Money at 30: 2019 Ibotta App Review
I remember the first time I was introduced to the concept of digital coupons. For some reason I was looking at the website for my local grocery store when I found a section dedicated to coupons. At the time I was confused how you redeemed these coupons since they weren’t in the typical print-and-clip format but, soon enough, I realized that I just needed to link them to my store loyalty card and they’d automatically be applied. Needless to say, my mind was blown.
Cut to several years later and I had a somewhat similar experience when a friend of mine introduced me to Ibotta. In many ways this cash back app is similar to clipping digital coupons, except that many of them work at multiple grocey stores and retailers. On top of that, Ibotta has been expanding to offer new potential ways for saving and earning money.
So how does it all work? Let’s take a closer look at Ibotta:
How Does Ibotta Work?
What is Ibotta?
Ibotta is a cash back app that allows users to take advantage of various offers and save money on everyday purchases. With multiple types of offers to choose from, an extensive list of participating brands, and a number of bonuses to boost your earnings, the app has become popular among savvy shoppers.
Joining Ibotta is actually quite a simple process. After downloading the app, you can choose to either sign-up using an e-mail address or by linking a Facebook account. Choosing the former will require you to enter a few details such as a birthdate and zip code. Of course you’ll also need to make a password. Meanwhile, should you opt for the Facebook login method, you’ll need to allow Ibotta access to your profile.
In either case, once you sign-up, you’ll be asked to select some of your favorite retailers and brands. This will help Ibotta serve you the most relevant offers and place them more prominently on the main screen of the app. Once that’s done, you’re ready to start earning.
Something that makes Ibotta stand out from other cash back apps is that, instead of an emphasis on individual retailers and standard percentages of cash back, most of the offers you’ll find are for specific items that can be purchased from a number of locations. Moreover, in many cases, you can purchase multiples of these items and have the offer apply to each (with a typical limit set at 5, although this can vary). That said, outside of these brand-specific offers, you may also encounter offers with wider paramaters. For example two current offers include $0.25 back on any brand battery and even $0.50 back on any grocery item.
For those specific offers, one great and handy feature in Ibotta is the ability to scan an item in-store. This will help you ensure that the item is eligible for a given offer before you purchase it. To access this feature, just tap on the offer and scroll down to “details.”
When it comes to claiming your cash back for these offers, there are a variety of methods to use. However the one you choose will depend on the retailer, medium, and more.
Earning Money with Ibotta
Submitting a receipt
The main way to claim an Ibotta offer is to scan a receipt that includes an eligible item. Truth be told, this method in itself is divided into two types: scanning a QR code/barcode or submitting a photo. Again the option you choose may depend on what each retailer offers, as well as other factors such as, say, whether or not the receipt prints properly. Luckily, if you do need to take a picture of the receipt and its rather long, Ibotta allows you to take photos in segments so that you can fit the entire thing.
Linking a loyalty card
Another way you cash in on Ibotta offers is to link a loyalty card from a participating retailer. With this method, all you’ll need to do is activate offers, shop for applicable items, and use your loyalty card at checkout to have the app automatically review your eligible purchase and credit you your cash back. Among the 100+ retailers that support linking loyalty cards to Ibotta you will find many familiar names, such as Kroger, K-Mart, Rite Aid, Lucky’s Market, and more.
The third main type of Ibotta offers are online ones. These are actually quite different from the bulk of Ibotta offers in that most aren’t for specific items but, instead, are more akin to deals you’d find on Ebates/Rakuten and the like. One of my personal favorite online offers in Ibotta comes from iTunes where users can earn 1% cash back on purchases. To take advantage of this and other online deals, all you’ll need to do is tap the retailer name, tap “Stop,” make your purchase, and Ibotta will update your account with the cash back you earn.
Finally there is another method of redeeming Ibotta offers, although it doesn’t seem to be employed with much frequency. In fact, from my brief search, it seems to only apply to purchases at Best Buy. Anyway, this method calls for shoppers to display a QR code to cashiers at checkout to earn their cash back. Like I said, this is only available for certain deals, but perhaps it could expand in the future.
Other Ways to Earn and Cashing Out
Like many apps these days, Ibotta throws in a bit of gamification via its Bonuses. These challenges also give users an opportunity to score additional cash back. One example of a Bonus you may have is a challenge to redeem four different offers within a set period of time in order to earn $3 in cash back on top of what you would normally be entitled to. Meanwhile other challenges are retailer or product specific, offering additional cash back when you spend over a certain amount or make a set number of purchases.
