5 Fave Cash Back Apps for Savings On-The-Go

Although the act of clipping Sunday mailer coupons has a therapeutic quality to it, it’s no longer the most efficient way to cut costs at the register. And as more shoppers rely on their smartphone to help make life easier, consumers are leveraging cash back apps as a way to fast-track savings on everyday purchases.

The key to making this savings strategy work is ensuring you’re not buying more than you intended just to get cash back — in this scenario, you’re actually taking your savings in the opposite direction.

If you can use these apps wisely and already plan on making certain purchases, earning cash back on those transactions is a no-brainer. Here are today’s best cash back apps for busy, but frugal, shoppers.

5 Fave Cash Back Apps

1. Rakuten (formerly Ebates)

Rakuten (pronounced RACK-uh-ten) is the new brand of the former — and very dominant — cash back app, Ebates. Although its name has officially changed after four and a half years under the Rakuten e-commerce family, the benefits of this cash back app still remains.

The app, which is available on iOS, Android and desktop, provides cash back offers for more than 2,500 stores. Cash back percentages vary by retailer, but can earn shoppers anywhere from 1% cash back up to 40% cash back (or more).

To start saving, download the Ebates Rakuten app on your smartphone or tablet. Create an account, use the app’s search feature to find the store you want to shop at, and click on “Shop Now”.

Continue shopping as you would normally and once your eligible cash back purchase is processed, the app shows you how much in cash back you’ve earned. You can redeem your cash back by either linking your PayPal account or requesting a check in the mail.

2. Ibotta

Ibotta is known as one of the more user-friendly cash back apps on the market, and is available on iOS and Android. It partners with major brands and retailers, like Best Buy and Safeway, and touts that it’s saved customers over $500 million through its cash back offers.

If you’re the kind of shopper who enjoys putting together a grocery or shopping list ahead of time, Ibotta is a perfect cash-back companion.

Before shopping, add the cash back offers you’re interested in to your Ibotta account. Go shopping, whether in-store, online, or through your favorite app. Once you’ve made your purchase, upload your receipt into Ibotta or scan the product barcode to claim your cash back credit. You’ll see your cash back in your account in a few days. Earned cash can be withdrawn via PayPal, redeemed for gift cards, or even claimed through Venmo.

3. Swagbucks

Do you catch yourself mindlessly browsing the internet or watching videos online? Swagbucks not only helps you earn cash back on online purchases, like you could with Rakuten, but also offers opportunities to earn more cash through other online activities.

When signing-up, you’ll fill out your survey profile to help the app match you with surveys you qualify for. You can start earning cash back through the app immediately by shopping on your mobile phone or activating an activity. You’ll earn varying amounts of “SB points” per dollar you spend, which can be redeemed for gift cards to major retailers, like Starbucks or Target.

Other ways to earn SB points, include playing video games, taking surveys and polls that are offered to you, browsing the internet using Swagbucks’ Yahoo! search engine, or signing-up for special offers, like claiming free product samples.   

4. Drop

If you use a debit or credit card for a majority of your purchases, Drop can help you earn cash back reward points. To start earning points, simply link your card to your Drop account. From here, you’ll be asked to select your top five favorite stores. Keep in mind that you can’t change these selections after they’re set so choose stores where you spend the most.

As you use your linked cards at your favorite retailers, either online or in-store, Drop automatically spots your eligible cash back purchases and points are added into your Drop account.

The biggest perk of using Drop is that it does the heavy-lifting for you when it comes to tracking purchases. This means you spend less time scanning barcodes or uploading receipts. When you’re ready to claim your points (after earning a minimum of 5,000 points) you can claim a gift card.

5. Shopkick

One of the best ways to save money is by not spending it at all. With Shopkick, making purchases is just one way to earn points or “kicks”. This cash back app also allows you to earn kicks by scanning in-store product barcodes, and sometimes, even just by stepping into your local store.

You’ll accrue kicks without even purchasing an item. If you enjoy window shopping and the thrill of a good scavenger hunt, you might get a kick (bad pun intended) out of Shopkick’s gamified approach.

And if you happen to need something at a nearby store that offers kicks, you can earn more by using a linked card for your purchase or uploading a receipt. Once you’ve earned enough points, you can redeem kicks as a digital gift card that’s sent straight to your phone.

Maximizing savings with cash back apps

Earning cash back on items you would’ve purchased anyway is a win-win when you’re trying to save money. Although these handful of highly-rated apps offer a number of unique ways to earn cash back, you might find that some work better for you than others.

When test-driving these apps, ask yourself what you want out of a cash back app. Are you looking for convenience? Do you need an app that lets you stack in-store coupons? Do you want to earn rewards by just killing time? Do you only shop at specific grocery stores or retailers? Do you prefer redeeming cash back directly into your bank account, as a gift card, or something else?

By thoughtfully answering these questions, you can find an app to help you uncover hidden savings. Once you find the right cash back app for you, just be aware of your spending habits to ensure you aren’t going over the deep end to earn cash back.

Jennifer Calonia