So just about a year ago (May 2008) eBay unveiled a rewards program called eBay Bucks. It was in Beta and also by invitation only. For some reason, I was one of the people asked to join the Beta program. It was free and, since I shop on eBay anyway, it was no hardship to earn something extra for it so I accepted and joined the program.

The program itself is very similar to the old Anything Points promotion but, unlike that promotion, sellers cannot opt in or out of it, nor can they increase earnings on their items (which was always a really cool feature of the now defunct Anything Points).

The original time out, eBay Bucks gave you 3% back on any purchase (I heard some people got more, others less) in Bucks. You could earn from May through August and then you got a voucher for your earnings which could only be spent in a short period between mid August and September.

This time, they added some restrictions which include PayPal payment is required and some categories are restricted. Basically, the restricted categories are all the big ticket ones including eBay Motors, Classified and Real Estate, Business and Industrial (some categories only). I am also only earning 2% this time though I cannot speak for everyone else. This 2% relates only to the final sale price and does not include shipping so this is a case where it is worth it to buy free shipping items if you can.

Other restrictions?

Are there any limitations on how much I can earn?
Yes. You can earn:

* Up to $200 eBay Bucks on any single eBay purchase. This means that if the eBay Bucks earn percentage is 2% and the purchase price (excluding tax, shipping fees) is in excess of $10,000, you would be restricted from earning any more eBay Bucks for that purchase beyond the $200 eBay Bucks purchase earn limit.
* Up to $500 eBay Bucks for all qualifying purchases during a given calendar quarter. This means that if the eBay Bucks earn percentage is 2% and the total value of qualifying purchases exceeds $25,000 during a given calendar quarter, you would be restricted from accumulating any more eBay Bucks beyond the $500 eBay Bucks quarterly earn limit.

Now, just like last time, you can only earn eBay Bucks for a limited time (April 1st through June 30th) and then, 5 to 15 days later you get a voucher for your eBay Bucks and you have 30 days to use it.

What I found really interesting is that the FAQ states, “You can earn eBay Bucks throughout each calendar quarter. For example, you could earn from April 1 through June 30. Then a new earning period would start on July 1 and run through September 30.” I wonder if this means that I am automatically opted into that second earning period since I was in this Beta group or if that new time period is indicative of when it is opened to the public. Either way, that shows that this is going to stick around for at least two quarters.

What do I think?

Honestly, there is no downside to the program. It doesn’t cost the sellers a dime, it’s an incentive for buyers to spend more and, for buyers, it gives you cash back on purchases you make anyway. I was very pleased with my participation in the program last time because it fell during a time when we were doing heavy restocking so we got a ton of eBay Bucks from those sales that lead to some great “free” stuff later when we redeemed our Bucks. Sure, I would have preferred they kept it as 3% (or better yet, 5%) but considering they are giving me this benefit for free for purchases I make anyway, anything is better than nothing.

I also love the fact that you can earn Bucks on the purchase of not only Fixed Price/Store Inventory items but also Auctions. A lot of promotions like this exclude auctions and, as a frequent bidder, I love having them included.

I do find the cycle of earning period and then redemption period weird but, now that they have changed it to be quarterly, it makes a lot of sense from eBay’s standpoint.

One other big plus is that eBay Bucks can be used partially where other eBay vouchers can’t be (like the ones you get from the eBay credit card). For instance, if you have a $25 voucher from the eBay credit card and you use it on a $10 item, you simply lose that $15 extra. However, if you use $25 worth of eBay Bucks on a $10 item, that remaining $15 stays in your account for you to use on another item until the redemption period is over. I like that aspect of it very much.

For those of you not in the eBay Bucks Beta program, this post wasn’t to make you jealous but rather to give you a first hand glimpse into a great new program that will, hopefully, be opened up to everyone soon.

Anyone else in the Beta program under different terms than I? Of those not in the program, how does this sound to you?