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With the holidays coming and inflation still running rampant, people are pulling out all stops to save money this holiday season. Sometimes this comes from using the right technology to find the lowest prices. Other times, it means earning straight-up cash back on your purchases.
Of course, you’ll want to develop good habits so that using the app becomes part of your routine. “Fast and easy is the name of the game in today’s world. In my experience after a short time using these apps you don’t even think twice about it,” said Steven Schloesser, a savvy spender and owner of Just a Guy with a Tractor LLC and WideOpenApparel.co.
“If you’re going to spend money with no expectation of a return and you can get a little back every time,” he said, “why not?”
Some of his favorite cash-back apps include Fetch and GetUpside, but there are plenty of other choices to fit any shopper’s spending habits and lifestyle.
The app you choose may depend on whether you do the bulk of your shopping online or in stores, and whether you also want an app to help you find deals or are happy with cash-back savings alone.
For instance, if you opt for the popular Ibotta app, you can find savings virtually everywhere you look.
“When it comes to online versus in-store, the best way to shop depends on what’s on your list. If you’re shopping for gifts, online is the way to go, and you can get up to 15% back from participating retailers through the shopping season,” said Ibotta chief marketing officer Richard Donahue. “If you are stocking up for visiting guests or hosting holiday gatherings, you’ll want to shop in-store for item-level grocery offers.”
Here are 10 of our favorites with some tips on how to maximize your return this holiday season.
Formerly eBates, Rakuten is one of the original and one of the most well-known cash-back apps. The five-star-rated app, which also has a website and browser extension, delivers cash back on purchases online and in stores.
Angela M., a shopper on Long Island, New York, uses the app for online shopping and says she has received more than $1,000 cash back in the past 10 years of using the app. “Whenever I place an order, I use Rakuten. Sometimes I’ll search multiple stores to see which one has the greatest cash back.” She says she often finds deals online at BJ’s and Target.
Other shoppers have earned as much as $200 cash back per year using the app for travel and combining it with Expedia rewards.
Rakuten also alerts you if the site you’re visiting has the lowest price or if you can find it cheaper somewhere else. The browser extension also tests coupon codes to apply any available savings. “I love the coupon codes for extra savings,” Angela M. said in a chat with GOBankingRates.
In our search for the best cash-back apps, we stumbled upon BeFrugal, which promises up to 40% cash back cat top online retailers, plus access to online coupons for places like Walmart and Walgreens.
It takes just seconds to open an account. The offers include up to 8% cash back at Amazon.com, 9% at Chewy and up to 19.5% at Sam’s Club. As with Rakuten, you can install an extension to your Chrome browser to find coupons and cash-back deals.
Introduced in 2015, Fetch Rewards is a relative newcomer to the cash-back app space. Its easy-to-use interface requires no browser extensions to install or websites to remember. It’s a mobile app where you can upload your digital or paper receipts and receive cash back for each one.
“I chose Fetch out of all the options because they do not require you to click and move to different platforms or websites,” Schloesser said. “You do everything directly through the app.”
He remembers to use the app by simply keeping an envelope in his truck where he stores all receipts. “Making sure I keep them all in one place allows me to keep my day moving and just make it a habit to sit down and scan all the receipts at the end of the day,” he said.
With more than 40 million “Savers” and partnerships with more than 2,700 brands and retailers, Ibotta is another leading name in cash-back and savings apps. “Whether you’re shopping for groceries or gifts, Ibotta has a cash-back offer for you this holiday season,” Donahue said.
Simply use the Ibotta website or app before you shop, add deals to your account and then shop to earn savings and special offers.
This year, Ibotta can even help you save on your Thanksgiving meal, with an offer to receive a free Butterball turkey and popular Thanksgiving sides when you unlock specific bonuses.
Donahue mentioned that Black Friday savings through Ibotta start early this year, beginning Tuesday, Nov. 1. “Then, throughout Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Week, Ibotta will be offering extra cash back, up to 15%, on apparel, toys, electronics, home goods, jewelry and more from participating retailers,” he said.
He suggested that Savers set notifications for essential items. That way, the extension will alert you instantly when items are restocked or are about to be sold out or when prices go down. Notifications also allow you to view on-demand price comparisons. “We recommend always keeping an eye on the app and Ibotta.com for hot deals and special offers,” Donahue said.
CouponFollow, one of the largest coupon destinations for online shoppers, joins the likes of Rakuten, Fetch Rewards and Ibotta with a cash-back program. But CouponFollow is, first and foremost, a coupon-hunting app that provides verified coupon codes for shoppers. Online coupons are a great way to shave costs from your holiday budget.
“CouponFollow’s Cently browser extension helps test and apply the best discount at checkout automatically, so you don’t have to manually paste codes. Just download the free browser extension for immediate savings,” explained CouponFollow founder Marc Mezzacca.
On Nov. 11, CouponFollow is offering users a Double Cashback Offer Day, where you can earn double cash back from CouponFollow’s more than 1,000 partner stores and websites. Money is deposited into your CouponFollow wallet and cashed out through PayPal.
“Starting your holiday shopping early is the best way to make sure you get the best deals possible by monitoring various sales, coupon codes and promotions,” Mezzacca told GOBankingRates. “By starting early, the impact of holiday shopping can feel less burdensome on your wallet.”
Brickseek advertises that it lets users “live life at half price.” The name comes from the app’s capability to hunt down hard-to-find items and deals at brick-and-mortar stores. It has inventory checkers from stores like Walmart, Target and Lowe’s. But it also shares deals from Amazon and other top online retailers. This app can not only help you save money, it can also make your holiday shopping a lot easier.
As GOBankingRates recently reported, Honey is a free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Opera that applies discount coupons to your cart automatically. The Honey website says users save an average of $126 per year from more than 30,000 participating merchants. With 17 million users, Honey is clearly an easy way to save this holiday.
Whether you’re traveling long-distance for the holidays or just running errands around town, you’re paying more for gas than you did a year ago. Today’s average gas price at the pump is $3.76, while last year it was just $3.40. That’s down significantly from highs above $5 this summer, but it’s just an added cost to an expensive holiday season.
The GetUpside app offers you cash back on gas purchases. Schloesser, who says it’s one of two cash-back apps he uses regularly, explains, “It’s very easy once you load your cards into your wallet on the app. You pull up, claim the offer, pick which card you’ll be using and check in. It doesn’t get much easier than that to get free money back.”
Since he earns cash back for fuel at the pump all year long, the money can make a dent in his holiday shopping or let him treat himself and his wife to date night.
Anyone who shops at Target — and few people don’t — needs to download the Target Circle app on their phone. When you join Target Circle, you earn 1% cash back on every purchase. You can also gain access to exclusive bonus offers like $5 off any $25 or more purchase of toys.
When you shop Target online, you can stack your Target Circle cash back with apps like Rakuten and BeFrugal for even more savings.
The Kohl’s app provides access to its coveted 20%, 30% and 40% off coupons, as well as additional savings. You can store your Kohl’s Cash in the app to redeem it when it becomes available so you never lose out on savings. You can even link a payment method, like your Kohl’s charge, to the app and pay in the store through the app.
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The apps and browser extension you use will depend on where you prefer to shop and the items you buy. Choosing a few of these apps and using them consistently can lead to significant savings during the holidays and all year long.
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