Getting paid to shop seems too good to be true, right? Can you really make extra money shopping?
The reality is that companies create apps that pay for market research purchases or because they receive a kickback for sending customers (like you!) to partner sites. That's how many of these money making apps work, and they are all 100% legit. Let's dive in, and get into our favorite cash back apps of 2023!
Why do companies pay cash back to shop?
It all comes down to marketing. Unfortunately, that’s the name of the game in almost everything you see on the internet or your smartphone.
With the advances of technology, companies no longer have to rely on traditional marketing techniques like TV and radio commercials. They have companies doing their advertising for them, including influencers and marketing companies offering cash back apps, as we’ll talk about below.
Brands pay companies to get more customers to buy their products. The company that runs the cash back app earns commission from the brands every time you and every other customer buys something through their app. The marketing company shares a portion of the commission with you to keep you coming back.
How do cash back apps work?
Cash back apps are quite simple. Of course, each one has its requirements and nuances, but overall, you either shop through the app when you shop online or upload your receipts from any in-store shopping to earn cash back.
Some apps require you to activate an offer before you shop, and others just require you to navigate to the store’s links through their app. It’s important to read the fine print and know how an app works before using it so you can maximize your earnings.
Some apps pay you in points, and others pay you in dollars. Most apps give the option to cash out via PayPal or Venmo or redeem your earnings for gift cards to your favorite stores.
The best cash back apps to check out
1. Top pick: Ibotta
What it does: Ibotta pays shoppers for in-store shopping, online purchases, and even dining out. It started as a grocery store cash back app but has quickly evolved, paying users cash back for many purchases.
How it works: You must activate your offers before shopping to earn cash back with Ibotta. Unfortunately, this is one of its downsides. For example, if you're going to the grocery store, you must flip through the Ibotta app before you go, activate your offers, and then upload your receipt when you’re done shopping.
Other ways to earn cash back with Ibotta include registering your store’s loyalty card with Ibotta, so your purchases are automatically tracked and using your linked debit or credit card when shopping online through the Ibotta app.
Withdrawing funds: You can withdraw funds once you earn $20, and all earnings are in dollars, not points, so it’s easy to know when you can cash out.
You can withdraw funds via PayPal or redeem your earnings for gift cards.
What it does: Upside is most known for its cash back at gas stations (finally cheaper gas!), but in many areas, it also pays cash back for retail store purchases and dining out.
How it works: Upside is an app you download on your smartphone and use to “check-in” to establishments when you want to earn cash back. Take a gas station, for example. You choose the gas station you will use from the app and “check-in” once you arrive. Upside tells you whether you need to upload a receipt for your purchase or choose your linked debit or credit card, and they track the purchase for you.
You’ll see on the app how much you’ll earn. For gas purchases, it shows the cents off each gallon you’ll earn, and for retail stores and restaurants, it’s a percentage of your purchase.
Withdrawing funds: You can cash out at any time, getting cash via PayPal or redeeming your earnings to your favorite retail stores or restaurants.
3. Fetch Rewards
What it does: Fetch Rewards is possibly one of the easiest cash back apps you can use. There aren’t any offers to activate or work you must do before shopping. Instead, you can shop or eat anywhere, and as long as you have a physical receipt or e-receipt, you can upload it to Fetch Rewards and earn points.
How it works: Fetch Rewards pays a minimum of 25 points for every receipt you upload. You may have bonus opportunities by shopping at specific stores or even buying specific products, but every receipt will earn you something.
Withdrawing funds: The best cash back apps make it easy to withdraw funds, and Fetch Rewards is no exception. You only need to earn $3 to redeem your earnings, which is 3,000 points.
You can redeem your points for gift cards, charitable donations, or entries into a monthly sweepstake for even higher earnings.
What it does: Rakuten is a cash back app that pays you back a percentage of your purchase. They work with over 2,500 stores, so it’s easy to find a cash back deal for most of the places you shop.
