Introduction and Basic Information
Ebates and Amex have teamed up to allow you to earn Membership Rewards (MR) points when you use the Ebates shopping portal.
We’ll see how this works in practice, but it’s potentially a valuable opportunity for points-and-miles people. In short, in this program, if you would have earned 1 cent cash-back from the Ebates shopping portal, you can now earn 1 MR point instead. For example, if you go through Ebates to an online merchant such as JCPenney that would pay 3% cashback normally, then under the Ebates-Amex program you would earn 3 MR points per dollar spent.
In addition, Ebates and Amex are offering a sign-up bonus with this program – make purchases through the Ebates shopping portal totaling $25 or more within 90 days, and you’ll receive 1,500 MR points. Importantly, the sign-up bonus – and the entire Ebates-Amex program, for that matter – is only available for new Ebates accounts.
The Ebates-Amex program landing page can be found here:
- Ebates-Amex Program landing page – sign up here
- If you are an existing Ebates member, you will probably have to open this page in Incognito/Private Browsing mode
- This page also contains FAQs and terms & conditions of the Ebates-Amex program, which you can see by scrolling down
Why Is This Interesting at All?
For starters, let’s talk about why this partnership and the opportunity to earn MR points instead of cash back is so interesting in the first place.
[If you’re a points-and-miles hobbyist, feel free to skip over this section!]
The new Ebates-Amex program is basically an opportunity to earn 1 MR point instead of 1 cent, or in other words, to “buy” MR points at 1 cent each. Thus, the basic decision-point on the new program is whether you value MR points at more than 1 cent per MR point. If so, then you should prefer the Ebates-Amex MR-earning program to the “regular” Ebates cashback program.
At Middle Age Miles, we certainly value MR points at more than 1 cent per point. (And, I’d venture to guess, this would be true for virtually every points-and-miles enthusiast.) For comparison purposes, remember that we give MR points a baseline value of 1.5 cents per point.
Personally, we use MR points most often by redeeming them for airfare purchased through the Amex Travel Portal. Each MR point buys 1 cent of airfare – and because we hold an Amex Business Platinum card, we receive a 35% pay-with-points rebate. This gives our MR points a value of (at least) 1.54 cents per point.
(Here’s an example to illustrate the math: I use 100,000 MR points to purchase a flight that would cost $1,000. I get 35,000 MR points back as a rebate, making my net cost 65,000 MR points. $1,000 divided by 65,000 MR points = 1.54 cents per MR point.)
In truth, our actual return on these purchases is typically a bit higher, in the 1.6-to-1.7 cent-per-point range. The reasons for this are:
- One, when we use MR points in the Amex Travel Portal, we generally purchase “Insider Fares” which result in discounts of 5-8%. For example, a ticket that would cost $1,000 in dollars very often “costs” something like 94,000 MR points instead of 100,000 (prior to the rebate).
- Using our example above, we’d get a 35% rebate of 32,900 MR points, making our net cost 61,100 MR points; and $1,000 divided by 61,100 MR points = 1.64 cents per MR point.
- Two, the way pay-with-points works, the cash amount of the airfare is first charged to our Amex card, then the same amount is credited back to the card when we “pay” with points. When we use our Amex personal Platinum card for this charge-and-credit-back scenario, the purchase amount earns 1x MR points (at least, that’s what our last data point was; this used to earn 4x MR points).
- Continuing with our same example, we’re now also earning 940 MR points on our personal Platinum card in this transaction, reducing our net cost to 60,160 MR points. $1,000 divided by 60,160 MR points = 1.66 cents per MR point.
In addition, we have the option of transferring MR points to Amex’s airline partner programs, where high-value redemptions of frequent flyer miles can result in a value of 2 cents per point or more.
And finally, those who hold the Amex Schwab personal Platinum card have the option to cash out their MR points for 1.25 cents per MR point.
Thus, for many people, the ability to trade 1 cent for 1 MR point is very appealing indeed. As you can see from our discussion and examples above, our effective return for Ebates could jump by at least 60% with this new Ebates-Amex program!
How to Sign Up for the Ebates-Amex Program
This was remarkably simple, so long as you have a personal Amex MR-earning card. When you go to the link for the program (see the Relevant Link section above), you’ll see this:
Enter your email address and click Continue. This should take you to a page where you are asked to verify and connect your Membership Rewards account, using your online account log-in credentials (note again, only personal Amex MR-earning cards will work):
Assuming everything is in order, the system will confirm that your American Express account is eligible:
Voila! Your Ebates-Amex program account is now set up, and you’ll be taken to the main Ebates home page, where you can search for merchants and click through to shop, as usual:
But do I already have an issue with the sign-up bonus? When I clicked on through to My Account, it says that my sign up bonus will only be 1,000 MR points, not 1,500. What???
