Many Millennials grew up watching their parents cut coupons, fill out rebate forms, and head to the in-store sale rack for the best deals. While it remains true that a little savings over a long horizon can make a major impact on financial wellbeing, the means by which consumers can now save have multiplied.
With financial technology now at the fingertips of anyone with a smartphone, consumers have been granted access to a growing mass number of financial tools and applications that help them save, automate, invest, and manage their money.
|App||Bonuses||App Rating||Cashout Minimum||Learn More|
||4.7 / 5||$20||Learn More|
|2,000 points ($2)||4.7 / 5||3,000 points ($3)||Learn More|
||4.5 / 5||$5||Learn More|
|$20 welcome bonus||5 / 5||$50||Learn More|
|N/A as it looks for price drops for you||4 / 5||Refund returned back in the original form of payment||Learn More|
|Occasionally 5,000 points promo code ($5)||4.7 / 5||$5 (as a gift card)||Learn More|
|$0||4.8 / 5||$5||Learn More|
That said, because there are no shortage of apps to choose from, those who are overwhelmed by the options could end up missing out on an opportunity to get major savings, with minimal effort. That’s why it’s important to understand the different types of cash back apps out there and how they work.
What Are the Different Kinds of Cash Back Apps?
Cashback apps typically try to make the shopping experience more enjoyable for users, creating an interactive game with points, missions, steps, and rewards. These vary greatly from app to app, and some focus on particular product areas like groceries.
The entire system of cash back shopping is largely driven by affiliate marketing. Many cash back sites are paid a commission on each sale generated through their site. This is tracked by a special link that retailers provide their publishers, in this case, the app.
The main difference between rebate apps and other store affiliates, including most deal and coupon sites, product reviewers, bloggers and other social “influencers,” is that cash back sites share part of their commission with the shoppers themselves.
How to Use Cashback Apps
Most cash back apps are free and require basic information, such as an email address and a password to sign up. The process typically goes like this:
- Browse cash back offers
- Make a qualifying purchase
- Receive cash
They make it pretty easy. Some cashback apps require that you take action before shopping, while others have you scan receipts after going to the store.
Once shoppers complete tasks required by the cash back app and purchases are made, many apps have cash-out minimums you will need to reach before transferring the money to a gift card, your bank account, or another option like PayPal or Venmo. These savings-focused apps also typically offer sign-up bonuses and referral bonuses.
Are Cashback Apps Worth It?
For individuals who do a lot of shopping, cash back apps are worth the quick download and sign up. It’s also worthwhile for normal shoppers too. While you may have heard “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” no-fee cash back apps look like an exception to the rule.
Of course, coupon publishers and the companies offering discounts need to make money too. Research suggests that coupons encourage shoppers to spend more money, especially on more expensive items. And for some individuals, a few dollars saved is not worth the time it takes to scan barcodes and load sales receipts.
Each of these tools offers a different experience, and some apps have better deals on your frequently bought products than others. With that considered, you may want to sign up for a few and see which has the highest return for your shopping style.
The Best Cash Back Apps
The Smart Wallet has hashed out exactly what you need to know before you decide among seven of the most popular cash back platforms below.
Ibotta is one of the most well-known cash back apps on the market, giving out over $526 million in cash back rewards to users to date. The seven-year-old company, based in Denver, CO, offers shoppers the opportunity to earn cash back on a wide range of products by performing easy tasks, purchasing the product, and then providing proof of purchase.
(Read the full review: Ibotta Review: $526 million in Cash Back Since 2012.)
Ibotta also has a “Bonuses” section to earn additional cash, alongside friend bonuses, in which it offers $5 for each new friend who registers and opens an account. Ibotta has over half a million reviews on the iTunes App Store, averaging 4.7/5.0 stars.
How to Claim Rewards on Ibotta
- Scan receipts after shopping
- Link store loyalty cards with Ibotta
- Shop through one of Ibotta’s mobile retailers’ apps
- Offers: Cash back at over 500,000 locations, across segments including grocery, beauty, apparel, travel, home, restaurants/bars, electronics and more.
- Welcome Bonus: Up to $20
- Referral Bonus: $5 per referral
- Cash-out minimum: $20
Like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards is a receipt scanning app that turns your store receipts into rewards. Per the company’s website, users earn points on grocery products every time they appear on a receipt, regardless of the place of purchase. These points can then be redeemed for hundreds of gift cards, such as Amazon, Visa, Sephora, Best Buy, Foot Locker and a lot more. (Read the full review: Fetch Rewards Review: Gift Cards for Groceries.)
Fetch is a nice option for users seeking to put in minimal effort, given the app does not require you scan individual barcodes or clip coupons, and automatically offers points for cash back on receipt uploads. The app also offers Special Offer Bonuses for featured items.
So far, Fetch has scanned nearly 77 million receipts. The app is available for free in the App Store or Google Play store.
