Many cash-back sites offer a variety of ways to make a financial difference in your life. Giving Assistant uses the same formula with a compassionate spin, allowing you to either earn money for yourself or have your earnings donated directly to charities of your choice.
In this Giving Assistant review, we’ll explore the ways you can earn cash-back with this site, and compare it to other similar platforms.
Ultimately, we’ll answer the big question: is Giving Assistant worth your time?
Update: In December 2021, Giving Assistant users received an email (shown below) pertaining to pending legal proceedings surrounding the platform. While the notice is vague and the specific context is unclear, it refers to users as “Creditors” and instructs them to file a claim for the funds in their account balance. We suspect this means that Giving Assistant is either shutting down or has become insolvent. We’re researching this matter and will update this review when we have more information. Until then, we recommend using other cash-back sites.
Giving Assistant is a cash-back shopping portal that allows you to automatically donate your earnings to charities of your choice (or keep those earnings for yourself). However, its cash-back rates are lower on average than other platforms, and it takes much longer for your cash-back to be credited to your account.
Giving Assistant Basics
However, you can then choose to either donate those earnings to charity or cash them out for yourself (or a mix of both).
The site also offers a browser extension, known as “the Giving Assistant Button,” that will catch cash-back opportunities for you as you shop.
Giving Assistant offers a $5 sign-up bonus. However, in order to receive that $5, you have to earn $1 in cash-back and automatically donate 1% of your earnings to charity.
You have to be 18 years of age in order to use Giving Assistant.
When you sign up for Giving Assistant, you’ll be designated as a “Savvy Shopper.” There is an opportunity, which we’ll discuss in more detail later, to upgrade your status to “Power Shopper,” which allows you to earn better rates.
Though you might assume Giving Assistant is a non-profit organization — given how often their website mentions their mission, and the fact that they use a .org domain name — it’s important to note that they are a for-profit business. (Anyone can register a .org domain name, whether they’re a non-profit or not.)
Giving Assistant is a “Certified B Corporation” — a designation which refers to “new kinds of businesses that balance purpose and profit” — that works with a number of charities to support non-profit causes.
You get to be a part of the process by spending money online and getting a small amount of your purchase back, in hopes that you’ll donate it to a worthy cause.
How it Works
Giving Assistant is a cash-back site that offers you the chance to donate to charity. If you do want to keep your cash-back instead of donating it, you’ll have a chance to cash-out after earning $5.99.
We’ll discuss more of that process in a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at how the donation segment of this cash-back website works.
You should note that as part of Giving Assistant’s terms and conditions, anyone who signs up after March 30, 2020 agrees “to automatically donate at least 1% out of your eligible cash back earnings […] to a nonprofit you have selected.”
You can choose which charity you’d like to donate to by searching for them under your “My Account” tab, but you cannot opt out of this 1% contribution.
If you want to give more than that, Giving Assistant allows you to designate the percentage of your cash-back you’d like to donate to a specific charity.
You can choose more than one charity to give back to, splitting whatever percentage you choose to donate evenly among them. Otherwise, you can choose to cash-out a specific amount and then designate the rest of your cash-back to a charity or charities of your choosing.
Giving Assistant notes that charities receive a check for their first donation within seven days; afterwards, each check will be sent quarterly.
Donors will need to check with their local laws in regards to donations for specific eligible tax deductions, as “Giving Assistant does not validate that donations made through Giving Assistant will be tax deductible.”
Depending on how much you do end up donating, you may or may not be able to claim it on your taxes.
Like many other cash-back sites, Giving Assistant has a browser extension, which they call “The Button.” This extension is free to download and will look over your shoulder as you shop online.
When you’re eligible for cash-back or a discount, The Button will alert you.
Giving Assistant boasts that they partner with over 2,300 brands to bring you the best deals through The Button.
How Giving Assistant Compares to Other Cash-Back Platforms
Giving Assistant does stand out as a cash-back site that allows you to donate your rewards. It prioritizes giving back, rather than simply earning more for what you spend.
That said, such a generous component begins to pale in comparison when considering cash-back rewards on other sites.
Take the figures below, for example. Collected in February 2021, they show that Giving Assistant tends to run the middle of the road when it comes to cash-back rates.
