Need extra cash? Here’s how I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

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Need extra cash? Here’s how I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps
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All year long, Clark.com’s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

There are so many cash back apps available on smartphones, tablets and smartwatches right now that clipping coupons is no longer necessary to reduce your grocery bill.

Nearly three years ago, I downloaded three of these apps on the same day: Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Shopmium.

Read more: Amazon vs. Walmart: Which one really has the best prices?

How to earn cash back with Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Shopmium

As I was redeeming cash back from one of the apps recently, I realized that the three apps combined have helped me earn nearly $1,500 since May 2014 – roughly $500 a year!

Could you use an extra $500 a year? Read on to learn exactly how I make money from these apps:

Ibotta

Although I’ve used Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Shopmium, I’ve earned $1,400 from Ibotta alone, so I’m going to spend most of this article explaining what this app can do for you.

Need extra cash? How I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

How Ibotta works

Before I share secrets to maximizing your Ibotta earnings, I want to take you step-by-step through how to use the app, which is so simple.

Think you don’t have time for coupons? Me either. This is different. 

Step 1: Select a retailer and browse rebates by category. When you find something you like, unlock the rebate by answering a poll question or watching a short video.

Need extra cash? How I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

Step 2: Once you’re at the store, find the items that you’ve unlocked. Use the app’s barcode scanner to confirm the product’s eligibility before you put it in your shopping cart.

Need extra cash? How I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

Step 3: After making your purchase, you’ll need to scan the barcode and upload your receipt to get paid. I usually do this as I’m unpacking my groceries at home.

Need extra cash? How I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

Step 4: Withdraw your earnings using PayPal or Venmo once your Ibotta balance reaches $20 or more.

Need extra cash? How I earned $1,500 using these 3 apps

8 ways to maximize your Ibotta earnings

Simple enough, right? There are more than 300 rebates available at the store where I shop most frequently, so the cash back can add up quickly.

Here are 8 tips and tricks I use to get the most out of Ibotta:

1. Combine with coupons/sales: If you have manufacturer coupons (paper or digital) for items that are also listed on Ibotta, go ahead and use them. It’s like double the savings! You’ll also find that many products featured in your grocery store’s weekly circular are on the app.

2. Complete bonuses: In addition to individual rebates, there are bonus opportunities that will help you get to that $20 threshold even faster. For example, you can collect a $2 March Boost bonus by redeeming five rebates. Bonus offers often have exclusions, including “any brand” rebates.

3. Any brand rebates: Speaking of “any brand” rebates, they’re my favorite way to earn cash back with Ibotta. These rebates are usually lower in value, but they don’t require you to buy a specific brand. That means they’re perfect for generic items, including many fresh foods. By typing “any brand” into the search bar, you can easily separate these offers from the rest.

Here are some of the any brand rebates, as of March 5, 2017:

  • Cookies, 25 cents cash back
  • Red bell peppers, 25 cents cash back
  • Dozen eggs, 25 cents cash back
  • Bread, 25 cents cash back
  • Shredded cheese, 25 cents cash back
  • Dog treats, 25 cents cash back
  • Frozen fish sticks, 25 cents cash back
  • Face wash, 25 cents cash back
  • Eye drops, 25 cents cash back
  • Contact solution, 25 cents cash back

4. Use the scanner in-store: I mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating so that you don’t get burned. When you’re in the grocery store, use Ibotta’s barcode scanner to be 100% sure that the item you’re buying will earn cash back. Sometimes there are details in the fine print (item size or quantity) that you may not see if you’re in a hurry. Verifying a product’s eligibility with the scanner will guarantee that you don’t lose out on any earnings.

5. Upload your receipts promptly: Another point that I want to re-emphasize is the need to get those receipts uploaded right away. After you unlock a rebate, you’ll see an expiration date. But don’t cut it too close. When you get home from the store, go ahead and upload your receipt before it’s too late!

6. Use for non-grocery purchases: I’ve spent this entire post talking about groceries, but Ibotta has really expanded over the years into other areas. You can also earn cash back on things you buy at pharmacies, restaurants, liquor stores, gas stations and other major retailers — including some online merchants.

7. Build a team: On top of a $10 welcome bonus for new members, people love Ibotta because of its referral program. Every time a friend joins Ibotta and earns their welcome bonus, you get $5. Many people share their referral code on Facebook and Twitter to build a larger team. The more people that you get to join Ibotta, the easier it is to earn some of those bonus offers I told you about earlier.

8. Redeem only for cash: Once you earn at least $20, it’s time to cash out! There are plenty of options to choose from, like gift cards from major restaurants and retailers. However, given the turmoil in the retail industry, Clark isn’t so hot about gift cards right now. That’s why I always choose the cash option, which requires either a PayPal or Venmo account.

Editor’s note: This article contains no referral links. Users can join directly at Ibotta.com to claim the $10 welcome bonus.

Checkout 51 and Shopmium

What’s hard to believe is that during the same three years that I’ve made $1,410 using Ibotta, I’ve only redeemed $21.50 with Checkout 51 and $52.90 using Shopmium.

It goes without saying, if you download only one of these apps, I would definitely recommend Ibotta.

On the other hand, a good reason to download Checkout 51 is that you can use it to earn cash back on select items at any store, including Aldi and Trader Joe’s, which Ibotta excludes.

Meanwhile, as of June 2017, Shopmium has been discontinued. It’s now part of Coupons.com.

These apps aren’t your only options!

If you want to learn more about these apps and others like them, my colleague Charis Brown, editor of Clark Deals, has a list of 11 apps that will pay you to shop for groceries.

Which cash back app is your favorite? Let me know on Facebook and Twitter!

Why you don’t want to buy these gift cards

Check out more from our Michael Saves series:

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Mike Timmermann About the author:
Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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