How it works: It doesn’t get any easier to earn cash back than with Rakuten (formerly eBates). As long as you shop through the Rakuten app at your favorite stores, like Nike, Dicks Sporting Goods, Old Navy, and so much more, you earn the posted cash back.
For example, if Old Navy pays 4% cash back and you spend $100, you’ll earn $4.00 back on your purchase. There are often bonus times and ways to earn more money, so always check Rakuten before shopping online.
Withdrawing funds: One downside of Rakuten is you can only receive a payout once per quarter. They send what they call a “big fat check” every three months for the earnings from the last three months. You can get your earnings via PayPal or a check in the mail.
What it does: Dosh is one of the best cash back apps if you like automation. You don’t have to activate offers or even navigate to a specific link to shop. But, you must link your most used debit or credit card to Dosh, and it tracks your purchases automatically.
How it works: You link your debit or credit card to Dosh, and if you shop at a partner store or restaurant, you automatically earn cash back. Dosh pays 2% - 5% cashback at most stores, but there are opportunities for bonus earnings.
Withdrawing funds: You can withdraw your earnings from Dosh once you hit $25. Dosh offers withdrawals via PayPal, Venmo, or direct deposit. You can also earmark your funds for a charitable donation if you choose.
What it does: You may know MyPoints for its paid survey opportunities, but it’s also a cash back app. They pay you cash back for shopping at the most popular stores online and for grocery shopping. You can earn as much as 40% back on some purchases, which is higher than most reward programs offer.
How it works: All you have to do is search for your favorite stores in the MyPoints app. Then, navigate to the store through the app, and you automatically earn cash back for your qualifying purchase.
Withdrawing funds: MyPoints pays “points” as their name suggests. You can convert the points to cash or gift cards to over 70 retailers. The points required for each gift card vary by store, but on average, one point is worth $0.006.
7. Checkout 51
What it does: Checkout 51 is a grocery and gas cash back app. It’s one of the best cash back apps because you can earn money back on things you buy all the time. But it does take a little effort to get your earnings and earnings refresh every Thursday.
How it works: To claim Checkout 51 offers, you must first add the offers within the app. Next, you must click “redeem” after you’ve bought the item and then upload your receipt showing proof of the purchase. As a bonus, you’ll also find valuable coupons in the app that you can apply to your purchases along with earning money back.
Withdrawing funds: You can withdraw funds once you earn $20. You can request a check or to receive the funds via PayPal.
What it does: SavingStar pays cash back for purchases at partner stores, but like Checkout 51, it takes a little work to get the offers.
How it works: You have several options to earn cash back with SavingStar. The easiest is to link your loyalty rewards accounts to SavingStar, but you must still activate offers before shopping. You don’t get credit even if you shopped at a partner store if you don’t activate them. Some stores also require you to upload your receipt to prove the purchase.
Withdrawing funds: You can cash out your earnings once you reach $20. SavingsStar will pay you via direct deposit, PayPal, or gift cards to your favorite stores.
What it does: ReceiptPal works like Fetch Rewards, paying you to upload your receipts. You don’t have to activate offers or shop at a particular store. ReceiptPal pays for most uploaded receipts as long as they are for consumer goods and not services.
How it works: You have up to 7 days after shopping to upload your receipt to ReceiptPal. You can scan receipts from any store and receive 25 points for each receipt. Four receipts equal 100 points, and it takes 350 points to earn a $1 Amazon gift card, for example.
Withdrawing funds: You can only redeem your earnings for gift cards, but since it’s like getting “free money,” if you have the free time, it’s worth it. You won’t get a lot for your receipts, but every penny counts in my eyes!
What it does: TopCashBack, like most of the best cash back apps, pays you cash for shopping at partner stores. But there’s one big difference. They pay you 100% of the commission earned from partner retailers. Most people think it’s a scam (me included at first), but they make their money off ads, sponsorships, and other affiliate links.
How it works: To earn 100% of the commission as your earnings, you must shop through the app. Find your favorite online stores, click the link and make your purchase as usual. You’ll earn a commission from over 4,000 partner retailers.
