Earn with apps that have been tried and tested by yours truly.

'Tis the season for food, presents, travel, and so much more that tends to put a dent in our wallets. This year is particularly tough on budgets due to the effects of the pandemic, and people are looking for more ways to tighten up and save on holiday spending. I've gathered four coupon and discount apps that can help you have a holly jolly season without breaking the bank. For all of these apps, you will shop and be reimbursed on the app, which could be in the form of a check, gift cards, or a variety of other ways to cash out. 

Every penny counts, so check them out!

Rakuten

You've no doubt seen the commercials for this online and app-based service that gives people cash back when they make a purchase using the Rakuten app. Formerly Ebates, this app is fairly simple to use. Simply go to the app or the online site (you can download a web browser extension to use it via laptop, also), search through the variety of offers, and click through the one that you'd like to shop. For example, I opened the Rakuten app, clicked on the Walmart offer, which took me to the Walmart site, shopped, and checked out like normal, and it was all recorded within Rakuten. This service is definitely worthwhile if you shop online often—really, you can find an offer for almost any place you might want to shop. 

Sign up for Rakuten

Ibotta

This is a personal favorite of mine. Not only does it work like Rakuten, where you can use cashback offers for online shopping, it also helps you at the grocery store. Ibotta has partnered with a wide variety of manufacturers and retailers to offer coupons that you can choose right in the app. If you buy those products while you are at the grocery store or other retailers, simply open the app, take a picture of your receipt, and submit it. You may be asked to scan the bar code on the product to ensure you actually bought it (in the early days, people were just picking up random receipts and cashing out on things they hadn't bought), but once it's confirmed, you will get the cashback into your Ibotta account.

What I really like is that there is a good selection of everyday basics you might buy at the grocery store, as well as some extremely generous coupons for new products. It's not uncommon to find an offer that will refund you the entire cost of a product just hitting the shelves or give you a BOGO option. 

You can also link your shopping rewards cards for several stores to your Ibotta account, and you will automatically get paid back for any offers you have added without having to submit a receipt. I've earned a couple of hundred dollars back on this app over the few years I've used it, and I haven't even used it religiously. 
 

Sign up for Ibotta.

fetch rewards
Courtesy of Fetch Rewards

Fetch Rewards

This app is a little different than Rakuten and Ibotta, but it is also quite a bit easier to use. With Fetch Rewards, you don't have to select offers that interest you—just by signing up for the app, you are eligible to earn gift cards. This program partners with manufacturers around the world to offer you money back any time you buy them. If you purchase any of the thousands of items you'll find in the app and submit your receipt, you get "points." Those points equal about 1,000 points = $1 back. In addition, simply by submitting a qualifying receipt (whether you bought an item that Fetch Rewards represents, or not), you get points, as well. You can also link your email to the account, so you get credit for your online purchases. You won't earn tons and tons of cash through this app, but it's so easy, that it's totally worth a few minutes of your time to get a few bucks back.

The best part about Fetch Rewards is that you can use your points on gift cards as small as $3, so you don't have to wait until you've amassed a lot of points in your account before you can use them. I've grabbed a lot of $3 Amazon gift cards from Fetch, and all because I just scanned receipts after I shopped. Couldn't be easier. 

Sign up for Fetch Rewards (use the referral code J7TJF to get an automatic 2,000 points added to your account!)

Dosh

This app does provide discounts similar to Rakuten and Ibotta. However, where it really stands out is that it's a great way to save on shopping, dining, and more, no receipts required, as long as you don't mind adding your credit card info into the app. Basically, Dosh partners with a variety of retailers and restaurants, even some that are locally owned, to give you cash back whenever you shop or eat out. You simply download the Dosh app and link your credit cards, or check if your favorite way to pay (like Venmo, etc.) offers a cashback experience powered by Dosh. If you use your card or payment app at a participating business, you get money back automatically. Once you amass $25 in your account, you can cash out in a variety of ways.

This works. I recently shopped at Costco, not even realizing it was part of a Dosh promotion, and I got back $20 because I spent $60 at the retailer. A very nice surprise when I checked the app! 

Sign up for Dosh.

A Few Things to Note

For all of these apps, you won't get discounts right at the store. All discounts you get will go through the app and be added to your account there. It's important to note the cashout method and schedule of each app. Most of these types of apps have a minimum amount you have to have earned to cash out. For example, Fetch Rewards is only 3,000 points ($3), while Ibotta has a minimum of $20. Rakuten actually sends quarterly checks, if you want to get actual money. 

Also worthy of mention, not all of these services offer straight cash back. Many offer the ability to exchange your earnings for gift cards. I'm an Amazon addict, so I generally trade my earnings for Amazon gift cards, but there are tons of other options to choose from. Rakuten, as previously mentioned, does provide a check back, and some of them offer Visa gift cards that you can use like cash. 

In addition, many of these apps allow you to link your email addresses so it can scan for e-receipts to give you credit. In addition, many let you link your credit cards, as well, so it can automatically give you cash back when you use them for qualifying purchases. It is a super-easy way to earn cash back, but if you are concerned about security, you might skip these steps. I haven't had any security breaches in regards to anything I've linked, but it's always a possibility.

Also, know that these companies are not just doing this out of the goodness of their hearts—most are using cookies to track websites you shop at, etc. for marketing and data purposes, so just be aware of that going in. Nothing comes for free in this day and age. 

Finally, many of these apps give generous earnings for referring friends. It's definitely an easy way to earn if you have people around you who love to save! 

Honorable Mention Apps

There are tons of other apps out there that work like those mentioned above or are a hybrid of them. Some are just plain easy, like ReceiptPal, which turns uploading basically any receipt into earnings.

Checkout 51 works a lot like Ibotta's coupon service, but it isn't as robust. However, submitting receipts does get you an entry into a $500 sweepstakes.

Shopkick is actually a fun one if you have time on your hands. It gives you points, or "kicks" for just visiting certain stores, as well as points for scanning receipts from those stores. In addition, you can scan specific products at stores (such as a brand of ice cream at Target) and get points—you don't even have to buy it, as the app is just assessing the availability of products in your area (use referral code BEST206366 to get an automatic 250 kicks added to your account when you sign up). 

I use each of the honorable mention apps, and while I don't earn savings as fast I do with the four main recommendations, I still have cashed out with each of them. They are definitely worth considering. Happy shopping!