Editorial Note: Microsoft Points are going to be more and more important to you future Windows Phone 7 users, which is why you may want to pay attention to today's tip!
Even though Bing Cashback was cancelled a few months back (shame as it was a great program), Microsoft has returned with a new, similar program called Bing Rewards. It's technically in "preview" right now but you can still sign up and begin racking up credits as an incentive for using Microsoft’s Bing “decision engine”.
Microsoft Credits can easily be earned just by using Bing for all your searching needs, setting Bing as your homepage, making use of the feature-rich related searches, or just exploring the daily image’s information hotspots. A total of 250 credits are thrown your way just for signing up for the program. The "credits" can then be exchanged for "rewards" or even better, Microsoft Points, which can then be used in the Zune/Xbox Marketplace (more on that below).
So is there a catch? Of course there is...
Read more after the jump as we try to make sense of Microsoft's latest Bing incentive program!
To get started, you’ll have to install the Bing Bar to keep a tally on your credit allotment (see image below). Also, the Bing Bar is only compatible with Internet Explorer so you will essentially be earning credit for not only using Bing, but (for most people) going back to using Internet Explorer.
The Bing Bar will keep you signed into your Hotmail/Livemail account and it will show you how to earn some extra credits with "Featured offers" under the Rewards Tab. The featured offers are just links to checkout and they change daily. Each offer will land you, on average, a bonus three credits. You can also earn one credit for every five searches, up to a total of ten per day. (By the end of day one I had already earned 275 credits. Not bad.)
After all is said and done, you can exchange the credits for rewards (confused yet?). The rewards run from movie tickets, luggage, electronics, and gift cards. There are currently over 250 rewards to choose from and they run as low as 100 credits for charitable donations to 4807 credits for – no joke - the book Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. 1 by Julia Child, Louise Bertholle, Simone Beck. (I’m willing to bet that’s the first and probably last time a book about French cuisine will ever be featured here, and how it out-prices things like video games, Blu-ray/DVD’s, and most electronics is beyond me.)
So why would you want to sign up? Well, if you’re an Internet Explorer user who likes Bing and being rewarded for your everday behavior, then this is certainly right up your ally. If not, then all I can say is give it a try, you may very well be surprised at how far Explorer has come since the last time you’ve used it i.e. Internet Explorer 9 (beta). For those of you who have no interest, I offer this as a carrot: Sign up to receive 250 credits and do the bare minimum of offers and searches. Microsoft Points, which are good for music and videos in the Zune Marketplace (or games/game content through the Xbox Live Marketplace) are exchanged at a rate of 100 credits for 100 points. That’s a very easy 200+ free Microsoft Points right there for basically doing nothing.
Finally, this offer seems to be only for U.S. residents at the moment (at least for now, remember this is a preview program) and we should mention that delivery time can take up to 8 weeks (yikes), even for digital content (again, yikes). But hey, that’s what you get for free.
On the other hand, maybe this is too many hoops to jump through for some points. What do you folks think, good idea or convoluted mumbo jumbo?