How To Use Cashback Monitor To Maximize Points From Shopping

Filed Under: Advice
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In Spencer’s guide to Amex Offers yesterday he mentioned stacking the offers with shopping portals, which reminded that I’ve been meaning to put together a post on how to leverage Cashback Monitor for…possibly months.

If you aren’t familiar with the site, Cashback Monitor collates and tracks the payout rates of various cashback and rewards portals. Just like with the portals, using it doesn’t cost you anything extra, and can give you a quick way to compare the alternatives.

Basics of comparing shopping portals

As an example, since I am once again/perpetually in the market for a new laptop, let’s look at rates for the Apple Store.

At the top of the page, you can enter a specific store you’re interested in. I find it best to use shorter search terms when possible, as the spacing and marks on some of these stores can confuse the search tool.

You’ll get a list of results (there might be multiple retailers for your search), and a high-level look at the best rates of return:

If you look at the specific Store Page, you can see a breakdown of the various portals, sorted by the type of miles or points each offers:

The “Best Rate History” is another cool tool, that gives you a snapshot of what the reward rates have been over the past 15 months. You can mouse over the data inputs to get more details about the rate, portal, and time period.

It’s worth noting that none of these rates factor in special promotions that shopping portals sometimes have for “spending $x through the portal in y days“. We frequently see these with the airline portals, particularly around “Back To School” and the holiday period, but as those apply to the portal as a whole, and not a specific retailer, Cashback Monitor doesn’t track those, so you’ll have to do your own math.

Personalizing Cashback Monitor

If you know you have a major purchase coming up (or even if you perpetually have a bunch of small purchases), it’s worth the time to register for an account and configure the site.

Once you log in, you can choose eight portals to be tracked. You can always still compare across all portals, so just choose the ones you think you might be most interested in.

You can also specify particular stores that you use frequently, or want to monitor. In my case, as I’m waiting for the best time to replace my laptop, I’ll want to be able to take a quick glance at both the Apple Store and MacMall.

Once you’ve added preferred portals and stores, you’ll see the rates under the “My Monitor” tab:

You’ll still see the best possible rate even if it isn’t through one of your preferred portals, and can always click on the store to see the full comparison across all portals. But this streamlines things a bit.

To save further time, you can set alerts for specific stores, and receive an email when a portal reaches a given threshold.


So if a portal is offering triple points at your chosen store one day, you can be alerted to it. Once again though, this doesn’t factor in portal spending promotions.

Set your own points values

Of course, not all points are created equal, so knowing the rate of return isn’t always enough.

To customize this even further, you can adjust the values of all the travel, credit card, and reward points. This is going to be different for everyone, but in this case I just used Ben’s most recent valuations.

Once you’ve changed the defaults, the My Monitor tab will show all the rewards rates as a %, so you can evaluate your comparative return:

I sometimes still throw all this math out the window, because while the Avios return is theoretically better, I’m drowning in Avios. So I’d probably choose to earn Ultimate Rewards here, personally. But it’s nice to be able to easily compare.

Earn Ultimate Rewards through Shop With Chase

Bottom line

As with everything, there are way more advanced and complicated techniques that can be used here. But I think this is pretty approachable method for those of us who just want to get some extra points for the stuff we’re buying anyway, and want to be confident in “the deal” without jumping through too many hoops.

How do you determine which shopping portal to use?

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  1. I recently became aware that there are shopping portal opportunities with Marriott. How do those work — can you book a post-paid hotel stay through a portal and still get the bonus points after your stay? Seems like a great opportunity for some extra benefit that I had been missing out on all this time.

  2. Hi! Just a quick question: It looks like you could also get 5% cashback through Discover. While I obviously don’t know if you’ve got an eligible Discover card I’m curious to hear wether you would even consider cashback instead of miles since 5% cashback does sound better that 3.something % „cashback“ through miles. What are your thoughts on that?

  3. 3 weeks ago, I bought an Macbook (ordered on Apple’ educational online store, but picked up in store) through British Airway Shopping Portal, but I haven’t got the points yet. Do the shopping portal excludes Apple’s educational online store???

  4. @ Frederik — I think it depends on the individual? Lots of people prefer cashback to miles, but while I “value” miles at roughly the rate I’d pay to accrue them, I typically redeem them in ways that are far beyond those rates.

  5. @Tiffany
    Thanks for your reply! I appreciate your time and effort to write an article about shopping portals!
    Agreed that it depends on the individual. I get what you’re saying but aren’t you essentially accruing those miles for a higher price than you’d usually would? Wouldn’t you have consider the opportunity cost for NOT getting the Cashback? E.g. you’re buying sth for $100 through a shopping portal and have to option to either get $5 back or $3.9 worth of miles and you choose the miles. Doesn’t that mean you are essentially accuring these $3.9 worth of miles for $5 of (potential) cashback meaning you’re forgoing $1.4 and therefore actually “paying” more than you normally would be willing to spend to accrue the miles?

    That being said if you redeem the miles for higher value it would obviously make sense to take the miles instead of the money but keep in mind you are really buying those miles for more than you are willing to pay for them normally, according to your valuation.

    I stand to be corrected but wouldn’t you have to value one mile (Avios) at least ~1.7 ct for it to make sense to get the miles instead of the money in this case?

    Again, I’m not trying to say you’re wrong or something, I’m just curious how the math adds up since at least for me it looks like you’re essentially buying these miles for a higher price than you’d usually be willing to pay…

  6. @ Frederik — Sure, but you can’t necessarily purchase miles at the rate that I value them, so when I say the cost to accrue I’m already factoring in the opportunity cost, and it’s not a direct comparison to “paying” regardless. I feel like scale also matters. $5 is probably better than 3.9 miles. But I can get way more than $100 worth of travel out of 7,800 miles.

    Travis did a series on how to value miles that gets into all the math, and might be interesting to you: I don’t take it quite that seriously 😉

    But yep, it’s always tradeoffs, and something everyone has to consider the options individually.

  7. Anyone have an idea how often these are updated?

    Also, any idea how quickly the alerts are sent out (once per day? )

  8. There are times when cashbackmonitor misses things; the same can be said for evreward. Is there any other tool out there that mitigates this inaccuracy or advice on how to insure we are getting the best information to make an educated decision?

  9. A bit off topic, but I’d recommend using caution when this tool recommends TopCashback. Despite doing everything right, I have found them to be extremely unreliable, with only about 20% of my transactions tracking correctly using their system. Requests to customer support – even with correct documentation take upwards of 3 months and sometimes end with a response that approximately says: “Well our terms don’t guaranteed anything”. Reader beware.

  10. Hey Tiffany have you ever tried to use a portal to earn miles while purchasing miles? I’ve never heard you talk about that. Odd.

  11. I’ve said it before but in most cases you’d be making a mistake to buy Apple products because of bonus points. If you assume a fairly high bonus of 3 AA points per $ then for a $2,000 iMac you’d get 6,000 points that are worth somewhere between $60-$120 (1-2 cent value per point).

    There are online stores (e.g., B&H Photo) that will usually give you a discount of $100 or more off Apple’s price AND unless you live in that state (NY), you also don’t pay any taxes. So you’d easily save $200+. A much better deal than reaching for points. I went that route recently and saved $150 + free shipping + no taxes off a $1500 computer. A much better deal than 3 pts per $.

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