Microsoft kicked off a large Bing promotion today that's geared to attract the attention of the Internet's best bargain shoppers. The program itself is called Cashback, a function of the company's Bing search engine that--like so many extinct affiliate rewards programs of the dot-com era--gives you a monetary reward for using Microsoft's service.
This isn't some browser activity timer or other crazy stunt. Microsoft will actually refund a portion of your money when you make purchases after clicking on a sponsored link in a Bing search results page. And starting today, these reward percentages have been doubled!
It sounds like a complete scam, but numerous Web shoppers have been milking the system to wonderful results for the past many months--including yours truly (and I type this with no particular loyalty to the Bing search engine; I just like free money).
Here's how it works. Head on over to bing.com and click on the "extras" tab in the upper-right corner. From there, click "Cashback." Go through the necessary procedures of tying a new Cashback account to your Windows Live ID and head back to the main page of bing.com.
If you want to access a list of online stores that support Cashback the easy way, hit up this link and click on the "cashback stores" button on the left-hand side of the page. Voila. A "complete" listing of all the stores that support the Cashback system and the respective discount you'll get on your items--a discount in the form of a refund check that Microsoft sends you, not an instant discount applied to the purchasing process.
Hack the Cashback Planet
The way to "hack" the system and achieve greater discounts on your purchased items is to go through the Cashback process via Bing's search itself. Here's how. When you type certain words into the box on bing.com, you're taken to a results page. This results page is home to numerous sponsored advertisements based on the context of your search. Occasionally, you'll see a retailer's ad pop up with a Cashback logo appended to the corner. When that happens, it's game time.
Click on the advertisement to jump to the retailer's results for whatever it is you searched for. But here's the kicker--you're locked in to the percentage rate for the entire store. Eschew the "pillows" or "teddy bear" you searched for and browse around for any product you want in the store's inventory. You'll receive the same Cashback refund even though your path into the merchant's page had nothing to do with your final purchase.
So where do you find these magic keywords? You can trial-and-error common item words, or you can choose to not waste your time and instead rely on the wisdom of your peers. I like to check popular Web forums like Slickdeals or Fatwallet for new Cashback finds, although more specific sites like Cashbackr are similarly good. Thanks to Slickdeals, here's a brief list of some of the better finds for Microsoft's big "Cashback doubled!" promotion that started today:
- Ebags-- 35% cashback, use the search term "ebags."
- Overstock-- 20% cashback, use the search terms "pillow" or "overstock.com"
- TigerDirect-- 12.5% cashback, use the search terms "hard drive" or "LCD"
- Drugstore.com-- 25% cashback, use the search term "expecta"
And here's a sampling of stores offering huge Cashback refunds in general. They, and others, are searchable via the main Cashback store listing:
- DiscountShoes.com-- 50%
- Eastbay-- 50%
- FTD Flowers-- 40-50%
- SurplusMags-- 40%
- Foot Locker-- 40%
- SKECHERS USA-- 32%
David Murphy (@acererak) will give $20 to anyone who finds him a 50% Cashback discount for the complete Battlestar Galactica Blu-ray box set.* Twitter him if you've found an amazing deal!
*$20 to be paid via the MurphCash system.