It takes money to make money. I like to earn money back when spending money I’d be spending anyway. I do this by using a variety of cashback apps when shopping on and offline.
What’s the catch?
Well, in exchange for loyalty points or straight-up cash, you’re handing over your valuable data to the companies that make these apps. You’re sharing what you buy, when you buy and how much you spend … information companies are obviously willing to pay you for! If you use a loyalty card from any retailer, you’re basically doing the same thing.
My life is an open book, so I don’t really care who knows how often I’ve hit up McDonald’s in the past month, and if I’m getting another Filet-O-Fish meal while the twins sleep in the van, I may as well get a few cents on the dollar while I’m at it.
Here are the cashback apps I’ve been successfully using over the past six months, and how to use them. It’s even possible to stack the cashback if you play your cards right!
Note that the sign-up links below are all “referral links,” which earn me some points or pennies if you create accounts. If you have friends or family members already using these apps, ask them for their referral links if you want to help them out!
I’ve tried a couple of couponing apps and found that the coupons were never for things I actually bought. What I like about Caddle is that you can earn cashback for doing really fast surveys or watching brief commercials, so you can earn cash without even spending a dime.
The items eligible for coupons correspond much more frequently to items I actually buy compared to the similar Checkout 51 app.
There are usually generic, staple items up for cashback each week, such as carrots or eggs, along with the “branded” coupons. Most weeks you can earn fifty cents by uploading any Costco receipt (for $5 or more, although you should get a prize if you’ve managed to go to Costco and spend less than $5).
You don’t have to remember to present a coupon at the time of purchase: to earn your cashback, you upload a picture of your receipt.
Use promo code LINDSA70754 to get started with $1.00!
Update, Oct. 2019: To be honest, I deleted this app in my most recent “make room on my iPhone” purge … I just wasn’t using it.
CoinOut gives you a few cents for every receipt you upload or each online invoice you forward. It doesn’t matter where the receipt is from or how much you’ve spent—you get cashback for each upload. It seems to range from one to ten cents per receipt, so no, it’s not a lot. But it adds up … just keep those receipts! You can also forward all online invoices to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the FAQ, you earn more for “better quality” pictures, which I take to mean receipts from which they can gather the most data (what items were purchased at what prices and clarity of the image itself). If you have a receipt too long to fit on the screen, fold it so that the most information possible fits. At minimum, you must show the name of the store, the date and the purchase total.
They’ve recently added partner stores that offer even more cashback.
To create your account you need to supply your mobile number, but I’ve not received any telemarketing calls from this.
Update, Oct. 2019: I’ve done almost no surveys since writing this post, but just from shopping and referrals, I’ve cashed in $75 in gift cards!
If you’re like me and get excited when it’s a census year and you get the long-form census, then Swagbucks is for you!
Download their Answer app and take surveys for points, called Swagbucks. Swagbucks can then be redeemed for gift certificates to your favourite shops.
The surveys are listed by how long they’ll take to complete, so if you’re killing time waiting for the kids to get out of class or you’re up in the middle of the night nursing, you can also be earning! Take a split second daily survey and earn one Swagbuck, plus see how your opinion compares to other users.
You can also earn Swagbucks for shopping at a huge selection of online retailers, for installing the Swagbucks search bar in your internet browser and for entering special offer codes that pop up on Swagbucks’ social media accounts.
Any time I need to make an online purchase, I check my Swagbucks app on my phone or the Swagbucks.com on desktop and make sure I click through to the online store via the app or website.
If you like the chance to earn points without spending any money, then Swagbucks is a better bet for you than E-Bates.
Use sign-up code MAMANLOUPSDEN to get 70 free Swagbucks
E-Bates is very similar to Swagbucks but without the surveys and other ways of earning points. Points are exclusively for making purchases, and there are often promotions by certain sites that offer a higher percent of cashback. (Like 4% instead of 1% around Black Friday and Boxing Day!) You earn cashback by clicking through to affiliated online retailers via the E-Bates app or website, and that cashback is deposited periodically into your PayPal account or sent to you as a cheque by snail mail.
If you don’t think you’ll bother doing surveys or entering secret codes, I’d choose E-Bates over Swagbucks.
Update, Oct. 2019: Guys, I deleted the Drop app because you don’t really need the app on your phone to earn once you’ve set it all up … and I just reinstalled it and have over 30,000 points! (That’s like $30 in gift cards.) This is exclusively from regular purchases I make and I didn’t have to remember to do ANYTHING to earn this, except reinstall the app to check my balance!
Drop is the easiest of all my cashback apps to use because once you’ve linked your credit and debit cards to it and activated your offers, the work is done. You do not have to upload anything or present anything at the store.
The app tracks your shopping through your credit and debit accounts, so any time you use your payment cards at affiliated retailers, you earn.
When you first sign up, you get to choose your “power offers,” which are the retailers where you will always earn points when shopping with one of your linked cards. There are also offers from myriad retailers (truly something for everyone) that you simply activate before shopping online or in store.
Drop encrypts your financial data and uses “industry leading security” to make sure the information shared with Drop isn’t vulnerable to interception. Your credit and debit card login credentials are not stored anywhere on Drop’s servers. Learn more about Drop’s security measures.
You can cash in your Drop points for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks, Cineplex and more. If you use Carrot Rewards (sadly, not yet available in Alberta), you can link it to your Drop account.
Start with my referral link and get $5 worth of Drop points!
Double, Triple or Quadruple Dip
Here’s an example of how I maximize my rewards with a simple purchase at Starbucks: I use the Starbucks app to collect Starbucks Rewards, which every so often leads to a free beverage (and there are no limitations on said free beverage, so you can order the most expensive drink on the menu if you’re so inclined). I load up my Starbucks card within the app using my credit card that is associated with my Drop account. I scan the receipt from my purchase into CoinOut. My credit card also gives me WestJet dollars. That’s four different rewards for one purchase!
I do most of our grocery shopping at Save-On-Foods, so let’s say there’s a Caddle offer for cashback on milk. I’ll earn cashback from Caddle, More Rewards points from Save-On-Foods, WestJet dollars and I can scan the receipt into CoinOut.
What Cashback Apps do you use?