7 best cashback apps to stretch your dollar — and earn rewards on your shopping

As prices on everything from groceries to housing march higher, you may be looking for passive ways to save a few pennies. Among the many apps out there are those that return cash back and rewards on the things you buy every day, including gas, groceries, shopping, travel and dining out. Some of these apps return a percentage on what you spend — anywhere from 1% to 15% and higher paid out as cash to your bank account or digital wallet — while others redeem your rewards as gift cards or points you can build toward other perks.

Today’s best cashback apps are free to download and boast saving you hundreds of dollars in discounts and extras, yet with new apps regularly vying for your attention, it can be confusing to know which among them are best for you.

To cut through the chaos, we analyzed 20 of the most popular cashback apps available on Google Play and the App Store, prioritizing how easy they really are to use, earn cash and get rewarded. While you aren’t likely to get rich using any one of them, our hope is you find one that fits your shopping habits — and puts a little money back in your pocket.

💡Expert tip: When using these apps, pay for your purchase with a cashback or rewards credit card to maximize your savings. That way, you earn your card and app rewards at the same time — with no extra effort.

1. Best overall cashback app: Rakuten

Why we like it

Rakuten is a free cashback app that’s popular for good reason. Formerly Ebates, it boasts an impressive 3,500 partner stores across a wide range of shopping categories with automatic returns on clothing, electronics, housewares, automotive, restaurants, airlines, hotels and more. Popular brands include Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, Macy’s — even warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, which are typically excluded from credit card rewards.

You can sign up online or through Rakuten’s app in under a minute with an email address and password or your Google, Apple or Facebook account. After signup, download the Safari browser extension to be notified of deals and compare prices each time you shop online.

You can also earn cashback rewards at physical stores without having to upload receipts — just add a credit card to your account you’ll shop with, link an offer to that card and use that card to pay for your purchase.

Frequent promotions include double cashback rewards that can help you further maximize your rewards. And if you’re new to the app, you’ll earn an additional 10% cash back on purchases made within your first week and $30 for each friend you refer to the app who signs up.

What people say

Rakuten shoppers praise the site for its wide range of stores, competitive cashback rates compared to other apps and a user-friendly interface that makes it easy to activate cashback offers. Fans on the active r/Rakuten subreddit claim they’ve earned thousands of dollars over the years, offering hacks on how to stack discounts with limited-time promotions and through credit card bonuses.

However, some reviews on Reddit and Google Play report delayed payments and glitches with the mobile app, while others caution keeping a close eye on rewards to make sure Rakuten comes through on your purchases.

2. Best for groceries: Ibotta

Why we like it

Ibotta is a free app and Chrome browser extension that can stretch your budget with generous cash back at a wide range of stores focused on groceries and grocery delivery. Supermarkets include such chains as Albertsons, Giant, H-E-B, Hannaford, Harris Teeter, Jewel-Osco, Key Food, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, Safeway, ShopRite, Stop & Shop and Winn-Dixie, but also warehouse stores like BJ’s Wholesale Club, Costco, Target and Walmart that aren’t typically included in credit card rewards. Other sites and retailers include gas stations, convenience stores, health and beauty retailers and pet supply stores, which you can find on Ibotta’s site.

To use Ibotta, sign up online or download the app. Before you shop, look for an offer at the store or in the category you’re looking to buy in. Link your loyalty card or, if you’re done shopping, upload your receipt. You can also shop at online retailers through the app. Once you’ve earned at least $20, you can redeem your rewards to a linked bank account, PayPal or gift cards.

To maximize your rewards with Ibotta, make it a habit to browse Ibotta’s Hot Deals. And check for periodic signup and referral bonuses online.

What people say

Many happy customers appreciate Ibotta’s user-friendly interface, ease of uploading receipts and the ability to earn cash back on everyday household items you’re likely to purchase anyways. You’ll also find an active subreddit of Ibotta fans dedicated to sharing savings tricks, highlighting limited-time offers and troubleshooting issues.

As for troubleshooting, some users complain of disappearing offers, issues with scanning and not-so-great customer support, with a general warning that you’ll need to plan your shopping trips ahead of time to get the most out of this app.

3. Best for gas purchases: Upside

Why we like it

The Upside app can earn you cash back at the pump across more than 100,000 gas stations, convenience stores and fast food chains in the U.S. You can also earn cash back at grocery stores and local eateries that aren’t always included in cashback apps.

While Upside advertises that you can earn up to $0.25 a gallon on gas, we found that savings are likely to be closer to $0.08 to $0.12 a gallon, depending on your ZIP code — still, with gas a necessity for most of us, these savings can add up to a lot over time.

To maximize your cash back with Upside, search for the best gas offers in your area and stack your savings with gas station loyalty rewards programs. You can also take advantage of Upside’s referral program, which allows you to earn money on every gallon of gas your referrals buy.

