Money at 30: Ebates vs. Dosh — Which is the Better Cash Back Tool?
The idea of earning cash back on your purchases for seemingly no reason is one of those “if it sounds too good to be true…” triggers for many people. For evidence of this, just type in “Is Ebates…” or “Is Dosh…” into Google and notice how “legit?” is near the top of the autofill options. Let’s get this out of the way up top: yes, both Ebates and Dosh are legitimate services and, yes, they really can earn you cash back on items you buy every day.
With that, you may be wondering which of these two platforms is better. As it turns out, that’s actually a very interesting question with a complicated answer — like, the kind that takes 2,000+ words to address properly. Luckily, I’m up to the challenge.
So, with Ebates in one corner and Dosh in the other, let’s take a look at how these two cash back platforms match up in general, specifically for in-store shopping, and then for online shopping before I offer my final thoughts on which of these free services you should be using.
Ebates vs. Dosh: An Overview of the Two Tools
Perhaps the most popular platform of its kind, Ebates has been a go-to for many consumers in recent years. Plus, with the service recently running a round of television commercials, that fan base is likely to only expand. The idea behind Ebates is simple: activate cash back offers from participating brands, complete your purchase as normal, and see your cash back added to your account afterward. Furthermore, Ebates supports an impressive list of participating brands, making it easy to earn cash back on purchases you’d be making anyway.
With Ebates users can earn what the site calls your “Big Fat Check.” This payout can either be a physical check or you can request to have funds sent via PayPal. The one downside is that Big Fat Checks (digital or physical) are only sent out on a quarterly basis. For example, if you made a cash back-eligible purchase between October 1st and December 31st, your payout wouldn’t arrive until February 15th.
On the bright side, Ebates rewards new users right away by gifting them with either a $10 cash bonus or $10 Walmart gift card after they sign-up and make their first qualifying purchase. To claim this bonus, you’ll need to use Ebates on a purchase that totals more than $25 and do so within your first 90 days of joining the site. If you want to earn even more bonuses, you can also score extras by inviting friends and family to sign up as well. Currently, users can earn a $25 bonus when people they refer sign-up and make a qualifying purchase of $25 or more in their first 90 days.
Lastly, another great thing about Ebates is their consistently upping their offers — especially with the holiday season in full swing. Just for example, right now Ebates is offering 6% cash back at Macy’s, which is double the regular 3%. To keep an eye out for these specials, make sure to pay attention to Ebates e-mail updates and/or install the service’s Chrome/Firefox/Safari browser extension (which will talk about more in the Online Shopping section).
Here is my full Ebates video review:
While it may not have the same level of popularity (yet), Dosh has seemingly been growing in recent months after coming out of its beta program. Since then a variety of retailers have jumped on board to offer cash back to Dosh users, including recent additions like Pier 1 Imports, Chevron/Texaco, and Pizza Hut. Moreover, while in-store offers are front and center with Dosh, the app also hosts online cash back deals as well.
The basic idea of Dosh is that you link your various credit card and debit cards to the app and earn automatic cash back when you use those cards at participating retailers. You can view a map list of these offers on the Dosh app’s main screen, though there’s no need to opt-in to these in-store offers — just use one of your linked cards. I should note that Dosh does not currently support prepaid debit cards or Discover credit cards. Additionally, if you have cards linked to any similar apps such as Mogl, you may encounter an error requiring you to unlink from the other app before adding a card to Dosh.
Unlike with Ebates, Dosh pays out applicable cashback pretty much right away. Within hours (or even minutes in some cases) of making a qualifying purchase, I’ve seen my Dosh cash back in my account. The only catch is that you’ll need to accrue at least $25 in cash back before you can request a payout. Payments can be sent via a linked bank account or via PayPal. You also have the option to donate your Dosh rewards to worthy causes and organizations.
