How To Save Up To 15% or More on Your Gear in 5 Seconds
Today, I am going to show you how to save up to 15% (or more!) on your gear in no time flat. To do this, you will utilize what are known as online shopping portals.
What Are Online Shopping Portals?
Online shopping portals (aka ‘portals’) are third-party websites that offer an incentive for making purchases at certain retailers. By clicking through their site and allowing them to direct you to the merchant, the portal receives a percentage of your purchase total as a kickback. They pass a portion of this on to the customer, known as the payout, which is the savings I am referring to. Everything costs the same and you’re brought to the same website – you simply earn cash back on your purchase when you normally would not have. Note that portals work for almost all online purchases, not just backpacking/hiking gear, but it is especially applicable to hiker trash given its simplicity.
How Do I Use A Portal?
There are many, many shopping portals available on the Internet, and they don’t all have the same payout rate. In order to compare the best rates, I suggest visiting cashbackmonitor.com first to see what the rates are for various portals at your merchant of choice. Once you’ve identified the best rate, simply click the portal name to be taken to their page, log in to the portal (or create an account if don’t already have one), and proceed to the merchant to make your purchase.
Which Portal Should I Use?
No single portal has the best payouts for every site nor works for every merchant. Despite that, I recommend sticking to just a handful of portals that have consistently high payouts and a good record of tracking purchases. This helps give you the best shot at receiving your cash in a timely manner and also keeps you from having an unwieldy amount of accounts with small balances at each (many portals won’t send you a payment until you reach a certain threshold, so this could delay your delivery even more).
Some of my favorites include:
- ActiveJunky (use link for $10 free)
- Top Cashback
- Giving Assistant (use link to earn $5 free)
I suggest making an account at each of the above portals (use the links above for free cash after your purchase!) and choosing the best option based on the accounts you have. In my experience, these portals are consistently in the top 3 for payouts and I have had good experiences with them all.
Here are some of the Outdoor/Camping/Hiking stores that often have high cashback payouts via shopping portals:
Note: REI and Amazon, while great options, tend to not have high shopping portal payouts (1-2% at most). I’ll have a separate post on how to save on gear on those sites without a shopping portal.
Here’s an example.
Say I was shopping for a new Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL tent (anyone else going basic?), and I notice that eBags.com has it for $389 (side note: eBags sells a lot of camping gear and has frequent sales, as well as some of the highest shopping portal cash back – don’t overlook them!).
First, I go to cashbackmonitor.com and search for eBags:
The results populate below, and you see a list of portals and their payout rates sorted from highest to lowest.
Top Cashback is offering 16% cash back. Sweet! Click on their link and go to the Top Cashback portal. From that link, you’re taken directly to the eBags merchant page on Top Cashback. Log in to (or create) your Top Cashback account and then click the “Get Cashback Now” button.
Then, simply shop as normal. If you navigate back to Top Cashback, you’ll see another confirmation message like this:This will indicate that your click-through was successfully recorded. Within a day or so (sometimes less), you should see your transaction under “My Dashboard” on Top Cashback and an estimated time to when your cashback will be payable (other portals have similar dashboards). Here’s where you need a little patience, as it often takes several weeks or even a couple of months to have the cashback in your hands after a transaction. My best advice is to “set it and forget it” – just use the portals and and don’t get wrapped up in how long it takes to pay out. You should, however, check your dashboard every once in a while to make sure the transactions have been listed correctly. If not, you can file a dispute and have the portal look into it further.
One way to further enhance your savings is to make your purchases with a credit card that offers cash back, such as the American Express EveryDay card, which offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases. This cash back is in addition to any portal cash back you receive, which really adds to your savings in the long run.
Another way is to increase your cash back is to purchase wait until the portals offer increased payouts, which happens every couple of months. I’ve seen payouts as high as 30% for some merchants, so it can really pay off to have some patience. Subscribe to the portal emails to get notified of when the increases happen (they usually take place in conjunction with large sales like Black Friday, Memorial Day, etc.).
Finally, I encourage you to think a bit outside the box when shopping for your gear. As I mention above, places like REI and Amazon do not have high payouts and may not always have the best price either. Cast a wide net when shopping for your gear and then try to chip a little more off the price with portals. In my example above, I searched for a tent on eBags.com that, at face value, was not the best price. However, when combined with a 20% off coupon (which they frequently offer) plus 16-25% cashback and an extra 1.5% from my Amex card, the price ends up being cheaper than at Amazon.
Things to remember to ensure shopping portal success:
Although using shopping portals is an incredibly easy way to save money, there are a couple of pitfalls you should be aware of which may affect your payout:
- Turn off Ad Blockers. Shopping portals rely on cookies to track your purchases, and having an Ad Blocker in place may inhibit this and completely block your cashback.
- Be wary of using discount codes not mentioned on the portal. Some portals specify in their terms that cash back is not available when you checkout with a discount or coupon code, so make sure you check before you use one (however, if an item is on sale it should work fine). Some portals do list coupons on their page for specific merchants, and those should be fine to use and will also include the cash back.
- Use incognito mode. Sometimes, if you click on different pages or tabs between the time you clicked through a shopping portal and when you check out, your session cookie (which tracks the purchase) can expire or get replaced, meaning your purchase won’t track and you won’t get paid. It’s best to open a separate window in incognito mode (on Chrome) or a different browser and do the entire purchase that way in order to segregate your activity and ensure there is no interference.
- Be careful with gift cards. Most portals specifically exclude earning cashback when redeeming gift cards for purchases. Some portals don’t always enforce it, but it’s too risky if you are relying on your cashback. Generally, if you use a gift card to pay for only part of your order, you will still receive cash back on the portion which was not paid with the gift card. That being said, I’m a gambling man so if I know I’ll be using a gift card I go through a portal anyway just to see if I get lucky. More often than not, I lose.
Shopping portals are a great way to save a nice amount of cash on items you were planning to buy anyway. Using these methods, I have personally saved thousands of dollars on my purchases over the last couple of years, simply by making two or three extra clicks with a total extra time of about five seconds. If you use a cashback credit card in conjunction with the shopping portal, you stand to save even more – but only if you follow the rules and instructions I laid out.
While shopping portal cash back isn’t available for every store, it can be had at most online retailers – and not just for camping gear! I use portals for every purchase I make online, and have saved thousands of dollars in the process. Learning about shopping portals was an eye-opening experience for me a few years ago, and I hope this helps save my fellow hikers a few bucks along the way.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions!
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