- Offers: Points for cash back on receipt uploads and thousands of grocery store products
- Welcome Bonus: Use code REWARD during sign-up and receive 2,000 Bonus Points ($2) on your first receipt on The Smart Wallet
- Cash-out minimum: 3,000 Fetch points ($3) to redeem for gift cards
Ebates, recently renamed Rakuten Rewards, is a cash back and shopping rewards company based in Silicon Valley. Founded in 1998, Ebates says it has more than 10 million members that have earned over $800 million in cash back. The platform is fairly straightforward compared to competitors, with no points system. (Read the full review: Ebates Review: The Granddaddy of Cash-Back Services.)
The platform allows users to install a “Cash Back” button for their web browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge, which reminds customers to activate their cash back before checking out. The extension also applies coupons automatically at checkout. Payments are made every quarter in the form of a check or PayPal payment, and the app is available for iOS and Android.
- Offers: Coupons and cash back at over 2,500 stores online and in-store
- Welcome Bonus: $10 Ebates Cash Bonus or $10 Walmart Gift Card for signing up
- Referral Bonus: $25 per referral
- Cash-out minimum: Quarterly payout of cash back account balance if over $5
Affinityy is one of the newer affiliate marketing companies that offer unique cash back rewards like $5,000 for buying a house through one of its real estate partners, $100 cash back for getting approved for a personal loan through its platform, along with getting X% cash back from online shopping retailers. (Read the full review: Affinityy Review: Cash Back on Loans, Houses and More.)
To make a qualified purchase, users must click on a store link from affinityy.com and make the purchase in the same click session. Cash is redeemed via PayPal or check once you’ve hit a minimum of $50.
- Offers: Cash back on products from hundreds of retailers, such as Expedia, Walgreens, and Best Buy
- Welcome Bonus: $20
- Cash-out minimum: $50
Paribus is a five-year-old company founded by two Harvard grads who noticed that most retailers have policies in place to refund consumers if the price of their purchase subsequently drops. However, consumers rarely have the time, resources, and memory to keep track of it all. (Read the full review: Paribus Review: A Middleman for the Refund Claims Process.)
Instead of acting as a search engine through which users can find the best prices, or provide users with coupons, Paribus backtracks all of its users’ purchases and submits refund requests on your behalf. The company only requires your email address. Paribus says they are 100% free and does not charge any fees for its services.
Paribus was acquired by Capital One in 2016, which is why it can afford to be a free service. (Capital One hopes if you like the app, you’ll open an account with them.) The company says it has found over $29 million in potential savings for its users to date. The platform is available via an iOS app or the web.
- Offers: Tracks purchases from 25+ major retailers, and hotel operators, and monitors for late deliveries from select retailers
- Welcome Bonus: Not applicable as it checks for price refunds for you
- Cash-out minimum: None. Your refund gets returned to your original form of payment.
Drop is an easy-to-use intelligent mobile rewards platform that allows users to turn points into gift cards at various retailers. The app, targeted at Millennial consumers and launched in 2017, is a great option for those who want to automate the cash-back process. (Read the full review: Drop Review: Supercharge Credit and Debit Cards With This App.)
As of October 2018, Drop reported more than 1 million members and has reached the top 3 in the iTunes App Store under Lifestyle.
“Drop is disrupting the $40+ billion loyalty market with a strong focus on design, user experience, and engineering,” according to the company’s website. Users have reportedly earned over $3 million in rewards to date.
How to Use Drop
- Download the app via iTunes or Google Play
- Sign up and link a credit or debit card
- Pick five of your favorite brands (e.g. Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Uber, Target, Walmart)
- Opt to sign up for bonus offers, such as a one-time offer to refer a friend or win points with a particular merchant
- Shop as you normally would and earn points
- Trade points for gift cards at various retailers
- Offers: Gift cards for top brands across fashion, travel, beauty, big box retail, entertainment, and food and beverage
- Welcome Bonus: 5,000 points if you use SMARTWALLET promo code ($5 value)
- Cash-out minimum: 5,000 points ($5 gift card)
RetailMeNot was founded in 2006 as an online coupon company. Since then, its services have expanded to offer free promo codes, in-store coupons, cash back deals, discounted gift cards, and more. (Read the full review: RetailMeNot Review: Customizable Shopping Options and Alerts.)
Parent company RetailMeNot Inc., which owns other platforms like RxSaver and UK-based Voucher Codes, says it has partnerships with over 70,000 brands internationally and facilitated near $5 billion in sales last year.
The free app has a location option that allows users to automatically receive coupon alerts when they are out shopping. RetailMeNot has a 4.8/5.0 average rating on the iTunes App Store, based on 206,000 reviews.
- Offers: Savings from over 35 categories including food, fashion, beauty, and travel
- Welcome Bonus: None
- Cash-out minimum: If you’ve earned at least 1 cent, you can cash out