Written by Karen Bryan
I’m a big fan of cashback sites; it’ s great way to save money on shopping you’d do anyway. I only use cashback sites once I’ve established the lowest possible price for my purchase, before deducting any potential cashback. I view the cashback as a bonus for which I usually have to wait several months. At present TopCashBack.co.uk is my favourite site; it offers high cashback rates, there’s no annual fee and there’s a one pence threshold for getting your cashback paid by free bank transfer.
However, I wanted to investigate imutual, a site which is 90% owned by its users and 10% by its employees. The idea of a mutual organisation appealed to me, as profits are mostly shared among members. The vision is for imutual to become a huge UK consumer co-operative and move beyond being a mere cashback site: it could start to offer services such auctions, its own payment system and group purchasing discounts.
imutual has no annual fee and you only need to have earned £1 to request payment by free bank transfer. You get 100 shares when you sign up to imutual. In addition to earning cashback on your purchases, you also earn more shares.
I was impressed to receive a reply to my query requesting clarification of the number of share earned per transaction in less than 24 hours. For many purchases, you receive one share for so many pounds spent e.g. with Groupon it’s one share for every £2 spent, so if you spend £30 you’d be credited with 15 imutual shares.
If you refer a new user, you receive another 100 shares. You also earn extra shares for submitting offers. At present, the shares don’t have any value but that could change in the future. And there’s always the dream of a buyout.
imutual members are heading toward their one millionth transaction, the member who makes transaction #1,000,000 will have their shareholding increased by 100% and cashback on that transaction doubled (up to a maximum of £100).
I did a quick comparison of the cashback rates available on imutual and TopCashBack.
- Expedia hotel bookings – 6% on imutual, 10.1% on TopCashBack (have seen it up to 12.12%)
- Boots – up to 8% on imutual, up to 8.08% on TopCashBack
- Argos home delivery - 1.6% on imutual, 1.51% on TopCashBack
- Debenhams online – 3.1% on imutual, 3.03% on TopCashback (have seen it up to 5.05%)
So imutual is on a par with TopCashBack, except for Expedia hotel bookings. Of course, you’re also earning additional shares with imutual, but their monetary value is uncertain. imutual ask you to do all your shopping through their links, as they reckon that the more members and the higher the volume of transactions they generate, the larger the cashbacks they’ll be able to offer members. Personally, if the cashback with another site was higher, I’d probably shop through the links on the other cashback site, a bird in the hand and all that.
I will use imutual for shopping from now on as long as their cashback is equivalent or very close to that offered by other sites. This is a bit like the issue I previously had on whether to be an ethical saver; at that time I came to the decision that I couldn’t afford to forgo the additional interest paid on my Cash ISAs by an “non ethical” bank.