For Colleen Rice, the benefits of using a cash-back app were obvious.
“It kept me from living on Ramen,” she says.
The Penny Hoarder email marketing manager says she’s been using the cash-back app Ibotta since 2013 and has earned $307.60 back so far.
When she and her then-boyfriend moved to Florida that year, Rice says, “We were so broke … It’s really helped me a lot.”
Although she’s made it through that tough time, she still uses the app religiously. She loves that she’s earning cash back on something she’d be doing anyway (spending money).
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The app isn’t just for saving money on groceries, though Rice loves deal-stacking at Publix and Target.
She’s also used Ibotta to earn cash back at places like Jo-Ann Fabrics (when she went through a jewelry-making phase) and Hotels.com, where she earned about $45 back during one road trip.
“If you can make anything a challenge, I like that,” she says. “Plus it’s more portable than coupons, and it introduces me to brands I’d otherwise not try.”
How Does Ibotta Work?
Back up, back up… What is Ibotta?
Ibotta is a cash-back app that grants you rewards (in real-life dollars — not points or gift cards) on your everyday purchases. It turns couponing into a bit of a game, like Rice said, and you can do it all from your phone. No scrappy newspaper coupons required.
It also features rewards across retailers: from Amazon to Forever 21 to Walmart.
Here’s how to use Ibotta:
1. Download the free app and sign up.
2. Peruse cash-back offers.
Like Rice has discovered, Ibotta is a great way to find cash back not only on grocery staples but also at online retailers and through travel sites. She also uses it to discover new brands. For example, she only bought Viva paper towels before downloading the app. But if she can get $3 back on a pack of Bounty, why not?
3. If you’re shopping in store, add offers to your account before heading out. Do this by tapping the little plus sign next to the offer.
If you’re shopping online, shop through the Ibotta portal. For example, open the Etsy offer, then tap “Shop.” It’ll redirect you to the site.
4. After you check out in the store, redeem your offers by taking a photo of your receipt and scanning barcodes, when applicable. Within 48 hours, Ibotta will deposit the money into your account.
If you’re shopping online, Ibotta will let you know the timeframe in which your money will be deposited into your account.
5. Once you hit $20, you can cash out through PayPal or Venmo. You can also opt to receive your rewards as a gift card.
Alternatively, you can link any of your store loyalty cards to get automatic cash back after you add offers to your account and check out. No scanning barcodes or taking photos of receipts required.
What About an Ibotta Reward Code?
For some reason, a lot of people are wondering about Ibotta reward codes. We hate to break it to you, but there aren’t any magical codes to help you effortlessly earn more money.
We do, however, have an Ibotta promo to offer you. You can simply sign up for Ibotta through this link, and you’ll earna $20 sign-up bonus after redeeming your first 10 offers within 14 days.
There’s also the Ibotta referral code. Find your unique code by tapping “Account” and “Invite Friends.” Pass the code along and earn a $5 bonus when your friend starts making money.
Be sure to check out Ibotta’s bonuses, too. Tap “Account” and “Bonuses.”
There, you can find special offers, like an extra $10 bonus for every $250 you spend in the app’s mobile shopping category. Or a $1 bonus when you purchase two Organic Valley Grassmilk products.
(Note: These were a few options that were valid at the time of writing.)
Ibotta’s Best Practices
No, Ibotta won’t make you rich. But, like Rice says, it’s a nice little boost of money for something you’re already doing. Plus, it’s a great way to avoid living off sodium-packed Ramen.
Here are our tips to get the most cash back:
Ibotta Is for More Than Just Groceries
It’s easy to associate Ibotta with groceries, because that’s how the app came about. But it’s constantly adding more partners, including non-grocery retailers.
Here are a few of the more unexpected retailers that were offering cash back at the time of writing:
- Groupon: You can earn 5% back on Groupon purchases, a platform that’s already helping you save. You’ll max out at $30 back on any one order, but that’s not bad!
- Hotels: If you’re traveling soon and booking a hotel, you can earn some big bucks back. Hotels aren’t always (or ever?) cheap. When you book a stay through HotelStorm via the Ibotta app, for example, you can snag 15% cash back.
- All the alcohol: Ibotta has a ton of offers for beer, wine and liquor from restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations. This ranges from $5 back on a case of Bud Light to $2 back on a bottle of Seagram’s gin. You can even earn cash back on food and drink combinations from your favorite restaurants and bars.
- Jo-Ann Fabrics: Jo-Ann has some specific cash-back offers through Ibotta, such as $1 back on certain brands of yarn, but it also offers 15% cash back on any in-store purchase. Pair that with the store’s awesome coupons, and you’re rolling in the savings!
- Hulu: Are you late to the whole cord-cutting thing? If you’re looking to sign up for a basic Hulu membership, do so through Ibotta, and nab $15 back.
There are plenty more non-grocery deals, but this gives you an idea.
Don’t Overspend Just for a Cash-Back Boost
I won’t lie: It’s easy to overspend when you see you can earn $5 back for buying the expensive boutique brand of toilet paper, for example.
For that reason, we compiled a list of tips to keep you from getting too carried away. One of our favorite tips is to not look at the app’s cash-back offers until after your shopping hauls. This will keep you from falling into that “oooh shiny objects” mentality that could lead to frivolous purchases.
If you’re interested in checking out Ibotta, go ahead and download it. Once you claim your first cash-back reward, those fine folks will drop $10 into your account.
If you want to earn even more, check out these money-making apps we love.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s made more than $120 in cash back using Ibotta. One month, the stockpile cash helped her make rent on time.