It’s certainly not always the lowest in terms of rates, but it’s never the highest, either. Generally speaking, Giving Assistant provides average to below-average cash-back rates at best.
|Best Buy||0.25%||Up to 3%||2%||Up to 4%|
Giving Assistant is also unique in that you can upgrade your account to earn double cash-back.
Members who simply sign up are referred to as Savvy Shoppers, while those who pay $5.99 a year go by the name of Power Shoppers and will enjoy the double cash-back rate.
If you do choose to upgrade to be a Power Shopper, your $5.99 yearly fee “will be automatically removed from your first cash back payment” per Giving Assistant’s guidelines.
So what would earning $5.99 look like?
Well, at a 2% cash-back rate, you would have to spend at least $299.50.
That works for people who need to spend around $300 for certain high-price-tag items every so often.
For most folks, however, it’s not practical to spend that much just to earn a measly $6. At a rate of 5% cash-back, you’d have to spend $119.80 (which might be doable at a department store). At 10% cash-back, you’d only have to spend $59.90.
But remember: at those thresholds, you’re only breaking even.
When you boil it down, upgrading your account to earn more just doesn’t seem worth it. You’re earning the same as you would with other platforms, or less in some cases.
The cash-back opportunities are still less at Giving Assistant, since they only work with a few retailers.
Really, the $5.99 fee adds up to requiring a commitment from you to continue to shop through Giving Assistant in order to (a) pay the $5.99 fee and (b) still earn cash-back rewards.
Below are the number of stores you can earn cash-back at from a few of the cash-back sites out there.
These numbers are provided by Cashback Monitor, a site that tracks cash-back rates.
You can see that Giving Assistant only offers cash-back rewards at just over 2,300 stores. That’s less than half of the stores available for cash-back at TopCashback, and well below some of the other major portals.
Fewer stores translates to a reduced capacity to earn cash-back when you spend money. With fewer chances to make back money on your purchases, it can often be harder to reach the cash-out goal and/or take longer to do so.
If you choose to keep your cash-back and redeem it, you will have to reach a total of $5.99 in order to cash-out.
You have the option to be paid via PayPal or direct deposit, but note that if you choose PayPal, the email address and first and last name on file with Giving Assistant must match that of the PayPal account.
In terms of how long it will take to get your cash-back, Giving Assistant estimates a range of 15-90 days “depending on the retailer.”
After you claim a cash-back offer, the rewards will be locked in pending status for at least 15 more days.
As you can see from the table below, cash-back earnings are credited to user accounts much faster on Rakuten, Swagbucks and TopCashback.
This could be due to policies that vary between sites, but it is important to know if you have a problem with receiving your cash-back rewards.
After all, waiting two months before contacting customer service at Giving Assistant isn’t necessarily ideal, especially when you could have potentially resolved any issues with other sites in half that time or less.
|Best Buy||62 days||1 day||7 days||30 days|
|Gap||61 days||1 day||7 days||30 days|
|Macy’s||94 days||1 day||7 days||30 days|
|Nike||90 days||1 day||7 days||30 days|
|Sephora||94 days||1 day||7 days||30 days|
Beyond having to keep track of your purchases months in the past, Giving Assistant does pay out the same day.
That helps when you’re looking to make use of those cash-back rewards on other purchases.
Rakuten pays out quarterly and Swagbucks pays between 32 and 75 days, so there are some advantages to using Giving Assistant when it comes to getting your rewards fast (at least after they clear pending status).
Alongside allowing members to donate their cash-back rewards to charity, Giving Assistant also hosts fundraising campaigns. Those campaigns are managed through Classy, a third-party platform that tracks donations.
The service is free and runs 24/7 to make the most of a charity’s fundraising campaign through a process called peer-to-peer fundraising.
To demonstrate the efforts of Giving Assistant’s members in helping charities succeed, there are a few case studies highlighted on the site.
One of the featured charities is called Zidisha, which provides people in developing countries the chance to obtain microloans that allow them to improve their financial situation and engender an entrepreneurial spirit.
Giving Assistant awarded Zidisha a check for $250,000, funded by site members, in May of 2016. You can continue to give to Zidisha to support further microloans.
