There’s never a bad time to save money, but it may be especially important right now for households that saw their income disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. While money-saving apps may not be able to replace a paycheck, they do offer an easy way to save on everything from everyday purchases to monthly bills.
Here are 10 favored apps for their ease of use and innovative approach to savings. Each is available to download for free on Apple and Android devices unless otherwise noted.
How it works: Ibotta offers cash back for purchases made at more than 1,000 participating retailers. Users select the offers they would like to redeem and then scan their receipts using the mobile app to verify a purchase. For some retailers, such as Walmart and Target, Ibotta can be linked to a store account to make it easier to redeem offers. A browser extension is available to earn cash back when shopping online as well. Earnings can be withdrawn via PayPal or transferred to a bank account.
Benefits: With so many participating brands and retailers, it’s easy to find offers for items you’ll already be buying, such as groceries. “It’s pretty amazing because you’re using it on your everyday purchases,” says Deacon Hayes, personal finance expert with website Well Kept Wallet. Plus, new users can earn up to $20 in welcome bonuses.
Drawbacks: The downside of having so many offers available is that it can be time-consuming to scroll through the app and find those relevant to your purchases.
How it works: As another app that rewards users for everyday purchases, Fetch Rewards gives points for every receipt scanned into the app. The app says it covers thousands of items, and even receipts that don’t include a partnering brand can receive points. E-receipts can be entered into the app as well, and points can be redeemed for gift cards, charity or sweepstakes entries.
Benefits: The simplicity of Fetch Rewards is one of its biggest benefits. “I love it because it’s the easiest receipt scanning app out there,” says Natalie Graham, founder of GoFromBroke.com. “You don’t need to match offers or scan barcodes; you just scan your receipt and collect your points.” Graham says she shops about once a week and earns enough points to redeem for $10 a month.
Drawbacks: Since Fetch Rewards offers points instead of cash back, it may not be immediately clear how much you’re earning with each receipt. Plus, point values are subject to change at any time.
How it works: While many people know RetailMeNot as a website for finding online coupons and promo codes, the company also has a money-saving app. The app provides access to more than 200,000 deals across 15,000 stores and brands. RetailMeNot also has an in-store cash-back feature, which earns money that can be redeemed through Venmo or PayPal.
Benefits: RetailMeNot offers flexibility for savings both in-store and online. Users can input their ZIP code to find deals nearby, and coupons can be redeemed directly from a person’s phone. By using the RetailMeNot Deal Finder, a Chrome browser extension, users can combine coupon codes with cash back.
Drawbacks: Users can add coupon codes, and some codes won’t work on all purchases. It can be time-consuming to weed through available codes to find the best ones, although the Deal Finder extension can take care of this task automatically.
How it works: SingleCare works with more than 35,000 pharmacies nationwide to provide discounts on more than 10,000 prescriptions. Users can download the free app, search for the price of their prescriptions at nearby pharmacies and then show an electronic coupon card to the pharmacy to receive a discount. After the pharmacy has entered the coupon once, consumers should be able to continue to use the discount without showing the coupon in the future, says Ramzi Yacoub, chief pharmacy officer for SingleCare.
Benefits: In addition to discounts of up to 80% off the cash price of medications, SingleCare provides new users with a $5 reward toward the purchase of a future prescription. Each prescription filled after that may earn an additional $1. Even if someone doesn’t need a discount, SingleCare makes it easy to see how much medications will cost prior to heading to the pharmacy. “It’s a great tool for everyone,” Yacoub says.
Drawbacks: The SingleCare app can’t be combined with insurance. As a result, any prescription purchased with it won’t count toward your annual out-of-pocket deductible.
How it works: Shopkick isn’t an app that provides direct savings, but it allows users to earn rewards points — known as kicks — that can be redeemed for gift cards. Shopkick users can earn points in a variety of ways, such as scanning items in stores, watching videos or making online purchases. Kicks can also be earned by using curbside pick-up at participating retailers. Reward points can be redeemed for digitally delivered gift cards.
Benefits: With a variety of earning options, Shopkick is quick and simple to use. The app is free, and kicks can be earned with minimal effort. By earning gift cards for retailers such as Walmart and Target, people can free up money in their budget for other expenses.
Drawbacks: As with points in other rewards programs, the value of kicks is subject to change at any time.
