Is there a catch to free cash? What to know about cash-back websites

Posted at 7:22 AM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 08:23:00-05

MILWAUKEE — Many consumers consider cash-back apps and similar websites 2019's version of coupons. The concept is relatively simple, as you shop online, you earn money back.

The I-Team interviewed Jonathan Arnold, an IT instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College to see what consumers should know before giving these websites a try.

We asked Arnold how these websites work from the perspective of an expert.

“They are a form of affiliate marketing and so online retailers will pay these cash-back sites for referring customers," said Arnold. "They will pay them a commission and those cash-back sites will share part of that commission with the customer."

Wondering if these cash-back sites are selling your personal data?

“There is truth to that," said Arnold. "They have to track you in order to get the benefits of these cash-back sites and then of course, they use that data to create a profile on you and they use that profile to attract advertising."

Consumer Investigator Kristen Byrne also asked if it's safe to connect personal banking information to these websites.

“That's mostly safe because they do use current technology to keep our information safe, but there is always an inherent risk in giving your information to a third party."

Another concern among consumers is what can be done if these sites go bankrupt.

“If they go bankrupt the chances are if you are owed some cash still, you probably won't get it,” Arnold said.