I got an email a few days ago from eBay asking me to opt into beta testing for their new rewards program, eBay Bucks. I said yes because I honestly didn’t see any downside. I shop on eBay all the time anyway for packing materials and items to resell, why not earn some points on it? Right now this program is invitation only but it looks like they plan to roll it out to the entire site in early fall.

In eBay’s words:

What is eBay Bucks?
eBay Bucks is a new program that was created to reward loyal eBay shoppers. Participating eBay users will automatically earn rewards in the form of eBay Bucks for their qualifying purchases. The program is currently being tested with a small group of selected users. Participation is currently limited to invitation only, but may expand in the future.

While a few purchases, such as giving works and eBay Motors don’t qualify, pretty much anything you purchase and pay for with PayPal on eBay earns you some percentage of the purchase price back in this program. I am earning 3% back, though I am not sure if it is the same for everyone. The system is a little complicated but once your earning period is up they take the total eBay Bucks for that period and then give you a limited time in which to spend them. For this testing period, all my purchases up until August 14th go into one voucher which can only be spent between August 22nd and September 21st.

My initial take on this is that this system is very similar to the old Anything Points rewards of a few years ago but this time, rightly, the financial burden is on eBay and not the sellers as it was the last time out. As a buying incentive, it’s a great idea. People will bid and buy more to earn more points and then, naturally, purchase something else when they “cash out” their eBay Bucks.

As a seller, I like it because it means more sales. As a buyer, I like it because it rewards me for buying on eBay. From that standpoint, it’s win-win. I also really like that it applies to buy it now, store inventory and auctions. The FAQ doesn’t mention if Half.com items are included but if they are, even better.

I know people will grumble that it drives more people to use PayPal but I am going to take a stand and say that is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I hate paying PayPal fees as much as the next gal but the fact remains that a sale made through PayPal is easier in a million different ways than one paid through postal mail. Especially with all the new protections they added for qualifying sellers, to me, it’s worth it to channel as much of my sales through PayPal as possible.

My only fear is that they may make it some kind of paid preferred eBay buyer type of system which I think would not be worth it. Three percent is nice, but its nothing to write home about and with the limitations on when you can use the voucher, it ends up being too high maintenance a reward system to pay for. But as a free system, I like what I see so far.

My biggest complaint, which I am leaving for last because I suspect it is only because I am a tester and the system is not live yet, is the bizarre limitations. Only earn points until this date. Only use the voucher on these dates. It would be a better system if it was more flexible.

In terms of the functionality, there are a few other things that are interesting. One is that a message appears on the top of the site next to the eBay logo letting you know how many eBay Bucks you have earned so far as you browse listings. While this is not very helpful to me right now as I cannot spend my points until August 22nd, I could see that notification being very useful while shopping once your voucher is active. The other interesting thing is that eBay has giving anyone in this program their very own eBay Bucks dashboard which tracks your sales over the earning period and other info. As these are the first real “buying” statistics I have seen on the site for buyers, I thought it was worth a mention. I also think its a good indication that they are planning to go live with this sometime in the future.

If anyone is interested in screen shots of anything mentioned above, please let me know in a comment on this post and I will post some. For more information on this new program, visit the eBay Bucks FAQ.

One final thing I want to add is that, while I may not agree with all of the changes eBay has made lately, so far I like this. I want them to lure new buyers and, as long as they do it without billing me for it, they can do it anyway they like. Anything that puts more eyes on my listings is A-OK in my book.

I just wanted to add that note because I feel like a lot of eBay users are getting very negative, bitter, and downright melodramatic about every new change. I think its important to realize that while some changes are bad and some are good right out of the gate, a little open mindedness never hurt anyone. To me, as a seller and buyer both, I see this as a good thing.

Sound off below.