Several months ago, TopCashBack featured a crazy-good 73.4% back on HBO Max. Purchases didn’t immediately track properly and there was some initial doubt as to whether or not the deal would get paid out. It turns out that the rate was a mistake and HBO didn’t intend to pay it out. However, TopCashBack has sent an email to members advising that TopCashBack is paying out anyway for those claims that can be verified and they are taking a loss in doing so. That’s fantastic customer service and demonstrates a commitment to doing right by customers that I respect.
As a reminder, the deal back in June was that TopCashBack offered 73.4% back on HBO Max subscriptions. That rate was an amazing deal because when they featured it there were no restrictions in terms of subscription type. We wrote about the deal because by combining that payout with the Amex Offer for $25 back on $99.99 or more, it was possible to buy a full year of HBO Max’s premium ad-free subscription (normally $149.99) for a net of less than $15 (after $110.09 back from TopCashBack and $25 back from the Amex Offer). It worked out to be less than the $14.99 I had recent paid for one month of an ad-free subscription on the monthly plan. If you purchased the version with ads, your net cost would be less than $2 for a full year of HBO Max. That looked like an amazing deal!
When the deal “died”, the payout changed to $11 on a monthly subscription. That led me to believe that the payout had been a mistake and had instead been intended to be $11 back on a $14.99 ad-free monthly subscription – which is (not coincidentally) 73.4% back. It seemed that either HBO or TopCashBack had intended the rate only on that one premium monthly subscription. Ooops.
A couple of weeks later, I reported that purchases (including mine) had finally tracked at the full expected payout, which looked like a great sign. However, in the past month or two, we had occasionally received comments from readers who were frustrated that while the purchase had tracked it had not yet become payable.
I am glad to report that this deal is paying out for many who completed it. My order has progressed to payable as shown below:
However, it sounds like a substantial portion of the payout is coming directly out of TopCashBack’s wallet. Here’s the update they provided to us (which was previously published on Doctor of Credit):
We’re pleased that some of you have already had updates to your claim, we’re not in a position to update all the claims submitted and wanted to also post a progress update here about what we’ve done to resolve and also to share some info on what happened.
It’s no surprise a lot of you made this purchase, the deal was incredibly lucrative and while TopCashback prides itself on bringing you the very best rates, we have to own up here the 73.5% rate on any online purchase wasn’t what was intended.
The deal was intended to be 73.4% cashback on the cost of a first month subscription costs, equating to around $11 cashback for our members rather than the large sums of cashback that were expected. This lack of clarity wasn’t something picked up by the team here before or during the rate being live. As soon as it was, the rate was updated down to $11.
As some of you have mentioned in the comments here, this rate was not just something isolated to TopCashback. However, we hope how we’ve handled this situation so far including this update now reflects just what we stand for which is not just fantastic cashback rates.
At TopCashback, we firmly believe in Fair Play, those words continue to be the foundations that drive every decision we make. We understand when you took out this deal, you entrusted us and the rate displayed. It is under that same premise that just owning up to an error is not enough, we need to demonstrate that fair play is far more to us than a buzz word.
It is in that same mindset that we have decided to honor all purchases that HBO have confirmed were taken out. An extremely substantial portion of the rate has come to us here at TopCashback to reflect that demonstration of fair play. While the cost is extremely considerable, we believe it is what is right and what is fair in this situation.
Each of you will receive an update on your claim, if you haven’t already. The transactions we manually added will also be updated accordingly with nearly all of these progressing to payable, the only exception being if HBO have not been able to match up the email you provided on your claim to their system.
Thank you so much for bearing with us with this situation, we remain extremely grateful for the patience, loyalty and trust that has been instilled in us. I hope you find this update informative and most importantly that you enjoy treating yourselves with those funds and any funds you earn with us here at TopCashback
It sounds to me like the error likely came through from the data that HBO sends to shopping portals since TopCashBack was not the only portal offering it. I don’t know exactly how portals work on the back end, but my assumption has always been that retailers provide some sort of automated feed and my guess here is that HBO intended for the cash back to only be on the first month of service but didn’t make that known. It sounds like TopCashBack continued to follow up with HBO on that and has decided to make good on it at no small cost to TopCashBack.
This stands in stark contrast to reports from some readers who went through another portal that I believe never paid out (I’m not naming it in case there has been an update that I’ve missed). I had noted in response to someone months ago that in a case where you’re not sure about whether a questionably high rate will be paid out, you’re always better off going with an established portal that has a track record of paying out. This type of move from TopCashBack is exactly why I’d stick with an established portal like TCB in situations where rates are similar with lesser-known portals.
That isn’t to say that every purchase will go smoothly nor is it to say that I won’t also use other portals. Sometimes, retailers don’t set up their systems to track properly (I think that was the case with the Walmart+ fiasco via ShopatHome and Swagbucks last year). Sometimes, operator error causes a user to click a button in their bookmark bar or to look for a coupon code not realizing that clicking on to some other site might steal the tracking cookie so that the purchase tracks to the coupon site rather than the shopping portal. A customer may call customer service to make a change in their order (or be contacted by customer service to make one) and the tracking could get blocked. Whatever the case may be, if the portal isn’t paid by the retailer then the shopper likely isn’t going to get paid by the portal. That’s just how the system works.
However, in this case, TopCashBack clearly recognized that since HBO was able to provide the tracking data for users who clicked through and signed up, the right thing to do is to pay out members. TopCashBack could have easily said that HBO refused to pay out the full 73.4% rate and so they couldn’t pay their members and washed their hands of it. Instead, they decided to pay out the expected rate. Kudos to them for taking responsibility and paying this one out.
We get some negative reports from time to time about one shopping portal or another. It’s always hard to know what contributing factors may have caused a problem for any individual order tracking properly. But a situation like this one — where TopCashBack recognized the problem and took responsibility for an expensive payout just because it was the right thing to do — speaks volumes to me.