How it works: With RebateKey, customers receive cash-back rebates for purchases of specific items. “RebateKey is unique in the fact that we have over 30,000 e-commerce and Amazon brands listing their best deals and products directly on our platform,” says Ian Sells, the company’s co-founder and CEO. Brands partner with RebateKey to boost their sales, and cash back ranges from 5% to 100% of the purchase price. Cash back is issued as a paper check 35 days after a purchase.
Benefits: Cash-back rebates are available for items at Walmart, Etsy, eBay and Shopify, but RebateKey may be best for Amazon shoppers. That’s where the majority of rebates are offered. Since brands offer rebates directly, they are typically higher than those available on other cash-back sites. RebateKey also has coupons and deals available on its platform.
Drawbacks: It can be time-consuming to search through available rebates to find the products that match your shopping needs. RebateKey has a Chrome browser extension that can simplify the process for Amazon shopping, but it does not currently offer any mobile apps.
How it works: As an online gift card marketplace, Raise can be used to either make money or save money. Users can earn money by selling unwanted gift cards on Raise. Meanwhile, those who are looking to save money can shop for discounted gift cards or receive cash back ranging from 3% to 30% when buying gift cards at face value from partnering brands. Plus, the app provides access to a variety of coupons, promo codes and other discounts.
Benefits: With more than 4,000 brands represented in the Raise marketplace, there are plenty of money-saving options. Gift cards are loaded into a virtual wallet, making it easy to track balances and use cards both online and in stores. New users may be eligible for additional savings, and all customers can combine discounted gift cards with coupons or cash-back offers.
Drawbacks: Raise notes 98% of its cards are electronic, so this may not be the best option for those who prefer physical gift cards. Discounts for some popular retailers, such as Walmart, can be less than 1%.
How it works: Formerly known as Ebates, Rakuten was one of the early pioneers in online cash-back rebates. Customers who shop through the Rakuten website or with the Chrome browser extension can automatically earn cash back on qualifying purchases from participating retailers. The mobile apps also offer these rebates as well as cash back for in-store purchases. “By partnering with thousands of brands across the most categories like apparel, health and beauty, travel and electronics, as well as grocery, on-demand services, subscription boxes and more, Rakuten helps members get more from the things they already buy,” say Kristen Gall, president of Rakuten Rewards.
Benefits: Rakuten has an extensive network of partnering retailers, which makes it possible to earn rebates on purchases in almost any category. Plus, with the mobile app, consumers can earn 5% cash back at restaurants well as rebates on Lyft rides. The Chrome browser extension will automatically apply coupons for additional savings. New users are eligible for a $10 welcome bonus when they spend $25.
Drawbacks: You can’t combine Rakuten with coupons found outside the site. Doing so will make a purchase ineligible for cash back.
How it works: Lowering monthly bills is another strategy to save money, and that’s the specialty of Truebill. The free app will scan bank and credit card accounts and look for recurring payments. Then, it helps cancel any service or subscription no longer needed. Truebill will also negotiate bills, such as those for cable and wireless service, on your behalf.
Benefits: In addition to managing subscriptions and lowering bills, Truebill can help you manage your money in other ways. It tracks spending, offers budgeting tools and provides access to a free credit score. The app can also be set up to automatically move money into savings.
Drawbacks: Not all services on Truebill are free. For instance, the company takes a 30-60% cut of whatever savings it secures through bill negotiation. If no discount is negotiated, no fee is charged.
How it works: Slickdeals uses the power of crowdsourcing to direct people to the best deals. The app has been installed 15 million times and is an extension of a website that attracts 10 million users each month. While the app has editors who curate deals, users can also add coupons and sales they find. Community members then up-vote the best deals to make them easy to find.
Benefits: The community aspect of Slickdeals makes it easy to discuss which deals work best or where better savings can be found. In addition to browsing for the best deals in hundreds of categories, Slickdeals users can receive alerts for items that interest them. The company also has a beta version of a browser extension that will automatically apply coupons and award cash back for online purchases.
Drawbacks: The sheer volume of deals shared on Slickdeals means it can take time to sort through them all. And as with anything that is crowdsourced, the quality and availability of deals can vary.
(As published on US News & World Report, photo courtesy of garagestock with Shutterstock)