Kyleonthe trip sherpa

Why I Left TopCashBack for Smaller Rebates

Who would ever leave more savings for less?  The Sherpa would, but for good reason. 

First, for those who are unfamiliar, a rebate website is one that gets a commission from referring a customer who makes a purchase.  The rebate website then passes some of that commission onto the buyer, and keeps some for themselves.  Some of the top players in the category are: TopCashBack, Ebates, and FatWallet.

The principle is the same with all of them.  You create a login, and every time you want to make an online purchase you first go through one of these sites, which will provide a tracking link and a pre-negotiated rebate percentage which will arrive in some weeks.  If you would prefer to earn miles instead of dollars you can always use the airline shopping malls like this one.  The balance in your rebate account builds and at some point you may choose to cashout, I do so when I hit $25 or $50. 

The goal, one would think and I would usually agree, is to then find the maximum rebate per purchase and build an account at that site.  Let's look at some examples.

TopCashBack often has better rates and double offers, here is a limited offer for double rebate on Accor Hotels.

accor-double-offer-tcb

Here is one from Ebates for Accor as well, but this at the normal rate of 5%.

ebates-accor-normalized

And now one from FatWallet.

accor-fw-2pt5

With that kind of disparity, it is a simple decision right?  Go for TopCashBack and get 10% of your purchased stored in your account for later when the commission is actually paid out.  Not necessarily, but I will explain in just a moment.

For some retailers, there will be a variable rate, allowing better commissions for higher margin items, and lower commissions for those that have slim margins.  Expedia for exmaple, will pay different rates for different prodcuts.  Here, the disparities are a bit less.

expedia-tcb

expedia-ebates

And here is a line from my actual payout for an airline ticket on FatWallet.com.

payout-receipts-fw

In my experience there is no question that TopCashBack has the best rates.  The issue is their shocking customer service.  After living in Britain for three years (and loving it) there is one portion of the society that remains lacking - customer service.  Retail shops close 15 minutes before the time posted outside (US ones often allow you a few minutes after close to finish a purchase), restaurants tend to have poor service by servers who are paid much better than their US counterparts, and don't depend on a tips left by patrons to survive.  Hold times, sending complaints and requests by mail, and the list goes on and on.  The reason why I rant here is because my experience with TopCashBack which is clearly a UK company with both US and UK websites has been appalling. 

When I first started to use the site, I was thrilled.  For hotels I already intended to book, I could earn, 3%, 5%, even as much as 16% back in some cases without increasing the cost of the booking, and still earning miles on my credit card.  There was just one problem.  The rebates are only good when you actually receive them.  There are several that to this day I have not received at all, and others that I received only after disputing a non-tracked link, then chasing them up again and again to determine where the rebate was. 

There is not a customer service number anywhere on the TopCashBack site at all.  In fact, even an email is tough to conjur up.  I finally had to get sleuthy about it, and pretend to have a media request in order for them to return an email. 

If you have a non-tracked link you will receive the standard email that states, "We intend to respond within 10 days."  TEN DAYS???  For those of you in the UK, there is a simple shrug of the shoulders but for the Americans you might as well have just said, "We'll get to it, when we get to it" and then of course if you have my experience, they will come back on day 9 just to say, "We are investigating the claim and intend to resolve it as soon as possible, though sometimes this can take up to 3 months." 

If the site always tracked the links it would be fine, you would never need to contact their terrible customer service, therefor, you would never have to encounter this.  In my own tests, no less than 60% of the links never tracked and 20% are still unanswered and I will never receive compensation for the rebate I am due. 

Even for the Brits though, 10 days is a bit long for a simple email back, and while sometimes these matters could (I guess) take as long as a quarter of a year, even they would probably do business elsewhere. 

So I did just that.  I believe in a capitalist society the best way to make a statement (other than putting up a snarky blog post of course) is to talk with your wallet and your feet.  If I don't like the way that TopCashBack (TCB) runs their business, then I should shop elsewhere, right? 

First I tried Ebates. I found though, more often than not, that the retailers I wanted just weren't there.  Links tracked for me at a rate of 50% which was on a mere two purchases, however, I was exhausted after digging up receipts, and emails and sending it back to TCB only for them to need further documentation all while communicating only through their internal message system (why can't we just use emails like adults?).  It's probably unfair to dismiss Ebates for this bad experience, but I put them on hold while I tried FatWallet which came highly recommended. 

