Ebates vs. Mr. Rebates

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Ebates.com and MrRebates.com are the two most popular sites for web shoppers who like to get rebates.  Because I am the webmaster for Confessions of a Mail-in Rebate Junkie, I've been asked which one to use.  I'm a member of both, and here is the strategy I use to maximize my online shopping rebates:
 
THE SIMPLE SOLUTION
  • IF YOU DON'T WANT TO GO THROUGH A LOT OF TIME AND EFFORT, OR
  • IF YOU DON'T DO A LOT OF SHOPPING ONLINE, AND THEREFORE NEED TO CONSOLIDATE YOUR PURCHASES AT A SINGLE SITE IN ORDER TO REACH THE MINIMUM REQUIRED FOR PAYOUT
 
If you just want to pick one site and go with it, based on the analysis shown below I'd suggest signing up with Mr. Rebates, then going through the Mr. Rebates site to do all your web shopping.  But the advantage that Mr. Rebates has over Ebates is slight for most purchases, and keep in mind that you will wait significantly longer and go through slightly more hassle to get paid. (I'm enough of a cheapskate that I'm willing to put up with it.)

FOR THE DETERMINED, EXPERIENCED, AND REGULAR ONLINE SHOPPER
 
Sign up for both Ebates and Mr. Rebates and look on each site for the best rebate percentage for each of the merchants you plan to "visit" online.  Then enter each merchant through the site that offers the highest rebate.  If both sites offer the same rebate, go with Ebates, because they offer a lower minimum for cashouts, and will send you your refund quickly and automatically.

ANALYSIS
 
I reviewed both Ebates.com and MrRebates.com on January 1, 2012.  This is the analysis that led me to these recommendations:
 
NUMBER OF MERCHANTS:  STRONG ADVANTAGE TO MR. REBATES
Mr. Rebates has the largest number of merchants to select from.  In January 2012, according to my manual count, Mr. Rebates had roughly 2,300 merchants to select from, while Ebates had roughly 1,600.
 
LARGEST REBATES:  SIGNIFICANT (ALTHOUGH NOT CONSISTENT) ADVANTAGE TO MR. REBATES
Mr. Rebates offers the largest percentage rebates.  I checked through all the merchants beginning with the letter A on both sites (as a representative sample), and:
  • For 35 merchants, Mr. Rebates offered a higher rebate than Ebates, and the average difference was 3.35 percentage points.
  • However, for 19 merchants, Ebates offered a higher rebate than Mr. Rebates did, and the average difference was 3.70 percentage points (although there were 2 very large differences among these 19 that skewed this gap signficantly in favor of Ebates).
LENGTH OF TIME BEFORE REBATE IS SENT: STRONG ADVANTAGE TO EBATES
  • On December 12, 2011, I made a purchase through Ebates that generated a rebate of about $60.  That rebate was automatically credited to my Paypal account on February 7, 2012.
  • On December 17, 2011, I made a purchase through Mr. Rebates that generated a rebate of about $30.  They held it as a "pending rebate" through March 17, 2012.  Then, on March 17, I had to go to the Mr. Rebates site and manually request that my rebate be put into my Paypal account.  I was informed that my rebate would be processed in as part of a batch that would be posted to my Paypal account on April 1.
  • 2 months for Ebates, 3.5 months for Mr. Rebates.  Automatic payout from Ebates, while you have to actively monitor and manage the process to get your money from Mr. Rebates.  No contest.
PAYMENT THRESHOLD:  ADVANTAGE TO EBATES
Ebates will send you a check after you have accumulated $5.01 in rebates.  Mr. Rebates will send you a check after you have accumulated $10 in rebates. 
 
SIGNING BONUS:  NO ADVANTAGE
Ebates currently offers new members a $10 gift card after they have made $25 in purchases.  Mr. Rebates offers new members an instant $5 signing credit, which due to the minimum ten dollar payout cannot be collected until an additional five dollars in rebates is earned.  Due to the fact that the cash that Mr. Rebates offers is unrestricted in its use, while the gift card that Ebates offers is limited to the merchant you select, I'm calling this one a draw.  Also, these signing bonuses change frequently, so this one is likely to "seesaw" back and forth over time.
 
RELIABILITY AND REPUTATION:  NO ADVANTAGE
Ebates indicates that it "was founded in 1998 by two Deputy District Attorneys in Silicon Valley who used to prosecute online fraud and identity theft before starting Ebates."  Mr. Rebates has been around since 2002, and I have had very friendly and pleasant contacts with their management in the past (for a couple of years, they were a paid sponsor of my Confessions of a Mail-In Rebate Junkie web site, but ended that sponsorship amicably in December 2010).  I have been an active member of both sites and have no complaints, and have heard no substantial complaints about nonpayment of rebates or any other issues by either site.  However, I have no particular insights and can make no guarantees about the future of either site.  

This website and its contents are copyright 2012 by James K. Hickel. Links to this site are welcomed and encouraged, but pasting, copying, or embedding the content onto another site or medium is prohibited without advance written permission. The terms and conditions of the Ebates and Mr. Rebates web sites may change over time, and the author of this website does not intend any expressed or implied warranty of reliability for either site.  The author collects referral fees from both sites from the links posted on this and other web site pages, but beyond that has no current ownership or financial interest in either the Ebates or Mr. Rebates sites.