Is Microsoft Live Search Cash Back Worth Shopping on Live Search?

May 24, 2008

Live Search Cash Back is a new Microsoft initiative that is supposed to provide a rebate to consumers for items found via the Microsoft Live search functionality and purchased online.

The word on the street says this is Microsoft’s attempt to compete with Google in the online search market.  The concept is that in return for being listed in Microsoft’s search results, merchants have to offer cash back to consumers instead of paying Microsoft for placement.  Microsoft doesn’t make any money off of the transaction but their hope is that more users will start using Live Search instead of competitors such as Google.

Shopping Comparison Features
 Always looking to save a few bucks, I poked around the Live Search cash back interface to see if it would be useful for me.  I’m in the market for some new jogging shoes so I typed in “nike mens running shoes”. Unfortunately, the search interface is lacking basic functionality that all Web users have come to expect.  For example:

  • You can’t order search results by price, seller reputation, or product rating
  • You can’t specify a price range for the product
  • Default 16 items shown per page. You can’t opt to see more items on one page
  • You can’t choose whether to see a list vs more detailed view of results

Retailer Options
Once I scrolled through 16 pages of results to find the lowest price shoe, it only showed me results from two different online stores.  I guess one of the drawbacks of only including retailers that offer cash back is that your comparison is limited to the number of retailers that participate in the program.  How do I know that there aren’t other merchants that offer the same shoe online for a lower price?  They may not offer cash back but the shoe may be cheaper in the first place, saving the hassle of the rebate all together.

Rebate Hassles
Once I chose the store with the lowest price and best rebate I clicked through the “Go To Store” button.  I was taken to the merchant page where I could complete the transaction.  You aren’t given the discounted price at checkout, first the retailer has to report the sale to Microsoft.  Here’s the description of the cash back process from Microsoft’s terms & conditions:

“Within seven days after a qualifying purchase is reported to us, we will list the purchase in your account with a status of “pending.” The purchase will stay in pending status for a period of 60 days to account for returns, refunds, fraud and other processing issues. After this point, if the purchase is eligible for awards, it will be marked as “available” in your account and the associated awards will be eligible for redemption as described below. You must ensure that we properly post awards to your account. If you believe that you have earned awards that are not posted to your account, we will not consider posting them to your account unless you contact us within six months after the date of the associated purchase. We may require reasonable documentation to support your claim.”

Sounds more like hassling with a rebate than a cash back program to me.  The money may show up in your account but if it doesn’t you have to do the work of following up for months afterwards to make sure you get your cash back.  Similar to a rebate, you’re paying tax on the full purchase price, even though you might get cash back down the road.  I say might because Microsoft has a list of reasons that disqualify you from cash back:

“You will not earn cash back awards on purchases where (a) you open the store’s web site in a different web browser; (b) your browser is not configured to accept cookies; (c) the purchase is not completed in the same web browsing session (not to exceed 24 hours) initiated by clicking on the eligible advertisement or listing; (d) the order is later cancelled or the goods or services are later returned; (e) the store does not report the purchase to Microsoft; (f) the goods or services are acquired for resale or other business purposes; or (g) you also use a separate discount or coupon.”

A little bit further in the terms and conditions there is more language that could foreshadow difficulty claiming cash back.

“There may be additional limitations on purchases on certain merchant sites, and those limitations will be disclosed on the merchant site. Your participation in the Live Search cashback service on such merchant sites will be subject to these terms and conditions as well as any additional ones disclosed on the merchant site. In the event of a conflict between any of these terms and conditions and those disclosed on the merchant site, the ones disclosed on the merchant site will apply and control.”

Live Search Summary
The limited shopping comparison features, limited retailer options, and the whole lengthy rebate process are enough to discourage me from trying the Live Search Cashback for now.   The final deciding factor for me is that you have to sign up for a Windows Live ID in order to participate in the cashback program.  I have enough user id’s already, I don’t need anymore. 

For now I’ll continue to use Google web search and Google product search when I’m shopping for items online.  I’ll just keep my eyes open for deals and sales and get my discounts that way rather than go through the whole Live Search cashback ordeal.  Hopefully, Microsoft will enhance their search functionality, add more retailers, and make the cashback process less worrisome. Until then, I’ll rely on Google’s expertise to help me find the best deals.


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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5 Responses to Is Microsoft Live Search Cash Back Worth Shopping on Live Search?

  • Brian

    Scam. Click on Cashback link on ebay and find nothing in account. Contact support and they say to contact ebay.

  • Andrew

    Live Search Cashback currently owes me over $50. Although I’ve used the account successfully twice, they are now telling me that my account never existed and are ignoring my correspondence with copies of their original account verification email. If that’s not a scam, I don’t know what is.

  • Hank

    Live Search Cashback is a scam. I bought a HP PC and was promised 20% cashback. After 6 weeks, Live Search sent me an e-mail saying that HP informed them that my purchased was returned and hence cancelled my Cashback, however the PC was still sitting in my house. I did not return or exchange anything with PC. In fact I had not even contacted HP since the PC was delivered.

    THIS IS A SCAM!!!!

  • Jen

    I tried to sign up to livesearch cashback but they don’t offer the service to the UK :(. Maybe they might expand in the future.

  • Fico Queen

    Once again Microsoft’s ego has reared its ugly head again. They’ll never be content with a piece of market share in any category – they must have it all. Why else go after a giant like Google? Thanks for the great advice which will save many of us a lot of time.