I first tried the service and was a little disappointed because their commissions were smaller, but tried them anyway.  The first thing I really loved was this little screen that pops up once you have clicked on a retailer link to be redirected to their site.

screen-shot-2013-02-17-at-4.24.48-pm

What a simple, yet clever idea.  When I make purchases here, I leave myself a note of how much I spent, what the rebate rate was at the time (sometimes there are bonuses) and the purchase number given when I close the sale with the retailer.  In five transactions, four were tracked and posted perfectly, with one that did not.  I gave it a few days and when it did not track in my cash back screen, I submitted a support request.  Response was quick (within 24 hours) and I provided my details as I had left in the note for myself.  Within another day the click and purchase was tracked in my account and I was paid on it a couple of weeks later. 

When I was first checking FatWallet out, I had made some clicks into stores to see how it worked, and got an email a couple hours later that said, "We saw you clicked but didn't track a purchase, did you make one that we should follow up?"  How awesome is that?  What a contrast to TerribleTopCashBack. 

So though the rates are lower the customer service and success rate is much better with FatWallet.  Ultimately, I would rather have $1 back on a purchase that I know I will receive than $10 back from the Nigerian Princes over at TCB.

If you want to join in, you should definitely use my referral link (yes I get credit when you join, and yes you will get credit when you have your friends join), but just to clarify, this is not why I wrote the post.  If it was I would be smarter to refer you to TopCashBack where the bonus is twice as much (though you won't ever receive it anyway, right?).  I wrote it to warn you about TopCashBack, and encourage you with FatWallet after my mix of experiences with the two. 

Happy Shopping.

FatWallet Coupons and Deals

-Sherpa.

Comments

#1
Becky @ New Girl in the Air March 11, 2013 at 11:48 am

I've had good luck with Mr. Rebates - not sure if you've tried it, but tracking in my experience has been near 100%, regular pay-outs, and decent rebate rates.

#2
Sherpa March 11, 2013 at 11:53 am

Thanks Becky - I haven't tried them yet, but I may give them a shot on your recommendation.

#3
Angelina March 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Yes mrrebates is excellent!

#4
Sherpa March 11, 2013 at 12:08 pm

@Angelina - Perhaps I will followup with a review on what Mr. Rebates has to offer. My chief concern was that TopCashBack gets a ton of press in the blogger community and at a glance they DO offer the best rates... but they never seemed to track and chasing TCB up was a nightmare. Thanks for the tip, I will give them a try!

#5
MT March 12, 2013 at 12:16 am

I completely agree! Why go to TopCashBack with the promise of higher rates when they never track your purchase?! Their customer service is appalling. When you ask them to investigate, they take forever (even over e months!). And when you follow-up, they have the nerve to say that they can only track purchases within the last three months and that your appeal is no longer valid...even when it was their fault it took that long! I agree about FatWallet...they have a good track record.

#6
Sherpa March 12, 2013 at 06:22 am

@MT - Your experience echoes mine. TopCashBack were in touch with me yesterday and I will post a response from them soon. Thanks for the comment.

#7
Food Wine and Miles March 12, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Sorry to hear you've had issues with TCB. I can't think of a single transaction I've had that didn't post automatically (though it does often take quite some time) - fingers crossed that it stays that way!

#8
Sherpa March 13, 2013 at 01:19 pm

@FWM - I had a lot of success in the beginning, and then it seemed to be more time filing follow-ups, going through their long process (up to 3 months) to get the credit to post if at all.

Coincidentally, I just received a credit for a transaction posted in October for which I submitted a missing claim, but not because it took this long to clear, rather only after I filed a missing claim five months ago (and after this posted). As of today, I still have four missing claims that have gone unresolved dating back nearly a year (July 2012).

#10
Sally April 23, 2013 at 10:13 am

Hi Sherpa,

Can you let me know if you still have any outstanding claims/cashback that I can look at for you.

Please email me [email protected] FAO SALLY and I will look into your account.

Have a great day!

Best Wishes, Sally TopcashBack

#11
Chris June 13, 2013 at 02:52 pm

After having trouble getting TCB to track my clicks properly, I discovered that my browser settings (which on Chrome and FF, my primary two browsers, I had set to restrict third-party cookies) were most likely at fault. Since I use IE for literally nothing, I just made TCB my home page in IE and use IE for any online shopping I want to use a cashback portal for. 100% success in clicks properly tracking after that, and I've earned about $150 and cashed out about $30 so far.

As for support, I didn't have the same dismal experience you did. I submitted about 10 follow-ups to TCB (from earlier this year before I discovered the Chrome third-party cookie issue) and they were resolved. Granted, I used the actual claim form on their site (since their site registered the clicks, so I was able to choose which click to attach the claim to) rather than emailing customer service directly, and it wasn't overnight service, but they all did end up properly crediting to my account within a week or so (fine for me).