Dosh also currently has a sign-up bonus, entitling you to $5 after you join and link your first card (reminder: you’ll still need to reach that $25 threshold to cash out). As for Dosh’s referral program, it can be a bit more complicated that Ebates at times. Right now, the app is offering a $5 bonus for every person who signs up using your custom link and adds a verified credit or debit card to their account. Previous iterations of Dosh’s referral program have also required that referred users also make their first purchase in order for bonuses to be paid, but that no longer seems to be the case. However, be on the lookout for special promotions that will double this referral bonus to $10 or more as Dosh has been known to launch such offers in the past.
Speaking of enhanced offers, Dosh has also occasionally hosted bonus cash back events where the percentage you earn from certain retailers increases for a limited time. Most notably there have been certain weekends when the typical 2% back at Sam’s Club jumps to an impressive 10%. So, once again, be on the lookout for e-mails and push notifications to be alerted to these deals.
Checkout my full Dosh app review video below:
When I think of Ebates, I think of online shopping. Despite this perception, the Ebates app actually has several in-store cash back offers as well. Like with the online offers, cash back amounts do vary — although they also tend to be lower than their online counterparts. For example, while the aforementioned Macy’s typically offers a 3% cash back online, the in-store offer is only 2%. Still, the roster of in-store participants is strong with brands like Bed, Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, Express, and many others on board.
Similar to Dosh, using Ebates for in-store offers begins with linking an eligible credit card. Then, unlike with Dosh, you’ll need to activate offers in the app by visiting the “In-Store” tab and tapping “Link Offer” next to the retailer. Honestly, I’m not sure what would happen if you skipped this step and tried to use a linked card at one of the retailers, but probably best not to press your luck.
Interestingly, there is one store on Ebates list that works a bit differently. To earn 1% back at Best Buy, instead of activating a linked card offer, you’ll instead tap the “Redeem Code” button (located in the same place as the other “Link Offer” buttons) and a QR code will display on your screen for the cashier to scan. Like I said, Best Buy is the only retailer in my area that operates this way but I suppose it’s possible that others may take this route in the future.
As I mentioned in my overview, in-store offers are where Dosh shines. Basically, once you link your cards, you can visit any of the participating retailers and earn cash back automatically — no need to opt-in. While it doesn’t take a ton of effort to opt-in with Ebates, it’s nice not to have to think about it before you go shopping. You might even happen upon some cash back you weren’t expecting on those impulse buys 😉
The chances for unexpected cash back are also rising as Dosh has consistently been adding to their line-up in recent months. Among those Dosh newbies are four gas stations: Pilot, Flying J, Chevron, and Texaco. Currently, all four of these stations are offering 3% back on both gasoline and convenience store purchases. This definitely came in handy on a recent road trip my wife and I took where we purposely used my Gas Buddy app to navigate to Pilots and Flying Js (this was just before Chevron and Texaco signed on) when possible.
Another thing about Dosh’s in-store offers is that I’ve noticed some smaller retailers and restaurants joining the app as well. For a time, one of the local barbecue joints in my area was offering 10% on purchases on Dosh, and I’ve also seen several other smaller business listed as I’ve been traveling. While it’s possible that Ebates might also host offers from these types of locations, I typically associate the site with much larger brands. Perhaps that’s just a misnomer on my part but, without living in a larger market to truly compare, that’s been my impression so far.
When it comes to online shopping, Ebates is nothing short of a godsend. With a long list of participating brands and super simple opt-in options, the service really does make it easy to earn. This is
especially true when you install the Ebates browser extension.
There are many reasons I love Ebates’ browser extension but the top feature has to be the cash back deal detector that comes built in. Essentially, when you land on the site of a participating Ebates partner and have your browser extension installed, a pop-up will inform you that you could be earning on your purchase. From there, all you have to do is click the opt-in button and you’re all set. As helpful as this is, the browser extension will also alert you to offers when you’re looking at search results, enabling to you not only compare advertised prices but factor in cash back offers as well.
