Portal payout are not guaranteed. It is recommended that you do not count on the portal when making purchasing decisions but to consider it a bonus after the fact. I don't follow this rule however. I calculate into my final cost every time because I have had great success with the portals. As long as you follow the Terms & Conditions, you will too. Always read the Terms & Conditions for the store you are shopping at to make sure you get your cash back. The Terms & Conditions are usually one paragraph long and in large type so it's real easy!
Click the link in the portal for every new transaction. Used to be that once you clicked on a store link in the portal, as long as that cookie was on your computer you would get cash back. It was a nice surprise when you forgot to go use the portal. Now you must click a new link for every transaction, even at the same store and some of those expire within hours. So if it's been a while go back to the link in the portal.
That being said. I have always liked the idea that you can fill your cart then go find the best portal payout,click the link and checkout. Never seemed like the way it should work because at that point the portal hasn't really referred you but it did work. Now, there is at least one store, Staples, where your cart must be empty when you start. It's a real pain because I like to shop there a lot and add/remove items and coupons from my cart to come up with the best deal. I end up printing my order, emptying my cart then refilling it after I click through from the portal. I don't know of any other stores that do this but it's one more reason to read the Terms & Conditions for each store on each portal.
The purchase or use of gift cards through a portal may not trigger cashback. I sound like a broken record but read the short, large type paragraph of Terms & Conditions. For example Southwest exclude purchasing of gift cards, while Shop At Home pays when you buy them but not when you use them, and Be Frugal appears to have no exclusions on the purchase or use of gift cards.
Many portals are warning that if you use a coupon code not found on their site they can not guarantee that you will receive cashback. I think this applies if you were to take a coupon code found on one portal and apply it when using another portal, not when using store coupons you receive in the mail or your store account but I can not guarantee that. Those coupons usually outweigh anything you would earn from the portal so use your coupons knowing that you will probably get paid but may not.
Make sure you are logged in. Most portals will ask you to log in before sending you to the store website but just recently I shopped through the Southwest portal, clicked through and was taken to the website, placed an order and nothing was tracked because I wasn't logged in. Very shady Southwest, but I'll let it fly, you've been so good to me.
Getting back to portals not being guaranteed, you may be wondering if these sites are legitimate or if they are going to take the money and run. There are many many portals out there, (see cashbackmonitor.com) Way back when, I had about $8 coming from a place called Cashbaq who up and quit one day and said "sorry, no money for you". Then a few weeks later a knight in shining armor showed up in my inbox and said, if you join me I will pay you what Cashbaq owes you when you make your first purchase. I can not remember what portal that was but it was very nice of them to offer this bonus and it is one of these listed below.
Ebates-I'd say this is the most legitimate of them all with there TV advertising I've seen for years and having been paid over $1000. Their referral bonuses are awesome so sign up with my link then refer all your friends!
Shop At Home-I had not used them regularly for a while but lately they have been offering bigger payout for what I am purchasing. Lifetime Cash Back $433.07. No referral link available just yet.
TopCashBack-Over $400 paid.
Be Frugal-Paid $174.67.
Mr. Rebates-One of the first portals, cashback offered has not been as good as the other portals in the last few years but every now and again they are the best. Lifetime paid $166.67.
SimplyBestCoupons-At 25-30% back, they are always the best for my Straighttalk phone purchases.
If you take a look at Cashbackmonitor.com you will see there are many portals. I would not sign up for a new one unless the cashback is much higher than the others I am already with and it looks like I will reach the payout threshold easily. Payout thresholds usually range from $5 to $25 depending on the portal and those amount do not include the bonus, it must be from spend. For example, if the payout threshold is $25 and your sign on bonus was $10, you must earn $25 from shopping, then you will be paid $35.
If you have any questions about cashback portals let me know. Please use my referral links then use yours to make money referring your friends!