Can You Save Big Money with Microsoft's New Cash Back Search Program?

Microsoft just launched a new cash back program in an attempt to promote their Live search engine and steal market share from Google. Will it work and is it worth it? Here's what I found out on my quick shopping spree.

Microsoft Live SearchThe tech world is abuzz about Microsoft's new cashback program, an attempt to get you to use their Live search engine by giving you cash back on select products that you might be searching for.  Curious, I decided to take a look to see if I thought the savings were enough to get the average person to shift their search habits.

How cashback works

Cashback works in the following way.  Let's say you do a search on digital cameras at  When you do, you'll see all of the usual search results along with an ad at the top that says: Save on Digital Cameras -  Clicking on that bring you to a page with a large assortment of digital cameras and camera accessories.  I decided I liked the Samsung S860 digital camera so I clicked on it. 

What came next was a screen that showed the price of the camera at variouis retailers - Circuit City, B&H Photo, Adorama, and several other retailers.  Other than Circuit City, I wasn't familiar with the other retailers.  Next to each  retailer was the price, the cashback amount the user would receive, and then the final price.  You can see it all right here

Depending on the vendor, the price may or may not include shipping, which could add to the cost.

For this particular camera, Circuit City had the cheapest total price (including shipping) of $85.49.   This price included a cashback rebate of 5%, or $4.50.  It's important to note that the savings is a rebate.  To get the discount, I had to click on a link that says: Go to Store.  At that point, I was stopped and asked to provide my email address.  The address is used to send me information about my rebate.  To use the program, you have to register basic profile information - Name, Birthday, Address, etc.  Microsoft says they use it to process your rebate and that makes sense, but it's a hassle to fill out another form.  If you already have a Live account then it looks like you can skip this step and just login. 

Once you make a purchase your rebate can be sent to you via PayPal, check, or direct deposit.  You will have to wait 60 days after the purchase for the rebate to become available.  Microsoft says this is allow for possible returns.

Can You Save?

So, with all being said, are the savings compelling enough to use Live to search for items you want to buy?  I compared several products to find out.

1. Samsung S860 8.1 MP Digital Camera. 

-  Cashback via Circuit City: $85.49

- Amazon: $92.72

- Google Search Circuit City: listed as $89.99 on Google site but $79.99 on Circuit City site.

BOTTOM LINE: Google found me the best price.

2. Bulova Marine Star Diamond Accents Mens Watch 96D14 With Black Dial

 - Cashback via Digital Foto Club: $192, including shipping.  Hadn't heard of the company before but they seem respectable.

- Amazon - $199, including shipping.  The watch is actually sold from  Mall of USA, Inc.

- Google Search - $179.76 with shipping from Top One International Corp.

BOTTOM LINE: Google once again found me the best price.

I could go on but I suspect I'd find the same thing.  And remember, to get the Microsoft price you have to wait 60 days for the 3-5% rebate to be sent.

Clearly, Microsoft wants to become a bigger player in the search space and is trying to use incentives to get more of us using its search engine.  I occassionally use Live Search and I don't think it's bad at all.  I may even use it more because I think competition in search is important.  But based on the brief research I have done, the incentives alone don't look compelling enough to alone to use Live Search.






Sol Nasisi
Sol Nasisi: Sol Nasisi is the co-founder and a past president of BestCashCow, an online resource for comprehensive bank rate information. In this capacity, he closely followed rate trends for all savings-related and loan products and the impact of rate fluctuations on the economy. He specifically focused on how rates impact consumers' ability to borrow and save. He also has authored a wee

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