We have seen other data points of people receiving the correct 1,500 MR-point bonus. So, hopefully my bonus will post correctly and I won’t have to decide whether to spend time and effort chasing down 500 MR points (worth about $7.50)!
Details, Analysis and Open Questions
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the details of the Ebates-Amex program:
Earn 1 MR point instead of 1 cent – We’ve discussed this at length above. We greatly prefer 1 MR point (to a point, of course!). This is great.
Sign-up bonus of 1,500 MR points after $25 in qualifying purchases through Ebates – Again, great. At our baseline value of 1.5 cents per MR point, the sign-up bonus is worth about $22.50, and perhaps even a little more to us.
The Ebates-Amex program and the sign-up bonus are only open to new Ebates accounts – We don’t believe this is a problem, even if you have an existing “regular” Ebates account, so long as you open your Ebates-Amex account with a different email address. We were able to open a new Ebates-Amex program account with no problem. We have also seen other successful data points and no failures. Also, for my account, my “regular” Ebates account is under the same email address that I use for my Amex cards; however, it did not cause any problem when I used a different email address for my Ebates-Amex account.
You must have a personal Amex MR-earning card in order to qualify for the Ebates-Amex program – This requirement may catch some people off-guard. If you only have Amex MR-earning cards that are business cards, you won’t qualify. For us personally, at this time Philly doesn’t qualify as she only has a business MR-earning card, and no personal MR-earning cards. In addition, your personal Amex MR-earning card must not be cancelled or past due.
You can *only* earn MR points (and not cashback) with your Ebates-Amex account – This doesn’t seem to be a problem, as long as you’re aware of the situation. Similarly, you can only earn cashback (and not MR points) with your “regular” Ebates account. And you can’t switch your accounts back and forth between the two types.
Ebates transfers accrued points to Amex quarterly – Be aware of this fact, and the fact that it will cause delays in receiving MR points under this program. Ebates accrues points/cashback on a per-quarter basis. Then it pays out a month and a half later (roughly 45 days). For example, for this quarter, Ebates accrues all points earned from January 1 through March 31; then, the payout will occur on May 15. It will take a minimum point balance of 500 MR points for Ebates to transfer the points (otherwise, they roll over into the next quarter and continue to accrue).
Transferred points will appear in your Amex MR program account within 8-12 weeks after Amex receives the points information from Ebates – More delay possibilities. If it actually takes 8-12 weeks for the points to show up in your MR account, that’s extremely annoying and seemingly unnecessary. It’s already taking a long time for Ebates to transfer the points to Amex, and now we have to wait this much longer? In a worst-case scenario, it could be 7 months between a purchase and the time you receive the MR points. For example, the MR points from a purchase in early January would not be transferred until May 15, then if it’s another 12 weeks for Amex to post the points, that would run into August. That said, in our experience, Amex has similar long lead times built in to a lot of its bonus-and-promotion language, and most of the time, points post within days, despite this language. And all of the underlying transactions will have been verified and confirmed already by Ebates. Keep your fingers crossed for quick posting on the Amex side.
“Please note that you will not receive the transferred points if *any* of your Membership Rewards-enrolled Card account(s) is canceled or past due at the time of point fulfillment.” (emphasis added by us) – Is this a “gotcha”? Maybe. Read literally, this would mean that if you canceled any of your Amex MR-earning cards, you’d forfeit your points. Somehow, we doubt that it will actually work that way. Our best guess is that as long as you have one MR-earning card active in the online Amex account that you used to verify during the sign-up process, and aren’t past-due on any MR-earning card connected to that account, you’ll be ok. But – I was sure to verify using the online account for my Amex EveryDay card, a no-fee card that I’ve had for 15+ years and will never cancel!
Does the Ebates-Amex program work for In-Store Cash Back? – Yes, we think so. When we’re logged in to our Ebates-Amex program account, the offers for In-Store Cash Back show up and appear to be available. We don’t see any language in the terms and conditions that would exclude In-Store Cash Back from this program. Assuming we’re correct, this is very good news for this program.
And, a Huge Detail and Open Question
“Card Members must use an Eligible Card Account at checkout to earn Membership Rewards points in their Ebates account.” (and an “Eligible Card Account” is defined as an Amex MR-earning card) – Hmmmm. This reads as if we may have to use a personal Amex MR-earning card to pay for our purchase in order to earn MR points through this program.