What people say

Reviews on app stores and Reddit agree the Upside app is easy to use and report the ability to earn significant cash back on everyday purchases — some users totaling savings in the hundreds of dollars. Upside fans also like the app’s referral program, which allows them to earn even more when family and friends sign up and buy gas.

4. Best for dining out: Seated

Why we like it

Designed with frequent diners in mind, the Seated app allows you to earn up to between 15% and 30% cash back at restaurants in 10 metropolitan cities, with promises of more to come:

• Atlanta
• Boston
• Chicago
• Dallas
• D.C.
• Los Angeles
• Miami
• New York City
• Philadelphia
• San Francisco

Seated partners with what it calls a “highly vetted list” of more than 2,000 restaurants, providing a wide selection of dining options and rewards within its service footprint. Just make your reservations through the app or walk into a participating restaurant, and then upload your receipt within 90 days after dining. You can redeem your rewards for instant credit on rideshares, travel and shopping through brands like Amazon, Delta Airlines and Starbucks.

Seated often promotes limited-time offers for less popular seating times or local restaurants looking for new customers. To maximize your savings with Seated, use the app to sort by the highest rewards offered. Sign up for Seated’s referral program and both you and a friend can earn a bonus after their first reservation.

What people say

Users say the app is easy to use and report earning hefty rewards, with some saying they racked up hundreds of dollars with the app. They also like the selection of restaurants, which offers opportunities to discover new favorites. Still others say selections are limited to higher-end restaurants over casual dining.

5. Best for travel: Dosh

Why we like it

Like the other cashback apps on our list, the Dosh app allows you to earn cash back at participating restaurants, retailers and online stores. You link your credit card, like deals within the app and then shop as usual for cash back on your purchases.

What sets the app apart, however, is a feature that boasts lucrative cash back on travel, including activities and rooms at more than 600,000 hotels worldwide. And it’s a no-brainer to use: Simply search for an event or booking through the Dosh app, reserve it with your linked card and see money deposited into your Dosh Wallet within 30 days after checkout. After you’ve earned $15, you can transfer your money to a bank, PayPal or Venmo account or donate to charities within the app.

Once you’re set up with Dosh, you’re assigned a personal referral code that you can share with friends for a cashback bonus for you and your referral after they’ve signed up.

What people say

Reviews of the Dosh app are generally positive, with users highlighting how easy it is to use and earn cash back through competitive hotel rates and promoted travel bonuses. However, some users say deals are hit and miss and describe problems getting their money out of the app.

For savings stackers, a traveler on Reddit cautions you might not be able to stack rewards with Dosh and your favorite hotel rewards programs, and deals don’t often include resort or hotel fees, which can make for a surprising bill at check-in. You might need to ask when weighing how to pay for your stay.

6. Best for utilities: Future

Why we like it

The Future app offers 10% cash back on your energy bills for a year when you connect your existing utilities to clean-energy company Arcadia and pay your bill with the FutureCard, a free virtual debit card you can apply for through the app without a credit check. According to Future’s site, you aren’t required to switch providers, install equipment or commit to Future for the cash back. And the FutureCard comes with no annual fee and doesn’t require a deposit — instead, you link a checking account, and card purchases are paid for from that account.

The FutureCard also earns 5% cash back on everyday “green” spending at EV charging stations and thrift stores and on public transportation and rideshares. Additional bonuses include 6% at FuturePartner sustainable brands like eco-friendly household and personal care site Grove Collaborative, Just Salad and Lululemon’s resale program. All other spending earns 1% cash back.

What people say

While reviews are mixed, many cardholders like the Future app and FutureCard for being a handy way to get cash back on utility bills, public transportation and green eating (think: plant-based meat), with rewards that post the next day. One customer said they declined linking services with Acadia but still get cash back by paying their utilities with the FutureCard.

7. Best for online shopping: PayPal Honey

Why we like it

PayPal Honey — just Honey until 2020, when it was acquired by PayPal — is a free mobile app and browser extension that automatically searches for and applies coupon codes at checkout at more than 30,000 online retailers and shopping sites, helping you to save time by finding the best bargains on the fly while you browse. Simply shop for what you want, and Honey applies coupon codes to your cart until it finds you the biggest savings. It can also notify you when prices drop on items you’re interested in.

Other ways to earn include PayPal reward points that you can redeem for cash and gift cards and a program that rewards you 500 points — worth $5 — for each referral who signs up.

What people say

Shoppers who use PayPal Honey like how it finds coupon codes and discounts without the work, helping them to save money on items they’d planned to purchase without it. Some users call out glitches with the app and browser extension, with most getting a response from a Honey representative to help resolve the issues.

