For years, coupons have been Americans’ favorite way to save money. However, it may be hard to use them because sometimes you just don’t have time to scour weekly ads and carefully cut out each deal. Plus the cost of printing coupons, lack of newspapers, and cost of mailing them has started to make coupons less and less efficient. Luckily, we have cash-back apps and websites these days, which allow you to make money back on in-store and/or online purchases. Now there is no need to print out coupons or keep binders of store ads. You just need your phone or computer to get cash-back.
But with so many cash-back options on the market, it can be difficult to find apps that specifically cater to your shopping needs. That’s why we have decided to share five of the most popular ones to help you get started. First, let’s review what cash-back apps are and how they work.
What are Cash-Back Apps, and How Do They Work?
Although coupons and cash-back apps are both great ways to save money, they work a little differently. With coupons, you save money before you checkout. With cash-back apps, you earn cash rewards (either cash, a check or gift cards) after you make a purchase very much like a rebate. Some of these shopping apps allow you to earn cash back in stores, and others allow you to earn cash back online. Some, like Ibotta and Shopkick, offer both.
If you’re shopping in-store, here’s how these apps generally work:
Download the app, and create an account. Find where you’re shopping, and see what cash-back offers you find. After you checkout, claim your cash-back rewards by taking a picture of your receipt you’re your smart phone and/or scanning items’ barcodes. If you’re using an app that offers online cash-back deals, it’s even easier. Just open the app or web browser, choose your go-to retailer and shop its site through the portal.
So, how do these apps just hand out cash. Simple really, retailers and brands typically offer a referral commission to these apps, so each time you purchase a product, the app gets a portion of the money. Then, the app passes part of that commission over to you.
Now that you understand how these money-saving tools work, let’s look at the most popular apps and the good and the bad of them. Remember the best cash-back app for you will depend on your spending habits. Hopefully we are giving you all the information you need to make the best decision.
1. Ibotta (I-bot-a)
If you find yourself grocery shopping every other day, you’ll want Ibotta in your back pocket. Download the app, claim cash-back offers and take a photo of your receipt. It pairs with a number of major grocery stores and chains, including CVS, Giant Eagle, Sam’s Club, Target, and Walmart. It also pairs with many other retailers including BestBuy.com, Footlocker, GNC.com, Cabela’s, Speedway, and Home Depot just to name a few. Here is a short video about Ibotta.
Pros: The Ibotta app is easy to get the hang of. Plus, you can find cash-back offers for “any item” and “any brand,” which allows for more earning opportunities.
Cons: Like coupons or other cash-back apps, it’s easy to get wrapped up into buying the promoted products that offer you more money back — but aren’t necessarily a great deal.
Payment method: Once you create an Ibotta account and earn $20 you can cash out. Ibotta pays you via PayPal, Venmo, or gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart.
Available via iOS and Android.
Shopkick differs from the other apps on this list in that you don’t have to make a single purchase to start earning points (or kicks). Just walk into stores and scan items’ barcodes. Of course, you’ll earn more points when you make purchases with a connected card (online or in store) or snap photos of qualifying receipts. Here is a short video on how Shopkick works.
Pros: Because you can earn points just for walking into stores and scanning items’ barcodes (some users say it’s fun — like a scavenger hunt), you won’t be tempted to overspend with the Shopkick app. You can also earn kicks when online shopping.
Cons: There are so many different ways to earn points, it can take a couple of weeks to get in the habit of using Shopkick when you’re running errands.
Payment method: Exchange points for gift cards to popular retailers, including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart. With 500 kicks, you can snag a $2 gift card.
Available via iOS and Android.
3. Fetch Rewards
Okay so you are one of those people who is just so busy you can’t even plan your next shopping trip; you just squeeze them in when you have five minutes. With Fetch, you’ll earn rewards when you simply take a photo of your receipt — any receipt from any grocery store. You use your rewards to get gift cards or you can use your points for charitable donations for such charities as American Cancer Society and Habitat for Humanity. Here is a video showing how Fetch works.
