Cash-back apps can boost your budget
NEW YORK – Cash back is not just for credit cards. More apps and websites are offering ways to earn money on the stuff you buy – as long as you’re willing to sign up and make a few taps or clicks.
Groupon, RetailMeNot and others work with restaurants and retailers to offer cash back for their users. In return, they get a cut of the sales made.
But shoppers have to do some work for the money. You may need to link a credit or debit card, or visit the app before you shop to unlock the deal. And then there’s the fine print to read: Some will offer money back, but only up to a certain amount. And in most cases, debit card purchases need to be processed at the register as a credit card; typing in a personal identification number won’t earn you the cash back.
It’s not a way to make a quick buck: It can take days or even weeks for a purchase to be verified before the money is added to an account. But the money can add up over time. Here’s a look at some cash back apps:
– RESTAURANTS: Deal site Groupon launched its cash back offering last fall for local restaurants and chains such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Panda Express and Starbucks. Called Groupon+, a credit or debit card needs to be linked and then a deal for a specific store has to be claimed. When the card is used at that restaurant, the cash back amount is refunded to the card’s account. Groupon+ is available in 25 metro areas, and the company plans to expand it.
– MAJOR RETAILERS: Both Ebates and RetailMeNot offer cash back for in-store and online purchases at Amazon.com, Sephora and many other well-known retailers. For in-store purchases, link your credit or debit card and choose the store’s offer before you shop. For online purchases, go to Ebates or RetailMeNot first, tap a link to the store and then shop. But an easier way is to install Ebates or RetailMeNot buttons to your web browser. The buttons will alert you if the online store you’re shopping at has a cash back offer.
– GROCERY STORES AND MORE: Ibotta’s focus is offering money back on specific products, like 25 cents on apples, 50 cents on Cottonelle toilet paper or $1 back on Totino’s frozen pizza rolls. You’ll need to buy from stores it partners with, including Albertsons, Walmart and Target. But remember to save the receipt: it needs to be scanned through the Ibotta app to prove you made the purchase. The cash earned is put into an Ibotta account and then can be withdrawn to a PayPal or Venmo account when it reaches $20. Ibotta’s deals go beyond the supermarket at Amazon.com, Jet.com and for ride-hailing app Uber.
Another app, called Drop, lets you earn points that can be turned into store gift cards. The app asks you to pick five brands that you want to earn points for; among the options are Trader Joe’s, Macy’s and McDonald’s. A credit or debit card needs to be linked, and points are earned automatically when the card is used.