In the age of Amazon Prime same-day deliveries, anyone looking to save some money should be using a cashback app (or four, if you’re like me). Think about all of the shopping we do throughout the year! We’re always buying toilet paper, cleaning supplies, clothes, and entertainment tools like games and books. Then there are holidays, birthdays, graduations and anniversaries, among others.
Giving thoughtful gifts is a great way to show someone that we care about them, but it also adds up and puts extra pressure on you and your budget. Toothpaste, paper towels, and all of those other little, annoying things we always seem to be running out of add up, too.
We’re not going to stop shopping, so why not get some cash back for things that we’re going to buy either way? When you use a cash back app, you’ll watch your bonus cash build until you can cash out and feel like you’re giving a gift back to your bank account!
When you think about it this way, it’s kind of like not using cash back apps is just throwing money away. If you’re new to this idea, don’t worry – there are several great options to choose from and we’ve got the details ready for you. Here are three of the most popular cash back apps today:
What is a Cashback App?
A cashback app is exactly what it sounds like – users get rewarded with cash back on every day purchases. You sign up for an app, connect your credit card (for tracking), and start collecting cash back on your purchases. For example, if you go to Target and spend $100, you may get $2-3 back if you use a cashback app.
Cashback is not a new concept, however the launch of specialized apps makes it easier to claim cash rewards for every day purchases. Think of cashback like credit card reward points. Certain credit cards will give you 1-3% rewards for certain purchases. The more you spend, the more you make.
Of course, you shouldn’t spend money just for the sake of getting some cash back, but it’s always nice to get a little bit of money back on your purchases.
Why Would Companies Offer Cash Back?
On first thought, cashback programs may seem to good to be true. You may be wondering, “what is the catch?”
Fortunately, there is no catch at all. Cashback programs are marketing programs in disguise. Companies want to attract more customers so they offer incentives to bring them in the doors.
Let me illustrate by example.
Macy’s wants to get more customers in the doors. They tell Ebates (a cashback app), that they will pay a 5% commission for any customers referred. This is very common in the world of referral marketing. Ebates decides to pass 4% of that commission along to the customer, meaning the customer gets 4% cashback on all purchases at Macy’s. It’s a win-win!
Macy’s stands out amongst competitors like Dillards and Nordstrom and the customer saves money.
Best Cashback Apps
Now that you know all about cashback apps, it’s time to look at some of the best options. We will highlight our three favorite apps, but you will only need one to start reaping the benefits.
Ebates was recently purchased by a company called Rakuten, so the name has changed but everything else has stayed the same. It’s probably the most popular cash back app, and the easiest one to use.
All you have to do is:
- Download the app or sign up on the website
- Choose the store you want to shop through while you’re still in the app and shop as you normally would
- Choose if you want to get paid via PayPal or check
It’s really that easy! On the home page, you’ll see icons with store names and cash back percentages:
When you click on the store you want to purchase from, the app will bring you to their website and you’ll order as usual, except when you’re done, you’ll see cash back you’ve earned right there in your account. Depending on the retailer, your cash back will show up anywhere from a minute or two to 11 days later.
You’ll get to cash out through your chosen payment method every three months as long as your balance is over $5. This a great tool to use around the holidays when we’re all spending a little more than we usually would be. But with retailers ranging from Amazon to Old Navy and 2,498 others, you can find ways to use this app to earn cash back at any time throughout the year.
One of the best things about this app is the random bonus cash back days. The percentage can sometimes land around 2 – 5 percent but it can also jump up to 12 percent and higher without warning. If you shop online often, it may be a good idea to check the app every day to snag the best deals. You’ll also earn bonuses: $10 (on average) for signing up and up to $25 when you refer a friend and they spend their first $20 through the app. And they’ll get a $10 welcome bonus, too.