Other charities include Camp Kesem and Pencils of Promise.
Camp Kesem runs a summer program that gives children whose parents are struggling with a cancer diagnosis a place to get away for free. Over 40 states participate in Camp Kesem’s program and they’ve received over $17,000 from Giving Assistant members.
Pencils of Promise caters to children as well, supporting them by investing in their education. This charity builds schools, supports teachers, and seeks to improve water, sanitation and hygiene qualities in order to foster a more nurturing environment.
Each school costs around $35,000 to build, but Giving Assistant was able to donate over $53,000 to support Pencils of Promise.
We admire that Giving Assistant opens up the cash-back rewards platform to charitable giving through everyday shopping. However, we’re not sure the rewards you can enjoy make up for your generosity.
In short, the cash-back rates on Giving Assistant are average to below-average, meaning you’re limited to how much you can earn from the get-go. On top of that, the purchases you make may not all qualify. Giving Assistant only works with a small number of retailers, compared to those that other, larger cash-back sites work with.
Put these aspects together with a long waiting period for obtaining your cash-back rewards and you’ll start to see the issues with Giving Assistant. The ability to upgrade your account could boost your earnings, but then again, you’re then committed to making at least the annual fee back before you can even think about giving to charity.
That’s putting you further in the hole than if you were to just donate to charity straight off the bat.
In order to make the most of your purchases while still putting money back in your pocket, we recommend many of the other sites we’ve mentioned in this review.
The best thing about these other sites is that you have the option to donate to charity, too. It’s just not a service hosted through the platform.
For some people, that might be an advantage. After all, if you know a local charity you want to donate to, you can personally deliver your contribution; you won’t have to worry about going through a third party.
Giving Assistant has a mixed reputation among reviewers.
For instance, in February of 2021, SiteJabber’s page on Giving Assistant consisted of 79 total reviews, 50 of which were 5 stars and 23 of which were 1 star. Many of the positive reviews noted the site was easy to use and that you could set it and forget it when it came to The Button, Giving Assistant’s browser extension. Others noted that they tried coupon codes and found they were expired in many instances.
These types of comments were mirrored on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) as well as Trustpilot. Of the 19 complaints on the BBB, 17 described a “Problem with a Product or Service.” Many of the complaints are noted to have been created by fraudulent accounts, so Giving Assistant dismissed them. Trustpilot’s reviews numbered only seven and again, were either 5-star or 1-star; nothing in-between.
Giving Assistant FAQ
No. As we discussed above, Giving Assistant is a for-profit company that makes “a commission on coupons used from our site and any purchases made at stores who do not offer cash back to our members.”
They do, however, support non-profit companies — hence their “Certified B Corporation” status.
“Certified B” corporations must go through a rigorous process in order to qualify. You can read more about the Giving Assistant journey to Certified B status on their blog.
Essentially, businesses that wish to obtain Certified B status must undergo an assessment, one that “measures a company’s positive impact and sustainability.”
This series of questions reveals how the company operates, what their mission is, and what kind of impact they have on their community.
Giving Assistant notes they “passed the B Impact Assessment on the second try” and will have to re-certify every two years in order to maintain their Certified B status.
As specified above, Giving Assistant makes a small percentage of the money you spend shopping online, via coupons. You might think of it as a referral bonus, because they facilitate the transaction that ultimately benefits the brands they work with.
No, unfortunately all the cash-back earning opportunities from Giving Assistant require you to shop online.
As a general rule, Amazon does not partner with portals to offer cash-back on everyday shopping, although the site does occasionally offer rebates on the purchases of Amazon devices (like Kindles).
Yes. According to the information on their referral program page, you will receive $5 in cash-back once your referrals sign up for Giving Assistant and earn 99 cents or more. Then, after 60 days, you will receive $5. Note that the 99-cent minimum must be in addition to the sign-up bonus your referral will receive.
Giving Assistant Review: Summary
Giving Assistant has value as a cash-back rewards site. The ability to donate to a charity of your choosing gives added weight to your savings in a way that could help change someone else’s life.
However, the rates you’ll earn on the site are lower than on other sites — which means you could simply use a different platform and then donate the funds yourself, making an even bigger impact.
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