That said, having worked in U.S. customer service for many years, I agree that prompt responses should be (and are) the norm here. In my current position, the longest we have ever gone without responding to a customer email is 12 hours, and most emails are responded to in 2-3 hours (and often less). If I had an actual issue that needed correcting and needed to contact customer support only to wait for 10 days, I'd probably be miffed. Fortunately, a cashback portal support issue is rarely a life-or-death or urgent situation or even one where a significant amount of money/value is at stake, unlike, say, a complaint with a hotel or missing miles (although to be fair, airlines in the U.S. tend to have abysmal support response times, too--far worse than your experience with TCB, at least for non-elite flyers, and even [in some cases, like Alaska Airlines] for elite flyers). I'm not going to sweat if it takes a cashback portal two weeks to respond to my demand they credit me for 40 cents.

#12
Sherpa June 13, 2013 at 07:17 pm

Chris:

Great response to the article! I agree that waiting 10 days for $.40 would not be life or death, none of this is life or death of course. But my cashback wasn't $.40 and it wasn't resolved for over 180 days in my case (one of them is shockingly still open)! Once the company works out some of the kinks it may be a great site. I tried switching browsers as well, but my other click through purchases had tracked so it was strange that TCB didn't.

Everyone is going to have a different experience. Mine was not a good one so I won't be back any time soon, but I'm glad it worked out for you!

Thanks for reading the blog and keep the feedback coming!

#13
Rachel June 23, 2013 at 03:15 am

I'd strongly advice everyone to try MrRebates. All my purchases have properly tracked even if it does take a while. I also get commissions from purchases made by my referrals. Topcashback actually closed my account without any prior questions or warnings given. When I asked them about it, they said their automated system did it because I had too many hotel reservations that have gone to zero. That's adding insult to injury. I had so many transactions that never properly tracked and when I did file some claims, they were never updated for months. This seems to me fraudulent on their part and probably a way not to purposely pay commissions to their customers. They probably keep them for themselves or once a customer starts earning too much to their liking, they close your account and make some lame excuse. Don't bother trying to contact them. They don't have a phone or address and for a good reason.

#14
Sherpa June 29, 2013 at 01:23 pm

Rachel - I was not impressed with their customer service even after the fact. They did follow-up with me, but only after posting the article and tweeting them. I had submitted so many requests (one of which is still unanswered), I would have been far happier if the system had simply worked. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is fraudulent, but I would state that their US business will suffer until their customer service and technology comes up to the level of their competition. Thanks as always for reading the blog!

#15
TopCashback July 10, 2013 at 04:57 am

Hi Sherpa and Rachel,

I thought I would just post a quick reply here.

Again I'm sorry for the issues that you have had.

@Sherpa, could you send me a support ticket from your account- It seems to me like all of your tickets are answered and claims resolved? I can see that you are waiting for a payment from one of the approved claims however. Is this the issue you are referring to here?

@Rachel, I'm sorry that you experienced this issue. I know it can be frustrating but please don't feel like you are being accused of any wrongdoing here. We simply need to make sure that all members are meeting our terms and conditions and this was the reason for the response you received from the memberships team. I can chase this up with them if you like? Can you email me on [email protected]?

Best wishes, John

#16
Sherpa July 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

@John - Thanks for looking into this. Still "awaiting merchant" from purchase on September 12, 2012.

#17
John July 12, 2013 at 04:29 am

Hi Sherpa,

No problem! I can see that the calim has actually been approved here. We are waiting on the funds, but I'll ask the claims team to chase this up for you.

Best wishes, John

#18
Scott November 6, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I share your feelings regarding TopCashBack. I am in the US and have only made a few transactions with the site, but almost every one requires a missing cash back claim because the amounts are usually off. It is possible it is the merchants fault because TCB does respond to my emails promptly.

#19
Barbara February 11, 2014 at 02:52 pm

I agree with your review of topcashback. They are not worth my time. 0 payout and no customer service. Submitted tickets shouldn't have to take months, and with zero communication.

There is so much competition, I don't need them. Let them burn all of their bridges.

Thanks for this review, I'll check out the other services from the article and comments.

#21
Linda March 14, 2014 at 06:42 am

OK, I am now convinced not to bother with any of these. Heck, it seems they all suck and you need to be diligent to make sure you're getting your rewards. I am not that organized. It seems you can't trust anyone. They get you to shop there and you have to be persistent to be rewarded.

#22
Sherpa March 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

@Linda I would say that is the case for TopCashBack but certainly not the case with FatWallet. FatWallet will even send you an email a few days later to say that they tracked your click but it didn't look like you made a purchase, and if you did to reply to the email so they can start taking care of it right away. My experience with FatWallet has been excellent and I would encourage you to try them before giving up on the experience. For me it has been very valuable.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

e.g. http://www.example.com/