Fixing one’s finances is a perennially popular New Year’s resolution, and 2021 is no different. For the 43 percent of Americans who planned to make a resolution for this year, according to a CIT Bank/Harris Poll survey, ramping up savings or creating a budget were among the top three choices.
That said, you don’t have to be an official resolutioner to start making smarter money moves. Maybe that means trading in a credit card for one that earns better rewards in categories more aligned with your spending habits. Or perhaps it’s finally time to get into the game of using your credit card points and miles for free trips, just like all those travel influencers you follow on Instagram. (Seriously, how do they do it?)
Savvy shoppers who want the biggest bang for their buck also use tools such as Cashback Monitor when buying stuff online. Keep reading to learn how this unique platform can help you make the most of every purchase.
What is Cashback Monitor?
Cashback Monitor is a website that tracks earnings rates across dozens of online shopping portals, making it easy to see which portal will give you the most points, miles or cash back at a particular retailer.
Using a shopping portal aggregator like Cashback Monitor saves you the trouble of comparing bonus rewards rates on your own, allowing you to maximize earnings on purchases you’re already making.
How does Cashback Monitor work?
Cashback Monitor is fairly simple to navigate. Upon visiting the site, you’ll see a homepage divided into two main categories. The first displays the best rates available at the most-viewed stores that day, giving you an overview of the most popular deals at any given time. The second shows each store’s best rate sorted by the estimated value of the rewards currency issued, whether it’s cash back, points or miles.
Although you can browse stores and brands by rewards type, the easiest way to use Cashback Monitor for your next online purchase is to enter your retailer of choice into the search bar at the top of the site’s homepage. We’ll use Walgreens as an example:
The search results page lists all the current earnings rates for Walgreens purchases made through any of the 51 shopping portals Cashback Monitor tracks. (Rates are updated at least once a day, typically in the early morning hours.) Rewards are organized by type—cash back, travel miles and points, credit card points and other rewards—with the best deals and bonuses at the top of each column, enabling you to compare portal offers quickly and easily.
Let’s say you’re a frequent JetBlue flyer. Clicking on “JetBlue ShopTrue” in the travel miles and points column takes you directly to the airline’s shopping portal. From there, you’ll click through to Walgreens using a special link and complete your purchase. Just remember to log in to your TrueBlue membership account before you do, as that’s how JetBlue will know where to send those 3X points.
The same applies to all other loyalty and shopping programs you see on Cashback Monitor—you’ll have to be a member or create a new account to earn the offer. This may not be possible for every portal, though: When it’s a bank-operated portal, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’ll need a Chase-issued credit card that earns Ultimate Rewards points in order to access it.
Cashback Monitor has a few other handy tools to help you get more out of the platform. For instance, somewhat similar to rotating-category credit cards, many shopping portals vary their bonus offers throughout the year. Switching to “View Best Rate History” on the search results page lets you see all of the earnings opportunities at a retailer over the previous 15 months:
This information can help you decide between taking advantage of that day’s best offer and waiting for a higher rate to come back around.
Another helpful feature is the ability to assign a cash value to any rewards currency.
For example, The Points Guy estimates JetBlue TrueBlue points to be worth 1.3 cents apiece. You can change Cashback Monitor’s default JetBlue value (1 cent per point) to 1.3 cents, ensuring that the “best rate” you see is based on what the offer would actually be worth to you. If you’re saving up TrueBlue points for a future flight, personalizing your Cashback Monitor feed may help you reach your goal faster.
You’ll have to create a Cashback Monitor account in order to assign points values, but doing so means you’ll also be able to specify the shopping portals and stores you’re most interested in. A less-crowded interface lets you identify the best deals more easily—and ignore those from portals you don’t shop through anyway.
To access this feature, click on the “My Monitor” tab and log in to your account, then select “Config My Monitor.” (You can pick up to eight portals and up to 20 retailers.)
Once that’s squared away, you can set up alerts so that you’ll get notified whenever a rewards rate at one of your favorite retailers reaches a specific number in a specific shopping portal. This is especially handy if you’ve been ready to make a non-urgent purchase but opted to wait for a more-lucrative offer to better maximize your earnings.
Stacking Cashback Monitor deals with credit card rewards
One of the best things about using an aggregator like Cashback Monitor is that it helps you find legitimate ways to “double-dip” your rewards earnings with little effort. You do this by paying with a rewards credit card at checkout, which means you get the points, miles or cash back from your card on top of what the portal gives you.
Let’s say you use your JetBlue Plus Card to pay for your purchases at Walgreens (remember, you’ll need to start your shopping in the TrueBlue shopping portal). In addition to the 3X points you’ll get in the portal, you’ll also earn 1 point per dollar spent with the card itself.
If earning the most rewards possible is your goal, you can also install the Cashback Monitor bookmarklet. It’s a free browser extension (available for Chrome, Firefox and Safari) that takes you from whatever retail site you’re shopping on over to Cashback Monitor with just one click, so you can quickly compare all of the current offers for that store to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Cashback Monitor shopping portals
Cashback Monitor doesn’t keep tabs on every single online shopping portal, but it does encompass dozens of portals that offer everything from cash back and miles to credit card points and more. Below are some examples, organized by rewards type:
- Rakuten (formerly Ebates)
- Dollar Dig
- Hoopla Doopla
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping
- American Airlines AAdvantage eShopping
- Amtrak Guest Rewards Points for Shopping
- Choice Privileges Online Mall
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Shopping
- United Airlines MileagePlus Shopping
- Wyndham Rewards Shopping
- Free Spirit Online Mall
Credit card points
Other reward points
- Capital One Shopping
Hundreds of major retailers in a variety of shopping categories are featured on the Cashback Monitor site. Here’s are some of the most popular stores and brands as of this writing:
- Saks Fifth Avenue
- Nordstrom (and Nordstrom Rack)
- The Container Store
Should you use Cashback Monitor for online shopping?
If getting the biggest bang for your buck is on your to-do list this year, checking Cashback Monitor should be the first thing you do before buying anything online. Utilizing shopping portals is a hands-off way to add points and miles to your rewards stockpile, since all you have to do is start your purchase through the portal rather than at the retailer’s site.
And if Cashback Monitor can help you find the absolute best return on the spending you’re already doing? That’s a no-brainer.