Cashback websites are becoming more popular. A shopper goes to a cashback portal, uses a referral link, buys an item, and then gets a percentage of the commission paid to the referrer (the company that owns the portal). To the consumer, it requires just one extra step – visiting the portal first to click through to the online shop. Everything else is the same. By now, everyone has heard of Shopback, but few people know about Shop.com’s Get Paid to Shop Program. Here are similarities and differences between these two cashback portals.
About Shop.com & the Cashback Program
Shop.com, with it’s memorable URL, originated from the US (under the company Market America) and has been in Singapore since 2014. It also holds a strong presence in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Locally, the name of the company is Market Singapore. Like Market America, Market Singapore is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company that sells products, and is similar to Herbalife, Usana, and Mary Kay.
In general, MLMs have a bad reputation. One reason is because few people make money from MLMs. These are usually people who work long and hard at it and treat it like a full-time sales job. Another reason is that some MLMs (not all) operate like ponzi schemes, where their primary source of income comes from franchise/sign-up fees and not from product sales. Therefore, they must continue to seek out new franchise owners/members in order to not implode.
Personally, I have no knowledge of how Market Singapore’s MLM works so I cannot say whether or not this MLM is worthwhile or financially sound.
Though Shop.com is associated with Market Singapore, its cashback program is considered a stand-alone part of the business. This means you don’t have to participate in the MLM (as a franchise owner) or buy products associated with the MLM in order to benefit from getting cashback from their affiliate partners.
Shop.com’s Get Paid to Shop Program vs Shopback – the Similarities
All cashback websites work in a similar way. A company sets up a portal listing all their affiliate online shops. Such shops will pay a referral commission of, say, 10%. To entice you to use their portal, the company will offer to split the commission with you. The split is often 50/50. This means that if you use their portal to click through to the affiliate online shop, they get 5% of your purchase and you get 5% cashback.
Popular affiliate online shops (which appear on both sites) include Zalora, Under Armour, Agoda, and Hotels.com. If you buy from these sites anyway, why not get a small percentage (typically 2% to 6%) of your purchase credited back to you?
To start earning cashback, you will need an account with the cashback website. Then, before buying something from an affiliate online shop, you must remember to first go through the cashback website.
The cashback you earn from using an affiliate link appears in your account (under “pending”) within 1 to 7 days from your purchase.
Because of cancellations, returns, and other such issues with online shopping, while the cashback appears in your account, you cannot draw from it until a much later date, after the cashback has been confirmed. This can take anywhere from weeks to months. Once confirmed, it will move from “pending” to “available”.
Like Shopback, Shop.com will direct deposit your accumulated cashback into your bank account once it is available to be withdrawn.
Shop.com’s Get Paid to Shop Program vs Shopback – the Differences
Here are some differences between the two portals. Some of these differences are reasons why I decided to open a Shop.com account, even though at first I was hesitant having known about their MLM connection.
1. Although Shopback has over 300 affiliate online shops that give you cashback, there are some shops that are exclusive to Shop.com, which also has over 300 affiliates.
2. Shop.com has over 200 local “walk-in” affiliates. These are brick-and-mortar local shops in which you can also get cashback. For local “walk-in” shops, you will need to get a Shop.com Prepaid MasterCard. Then, you will use this card to make your purchases at these “walk-in affiliates”. As a MasterCard that is also preloaded, you can use it elsewhere (wherever MasterCard is accepted). Prepaid cards are also great for those who might need limits on their spending, as they avoid overdraft fees. For these cards, you can only spend what is available (pre-loaded).
3. While all cashback sites require that you meet a minimum in your account before you can cash out, the minimums for Shopback and Shop.com differ. The minimum for Shopback is only $10 while the minimum for Shop.com is $20. This means that for Shop.com, it will take longer to accumulate enough cashback before you are able to cash out.
4. One major difference between the two portals is that if you invite your friends to open a Shop.com account, not only does your friend enjoy cashback on purchases, you also make 0.5% cashback on your friend’s purchases. This is not a one-off thing. You will get cashback on your friend’s purchases indefinitely. It sounds similar to a MLM, except that you don’t have to pay franchise/member fees, and the cashback just extends to one level, not multiple levels.
When people talk about “commission”, they usually think of those working in the FIRE sector (finance, insurance, and real estate). Many people don’t know that a lot of other industries also have referral and revenue sharing programmes (for example, the travel & hospitality industry). The beauty of these programmes is that for the customer, the price of the product doesn’t change. Whether they buy using a referral code/link or not, the price remains the same. What changes is whether and to whom the company (seller) needs to pay a commission.
I’ve been using cashback programmes for more than 20 years, as an early adopter during the days of dial-up internet. Back then, there were no tracking links and cookies were made of dough, not data. During those days, to track one’s purchase meant filling in a field with a specific referral code or the referrer’s email address.
In some circumstances, this hasn’t changed. When you first register for a Shop.com account, it will ask you whether you have been referred by a friend. If you find value in what Frugal in Singapore provides, please put Frugal in Singapore down as the “friend” (by entering “firstname.lastname@example.org” in the email field). It will not change your own cashback potential or purchase price. Yet, it will help indirectly to support this ad-free and unbiased site. Please know that I greatly appreciate this gesture.