How Cash Back Apps Helped Them Save Money During the Pandemic

A graphic of a dollar sign on a smartphone

These days, there’s an app for everything. If you have a smartphone, you’re basically carrying around a tiny supercomputer at all times. You can instantly connect with millions of people, stream live events, read the news, shop for groceries, and more. And, with the right apps, your phone can save you money. Lots of it. Cash back apps turn a portion of your spending into saving, keeping more money in your pocket. If you know what apps to use, the savings can really stack up over time.

“I’m a huge fan of cashback apps,” said Daniel Penzig, a self-taught entrepreneur and investor. “I have literally spent the last two years saving thousands of dollars.”

Saving When Shopping

Daniel Penzig
Daniel Penzig

Penzig, who has started businesses in the past and now runs >Maze Of Our Lives, says he typically uses cash back apps at least once a week. His favorite program is ShopAtHome, which delivers cash back and coupon codes on purchases at most major retailers.

“I check out the coupons that are out there before I decide what I want to purchase and then simply use the cash back app to earn the money back on top of the store coupons,” he said. “So, it’s a great double dip!”

In addition to coupons and cash, the app also provides Penzig with an overview of his spending and saving each week. It’s easy, convenient, and all in one place. Overall, Penzig loves the flexibility. He can shop almost anywhere for almost anything and come away with some kind of money back or discount.

“I have been using the cash back app and website for years to save on everything from clothes to electronics to grocery coupons,” Penzig said. “It has saved me an insane amount of money (thousands) on all of those categories and I love how easy it is to use the app.”

Cash Back During Coronavirus

Millions of people like Penzig use cash back and coupon apps as a way to save cash and help make ends meet. Amid a pandemic that has caused massive financial devastation, these goals are more important than ever. And while many cash back users have been using their app of choice for years, some turned to mobile coupons this year.

“I’ve been affected financially by the pandemic, just like a majority of other people throughout the world” said Thomas Bradbury, the technical director at Get Song Key. “Recovering is not easy, which means every bit of help is appreciated.”

Thomas Bradbury
Thomas Bradbury

Bradbury had never used a cash back app before this year but was looking for some way to ease the financial burdens of the pandemic. While he has used a few apps, he said Ibotta makes the couponing process the most simple.

“The app is easy to use and gives you a range of coupons and deals to choose from – simply take the app with you to the store where you want to claim the coupon,” Bradbury said.

Although he likes Ibotta, Bradbury has also used Rakuten, Honey, and Dosh, three more major cash back apps.

In six months utilizing these apps, Bradbury estimates he’s saved about $320. One cash back app is good, but using multiple to cover all your bases means you can save on virtually everything. 

“Turning to coupon apps during the pandemic helps to reduce costs associated with buying groceries and other essentials,” he said.

$1,000 Saved in 2 Months

One common critique of cash back apps is that they may not be worth the effort. Saving a few pennies here and a handful of nickels there doesn’t always seem worthwhile until you consider the big picture. Small savings on all of your purchases add up to equal serious cash back.

Aiko Houghton
Aiko Houghton

Aiko Houghton, a Marketing and Community Manager at Loftera, discovered just how powerful these apps can be during the pandemic. Although she had heard of numerous cash back and coupon apps before, she didn’t really start using them until this year.

“I am definitely an active user of online coupons. No better way to save while spending on needed items than using available discounts,” Houghton said.

Houghton’s app of choice is Honey, a browser extension that automatically applies coupons as you shop online. The company said that the platform saved users a collective $170 million this year alone. Houghton said she accounted for $1,000 of those savings in just two months using Honey.

“I’ve used the sweet extra on fancy dog food and home appliances,” she said. “Saving money is crucial to setting up a straight line of living, it also helps keep the important perspectives in life.”

Set It and Forget It

As a Travel Industry Analyst at Upgraded Points, Jamie Larounis knows a thing or two about getting cash back value. Larounis regularly uses airline miles and points, plus other deals, to find discounts on traveling and accommodations. Outside of his industry, Larounis is still dedicated to finding savings, but he lets Dosh do the work for him.

“With Dosh, everything is already “pre-loaded” — so you simply just need to spend, and where cash back can be given, it’s automatically applied,” Larounis explained.

Jamie Larounis
Jamie Larounis Photography by J. David Buerk:

Unlike other apps that ask you to scan a receipt or track your purchases, Dosh handles that automatically. Larounis, like Bradbury, said the ease of use of the cash back app coupled with the savings made it worth his time.

“I have been using Dosh for several years, and didn’t start with the pandemic, though the savings throughout the pandemic certainly provides an unexpected occasional cash boost which is nice during what otherwise is a very trying and uncertain time,” he said.

“To this point, I’ve saved a couple of thousand dollars, and the savings have deposited in my checking account.”

The Bottom Line

Cash back apps won’t make you rich, nor can they remedy all your money issues. However, they are incredibly valuable tools that, when used with healthy shopping habits, can help you save tons of money in the short and long run. Unfortunately, most adults don’t use any mobile coupon apps, and miss out on thousands in cash back and offers.

If you’re feeling the heat financially, cash back apps can be one tool to help you get back on track. Apps like Honey, Dosh, and Ibotta have helped change the lives of millions, and you could be next!