Types of cashback apps

You’ll find a wide range of apps that can help you save money, though cashback apps tend to fall within three main ways to earn:

Cash back. These apps provide online shoppers with automatic rewards or coupons at checkout. Examples include Rakuten, Ibotta, Honey and Capital One Shopping.

Receipt-scanning apps. These apps require you to scan or upload photos of your physical shopping receipts to earn cash back or points. Examples include Receipt Hog and Fetch.

Loyalty apps. These apps link to your credit card, debit card or loyalty shopper programs to automatically reward eligible purchases, tracking the rewards you earn. Examples include apps for Starbucks and Chipotle.

What to look for in a cashback app

When weighing whether to sign up with a cashback app, it’s best to find one that fits neatly into your lifestyle and spending habits. Consider the retailers it partners with, what you’ll need to do to earn money and how easy it is to redeem rewards, among other factors — all of which better position you to actually use the app you download (and not clutter up your device).

A range of retailers. The best cashback apps partner with a large number of retailers across a wide range of categories, giving you more opportunities to earn rewards.

High cashback rates. The app should offer competitive cash back on the things you spend money on frequently, ideally from 2% to 10% or more.

Practical payout options. The app should pay out your rewards in a way that’s useful for you — and not require payout thresholds you can’t easily meet. Most apps offer bank transfers, deposits to digital wallets or gift cards.

Frequent payouts. Understand how often the app tallies up and pays out what you earn. Some cashback apps pay out quickly, while others require waiting months to redeem your earnings.

Easy to use. Look for an app that offers streamlined services — and doesn’t make you jump through excessive hoops to earn.

Bonus savings and features. Some apps provide price comparisons, integrate coupons and track price drops to make sure you’re earning as much as you can.

Generous referral programs. Referral bonuses can further boost your earnings. The popular gas app Upside offers a referral program users like due to its high cashback potential.

Good reputation and reviews. Look for apps with high ratings on app stores, review sites and forums as well as positive sentiment among actual customers.

Responsive customer support. See what other customers say about help with problems to know whether you’re stuck on your own if you bump into issues.

How we chose the best cashback apps

We evaluated 20 of the most popular cashback apps available on Google Play and the App Store as of April 2, 2024, analyzing each app against six important features:

Retail partner network

Cashback reward levels

Cashback reward type — for example, cash or points

Payout options — including bank transfers, digital wallet deposits and gift cards

Security features and privacy policies

Popularity among people who use them

We also read through customer reviews on Google Play, the App Store, Trustpilot and Reddit to better understand actual user experiences — the good and the bad.

Frequently asked questions: Cashback apps

How do cashback apps make money?

Cashback apps like Rakuten and Ibotta most often make money through affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is a type of business arrangement whereby a company pays an affiliate — in this case, the app — a small commission for each customer signup or sale through the app. Apps share a cut of this commission with you in the form of cash back.

Another perk for these app companies is the ability to gather real-time insights on customer spending habits. In a way, this data is more valuable to marketers than your single purchase. Each purchase, upload, survey or other action you take through the app is data these companies are collecting, analyzing and using to make marketing decisions.

With a reputable app, this data excludes personally identifiable information — such as your name, address or birthdate. But it’s a good idea to read the fine print to understand how the app intends to use your data and whether you can opt out.

Are cashback apps safe?

Yes, the most popular cashback apps protect your data with industry-standard protections that include data encryption, privacy protections and two-factor authentication at sign-in. Some, like Ibotta, even promote bug bounties that provide cash rewards for ethical hackers who can breach their systems ahead of enterprising bad guys.

Most apps include a privacy and safety statement as part of signup or within the app that can help you understand how well the company intends to protect your data into the future.

How can I be sure I’m getting the highest payouts?

Sites like Cashback Monitor and Evreward aggregate savings, rewards and coupons to help you compare earning rates across shopping portals and cashback apps.

These directories can’t guarantee you’re getting the highest payouts, but they can show you where today’s best cashback, travel, card and other deals are — and how to combine discounts for even stronger savings.

Is there a limit to how much I can earn with a cashback app?

It depends on the app, but most won’t limit how much you can earn — though you might need to meet an earnings threshold before you can get your payout. Research how and how often an app pays out your earnings before signing up.

What if an app requires a membership fee?

Some cashback apps ask that you link a bank or credit card account for future payouts, but you shouldn’t need to pay money up front to use a cashback app. If you run across a “free” app that asks for payment before you can earn rewards, it’s a red flag to look elsewhere.

About the writer

Kat Aoki is a seasoned finance writer who’s written thousands of articles to empower people to better understand technology, fintech, banking, lending and investments. Her expertise has been featured on sites like Forbes Advisor, Lifewire and Finder, with bylines at top technology brands in the U.S. and Australia. Kat strives to empower consumers and business owners to make informed decisions and choose the right financial products for their needs.

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