Looking for a way to make sure you’re getting the best deals while shopping online? Earny touts itself as a consumer advocacy app centered around offering subscription-based price protection services for online purchases.
The platform offers a legitimate way to ensure that the consumer receives the best possible deal from a collection of popular online retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, but it requires taking some security risks that may make some users uncomfortable.
Can it actually save you money? Is it safe to use? And is it any different than some of the other services already available? These are the types of questions we’ll attempt to answer as we take a deeper dive into the app.
Much like I recently did with rival app Paribus, I poked around the service in an attempt to help Clark users better understand the product before deciding to enroll themselves. Let’s start with the most basic information on Earny:
1. What Is Earny and How Does It Work?
Earny is a California-based app that automatically searches for potential refunds on a user’s online purchases if it detects a lower price than a user paid.
In order to do this, Earny scans the email address attached to a user’s account in a search for receipts. In some cases, Earny will contact the merchant on your behalf and then notify you if a refund was granted, denied or if further action is needed.
Here’s a look at the 30-second video pitch Earny makes to potential users:
While it is free to set up an account and look around the site, you must pay for a subscription if you want to take advantage of Earny’s price protection services.
Retail Price Protection
For example, let’s say that you purchased a new sweater from a Earny-approved retailer for $59.99. You’re thrilled with your new favorite piece of clothing until you find out that a week later it was placed on sale for $44.99. Bummer!
With an Earny subscription, you’re essentially paying for the app to identify the price change, size it up against price protection policies associated with either the retailer or your credit card company, and then pursue a refund of the difference in price on your behalf.
If Earny is working like it promises and the purchase qualifies for price protection from the retailer, you’d end up with a $15 refund at the end of that process.
Credit Card Price Protection
Using the sample scenario from above, there are two different ways Earny could track down a price protection refund for the sweater on your behalf.
One is through the retailer directly, but not all retailers have price protection policies. The alternative is through the credited with which you made the purchase of the sweater.
Many credit card companies offer price protection independent of retailer price protect policy, which may make the purchase eligible for a refund that way.
Earny has subscribers connect their eligible credit cards to the account as an additional avenue of achieving consumer price protection on these purchases.
In fact, with some retailers it is the only method of placing a claim after a price drop.
Hotel Price Protection
Using many of the major booking networks, Earny also offers a price protection service on hotel reservations.
It claims that it will automatically notify subscribers if a lower price is found on their hotel reservation through these covered booking networks, and it will send accompanying instructions on how to secure the lower rate for your stay.
2. How Much Does Earny Cost And What Does A Subscription Cover?
It is free to signup on Earny and download the app for a quick peek at the ecosystem, but you’re going to have to pay for Earny’s services. It is one of those “you have to spend money to save money” propositions.
I reached out to an Earny representative for clarification on pricing, as the site can be a little confusing. I was told that the current subscription rates are $7.99 for the monthly plan and $47.99 for the annual option.
Earny says a monthly or annual subscription will cover the following services:
- Get money back on your purchases when prices drop
- Get compensation from Amazon when your packages are shipped late
- Provide full protection on covered retailers and major travel booking sites
- ShopRunner membership for free 2-day shipping and returns ($100 value)
It is worth noting that Earny boasts a friend referral system, offering users a $15 credit for each friend that subscribes for at least one month via a custom referral link. You can find more information on this process by visiting the friends tab on Earny after creating your account.
3. Is Earny Safe and Why Does It Need Access to My Email Account?
If you’re a stickler for personal online security, be prepared to cringe a little bit. This section may be hard to read.
Earny is safe in the sense that they take the proper security measures with subscriber data. It’s just that they’re sitting on a bunch of really sensitive data to make their product work for subscribers.
For starters, Earny wants access to either your Gmail, Yahoo or Microsoft-based email address. Once you give it permission, you may be startled by just how much information the app can access and the amount of power it has over your email account.
Check out this screen shot from my Gmail account when I tried to sign up for Earny. In addition to reading my emails and sending them on my behalf, Earny’s access request also enabled the company to “permanently delete all your email from Gmail”:
Big yikes. Unfortunately, Earny cannot do “its job” for subscribers without this access. The whole thing is predicated upon scanning online receipts that have landed in your email account.
Perhaps a middle ground for some users could be to set up an email account that is solely used for Earny-related purchases. That would protect from access to more sensitive or personal communications.
Earny also wants to connect your active credit cards to your account as a part of the price protection subscription service.
That puts your finances at risk from a potential hack, though most major credit cards are good about offering the ability to freeze a card or an account in real time if something goes awry.
4. Which Online Retailers Are Eligible for Savings Through Earny?
The Earny website touts the following online retailers as eligible for its price protection services, via either retailer policy or credit card policy:
- Banana Republic
- Best Buy
- Home Depot
- Old Navy
For the hotel price protection services, Earny tracks the following online discount travel brokers:
You will want to visit the Earny policy guide for each of these merchants, as the rules for getting money back from each will vary.
5. How Is Earny Different Than Paribus?
As I mentioned in the opening of this article, I recently conducted a review of Paribus. Like Earny, this app also touts itself as a money-saving app that utilizes access to your email address to scour receipts for opportunities to request refunds.
The most glaring difference is that Paribus, which was acquired by Capital One, offers its services free of charge. Earny, conversely, operates as a subscription service. On the retail side of things, Earny and Paribus utilize price protection for several of the same online merchants.
Earny is covering an area that Paribus is not in the hotel space. If you’re a frequent traveler who utilizes some of the major discount booking sites to make your reservations, a subscription to Earny could be a real difference maker when comparing potential cost savings between the two.
6. How Does the Better Business Bureau Rate Earny?
Earny has an “A” rating from the Better Business Bureau. Using the BBB’s rating chart, that means Earny has a score between 94 and 96.99 on the 100-point BBB rating scale. Earny is not a BBB accredited business, according to its Better Business Bureau profile page.
The A-rating seems good, but the consumer rating is cause for concern. Based on seven customer reviews, Earny has a one-star rating on a five-star scale. There have been 23 complaints filed in the three years that the company has been listed on the site, including 19 of them in the last 12 months.
Some of the complaints include customers upset about being charged for services they did not request and Earny sending emails on behalf of users.
A common complaint appears to be a $59.98 charge, which could be an auto-renew on a yearly subscription. These are items that are mentioned in the fine print of the user agreement.
The Earny mobile app has mixed results as well. Google Play Store users rate it at 3.4 out of five stars on the Android platform. Apple users have a much better experience, with more than 14,000 users combining to rate the app 4.6 out of five stars on iOS.
Final Thoughts on Earny
In my opinion, the Earny app is going to be a “pass” for most responsible online shoppers.
While it does offer some shortcuts to ensuring that you get the most out of your online dollar, it comes with too many strings attached.
Giving up access to your email account is a clear security risk, and allowing the app to send emails on your behalf is unsettling at best. Then there’s the whole subscription cost.
Paying someone to do your due diligence for online purchases can be a time-saver, but it is counter-intuitive if the goal is to keep as much of your money as possible.
If you’re set on trying out a price protection service, perhaps Paribus is a better starting option given that it does not have an associated subscription charge.
If that proves fruitful, testing the waters of Earny may be a plausible secondary step.