Pros: Fetch is super easy to use. There’s no scanning barcodes or hunting down specific brands (unless you want bonus points). You can take a photo of literally any receipt from a grocery, convenience, or club store.
Cons: You have to snap a photo of your receipt within 14 days of purchase, so don’t forget to do so! You’ll basically be throwing away free gift cards if you don’t.
Payment method: Earn as few as 3,000 points (you can get 1,000 for an eight-pack of toilet paper), then cash out for a gift card to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Panera Bread, Target, and Walmart.
Available via iOS and Android.
4. Checkout 51
If you’re not a store loyalist and just shop wherever is most convenient, Checkout 51 is a great cash-back option. Redeem the app’s cash-back deals for specific products from any retailer (unless the offer specifies otherwise). Checkout 51 is also great on gasoline purchases as well. Their website states that you can earn cash back on gas and groceries. Here is a short video on how Checkout 51 works.
Pros: If you prefer to do your shopping online, Checkout 51 makes it easy to earn there, too. Just claim your offers by snapping a photo of your packing slip. No need to shop through a portal.
Cons: Checkout 51 updates its offers each Thursday. This is great if you’re looking for new deals — not so much if you’re slow to get to the store. Additionally, the app tends to focus on name-brand items, so don’t forget to compare prices. Generic or store brands might be more affordable even without a rebate. Payment is via check sent in the regular postal mail.
Payment method: Earn $20 back, and cash out for a check in the mail.
Available via iOS and Android.
Dosh is the latest cash-back application to dominate the app stores for both iOS and Android. Unlike most other cash back apps we’ve talked about, you are not required to scan your receipts or exert any effort. You simply need to connect your credit card or debit card to Dosh, and you will receive cash back automatically whenever you make a qualifying purchase. The Dosh app aims to let its users earn money through cash back every time you make use of your credit cards for booking hotels, purchasing flight tickets, buying items, eating out, and so much more.
Pros: The Dosh App is very easy to use. The Dosh App rewards in cash, not in points or credits. The required minimum payout is not that high. They have partnered with thousands of shops, firms, restaurants, and hotels. The Dosh App allows users to reserve hotels directly within the app.
Cons: The Dosh App is only available to residents of the United States. Linking credit cards may be something to be concerned about. There are only a few partner merchants accepting in-store cash back. The Dosh app does not work with all credit/debit cards and does not work with prepaid cards. Poor/Slow customer service.
Payment method: Accumulate $25 then transfer to your bank, PayPal, or Venmo, or donate your cash back to charity.
Available via desktop, iOS and Android.
Tips to Maximize Your Cash-Back Rewards
Now that you know how cash-back apps are a great way to pocket extra cash, you also have to learn to use them responsibly. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the shininess of earning money back. To help you use cash-back apps responsibly here are a few tips:
Read the offer’s fine print. Make sure you’re purchasing the correct brand and quantity. For example, you might only earn $3 back when you buy a 32-ounce jar of peanut butter — not the 16-ounce one.
Before purchasing a specific item to pocket the cash back, compare prices of other brands. Also take into consideration any coupons. Some simple math will help you determine what’s the best deal.
Learn how to deal stack with your go-to cash-back app. For example, if you use Ibotta, apply any in-store coupons to your purchase first. Then you can still get your Ibotta cash back.
When you sign up for many of these cash-back apps and sites, you’re automatically opted in to promotional notifications from that app. Don’t be lured into spending on things you don’t need.
If you’re finding yourself purchasing items just because you’ll get cash back, write up your shopping list, fill your cart, then see if any of the items you’re purchasing qualify for a cash-back deal. Now you won’t get suckered into buying a $5 container of fancy yogurt just because you’ll get 50 cents back.
Lastly, these apps are good for getting you some money back into your pocket and keeping the cost of living down, but don’t fall for the trap of “it’s not what you spend, it’s what you save.”