If I had to nitpick about Ebates online shopping deals, I’d mention that their cash back excludes things like taxes and shipping costs, meaning you’ll only be earning on the subtotal of your transaction. Additionally, while some cash back percentages are sitewide, other brands may assign different values to different item categories. This isn’t really Ebates’ fault of course but it’s a bit of a bummer nonetheless.
Considering how much I love using Dosh for in-store purchases, it’s kind of amazing that I still have yet to use it for online deals. The reason for that is simple: up until now, you needed to do your online shopping through the app in order to earn the cash back. However, on that note, Dosh recently unveiled a major change.
Starting this month, Dosh announced that their online offers section would change dramatically. Instead of requiring users to shop through the app, now all you’ll have to do is use one of your linked cards at participating online retailers. In other words, Dosh has now aligned the way their in-store and online offers work and I couldn’t be happier about it. In fact, one could argue that this set-up now makes earning cash back with Dosh easier than with Ebates. *Gasp*
Of course life is full of tradeoffs and this Dosh upgrade is no exception. While I fully applaud Dosh’s move here, scrolling through their current list of online offers shows a dramatic rollback in the number of participants. On the one hand, I completely understand why it was worth making this change but, on the other, it’s not hard to imagine that some potential cash back earning opportunities were lost as a result. That said, all things considered, I think this change helps Dosh better establish their brand, makes it easier for users, and — yes — helps them stand apart from Ebates. Now here’s hoping that more retailers sign onto Dosh’s new path forward.
Ebates vs. Dosh: The Decision
I feel I need to state this once again: both Ebates and Dosh are amazing tools that can essentially earn you “free money” on everyday purchases. Both platforms are not only reputable and legit but, as I can personally attest, they work. With that out of the way, I do have some thoughts about which I prefer in each medium.
For in-store stopping, Dosh is my hands-down favorite. I’m impressed with how quickly my cash back arrives after I make a purchase, I’m happy with the slate of participants (even if it does seem to rotate with some frequency), and I love how easy it is to take advantage of offers. At the same time, Ebates is also a viable option and, admittedly, has a stronger line-up depending on where you live and what you shop for.
Perhaps the reason that I don’t think of Ebates in-store offers as often as I probably should is because they are so dominant online. The Ebates browser extension is seriously like magic and has walked me toward cash back more than a couple of times already this holiday shopping season. To that point, I think what I love about Ebates for online shopping is what I love about Dosh for in-store shopping: I don’t even need to plan ahead in order to earn.
As I mentioned, up until this point, I hadn’t bothered with Dosh for online purchases. However, with their recent changes on that front, I’m really looking forward to giving it a try — or, better yet, stumbling into some savings. Granted, Dosh has a long way to go to catch-up to Ebates’ online retailer roster but, if they can expand their line-up and still keep their “just use your registered card” system intact, they could be a real gamechanger.
So which is better overall? Well, the beautiful thing is that you don’t really have to decide. This may sound like a cop out but it’s 100% true — in order to earn the most cash back, you should be using both platforms. Just as you might utilize multiple credit cards to maximize rewards, there’s no reason why you can’t use both Dosh and Ebates (not to mention others like Ibotta, Visa Local Offers, and more) on a regular basis. Heck, that’s exactly what I do. As it turns out the real winner this “battle” is you!
To drive home this point, while writing this article, I noticed that both apps had in-store offers for the cosmetics chain Sephora. Feeling curious, my wife and I headed to the mall to see if this double dip would really work. Sure enough, within a few minutes of her purchase, I was alerted by Dosh and Ebates that my cash back was on the way. But wait, there’s more — it turns out I also managed to trigger a Visa Local Offer at the same time, resulting in free Uber credits. To recap, that’s 8% from Dosh, 8% in credits from Visa Local Offers, and 4% from Ebates (not to mention the 1% from my credit card). That’s a pretty huge win in my book.
In conclusion, both Ebates and Dosh are legitimate services that are well worth your time. I’d definitely recommend downloading both apps, installing the Ebates browser extension, and seeing which one you prefer. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be earning cash back for things you were (hopefully) going to be buying anyway.