Last week we touched on the topic of money-saving mobile apps and even got a glimpse into Ike’s massive spreadsheet that he uses to track his earnings from various apps.  Which free cash back apps are some of the most user-friendly, and what kind of information do they gather about you and your shopping habits? Let’s take a look.

Top cash back apps

1. Receipt Hog

Receipt Hog cash back apps

Image via iTunes App Store

This app lets you snap pictures of your receipts for cash back.  Since I’ve had Receipt Hog, they’ve expanded from accepting only grocery receipts to also accepting any retail, convenience store, or restaurant receipt. You are initially awarded “coins” and spins in the “hog slots” to win bonus coins and other prizes.  There are also bonuses for snapping multiple receipts per week. HOW TO CASH OUT:  You have the option to be paid in Amazon gift cards or by linking your PayPal account.

$5 = 1000 coins

$10 = 1800 coins

$20 = 3200 coins

$30 = 4500 coins

After about a year of simply scanning my receipts, I’ve earned 2500 coins & am saving up for the $20 redemption.

2. Ibotta

Ibotta cash back apps

Offers from Ibotta – Image via iTunes App Store

One of the most highly rated rebate apps, Ibotta offers cash-back and rebates for groceries (both name brand and any brand), alcohol, apparel, electronics, and dining at select restaurants. You tap on an offer, choose an answer to a survey question or read the product’s description, scan the item’s barcode, and snap a photo of your receipt. The offers range anywhere from 25 cents to $10 apiece.  HOW TO CASH OUT:  Once your account balance reaches $10, you can redeem via PayPal, Venmo, or various gift cards.

In the year I’ve had the app, I’ve made over $35 from scanning items I already planned on buying.  One reviewer noted that in the two months of using the app, she’s received $60 back–it’s really all a matter of what and how much you typically buy.

Interested in trying Ibotta?  Score $10 when you redeem your first rebate by signing up with code ybqaib”!

What information do these apps gather?

There must be a reason for these apps’ existence, and that is . . . gathering consumer data.

According to Ibotta’s privacy policy, they are able to collect information about the items you search for in the app, the offers you save and redeem, the stores you prefer, and more.  By doing this they can track buying preferences and supply their business partners and other third parties with reports containing this statistical and/or anonymized data.

Receipt Hog collects data about consumer purchases without encouraging shoppers to buy certain items.  According to the app, “Receipt Hog offers a unique opportunity to join an exclusive market research panel whose purchases influence the products and promotions that brands and retailers offer. By joining this exclusive panel, your receipt data will be made anonymous and summarized in market research reports for brands. As a result, you’ll not only get paid for using Receipt Hog, but you’ll also be part of a small group that influences the products offered at your local stores.”

Similarly, cash back sites such as Ebates (which also has a mobile app) says stores pay it a fee when you shop and Ebates then shares a portion of the fee with you. They use affiliate links, which allow the retailer to track where the traffic comes from and then pay the cashback sites for the lead. In other words, cash back sites drive website traffic by giving their users some of the money they’re paid.

See which apps are not worth your time – Click HERE
If you regularly shop for organic, gluten-free, or non-GMO foods, try the BerryCart app!

Do you use any money-saving apps or sites?

If so, which do you like best and worst?

Is it concerning that your spending activities are being tracked and monitored when using cash back apps like these?

14 thoughts on “Cash Back Apps & the Data They Gather

  • March 2, 2016 at 12:47 am

    I find the concept of these cash back apps really interesting, personally I don’t feel that any of these apps accessing information on what I’m purchasing does much harm but it was nice to see how they actually function, so thanks for posting! The only cash back app that I use currently is shopkick, which I think works really well if you use it consistently. A few nice features it includes are reminders to open the app and get kicks when you’re in areas such as a mall, rewarding you with kicks for simply walking in the store and for scanning items without having to purchase them and you can gain extra kicks when you link your card and purchase a certain dollar amount worth of merchendise at some retailers.

  • March 2, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Phenomenal blog post covering money-saving apps, Abby! I do not personally use any cash-back apps. As Maranda mentioned in her comment, I also believe that the rewards app concept is an interesting idea. I think there is benefit for the consumer and an even greater benefit for the companies collecting the data. In all honesty, I don’t particularly enjoy the fact that many companies are gathering my data, but, it’s nearly impossible to keep your info off the grid in today’s day and age. However, I wouldn’t mind providing companies my spending habit information through cash-back apps because it could allow those companies to make smarter decisions in providing better products and services. The rewards app concept is an excellent data collection strategy, and I believe it will continue to grow in popularity as big data grows. I will likely download one of these apps and give them a try!

  • March 2, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    I haven’t had much use for the paying-back apps, but it’s also likely because I have a Windows Phone with limited app capability (I’ll likely have something not so behind the times in the near future). I know that my sister used the ShopKick app but many of the stores with a huge payout never gave her points so she gave up on it. As for the receipt one, I could see myself using it so long as there wasn’t the last few digits of my card number, my name, the waiter/ress’ name, etc because that seems like too much information to give out for a small redemption.
    I know that no matter what I buy it will be tracked, and although that is concerning I know that there is not much I can do about it. The less the know about my buying habits, the better. I prefer to utilize coupons, regular sales and free card memberships (not the store-owned credit cards). Giving a shop my data about the hair care products I buy seems better than giving them my credit score.