Withdrawing funds: Keep in mind, it takes up to 14 days to receive your earnings once you cash out. You can redeem your earnings for PayPal, ACH transfer, or Amazon gift cards.
Other reward apps to consider
The best cash back apps pay you commission for buying from partner stores, and I believe everyone should use at least one or two of the apps mentioned above, but the reward apps mentioned below are good to have on hand too.
Coupons.com mainly provides coupons or discounts on your purchases, but they too have jumped on the cash back bandwagon, hoping to lure in more customers. They only cash out via PayPal, but if you can combine cash back offers with coupons, you’ll increase your earnings quite a bit.
Honey is a browser extension that alerts you when a lower price or coupon is available for the items you’re looking at. I love how easy it is to use because it’s automatic since it’s a browser extension. You’ll know immediately if a lower price is available, or you can even see price history charts to decide if you should be buying an item now or waiting.
You may have heard of Shopkick as an app that pays you to walk or “kick” into stores. Shopkick still offers “kicks” for visiting certain stores based on your location, but they also pay rewards for shopping at certain stores. You must link your debit or credit card to earn “kicks,” which you can redeem for gift cards.
BeFrugal partners with up to 5,000 stores to help you earn cash back. What BeFrugal is most known for, though, is its coupons and promo codes, saving you money on your purchase. This is the equivalent of the best cash back apps only you get the earnings right away by saving on your purchase.
BeFrugal also offers a “best cash back promise.” If you find a better offer than what they’re offering, they will beat it by giving you a 25% bonus on top of the matching offer.
Drop is your one-stop shop for all loyalty cards. Link your loyalty cards and most used credit card to the app and choose your top five favorite stores. Then, every time you shop at one of these stores using your linked credit card, you earn points.
After you earn 5,000 points, you can redeem them for gift cards to your favorite stores.
Freebird is a little different. Rather than paying you to buy products, they pay you to rideshare with Uber or Lyft. Depending on when and where you ride, you can earn between $1 and $10 cash back on your service.
Paribus (Now part of Capital One Shopping)
If you’re tired of buying something only to find out a few days later the price dropped, you need Paribus in your life. You link your email account to Paribus, and every time you buy something, they track your confirmation emails, checking the stores to see if the price drops. If the price drops $3 or more, Paribus applies for a refund automatically for you.
Features to look for in the best cash back apps
Any app that pays you cash back can be the best app for you, but since you have so many options, it pays to know what to look for in them.
How you’re paid
Some people only want cold, hard cash as their reward. If that sounds like you, look for apps that pay in cash because not all do. Some apps pay in both gift cards and cash but pay more for gift cards, and others pay in only cash.
If you want cash, think about how you want to receive it, whether direct deposit, PayPal, Venmo, or a paper check.
How you redeem offers
Some apps make it easy and automated to redeem offers. Others make it feel like you’re jumping through hoops just to get a dollar back. If you know you won’t activate offers before you shop or remember to upload receipts, focus on apps that link your credit card and automatically track your purchases.
The minimum redemption amount
Some apps let you redeem your rewards at any time, no matter how much you’ve earned. Others make you wait until you hit a certain threshold or a specific amount of time (like Rakuten). Read the fine print so you aren’t disappointed when you want to cash out but can’t yet take it.
The stores the app partners with
Each cash back app works with different stores. Some work with thousands of stores, and others are more limited. Some apps are also particular to a certain type of store, such as Upside and gas stations. Find the cash back app that works with the stores you frequent most often.
The final word - Best cash back apps
Everyone should be using the best cash back apps, in my opinion. If you don’t, it’s like leaving money on the table. Plus, you’re getting paid for something you’re already doing.
If you’re worried about privacy or security, use apps that don’t require you to link your credit card and instead let you upload a receipt or your loyalty account number. Never fall for an app that asks for too much private information, though. Legit cash back apps are simple, pay you decent earnings for shopping, and honor your privacy.
With the best cash back apps listed above, you can’t go wrong.