Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t the only times to get deep discounts on Amazon and other online stores.
Most days I score even better deals than during Amazon shopping events using RebateKey.com, a discount website where you don’t have to mail in proof of purchase or jump through the usual rebate hoops. (Amazon's Prime Day ended at 2:59 a.m. EDT Wednesday)
Over the past two years, I’ve collected hundreds of items for free or close to it using RebateKey.
My scores – mainly made up of items between 80% and 100% off after rebates – include face coverings, vitamins, baby products, shampoos, a retractable dog leash, vaccination card protectors, iPhone charging wires, Bluetooth trackers, kitchen goods like muffin pans and a food scale, reusable shopping bags, snacks and toys.
► Prime Day 2021 is here: Every incredible Amazon deal you won't want to miss
► Deals aren't only on Amazon: Here are 29 competing Prime Day 2021 sales you can shop right now
I know what you're thinking because I thought the same thing: What's the catch? This seems too good to be true.
RebateKey CEO Ian Sells understands the skepticism and said people wonder if they'll get their money back. He insists there's no catch, and unlike other rebate programs that might show up as ads in your Facebook feed, reviews aren't required.
The results: To date, I have completed more than 330 successful RebateKey rebates totaling more than $4,700 in deposits to my PayPal account.
Ashley Watkins, of Nashville, Tennessee, also was hesitant when she found RebateKey in the summer of 2018, soon after it launched. Her laundry list of purchases includes an air purifier, reusable straws, essential oils, skin care products, ski goggles and wall art.
“I have purchased all kinds of items that I likely wouldn't have gotten had it not been for RebateKey refunding some, if not all, of the money,” Watkins told me, adding she’s received more than $6,500 in rebates. “It has allowed me to gift friends and family much more than I could have afforded otherwise.”
How RebateKey works at Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Etsy and Shopify
RebateKey has paid out $80 million in rebates and has 750,000 users plus 30,000 shoppers, said Sells, who co-founded the company in 2017 and launched the site in 2018. The bulk of the rebates are on Amazon, but there are also offers on other sites, including Walmart, eBay, Etsy and Shopify.
“The reason why this was necessary was sellers need a way to drive traffic and sales on platforms like Amazon in order to stimulate their new product launches or get the word out or even drive sales,” Sells said. “Because there is no way for a seller to stand on an island handing out samples of their product.”
Sellers are willing to give rebates as a way to drive sales, he explains. Higher sales help them drive organic sales on Amazon and rank higher in search results.
You start your shopping trip at RebateKey.com to see if there's a rebate you're interested in. From the site, you click through to get to Amazon or the site with a rebate. Some offers will take you directly to the item to purchase while there are a few "treasure hunt" items where you need to search for the right item.
After you make the purchase, you'll need to submit the order number to RebateKey, but if you use the RebateKey Chrome extension it will do this automatically.
Pro tip: When you find an item to purchase through RebateKey, you'll pay full price most of the time. Then you'll get a partial or full rebate in 35 days.
The reason for the 35-day wait is to make sure shoppers don't return the item since Amazon's return policy is 30 days.
“We also have coupons, as well, on the platform, so there's no waiting; you can just use a coupon and get a discount,” Sells said. “Rebates is where we got started, and it's really our bread and butter and is how we really give such amazing deals to people.”
RebateKey offers shoppers 10 rebates a day and 150 a month. Last week, I bought a whopping seven items with rebates in a day and completed a dozen Amazon orders in three days.
► Prime Day means more Amazon returns: How to get perks out of botched purchases, no box required
► Wayfair's Prime Day 2021 sale: Wayfair is having an enormous 72-hour clearance sale to compete with Prime Day 2021
Be patient waiting for rebates
Liisa Farrell, of Pulaski, Wisconsin, was already placing a lot of Amazon orders before she started using RebateKey about three months ago. Now she’s already completed 50 rebates.
“At first I really thought it was highly suspicious, so I kind of went into it cautiously,” Farrell said.
And then with her first rebate, she ran into a problem. The seller contacted her to say the order wasn’t a match for the rebate. She quickly responded that it was a match and provided the order number again, which resolved the issue.
“Ever since then I haven’t had any issues at all,” Farrell said. “I’m amazed by it and have been running around telling everyone about it.”
With hundreds of orders under her belt, Watkins said she has only had a few disputes. One or two were accidents on the sellers’ part, and once she ordered the wrong item.
Pro tip: Checking the messages in your RebateKey account is key. I once overlooked the details of one rebate – that to get 95% back on a girl’s bathing suit it had to be in a specific size – and the seller contacted me before Amazon even shipped the order to explain why the rebate wasn’t a match.
I have had to return a few RebateKey orders, usually ones that weren’t free, and every time I have reached out to the seller so they can cancel the rebate as I’ll be sending the order back.
When I do have to return an Amazon item, regardless whether it was purchased via RebateKey, I normally go to Kohl’s so I can get a discount and even Kohl’s Cash.
Amazon savings tips using RebateKey
Persistence is what has helped me amass my bounty of deals – I check RebateKey on my phone and on the computer throughout the day – but I also have learned a few tricks along the way.
Currently, you visit RebateKey on your mobile browser, but Sells said an app is coming soon – as are more deals.
My preferred way to look at RebateKey is to sort deals by the highest discount to lowest. This helps me see the items that are free after rebates first.
I also like to see the rebates that I missed out on by toggling the "available now" off on the desktop version or by selecting "out of deals" under filters on the mobile browser.
I favorite the ones I'm interested in by "hearting" the rebate and opting to "notify me" to get notifications when the items become available again.
Pro tip: RebateKey is set as a VIP email addresses on my iPhone to make it easier for me to see the messages come in and get notifications. This has helped me multiple times get limited deals that disappear quickly. You can also opt to get text notifications.
The RebateKey Chrome extension also notifies me when an item becomes available again. I particularly like using the extension and shopping on my computer versus phone when I'm looking for a "treasure hunt" item. The extension confirms you're on the right item. When doing a hunt on a mobile device, you need to copy the Amazon URL before completing the purchase to confirm you have the right item.
And when I'm going to RebateKey with a specific shopping need, I search for the item with keywords and often narrow my results by looking by category.
Pro tip: Follow directions. Some rebates will specify the rebate is just available on one color or size. With most rebates, you won't want to clip any Amazon coupons, but on rare occasions the rebate description will specify it's OK.
Here are more ways to make the most of your RebateKey savings:
► When you find an item that you're interested in that's available, act fast as supplies are limited. Once you select a rebate, you'll have an hour to complete your purchase and then submit the order number. When using the Chrome extension, the order number is usually automatically submitted, but check the status.
► Use a cashback credit card. I use my Amazon Prime credit card and earn 5% back on all Amazon purchases.
► Join the RebateKey buyers Facebook private group to get shopping tips and find out what other buyers are purchasing. (While you're at it, join USA TODAY and Reviewed's Shopping Ninjas Facebook group.)
► Check for messages from sellers on the site and in your email. Communication is key, and you don't want to miss out on getting paid back and handling disputes.
► Watch for your RebateKey payments. I get mine weekly in my PayPal account and then transfer to my bank account. Then rinse and repeat. You can also choose to get paid back through a mailed check or gift cards, which include virtual gift cards, such as Amazon, Visa, Mastercard, Walmart, Starbucks and more.
Overall, be prepared to shop more and get a little addicted. Have a plan for what you're buying if you don't have a gift closet, including considering donating items.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Prime Day any day: Get Amazon deals daily after rebate with RebateKey