5 Cash Back Apps That Sort of Work
Whenever I’m on Facebook or Instagram, I’m inundated with ads for apps that promise to give me extra money. The apps have one word titles that are usually puns, and their app interfaces are filled with bright colors and emojis to appeal to the Millennial set. I’ve seen a ton of apps that say they will pay you if you play solitaire, answer survey questions, and more. But I also see a lot of these “cash back” apps that promise to get you money back on everyday purchases.
I’m definitely a fan of so-called free money, so I took a dive into the app store to see if any of these cash back apps really worked. Though I’ve gotten some payments from these apps, my hunch was right—you’re not going to earn a ton of money from them. Here are five of the more popular cash back apps, which gave me relatively mixed results.
Earny is an app that scans your Amazon purchases and contacts your credit card company if the price drops for something you already bought. I’ve gotten price adjustments on everything from external batteries to fidget spinners. These little adjustments usually amount to a bunch of tiny little $2 physical checks to deposit, but money is money! I’ve gotten about $40 back so far.
The drawback is that you have to give Earny access to your email and your credit cards (though the system is very encrypted) and the cash back only works for certain websites like Amazon. Earny also takes a percentage of your refund. But the process is totally seamless and automated once you sign up.
Drop is an app where you choose certain services/companies you regularly use (such as Lyft, Starbucks, and Seamless) and earn points whenever you make credit card purchases with those services. Drop turns your points into gift cards for your favorite services, so I wouldn’t say it’s like you’re making money—more like you’re just breaking even. I always get stuff from Seamless so it’s nice to feel like I’m getting cash back on top of my credit card. You can also play a version of snake for more points. When I joined Drop, I made nearly $10 in gift cards in the first week.
Dosh is an app that gives you actual cash back (via PayPal) for visiting restaurants or buying things online. Dosh gives you a free $5 when you start, but it takes $15 to cash out. Also, the restaurants that participate are sort of random and will give you somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 percent back. When I looked at their restaurant list, it was full of places I never visit. Who knows, maybe I’ll try one of those places on Dosh and find a new favorite restaurant. But I wanted apps that gave me cash for the stuff I already buy, without asking me to go out of my way to try something new. Dosh isn’t currently a great deal for me, but that could change as the app grows.
Ebates is probably the best-known cash back app. They have many rebates for different stores and websites and you can earn up to 40 percent back. But they only send out checks every few months, which can definitely get annoying. I also didn’t love that Ebates’ design felt a little old and stuffy. Dosh and Drop feel a little more geared to my Millennial sensibilities.
Wikibuy is the only app that has gotten me to download it by negging me. Their Facebook ads are like “How could you still be buying stuff on Amazon without this?” Way harsh, Tai. But it clearly worked on me because I downloaded it. Wikibuy essentially acts like a Google search: you tell it what you want and they find a lower-priced item somewhere else on the internet. They also do cash back. However, recent versions of this app have crashed repeatedly, and sometimes they don’t actually find the best price for you. Wikibuy may still be worth a try if you’re the type of person who regularly asks yourself “is this item really cheapest on Amazon?”
If you’re wondering how these companies make money while they’re giving you money back, there are three possibilities here. First, the companies that read all your emails are probably mining your data to sell to other companies so they can sell you more things. Second, some of these companies take a percentage of the cash back you earn. Lastly, these companies form partnerships with the restaurants/websites/etc. they feature, and those places are happy with the increased business. I’m okay with all of that, and if you are too, definitely try one or two of these apps out and you might save a few bucks—although I’ll probably end up deleting the apps that don’t give me enough money back.
Abby is a comedy writer who also loves money and food. Follow her on twitter @1abbyroad.
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