FOX43 Finds Out: How to make money while holiday shopping

YORK COUNTY, Pa --  There are few websites that claim you put cash right into your pocket, just by doing your online shopping.

And yes, it is in fact legitimate.

But it requires a little explanation to figure out what you`re giving up when you make money.

So, FOX43 finds out.

Ebates has been airing quite a few commercial you may be see a lot this holiday season.

It seems enticing:  join Ebates, shop like you normally would at some of your favorite stores online, and earn a percentage of your bill back by check or PayPal.

Is it really that easy?

Renee Tacka is Lecturer in Marketing at York College and says she`s familiar with these cash back websites.

She said, "Ebates is designed to be a cash back program. There is a variety of cash back programs that are out there that people can join and be members. In Ebates case, they way that they position it, is that it`s free to join."

She says Ebates business model isn`t exactly new, but you need to follow the bouncing ball to see how to all works.

"The advertisers or the retailers, they pay commissions to Ebates to bring them customers," said Tacka.

Then, according to Ebates' website, the site shares some of that commission with you, which is how shoppers make money.

Why would retailers want to pay this website though?

Ebates claims to work with 2,000 retailers, so what`s in it for them?

Your information.

Tacka said, "They don`t allow you to collect money if you don`t have those cookies activated."

Think of cookies as your online footprint, it`s a text files that follows you as you browse online.

This means websites can know you`re looking for a size 7 shoe and wear size 12 jeans.

Tacka says when your shop through Ebates, that website and the retailer know a little more about you.

"That`s data that retailers want. That`s data that they want to know how to advertise to you more effectively.">

And that`s why you make money.

"If you`re willing to say, follow me on line, then they`re willing to give you the deals, they`re willing to pay you for that," said Tacka.

If you don`t want Ebates knowing what you`re shopping for,  you can just disable cookies.

Except, you won`t make any money.

The marketing expert said, "You have to have an active account. You have to have that account set up and you have to allow the cookies to be on your account."

And it says it,  in black and white in Ebates terms and conditions,'If you disable 'cookies' on your computer, you will not be able to earn Cash Back because cookies are used to authenticate the user and verify whose Member Account is eligible for the Cash Back.'

We asked Tacka, if Ebates is something we should consider using to save some cash this holiday season.

"I think it really just depends on how you feel about your privacy or how you feel about the information being shared."

We did reach out to Ebates to see what they say about people who are concerned about privacy and here`s what they said:  "We follow industry best practices and our privacy policy is listed on the website for any consumers who have questions. We`ve been in business since 1998 and have millions of happy customers around the country who love using Ebates and continue to use it for all of their online and in store shopping."