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Three important things you should know about cashback services

Do they really work? And can you score even bigger savings than you thought? Spoiler alert: yes and yes.

BigCrumbs is one of many cashback services.
BigCrumbs is one of many cashback services. BigCrumbs

Some things in life are too good to be true. Weight-loss pills, for example, and those free Olive Garden dinners that always seem to be popping up on Facebook.

Most people feel the same way about cashback services, at least initially. Every time I mention them, whether to friends or a lecture group or savvy blog readers, I'm met with the same skeptical reaction. A free rebate for doing almost nothing? Yeah, right.

But in truth? Yeah, right! Cashback services are awesome, and you should be using one -- maybe even more than one. Start by reading my post on "How to get a discount on nearly everything you buy online," then continue on for three important things you should know about cashback services.

So is BeFrugal.com.
So is BeFrugal.com. BeFrugal

1. You can triple-dip

Suppose you're able to save five percent on a big purchase using a cashback service. Score! But you can get an even better deal if you work a little harder.

For starters, using a cashback service doesn't prohibit you from applying other discounts, specifically discount codes you've received via e-mail or found online. Once you get to the checkout page, just insert the code like you normally would. Obviously your rebate will reflect the discounted price, but ultimately you want the lowest total price you can get.

Not sure how to find coupon codes for a particular store? Google is a great place to start, but you can also use a browser plug-in like Coupons at Checkout or Honey. These will automatically find (and insert) viable codes for whatever store you're shopping.

Finally, don't forget the old-school option: a cashback credit card like Discover. These cards typically give you a 1-2% rebate on all purchases, so why not leverage them for an even bigger total cashback percentage?

In other words: cashback service + cashback credit card + coupon code = triple-dip savings. You can't always land this fish, but when you do, it's oh-so-sweet.

FatWallet helps you find deals and get cash back.
FatWallet helps you find deals and get cash back. FatWallet

2. You can shop around for the best rebate

Although Ebates, FatWallet, and TopCashback are probably the best-known cashback services, there are many, many more. And within all of them, cashback rates can vary.

Suppose, for example, you're looking to buy something from Apple. While Ebates and FatWallet are currently offering 2% and 1%, respectively, TopCashback has (for a limited time) raised the ante to 3% for all iPhone and iPad purchases.

Needless to say, it pays to comparison-shop among cashback sites so you're always assured of getting the maximum rebate. There's a bit more hassle involved this way, as you have to sign up for and keep tabs on more services, but that extra effort can yield bigger returns.

Of course, the last thing you want to do is spend time bouncing around from one cashback site to another to see which one has the best rates. That's why I recommend visiting SavingCashback.com, which compares the rebate percentages for various cashback services.

3. They work

Still skeptical? That's okay -- cashback services really do seem too good to be true. But I've tried a number of them, and although the waiting was the hardest part (typically there's a 90-day delay before you can get your payout), every single one delivered as advertised. No shenanigans, no shady practices.

I will note that I've heard from a couple readers who encountered problems. One pointed me to an admittedly misleading offer on Ebates, while two others didn't receive confirmation of their purchase from a recent TopCashback deal I shared right here. (I had a similar experience with a different TopCashback service, and although it was slow to be resolved, it was eventually resolved.)

Even so, I can't recommend the cashback option highly enough. With very little personal information up front and just a few extra clicks in your shopping process, you stand to get extra money back. Kind of a no-brainer, if you ask me.

Bonus deal: Here's a rare Disney freebie: For a limited time, you can get a free digital copy of "The Incredibles" when you create (or sign into) your Disney account and connect to your iTunes account. It's a promo for the new Disney Movies Anywhere service. The movie will get added to your iTunes account, meaning you can then watch it via Apple TV or your iOS device.

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