Want to put cash back in your pocket every year?
There are plenty of money-saving apps and websites that can help you do just that. In fact, there are so many to choose from, you may not know where to begin. But fear not, because I’m here to serve as your technological tour guide to thrift, and tell you about some of the penny-pinching apps that I use on a regular basis.
GasBuddy will find the cheapest gasoline wherever you are. Just open the app, and you can see all the gas stations near you, along with their prices.
You can save even more money by signing up for the Pay with GasBuddy card. It’s free to join (pay.gasbuddy.com), and GasBuddy will send you a card in the mail. All you do is link your bank account to the card, and then you’ll save 10 cents per gallon on your first fill-up and 5 cents per gallon every time after that. GasBuddy is accepted at most gas stations and works just like a debit or credit card. Just swipe your card at the pump, enter your Driver ID (which is a 4-digit pin number), and occasionally you’ll be asked to enter the current mileage on the odometer of your vehicle – an extra step that doesn’t take long and is well worth the savings that you’ll receive.
Pros: GasBuddy says that over 500,000 people have joined the Pay with GasBuddy program, and if you use its app and card regularly, you can save up to $340 per year on gas.
Cons: Some gas stations (such as ExxonMobil, BJs, Costco, and Sam’s Club) don’t accept GasBuddy cards. And remember that paying at the pump — with any kind of card — comes with some risk. (I found five complaints on the Better Business Bureau’s website from GasBuddy users who reported unauthorized or duplicate charges on their accounts). So if you decide to sign up for a GasBuddy card, be sure to review your bank statements carefully.
I must admit, I was hesitant to sign up for this receipt scanning app, but when I saw that you could get a $20 welcome bonus for trying it out, I decided to go for it.
The iBotta app (ibotta.com) features rebates for a decent selection of products from supermarkets, department stores, online retailers, and even liquor stores, and uploading the receipts turned out to be easier than I thought.
Now I make it a habit and use iBotta every time I go shopping.
Pros: Since I signed up in March 2019, I’ve saved $45 using iBotta.
Cons: If you want that $20 welcome bonus, be sure to read the fine print. You have to make a certain number of qualifying purchases within a certain amount of time to get it.
3. Other receipt scanning apps
Checkout 51 (www.checkout51.com) is very similar to iBotta – you pick out product offers listed on the app, and then snap a picture of your receipt to earn cash back on those items.
The savings add up in your account, and when your balance reaches $20, Checkout 51 will send you a check.
Fetch Rewards (www.fetchrewards.com) is even easier to use.
Just scan your grocery receipts and you’ll earn points for each receipt, plus additional points for eligible products that you purchased.
Fetch points can be redeemed for e-gift cards from Amazon, Target, Olive Garden, and other retailers and restaurants.
Coupons.com also has a smartphone app that accepts receipts.
Just choose the digital coupons you want to use, and upload the receipt after you shop. You can also link your supermarket loyalty cards and take advantage of the offers that way. Coupons.com will send you cash back via PayPal.
Pros: Most of these apps offer special deals for referring friends. For example, Fetch Rewards will give you 2,000 points (the equivalent of $2) if you enter my referral code (2CK3D) when you sign up and upload your first receipt. (And I’ll get 2,000 points for referring you).
Cons: Unlike coupons that you present at the register, you don’t get instant savings from scanning your receipts.
You also need to be cool with sharing information about yourself and what you buy with these companies.
4. Discounted gift cards
Do you have a gift card that you don’t really want? There are plenty of services that you can use to exchange them for cash or Amazon gift cards.
But some work better than others. I learned this a few months ago when I submitted a gift card to Cardpool.com and never received anything in return.
Thankfully, I was able to cancel the transaction in time and get my gift card back. Others have not been so lucky. Cardpool’s Facebook page is filled with comments from unhappy customers and the Better Business Bureau has received over 1,000 complaints about the company.
My advice to you: steer clear of Cardpool!
Now, whenever I decide to sell a gift card, I go to CardCash.com. You can also buy gift cards through the site, and some of the deals are quite generous.
Pros: You can find some real bargains on CardCash.com.
Cons: If you buy a gift card from CardCash.com, you’ll need to spend the full balance within 45 days. Why? Because you’re buying a pre-owned gift card, and there have been instances where unscrupulous folks have used their gift card numbers after they sold them to CardCash. That’s why CardCash promises a 45-day money-back guarantee — so be sure to spend within that time frame.
Rakuten (www.rakuten.com) can save you money on all kinds of things. You can earn rewards on Lyft rides, get cash back from food delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub, and save when you use the app to shop online. You can also get cash back from shopping in stores if you add a credit card to your Rakuten account.
Pros: Rakuten has a very generous referral program. You’ll score $25 when you refer a friend, and first-time users can get a $10 welcome bonus. It’s a win-win.
Cons: I signed up for Rakuten in April, and wondered why I never received my welcome bonus. When I contacted the company and asked about this, they told me it was because I was technically not a new member — because I once belonged to Ebates, a cashback website that was acquired by Rakuten in 2014.
6. Google Opinion Rewards
This app gives you Google Play credit in exchange for answering survey questions. Since I downloaded this app, I’ve completed seven surveys so far. They were super short and each took less than a minute to finish (I did them while I was riding on the train). In return, Google gave me $1.11 in my Google Play account that I can use to buy movies or books.
Pros: The surveys are quick and easy.
Cons: The surveys are limited in number. I receive a push notification whenever a new survey becomes available, which only happens about once a day.
Do you have any favorite apps that save you money? Share your tips in the comments below.
Emily Sweeney can be reached at email@example.com.