    • March 7, 2016 at 9:28 am

      I never really thought about having the last digits of my card number be visible, but it doesn’t really concern me because I don’t think it’s possible for them to hack my card or anything… That being said, I would say as long as you pay in cash then you wouldn’t have to worry about that at all. Like Eli said, no matter whether we like it or not, our data is being tracked and its hard to avoid staying “off the grid” these days. I also use physical and digital coupons (on store rewards membership apps) and shop the sales to get the most for my money, and I agree with you that a store could possibly have a better use of my data, but I enjoy the extra money I can earn from these apps, too.

  • March 3, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    Nice informational post, Abby! I’ve never used too many cash-back apps myself, but I’ve always wondered about them as I am always looking to save whatever I can no matter what I’m shopping for. I am definitely going to use your post to do my own research and I really appreciate that you included a link to Apps that aren’t worth the time.

    • March 7, 2016 at 9:34 am

      No problem, Dan! One of the apps on that list is Checkout51, which I have used for over a year. I agree that it is not worth your time (unless you’re really patient) because it takes forever to be able to cash out–I just earned $20 in over a year. The majority of their products are pretty specific too, or only available at some stores. Good luck in your research!

  • March 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm

    Abby, I really enjoyed your post I do use ebates and it has worked out well for me. I have gotten over $300 back from shopping and even more for referring friends and family to ebates. I looked into the BerryCart app to see what it was all about, it was okay, but I thought it to be just that, okay. Since our last class I downloaded the Shopkick app and I have used it a few times, but it feels weird walking around a store, picking stuff up, scanning it, sitting it back down and then just walking out. I admire Ike’s dedication to acquire so many rewards from this app and others similar to it. I think the information obtained by these companies is used in a harmless manner, but I would be interested to hear stories about misuse of data obtained in this fashion. Good post I enjoyed it and it was informative.

    • March 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

      Thanks, Jesse …and that’s amazing that you’ve earned so much! I use ebates too and have gotten multiple checks–my biggest problem is remembering to go through their site before placing my online order. I checked out the BerryCart app as well and didn’t find that it was well-suited for my needs, but for people who purchase expensive dietary foods it could be useful. I think I’d feel the same way about Shopkick–like after spending an hour in a store, walking out thinking “act calm, not stealing anything.” I haven’t heard of any misuse of data like you mentioned, but that would be a good topic to research!

  • March 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Nice article Abby! Last semester was one of the first times I was introduced to these ‘reward apps’. I was in the SoMe & Personal Brand class and Ike showed us his spreadsheet of all the rewards he’s received from these apps. I don’t use them all the time, but I did download Shopkick a while back and use it whenever I go to Meijer. I don’t scan items in the store that often, but I do receive points for just simply walking in the door. I’m attempting to get the $50 Nike gift card, but it could be a long while before I reach that point.

    I don’t really mind that my data and information is being looked at by different companies because as Eli said, the information is beneficial to them in helping companies to make smarter decisions in providing better products and services. As long as I’m not getting any new ads for stuff to buy, I’m okay with my information being out there.

  • March 8, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Great job on the blog!! I have never used a cash back app, however I am impressed with Ike’s tales of free money. If I were going to try one I guess it would be Ibotta. I love the idea of earning money on stuff I already buy. My kid is always hungry, and as he gets older this app could come in handy.

    Information is the coin of the realm these days. I’ve never been concerned about the data they collect about me. The point is to more effectively market to me, and I’m not an easy sell. If I see a deal on something that I already need, it is a benefit for me. Personally, I think this great data revolution is overrated. It only works if we have no will. Love what you’ve done with your blog!!

    • March 9, 2016 at 11:40 pm

      Thanks, Denny! If you do decide to give Ibotta a try, be sure to use the code “ybqaib” to jumpstart your account $10 :) That’s halfway to cashing out!

      I have to agree with you–I’ve never been too concerned with data collecting like this. I am the same way–if something’s on sale that I was buying in the first place, that’s great. But just because I have a rebate or coupon for something doesn’t mean I will go out of my way to buy it.

  • March 9, 2016 at 11:39 am

    I actually just signed up for Ibotta a few weeks ago after seeing an ad for it in a local restaurant. They offered a $4 rebate for buying any sort of Budweiser and a food item which, let’s be honest, I was probably going to do anyways so it seems like a no brainer.

    For the companies running the apps it makes sense because it makes you lean toward buying a certain brand. Was I going to get Budweiser specifically if not for the rebate? Probably not, so that works out well for them. Not to mention all the buying information that they can gather as well that we’ve talked about.

    Speaking of which, I don’t really mind having my information out there in the open. I probably am a little too willing to share my information with companies because I don’t really see many drawbacks. It’s one of those out of sight out of mind things. As long as they do stick to using the information just to find out spending patterns, I’ll keep sharing it.

    • March 9, 2016 at 11:45 pm

      Nice insight, Blake! I have been impressed with Ibotta’s beverage rebates–they just began doing them a few months ago, and with so many options, I like to scope out what’s being offered before I make a purchase. Hope you enjoy the app!

  • March 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

    I don’t use money-saving apps or sites but I should consider them, the receipt hog app looks very interesting. Thanks for posting this because I’ve always wanted to know if these apps were worthy enough to use or even download.

    I don’t think that it’s really that concerning that my spending activities are being tracked and monitored when using cash back apps because it could beneficial for me when looking for coupons related to something similar I recently bought. After reading this post It also makes more since to me why they would track what you’re spending your money on, so thanks!


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