Money at 30: Cashback Monitor Review
As most people these days are surely aware, shopping online comes with many conveniences and advantages. Among them is the fact that there are a variety of rewards and cashback platforms that consumers can use to score themselves a better deal. The only downside to this is that, with more portals popping up all the time (and their offers updating daily if not even more often), it can be difficult to know which ones have the best rates at any given time. Enter Cashback Monitor — a website that compiles data from more than 50 cashback sites to help point shoppers in the right direction.
So how does Cashback Monitor work and what else does it have to offer? Let’s take a look at the site, its features, pros versus cons, and more.
What is Cashback Monitor and How Does it Work?
Cashback Monitor homepage
Your Cashback Monitor adventure begins on their homepage. There, you’ll first see two main columns: one highlighting the most-viewed brands and another displaying the top cashback deals of all brands. Beyond those, however, you’ll find tabs and links to all sorts of helpful tools. Of course, there’s also a search tool (which we’ll talk about shortly).
With that said, I should point out that the design of Cashback Monitor might not instill a whole lot of confidence. Not only does the site look basic and dated but you might even come across some typos and other issues. However, don’t let the lacking aesthetic lead you to believe that the site isn’t worthwhile — or that it’s not actively updated. In fact, you can see the last time the site was updated right at the top of the page, letting you know that you’re getting the most accurate info possible.
Types of platforms monitored
Despite the name “Cashback Monitor,” the site actually features a few different types of shopping platforms. In turn, they break them down into four categories Cashback, Travel Miles/Points, Credit Card Points, and Other Rewards Points. So, for example, the popular Rakuten would be an example of a regular Cashback platform, while American Airlines’ AAdvantage Shopping site would easily fall in the Travel Miles section. Elsewhere, Other Rewards Point sites may include the likes of Capital One Shopping, while Credit Card Point sites include BarclayCard RewardsBoost — something I didn’t know existed.
By the way, in the right corner of the site, you’ll see a link next to “Monitored Rewards Portals.” Clicking this will show you a full list of supported platforms, once again broken down by these categories.
Searching by store
While browsing data arranged in a number of different ways is great, I suspect that most people coming to Cashback Monitor will want to use the search function instead. At the top of the site, you can type in what brand you’re shopping at. Assuming that retailer is featured on at least one supported site, you’ll then be taken to a landing page where you can see rankings of which sites currently have the best deals for the brand. Even better, clicking any of the links on the page will take you directly to the brand listing on that portal.
Historical rate data
One somewhat hidden feature I wanted to point out on these brand landing pages is the “View Best Rate History” link. Just as it sounds, this page will let you see a chart showing how the rewards rate for a retailer has changed over time. Hovering over a plot on this graph will show you the date of the rate, what that rate was, and which platform offered it. Also, if you prefer one portal type to another you can view the same data broken down by the aforementioned categories. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be a way to view data for a specific platform, but you can’t win them all.
To me, this is super helpful information as it lets you know whether you’re really getting a good deal or not. As someone who’s seen firsthand how often rates on Rakuten et al can fluctuate, I know how frustrating it is when the rate shoots up right after you make a purchase. While this still won’t guarantee that won’t happen, at least you can go in with some educated knowledge about whether or not the current rate is a historically good one.
As cool as the other features of Cashback Monitor are — which are all accessible without any sort of sign up, the customized experience is perhaps even better. With their My Monitor feature, you can choose specific brands and portals you want to keep an eye on.
Creating a Cashback Monitor account is fairly easy. All you need to do is connect using a Facebook, Twitter, or Google account. In my case, I opted to use Twitter. By doing so, Twitter informed me that I’d be giving the platform access to see Tweets from my timeline, profile information, account settings, and accounts I follow, mute, or block. I doubt Cashback Monitor actually uses all of these allowances and, instead, just uses it as a simple way to log in. Still, it’s worth being aware of what permissions you’re giving before opting in. If you’re not comfortable, as I mentioned, you can always continue to use basic Cashback Monitor features incognito.
Selecting brands and platforms
Once you create your account, you’ll be able to select which platforms and brands you want to monitor most. In the case of portals, you can select up to eight options. Note that this limit is across all portal types despite them being broken up by category on the page. Then, you can add up to 20 retailers you want to monitor.
Even after you initially set up My Monitor, you can still make edits by clicking the arrow next to your name in the upper right corner and selecting “Configure my monitor.”