Even better, there may be times when you’ll have overlapping Bonuses, allowing you to chase two challenges at the same time. Ultimately keep an eye on these bonuses and planning your shopping accordingly could pay off big.
Teamwork and referrals
Adding to Ibotta’s gamification efforts is the Teamwork section of the app. Here you and your friends can work together to earn extra cash back. Each month team members can work to unlock different challenge levels, each with their own bonuses.
So how is a Teamwork team formed? First, anyone whose referral link you used to sign up for Ibotta or anyone who’s used your link will automatically be a part of your team. Secondly, if you link your Facebook account to the app, contacts of yours who are also Ibotta users will be added. Regardless of how a person joined your team, they’ll play a role in helping you earn.
Obviously the larger your team, the easier it will be to accomplish Teamwork tasks and earn bonuses. Therefore it’s always in your best interest to refer friends to the app using your unique referral code. To top it off, Ibotta regularly offers bonuses for successfully referring friends. For example right now you can earn $30 when you refer three people using your link.
In order to turn your Ibotta earnings into actual currency, you’ll first need to reach at least $20 in cash back. Once that threshold is reached you’ll have a few different options for cashing out. One option is to link either a PayPal or Venmo account to Ibotta and transfer your balance that way. If you prefer a gift card instead, you can select from dozens of brand options. Something to note is that, while transfers and most gift card selections have the same $20 minimum, there are a few gift cards that require at least $25 to obtain.
Pay with Ibotta
One of the new features of Ibotta is called Pay with Ibotta. This aspect of the app not only allows you to buy gift cards for various retailers and earn instant cash back on your purchase but also enables you to spend your gift card from within Ibotta. Currently some of the participating retailers include The Home Depot, Old Navy, AMC Theatres, Olive Garden, and more. Cash back amounts range from 1% to 10% with Sheetz on the low end and Peet’s Coffee on the high.
Purchasing your gift cards
Using Pay with Ibotta starts with selecting a participating retailer from the app. To do this, you can either browse featured offers on the app’s home screen, tapping “View All” in the same area, or search for a particular retailer using the Find Offers tab. After making your choice, you’ll enter how much you want to put on your gift card. This amount can be anywhere between $5 and $100. One nice touch is that, as you enter the amount you want to purchase, it will display how much cash back you’ll earn for your purchase.
Before you can complete your transaction, you’ll need to link a credit or debit card. This is as simple as entering your typical card info such as the number, expiration date, security code, etc. Alternatively (at least on the iPhone), you can elect to use Apple Pay instead.
Once your gift card amount is selected and payment method is entered, you can tap “Review” to look over your transaction one more time before making it. They do warn that gift card purchases are final, so taking an extra second to confirm is probably a good idea. After you hit “Pay,” the gift card will be activated and your cash back will be applied to your account.
Using your Pay with Ibotta card
To access your Pay with Ibotta gift cards, you can either go to the Account tab and tap “Payments” or go back to the retailer Pay with Ibotta page and select “Transactions.” Whichever method you choose, the result will be a QR code that displays on your screen along with a card number and PIN. Then just present this screen to your cashier when checking out to utilize your gift card.
One disappointing part of Pay with Ibotta is that the balance of your gift card won’t update automatically when you spend money from it. Instead you’ll need to select the card in the app, tap “Update Balance” and either enter the amount you spent, the remaining balance, or mark the card as used. This also means that, if you don’t remember your balance and need to pull it up, you’ll need to follow the retailer’s regular gift card balance inquiry procedures.
Final Thoughts on Ibotta
The biggest advantage of Ibotta is obvious: earning cash back on everyday purchases. With a variety of offer types, brands, and products to choose from, there’s a good chance you’ll find something that appeals to you on the platform. Plus the Bonuses, Teamwork goals, and other perks can help you elevate your earnings as you master the app.
What’s more the app seems to be changing for the better. Take the relatively new Pay with Ibotta offering, for example. Personally I foresee this as being my main way of using Ibotta (in addition to some of the online offers like iTunes). With an impressive slate of retailers on board already and enticing cash back amounts, there’s lot of potential here. At the same time the fact that the gift card balance doesn’t automatically update is oddly annoying and seems like a strange feature to leave out. Nevertheless it’s hard to argue with discounted gift cards — not to mention the fact that you can still earn any credit card rewards you’re entitled to from your card issuer on top of the cash back percentage you earn via Ibotta.
Despite that nitpick, ultimately the options, savings, and even gamification that Ibotta offers certainly make it worth a download.
Also published on Medium.