6 Apps That Pay You Back

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Piggy bank

For the shopper-types, there are a bunch of apps designed to “pay you back” for money you’re already spending or about to spend.

We all know retailers want to get you in the door so you’ll buy in their store. Well, if you were already going to buy something anyway, might as well earn some money back while you’re at it, right?


ebates logo

For the coupon clipper in your life, Ebates lets you earn cash back rewards for shopping at your favorite stores, as well as receiving exclusive shopping deals and promo codes. They’ll even give you $10 simply for signing up. When you purchase gift cards through the app, you receive cash back, and you can even save money on vacation websites like Expedia. How does it work? Well, the retailers give Ebates a commission for sending shoppers to their websites or stores, and Ebates simply shares part of that commission with you. Simply check their site for available deals before you shop.


ibotta logo
Ibotta (PRNewsFoto/Ibotta)

Never fear if you’re not a fan of coupon clipping. Ibotta approaches shopping rewards in a slightly different way. First, visit their app to select the products that you intend to buy, then go shopping as usual at your favorite stores. Ibotta even rewards you for grocery shopping, so make sure to check their list of retailers before going to the store.

After you’ve shopped, upload a copy of your receipt. If you don’t want to upload a copy of your receipt, linking your loyalty card to Ibotta allows them to track your purchases that way. You can also simply shop online through Ibotta. Through all three of these options, you receive cash back for purchasing designated products. Staples like produce sometimes only garner 25 cents each, but they can add up fast (other more expensive items can earn more cash back). The cash is deposited in your PayPal or Venmo account, or you can choose to receive gift cards instead.


shopkick logo

ShopKick turns earning free points into a game. You earn points from major retailers like Old Navy, Macy’s and Target, just for walking into the store. Simply install the app and launch it before you do your shopping. Once inside the store, the app will let you know about sales or special promotions. There’s even a way to earn extra points (they call them “kicks”) by using your phone’s camera to scan specific items throughout the store.

It’s like a little in-store treasure hunt. If you do buy something, you can earn even more points. Once you’ve collected enough “kicks,” you can trade them in for gift cards to Starbucks, Walmart, Target, Amazon and more, or put your points towards merchandise or travel rewards.


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It works by scanning your email for online shopping receipts and by linking to your Amazon account through the email address you log in to Amazon with. Earny will also scan purchases made on your credit card by linking it to their website. Then, Earny keeps track of purchases you’ve made for up to 90 days. If the price drops in that time, you’re automatically refunded the difference. The refund can be automatically put back onto your credit card, or mailed to you.

When you sign up, you are eligible to receive up to $2000 in refunds for past purchases. Once you’ve established your own account, you can also earn rewards from friends you refer. Earny will give you 5% of their refunds as well! Pretty cool.

Non-shoppers still have some interesting options for making some cash without leaving their couch.


swagbucks logo

If cat videos and Facebook surveys are your happy place, you’ll love this next app, which basically pays you back for the places you’re already surfing on your phone. The payments are small but they can add up fast, as the app has something of interest for nearly everyone. Answer surveys, watch videos and play games online. You know, what you’re doing anyway?

With online surveys, you typically earn 40-200 “Swagbucks” per survey, and 100 Swagbucks = $1. When your points add up, you can redeem them for free gift cards for your favorite retailers, or receive cash back through your PayPal account. Join for free and you get $5 just for signing up. (For the record, you can earn Swagbucks for shopping through the app as well, but I’m talking to you non-shoppers right now.)


AppTrailers logo

Watch video advertisements of upcoming smartphone games, and earn points. The app also offers daily quizzes, trivia, and games you can play to earn yourself more points, and surveys you can take for a certain amount of time a day. Points are then redeemed through the Perk platform and can be used toward gift cards or paid out via PayPal.

All reward-earning apps will require that you provide an email address and some personal information – they have to have a way to send you rewards earnings. We all know that nothing is absolutely free, so be aware that you’re trading a little bit of your internet privacy, collected for marketing purposes.

Before you sign up for anything, make sure you read the fine print on the app’s privacy policy. Find out what type of data they collect from you and what they do with that data (and make sure you’re OK with it). Be wary of any app that seems “too good to be true.”

Before you start…

I’d recommend that you establish an email address specific to your reward app activities. Your address will undoubtedly find its way into the databanks of merchants and vendors looking to take advantage of the information you’ve provided via these apps about your viewing, shopping and spending habits.

Finally, keep in mind that accruing enough points to get a decent gift card will take some time and diligence. For example, walking into a store will earn you 10-50 points through ShopKick, while a $5 Starbucks gift card requires about 1,250 kicks. On the other hand, if you’re already surfing the ‘net, taking surveys, shopping at retailers and grocery stores anyway, why not get something for nothing while you do it?