Your My Monitor table
With your platforms and brands selected, your My Monitor tab will now be populated with a table showing the current cashback rates. On that table, the top earning option for each brand will be highlighted in green. Additionally, however, Cashback Monitor will also show the top percentage available in the first column, lest that deal comes from a site that’s not one of your defaults. If that is the case, you can click the rate to view the brand’s landing page and see which platform currently has the top earning rate.
Another useful feature in My Monitor is the ability to assign alternate valuations to specific point currencies. For example, if I valued Delta SkyMiles at 1.5¢ each instead of a standard 1¢, I could tell Cashback Monitor as much. Then, on the My Monitor grid, it would alter the SkyMiles-earning portal (SkyMiles Shopping) accordingly to make it an “apples to apples” comparison. So, if the normal rate was 1%, it would show 1.5% to reflect my valuation.
You can adjust valuations for several airline and hotel loyalty programs, as well as credit card points and site-specific points. Most notable in my case is that you can adjust the value of Rakuten if you’re someone like me who earns American Express Membership Rewards Points on the platform instead of cashback. However, in this case, be aware that you will want to select the specific “Rakuten (Amex MR)” option under “Other Rewards Points Portals” category for My Monitor as opposed to the generic Rakuten to ensure that your adjusted values are properly reflected on your personalized table.
Lastly, if you’re waiting to make a purchase until a better cashback deal comes along, then the alerts feature in My Monitor could come in handy. With this feature, you can choose to be informed when rates for a specific brand reach a goal rewards rate. Furthermore, you can narrow it down to a favorite platform hitting this rate or widen the scope to include a certain category of portal — or just allow for any cashback platform to qualify. You can also enter an email address to ensure that these alerts reach you in a timely manner.
As you set up alerts, they’ll display underneath so you can see which ones you have active. Under that, it will also show you any recent alerts that were triggered.
Pros and Cons of Using Cashback Monitor
Pro: Increase your savings with less work
Let’s start with the obvious: the biggest advantage of Cashback Monitor is that you can find the best deal without having to go to several different sites. I’m definitely guilty of doing this practice manually, so I for one appreciate this aggregation.
Con: Overdiversiying your rewards
Something to keep in mind is that, just because you’re earning cashback doesn’t always mean that you’ll be able to claim it. Let me explain. In most cases, cashback sites will have thresholds for how much in rewards you’ll need to earn before you can request a payout. As a result, if you’re deal-hunting brings you to several different sites, you may end up in a situation where your earnings are spread too thin, leaving you with nothing! My advice would be to check the rules for each platform before joining and keep these thresholds in mind when shopping. In particular, watch out for reward expiration language so you don’t end up losing out on your cashback after all of your efforts.
Pro: Introduces you to new platforms
Even as someone who’s familiar with several different cashback portals, I was surprised by how many options listed on Cashback Monitor that I had never heard of (side note: you can bet I’ll now be reviewing some of them in the future). What’s more, in some cases, these options that I was unfamiliar with were the ones offering the best rates. Because of this, I could see Cashback Monitor as being a great discovery tool — especially if you regularly see your favorite brands featured on a specific portal.
Con: Some cashback sites are annoying
Not only do different cashback sites have different rules that can make them more or less viable than others but some are just, for lack of a better word, annoying. From poor interfaces to incessant emails, there are times when saving a little extra just isn’t worth it. So, while you may be tempted by a slightly better rate, once again, it may ultimately be better to stick with your favorite platforms rather than journey into the unknown.
Final Thoughts on Cashback Monitor
Although Cashback Monitor may seem like a simple site, it’s actually quite a powerful tool. Not only can it save you both time and money when it comes to online shopping but can also help you time your purchases (thanks to the alerts feature) so that you’re getting a solid deal. I’m also impressed with just how many platforms the site catalogs, making it a fairly comprehensive resource. Meanwhile, the ability to customize point valuations just takes the great concept to another level of awesome.
For all of those reasons, I definitely think it’s worth checking out Cashback Monitor — and would also recommend creating an account so you can use the customization options. That said, I’d still advise shoppers to be thoughtful about their purchase plans so that they can avoid some of the pitfalls I mentioned above. Aside from that minor downside, Cashback Monitor is a huge win and a site I will now be visiting often.
Also published on Medium.