The trap of cash back offers

Recently, while booking my flight tickets through one of the travel booking websites, I saw this “100% cash-book offer “flashing on my laptop screen. I got super excited, 100% cash back means the entire flight ticket would be for free. Who would not use this offer? I immediately registered on the mobile e-wallet and made the payment through the same. However, after making the payments, when I started to book my return flight tickets with the cash back I got, I realized that I had done a grave mistake of not noticing the tiny ‘*’ and thus, not reading the conditions specified in fine print below the offer. Following unfortunate events happened after I made the payment using mobile e-wallets:
  • The offer was a 100% cash back offer of only the base price of the flight ticket and not the entire amount I spent on buying that ticket. So where my total cost including charges and taxes was INR 4200. I only got a cashback of INR 2700.
  • This is not that bad right; I got almost 70% cash back which is still an amazing deal. To make most of the cash back, I decided to book my return tickets using the wallet cash back. I was still happy because if not 100% I did get a 70% discount on my flight bookings.
  • While making the payment, after I had put the mobile wallet details, the system asked me for my bank details for balance payments. How could this  be possible? My return flight ticket was worth INR 2500 and my wallet had a balance of INR 2700. Why is the travel website ask for my bank details as well?
  • After a little more '*' reading, I realised I had missed on another fine print. It stated that I could only use 15% of the cost of each purchase from the cash back balance in my mobile wallet. Thus, only INR 450 would be paid through the mobile wallet, balance INR 2550 had to be paid separately.
  • I declared that this was outright FRAUD and I am now a victim of cash back offers from MOBILE WALLET Company.
Cash-back offers; Discount; Sale - Are we really saving money through these?
Are we all actually benefiting from the cash back offers and these discounts? Some of you may say whatever is the discount, it is still a discount. The cash back appears to be like it is reducing my expenses but it actually makes us spend more, worry more and definitely, calculate more on every rupee spent. I have discussed the same below: Spend more than required: My flight cash back seemed like a decent discount inspite the restrictive clause of using it. To make the most of it, I had to do make next few purchases through the mobile wallets. Hence, I decided to shop for my upcoming trip. I shopped for things like shampoo, body wash etc which I did not specifically need for my trip but was buying to exhaust my cash back. This wallet did not work on so many regular e-commerce websites that it was a struggle to make the most of it.

I just spend on things I did not need to utilise my cash back. This is what cashback offers do to you, it makes you spend more than required so that you can benefit completely from the cash backs received. It becomes your personal loyalty programme.

Limited Validity: Most of the cash back offers come with a validity period. I had to utilize the cash back  in my mobile e-wallet within a fixed period of  6 months and to utilize the same, I ended up ordering daily use unnecessary items in advance. Inspite of this, after 4 months,  I gave up on this regular hassle and ignored a cash back of INR. 1100 lying in my mobile wallet. The effort, time and unnecessary small purchases that I made to utilise the cashback were not worth the money that I wanted to save. Like me, many people are falling into the traps of the mobile wallets and cash back offers. Such cash back offers are also provided by various credit cards which makes us shop for that one extra shirt or dress so we can cross the specified limit to get the cash back in our credit card. If you get a 5% cash back on a purchase of INR. 5000 it is Rs. 250. You might end up shopping for lot more than the cash back just to get that cashback. Cash Back offers are a loyalty programme: The trap of cash back offers is not direct. As stated above, cash back offers are like a loyalty programme. It generally makes consumers spend more than we want by convincing us that we are getting more benefits out of it. Cashback works as a nuclear reaction making us purchase continuously. Usually, we end up spending more compared to the cases where there are upfront direct discounts or no discounts at all eroding the cash back completely. It is very important to know that none of the financial institutions including mobile wallets, credit card companies, banks, etc are doing charity or customer support in any form. Any discount or cash back is what they can recover from us easily. Nothing in life is for free, when anything is for free or at a discount, you are the product. Thus, we should be wise enough to understand where we are getting a discount and make most of it rather than falling prey to unnecessary cash back traps. I hope next time you see that cash back flashing on your screen, you will take a more informed decision.  
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