Rebate apps offer a simple, low-effort way to maximize your shopping savings. Since discovering them last year, I’ve been getting a few dollars back after each trip to the grocery or drugstore. You can combine rebates with in-store sales and promotions as well as manufacturer coupons, sometimes even making a net profit on items.
How Do Rebate Apps Work?
Before heading to the store, I briefly browse each app’s list of weekly offers so I know which items to keep an eye out for. Once I’m at the store, I compare them with the available sales and coupons. Some apps require that I mark rebates that I’ll use before purchasing a product (probably so the manufacturer knows that the buying choice was a direct result of using the app).
After checking out, I verify my purchase by snapping a picture of my receipt and in some cases scanning the eligible product’s barcode, both from within the app.
Within a day or two, the rebate amount is either credited to my account for redemption after reaching a dollar threshold, or in some cases (with MobiSave, an app I’m not discussing in this article), paid out immediately.
Best Rebate Apps
I’ve tried several rebate apps over the past six months (Ibotta, Checkout 51, MobiSave, SavingStar, Shrink, Berry Cart, and Shopmium), and just a few have wowed me enough to continue using them and for me to recommend to others to try.
If you want a single fantastic rebate app, go with Ibotta, available for Android and iOS phones. Founded in 2011, it’s by far the most popular and well-known of the rebate apps and works at over 300 retail chains. Not only has it saved me the most of the rebate apps I’ve tested, but I find it has the most rebate offers. Its biggest perk is that it offers “any item” and “any brand” rebates, which are normally worth 25 cents. It also offers special money-saving features that some of its competing apps lack, such as bonuses for meeting redemption goals.
Offer Details and Parameters
Whereas some rebate apps have offers that you can redeem at any store, Ibotta’s vary by store (Walmart, Target, and Kroger stores have the most), so be sure you’ve selected the store in mind before looking through offers.
Most rebate offers are only valid at physical grocery and drugstore locations, but Ibotta has been expanding its options with rebates available online and some at clothing and department stores, thanks in large part to its partnership with Spring.
As mentioned earlier, Ibotta offers “any item” rebates on anything on your receipt and “any brand” rebates on things like dairy, eggs, and produce, usually worth a quarter.
It also has a useful feature that allows you to check whether a product qualifies for the offer by scanning its barcode—with so many variations on similar products, buying the wrong one isn’t hard to do.
Offers are single-use, though the same rebate will sometimes reappear a day or so after redemption.
At any given time, they have a collection of special bonus offers that you can some earn extra money with either by redeeming a certain number of non-brand-specific rebates or by redeeming two or more from a particular brand. For example, yesterday I earned a $5 bonus for redeeming a single rebate, and that was on top of the $1.50 I got from the rebate offer itself! Similarly, you can earn additional dollar amounts from Ibotta’s “teamwork” feature when your “teammates” redeem a certain number of rebates within a given time frame.
While there isn’t an official day that new Ibotta offers are added, new ones tend to appear on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
You have to “unlock” a rebate offer before redeeming it, which sometimes requires viewing a brief ad or answering a question related to the product. However, it isn’t necessary to unlock an offer before purchasing the item, and you can even redeem offers for items added to the offer list up to a week after you bought them. (Even though you don’t have to unlock a rebate before purchasing a qualifying item in order to receive it, it’s a good idea to do so anyway because it will allow you to can see when it expires and to prevent delay if you’re purchasing from a store whose loyalty card you have linked.)
To verify your purchase, you’ll usually have to scan the relevant product’s barcode and upload a snapshot of the receipt from within the app. However, some stores (such as Rite Aid) have teamed up with Ibotta as “preferred loyalty retailers” and require you to link your loyalty card, simplifying the process by eliminating the need to do so. If that applies to your store, you’ll be prompted to enter your loyalty card before redeeming any rebates.
Note that while you can browse rebate offers from the website, you can only redeem them from within the phone app.
Your account will be credited with your introductory $10 bonus after redeeming your first rebate.
You can cash out once you hit $20 in earnings via Paypal, Venmo, or you can choose from among about 20 gift card options (a few of which have a slightly higher minimum of $25).
2. Checkout 51
Checkout 51 is my second favorite rebate app. I haven’t earned nearly as much with it as with Ibotta, but I still find it useful and valuable. There are quite a few offers—over 170 at the moment, which are organized by category.
Offer Details and Parameters
When you see an offer you like, jump on the opportunity; quantities are limited.
For easy sorting, you can “star” an item. Starred items are added to their own list (to refer to while shopping) and will appear at the top of the list while. However, it’s not a requirement to star an item in order to redeem that item’s rebate offer.
Most of Checkout 51’s rebate offers aren’t store specific, but some are.
Some offers can be redeemed multiple times.
New offers are added on Thursdays at 12:00 a.m. and expire the following Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. in each time zone.
You must both purchase the offer item and upload your receipt while the offer is live.
You have the option of redeeming an offer either from your phone app or from any computer’s web browser.
When your account earnings reach their minimum threshold of $20, you can cash out via check.
MobiSave has a decent array of offers and a well-organized app; you don’t have to scroll through every rebate to get to a certain section, as they are listed across the top of the screen. While I haven’t made as much using this app as with Checkout 51 and Ibotta, it’s a big plus that they pay you with Paypal right away. The only downside to MobiSave is that there aren’t very many offers—only about 50 as I write this.
Offer Details and Parameters
You have to “save” (activate by selecting) an offer before purchasing the item.
After saving an offer, you have seven days to redeem it. By clicking the “saved” tab at the bottom of the app, you can see how many days you have left before it expires.
Offers are redeemable at any store with an itemized receipt.
There isn’t a set schedule of when new offers are added. I find that there isn’t very much rotation; a lot of the same products have been available for months.
Like Ibotta, MobiSave has offers for general items, such as bananas, chips, or jam, but they tend to only pay 10 cents.
You have to submit your receipt for an offer before it expires.
You don’t need to scan any barcodes; just upload an image of your receipt.
You’ll be paid directly via Paypal immediately after your submission is approved. There are no minimums.