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Cashback: What's the deal with QuidCo?

A Web site called QuidCo has doled out real money to people who choose its promoted deals. Why not you? It really sounds too good to be true, but it's for real

The world is astonishingly short of free lunches, unless you're a journalist like me. But free money? Now that's something I can help with. In fact, a Web site called QuidCo has plopped hundreds of pounds into the pockets of both myself and my co-editor Ian Morris, not for our ringing endorsement but for buying stuff through the site we'd buy anyway. Why not you too?

What is QuidCo?

It's a free-to-join UK cashback system. You've probably heard of sites such as Confused.com and MoneySupermarket -- they have deals with businesses such as insurance companies, who pay these find-a-good-deal sites whenever they refer someone who buys one of their products. Customers get a bargain, and the sites get paid commission as a result.

QuidCo's USP is that it passes the commission on to you, in cold hard cash. It makes its money by debiting £5 per year from the cashback you earn. That's it. If you earn £400 a year in cashback, you'll get £395 in your bank account. And if you don't earn enough in 12 months, you don't get charged, so you're never at risk of paying out to be a QuidCo member.

It sounds too good to be true, but it really isn't. Personally, I've had almost £400 -- in cash -- thrusted into my bank. Ian has had a little more than this, I believe.

How does it work?

Let's say you want home broadband from O2. At the time of writing, O2 will pay QuidCo £50 for sign-ups to home broadband. Simply search for O2 on QuidCo, and click on the result to view O2 home broadband (there's a separate page for O2's mobile products).

You're then given a button to click, which sends you to O2's normal online store. But by clicking the link from QuidCo, a temporary cookie is put on your computer that tells O2, when you complete the checkout process, that you came from QuidCo. After a couple of days or so, a credit (of £50 in this example) will show up in your QuidCo account. Once this clears, you can transfer it to your bank account.

That really is all there is to it. No crazy pop-ups, no abrasive ads for gambling, no ads for hot girls in your area. You could even find the deal you want via something like MoneySupermarket, then visit that company via QuidCo and snag the commission for yourself (I did that for my last gas and electric contract -- with Scottish Power -- which bagged me about £60).

Unlike MoneySupermarket, you need to know who you want to buy from to begin with. Or at least it's best to. Merchants are sorted into groups such as Computers & Software, Finance and Travel, or you can just search for a company you already know you want to buy from. 

Things to be aware of

Although your sale usually tracks in your QuidCo account after a couple of days, it can take a couple of months for the cash to be paid to QuidCo. Your best bet is to let it mount up and look forward to a big fat payout at the end of the year.

Also, make sure you have cookies enabled in your browser. Without them, your sale will not be tracked.

Finally, think ahead when shopping online, and ask yourself, "Is this seller on QuidCo?" Even if it's just for a CD through Play.com, or a huge insurance policy from MORETH>N, it's always worth checking (I had £75 from MORETH>N to insure the contents of my flat).

If you're still left wondering what's in it for merchants, QuidCo itself sums the arrangement up best: "It enables the merchant to reach a large base of motivated, savvy buyers and it enables you to get back big savings by buying from merchants who participate in the model."

A win-win situation, and with your free money you can go ahead and get yourself a free lunch. Or order one online, and get cashback for it via QuidCo.