of the offers might seem fantastic, but buy things you don't need as a result and you won't getting the best out of the site. If you are on the hunt for a particular item, it is always worth checking to see whether you can get from a cashback-listed retailer, but even then, do a quick search to see if you can get it cheaper elsewhere - in some cases you can get a better deal even taking into account the money you'll earn back.

It is also worth noting that a cashback site will track your online visits via cookies. That means that to earn money back, you'll need to click through to your chosen retailer from the cashback site itself in order to benefit, and remember, since many other sites also use cookies, it's an idea to clear them before making a big-ticket purchase.

All in all, cashback sites can be a great way to earn money back on purchases both big and small - just don't be tempted to spend, spend, spend.

Do you use a cashback site? Which would you recommend and why? Leave your comments below...