Ibotta. Honey. Fetch. You may have seen ads for these apps online, promising to save you a bundle when you're out shopping.
As any savvy shopper knows, a bundle is always relative, but any money saved is money earned.
How do these tech savings gurus work? And which one fits best into your life? To find out, Trevor Fraser with the Orlando Sentinel tested a few of the many options available on the free app market and spoke with other shoppers about their experiences. Here's what he found.
The name here is meant to explain it all, but it could still use a little help.
The app from Coupons.com offers both printable (yes, as in, made of real paper if you're into that) and digital coupons for use in a variety of stores. Usually, the coupons are for brand-name products, which you can add to your virtual shopping list.
The app also lets you select favorite stores and link your loyalty cards to instantly connect you with in-store savings. You can also get coupon codes for offers at online retailers, though sometimes these can be either out-of-date or otherwise unverified.
What I liked: Having my stores selected helped me see what deals would be available in the course of my regular shopping.
What I didn't like: Sometimes, to redeem an offer, you have to submit a picture of your receipt proving you bought the item. Once verified, the money gets uploaded to a connected PayPal account. For some reason, the Coupons.com app had the most difficulty "seeing" the picture of the receipt. The first time I tried, even after I submitted the picture, something glitched and it was never counted as submitted. It's a lot of work to go through to save $1 on Purell.
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It's game time, Fetch Fam! Have you filled out your Brand Bracket yet? Predict which products will be purchased in higher quantity by Fetch Rewards shoppers during each match of the tournament. You could win up to 1,000,000 points! 💸 And *NEW* this year, increase your chances of winning by referring friends – if one of them signs up with your code and has one of the winning brackets, you'll win that prize, too. #Winning 🏆 Bracket closes February 26, 2020, so choose your champion soon.
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Instead of actual rebates, Fetch lets you earn points on purchases and then turn those points into gift cards for other retailers. For example, 5,000 points can get you a $5 gift card to GameStop or HomeGoods.
Fetch gives you a list of items you can get from any store, from Breyers ice cream to Dove body wash. When you're done shopping, scan your receipts and it will search for point-netting items. You can scan receipts from as far back as two weeks.
"It's usually an afterthought for me ... so it's no more or less trouble than shopping usually would be," said Orlando resident David Sirois. "I tend to end up with a little pile on my desk and scan a bunch all at once."
What I liked: You can make a list of items you need or do your shopping and see if any of your purchases paid off. Some brands are often repeated, so if you regularly buy those, you can be on your way to $10 Amazon gift-card land in no time.
What I didn't like: Problems arose when jumping through hoops to maximize points. For example, I bought a magazine specifically because they said it would earn points, but then it did not register the purchase on my receipt. I had to change it manually (there's a process for this) and wait for them to verify the change (which, to their credit, they did).
Sirois related a story of attempting to get bonus points on a purchase, only to find out he was just shy of the dollar amount to make the bonus point cutoff. Long story short, if you're going out of your way, the rewards aren't so great that they make it worth the hassle. But it's fine for passive shopping.
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Flipp is for the people that find Coupons.com too techy. All Flipp really does is compile the weekly ads and flyers that stores release so you don't have to dig through, say, a physical newspaper to find what's going on sale. It lets you search by stores and products, and you can load your loyalty cards for automatic savings.
What I liked: Flipp is straightforward and easy to understand. See if it's on sale or there's a coupon and then use it.
What I didn't like: It is what it is. You have to check to see if something is on sale, just like you had to with the newspaper, but now it's on your phone. If you were the type of person who didn't look at coupons before, this is unlikely to make a dent in your shopping habits.
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If you do all your shopping online, you've almost certainly heard of Honey. The self-described "smart shopping assistant" can work as an extension on your computer's web browser or as a phone app. Essentially, Honey automatically searches the internet for coupon codes and applies them.
With hundreds of stores and products to scroll through, Honey is particularly great for people who like shopping, not necessarily shopping for a specific thing. But it does let you add products to your list and sends alerts when there are deals for those products.