Early on, Ibotta started out as an app that was primarily used to earn cash back on grocery store purchases. Over the last couple of years, it has evolved to include a variety of other stores like Best Buy, Groupon, Home Depot, and Petco, among many others. Signing up is just as simple as it was with Ebates. You’ll just need to download the app, enter your e-mail and other details, and then choose your favorite stores (or at least the ones you’re shopping at right now).
Here’s what your home page will look like after you choose your favorites:
Once you’re signed up, you can use Ibotta in two different ways:
- Choose items on the app to buy at your local grocery store, shop, and scan your receipt to redeem
- Link your debit or credit card, choose your store, and pay right through the app
With option number one, you’ll choose your store and then scroll through available offers. Ibotta breaks it all down into categories like “Best Value”, “New Offers”, and “Produce”. Right now, ShopRite has offers like $0.25 back on limes, $0.75 on Wonder bread, and $2.00 back on Advil.
As you scroll down the list, just click the red plus sign on the bottom right corner of the item’s box and it’ll get added to your list. Once you get back from shopping, you’ll open up the app again and choose the right store, click redeem, and scan your receipt. The app will recognize which items you purchased on the list, but may ask you to scan the barcode to confirm, so don’t throw out any packaging until your cash back is approved.
The offers available change every day, so check back often. You can also link your card to the app and pay for things you plan on ordering online. With this option, you’ll typically get a percentage in cash back rather than a specific dollar amount. Right now, you can earn 2 percent cash back at Starbucks and 5 percent back at Bath & Body Works.
At various times throughout the year, you can earn bonuses for referring friends and shopping in certain categories. Once you reach $20 in cash back, you can cash out through PayPal or with gift cards ranging from Whole Foods to Barnes & Noble. You can use these free gift cards as gifts for birthdays and holidays or to grocery shop as another creative way to save money!
Swagbucks has been known for years as one of the best websites to use to earn extra cash by taking surveys. You can also earn points or “Swagbucks” for watching videos, playing games, and searching the internet, but that’s a story for another article.
To earn cash back on Swagbucks, you’ll follow a quick, guided process to sign up (very similar to the others), and from there, you have three options:
- Shop from your favorite stores right through the Swagbucks website or app
- Upload a picture of your receipt within 10 days
- Choose stores and add offers on your Swagbucks account and shop in the store with your linked card
Each SB is worth just one penny, but they add up really quickly, especially if you use the website or app in multiple different ways. When you shop through Swagbucks, you’ll earn a percentage of cash back for each dollar that you spend. For example, right now, you can get 4 percent (or 4 SB) cash back at Best Buy, up to 10 percent (10 SB) cash back at Amazon, and 6 percent (6 SB) at Groupon.
Option number two is to upload pictures of your receipt to the website or app to earn cash back, similar to the way you would with Ibotta. In this category, you can also find coupons to print out for various grocery items. You’ll save money in the store and Swagbucks will give you 25 SB for each coupon you redeem: it’s a win-win!
Last but not least is the option choose stores and offers on your Swagbucks account, then shop in the store with the debit or credit card you have linked. You’ll find a range of stores from The Vitamin Shoppe and Aeropostale to Bed, Bath & Beyond and Omaha Steaks. The average is 3 percent cash back, but it can vary.
One of the best things about Swagbucks is how quickly you can cash out. You can cash out with as little as 160 SB ($1 Amazon gift card). I doubt this is an option that many people take advantage of, but it’s nice to see that they don’t make you wait until you have $20 worth of cash back or points to cash out. 300 SB can get you a $3 Dunkin Donuts gift card, 700 SB will earn a $5 PayPal credit (popular choices like Amazon and PayPal may require more SB to cash out but most others correspond with SB to dollar amounts), and 990 SB will get you a $10 Visa gift card. From $1 to $100+, there are thousands of gift card options to choose from.
Whether you choose to use one of these apps, all of them, or a different one, we hope this article helped you make a positive money move in some way. We’re all aware of how important our physical health is but many of us forget to give time and attention to our financial health, too. Each step you take to save or make money, no matter how small, will get you closer to your financial goals and a healthier financial future.