If we truly have to use a personal Amex MR-earning card, that would put a huge damper on our enthusiasm for the Ebates-Amex program. Why? Our Citi AT&T Access More card earns 3x ThankYou Points (TYPs) on all online purchases. But our best personal Amex MR-earning card for most online purchases would be the EveryDay card at 1x MR, plus a 20% bonus if we make 20 transactions in the statement period. That’s a big difference – 3.75% return on the Citi AT&T Access More versus a maximum of 1.8% back (1.5 cents per MR point times 1.2) on the EveryDay.
Sparing you the math, it would only make sense to use the Ebates-Amex program for portal payouts of more than 4% on online shopping, if we are limited to using the Amex EveryDay card. And even at that, this limitation would suck away much of the upside that the Ebates-Amex program could hold and offer only very limited incremental benefit to us.
Hopefully, this language either doesn’t actually mean what it seems to say, or it won’t be enforced. Perhaps you only need a personal Amex MR-earning card to open the Ebates-Amex account and receive your MR points from Ebates, but you won’t have to actually pay with a personal Amex MR-earning card. So far, we see at least one data point where a Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card was used, and the MR points posted to the person’s Ebates account. In addition, we see several data points where Amex MR-earning business cards were used, and the MR points posted to the person’s Ebates account.
We will keep an eye on this, experiment, and report back on our own data points as we get them.
Stack with the 3% (3x MR?) on the Ebates Visa Card on Purchases Made Through the Ebates Portal?
Here’s a *really* interesting potential play to earn lots of MR points through the Ebates-Amex partnership, if it works.
The Ebates Visa card, issued by Synchrony, is a no-annual-fee cash-back card. Most importantly for the current discussion, it has a bonus category of 3% for online purchases made through the Ebates portal, and it also earns 3% on purchases that qualify for Ebates In-Store Cash Back.
Many online retailers are on the Ebates portal. So, will online purchases through Ebates earn 3x MR points on the Ebates Visa card, in addition to the portal rate? Similarly, can we can stack 3x MR earning with the Ebates Visa card with the In-Store Cash Back rates?
If so, this is absolutely excellent. This method would create a new combination that would provide outstanding best-in-class returns on a wide array of purchases.
We suspect that there would also be some “inorganic spend” opportunities using this method that could prove valuable.
You’d still need to check Cashback Monitor and/or other portals to make sure you’re getting the best return. For example, 6% on Top Cashback + 3x TYP (3.75%) using Citi AT&T Access More (total 9.75%) would beat 3%/3x MR (4.5%) on Ebates + additional 3x MR (4.5%) using the Ebates Visa (total 9.0%). But this method would increase the payback on many online purchases and many purchases that would qualify for In-Store Cash Back.
Just thinking about how the Ebates Visa cash back works, it seems like there’s a good chance that the 3% category would turn into 3x MR if the card were connected to an Ebates-Amex account. Typically, with the cash back card, the cash back goes into the cardholder’s Ebates account, and then it pays out according to Ebates’ quarterly schedule. If it worked the same with Ebates-Amex program accounts, then the “cash back” on the Ebates Visa would convert to MR points and then be transferred to the cardholder’s MR account on the quarterly schedule.
That said, it’s by no means guaranteed that the Ebates Visa card will work that way in conjunction with Ebates-Amex accounts.
And one other thing to take note of, if you’re thinking about applying for the Ebates Visa card – be sure that your application is not connected to your “regular” Ebates account! We receive lots of Ebates emails with pre-approval offers for the Ebates Visa card, but those seem to be connected to our existing “regular” Ebates account. And, Ebates uses some very persistent cookies that may pre-associate an Ebates card application with your existing “regular” Ebates account if you just pull up the application website in a normal browsing window. We recommend that you be very careful about this if you apply – and at a very minimum, use an Incognito/Private Browsing window to pull up the application page.
Unfortunately, sign-up offers on the Ebates Visa card are exceptionally weak – usually just a few dollars. And the card issuer, Synchrony, is notorious for giving low credit limits. But a no-fee card that may be used to generate extra MR points could turn out to be quite valuable if you use it correctly!
We’re still debating whether to apply for an Ebates Visa card. We’ll first experiment with earning MRs by using cards other than personal Amex cards with our new Ebates-Amex account and see how that turns out. In the meantime, we’ll keep our eyes open for data points on whether and how the Ebates Visa card works for this purpose.[Hat Tip to Doctor of Credit and several members on Reddit Churning for information that helped make this article possible.]
Do you have any insights or data points on the new Ebates-Amex program or using an Ebates Visa with it? If so (and as you get them), can you please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments? Thank you!
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