What I liked: Scrolling through products was easy to the point of almost driving me into buying a lot of unnecessary stuff. And you don't have to wait for money to appear in an account or to get a rebate check. The sales are already done for you.
What I didn't like: My complaint is less about the functionality of the app than about my own habits as a shopper. I don't buy enough online to really justify the app. The browser extension, however, just makes sense to have. Why not save when you can?
Ibotta is probably the most popular rebate app available. I chalk that up to the promise of cashback. Add specified items to your shopping list, take a picture of your receipt and get money in your PayPal or Venmo accounts or redeem the cash as gift cards to retailers such as Amazon or Walmart. And, like some of the others, you can add your loyalty cards so that it automatically tracks your purchases.
You can also shop online by going to retailers through the Ibotta app. When you do this, it logs rebates in your accounts. You have to earn more than $20 to get your first payout.
What I liked: The offers are pretty varied and widespread, so it's almost impossible not to find things you're going to buy. And they even offer deals on whole purchases, such as 10 cents back for uploading a picture of any grocery receipt.
"I like Ibotta because I can link it to my store cards, and don't have to scan any receipts and then product bar codes," said Altamonte Springs-shopper Bethe Putney-Sans.
What I didn't like: Not only did I find the app to be a little buggy, but I could also never figure out if I was doing it right. I shopped on Amazon through the app like it said, but I never saw the rebate appear anywhere or receive any acknowledgment that I made the purchase through Ibotta. Earnings from one purchase have shown up as pending for more than two weeks. To me, it feels like the promise of cash for shopping is a little too good to be true without a catch, but that might just be my own suspicions.
"Ibotta is OK, but you have to do it after the fact," said Kelly Brown of Winter Springs.
Ibotta also is big on rewarding buying brand names, like most of the apps, which can make it a little pointless. "You have to choose the store you shopped at, upload the receipt and then select offers that may apply," said shopper Lindsay Crum. "Most times they don't for me because I shop at Winn Dixie and no brands." But she also admitted she liked that she could upload her Winn Dixie loyalty card and it would automatically load rebates when she made featured purchases.
Remember Ebates? This is that. Literally, Rakuten is just the new name for Ebates. This app also promises cashback from more than 2,500 retailers. Shop for featured items online and earn money in your account.
You'll also get notifications (seemingly a lot of them, from my experience) about products offering double cashback. These are time-sensitive, so you have to be quick to take advantage, but that means you also have to want what's on sale.
You have to wait for retailers to verify the purchase, and then you get a check with your payouts for each quarter.
What I liked: Again, Rakuten was not shy about keeping you in the loop for what was available.
What I didn't like: Rakuten is not for people who want their cash back yesterday. There seems to be a lot of waiting involved. And if you don't have a PayPal account, you're getting a paper check, which seems like a hassle. If this is just a nice bonus, then enjoy. But if you're counting on this rebate, you need to factor in the time it takes to get it.
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Shopkick is less a coupon app and more a game. Like Fetch, you scan featured items, but unlike Fetch, you don't actually have to buy anything. That's right. You can just scan the barcodes of items at stores they select.
You do, however, get more points if you scan receipts with featured items on them. And you can get points (or "kicks" as they call them) for shopping at some online retailers.
So what do you get for helping these people with their market research? You will slowly earn gift cards. But you also get the fun of treating every store like a scavenger hunt.
What I liked: It took a second for the information to sink in, but I eventually accepted that I was getting something for nothing. All I had to do was scan things for points. And again, linking customer loyalty cards made it even easier.
What I didn't like: It adds an extra step to shopping. When the novelty wears off, you're just stuck walking around, pointing your camera at stuff you don't want. This isn't really a problem if you do it in moderation and don't get addicted to games the way I do.
There's no reason why you can't combine several of these and get rewards from every angle. Well, there is one reason: time. Dealing with all of these takes more moments and concentration than normally goes into shopping, for me at least.
If all you care about is making purchases and being done with it, get the apps that let you link rewards cards. Then it's all done for you. But if you're willing to put in the effort, there is a world of savings waiting inside your phone.
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