Unlike other money saving apps that work primarily online, Ibotta is primarily focused on giving you discounts for your in-store purchases. (Read my Honey and Rakuten reviews if you want to learn more about online cash back.)
Ibotta is the digital equivalent of paper coupons. However, instead of sifting through pages of coupons, snipping the ones you want, and bringing them to the store, you can quickly look through them on your phone and pick the ones you like.
Once you find a coupon you want to use, you tap on the “+” symbol. Then, you can either watch a 15-second ad or answer a simple question. For instance, after I tapped the Cinnamon Toast Crunch coupon, I was asked: “Which kind are you more excited to try, Blueberry or Strawberry?” I tapped “Blueberry,” and the offer was added to “My Offers.”
What happens next?
Instead of presenting the coupons to the cashier at checkout, like you traditionally would with paper coupons, the magic happens after the purchase.
When you get home from shopping, you scan the QR code at the bottom of your receipt and you’re done. (You’ll have to scan the whole receipt if the receipt doesn’t include a QR code.)
In my experience, Ibotta posts the earnings to your account within a few hours.
Once you’ve racked up $20 in earnings, you can cash out via PayPal, Venmo, or a gift card from your favorite store.
How is Ibotta legal?
If you’re new to this, you need to know how affiliate marketing works to understand Ibotta’s business model.
The basic premise is that retailers and product manufacturers pay Ibotta to promote their items or stores. (In theory, this leads to an increase in sales).
Where do your earnings come from? Ibotta gives you a portion of their commission. It’s a win-win-win.
So, what do I think of Ibotta?
Things I Love
- Ibotta is a free phone app that allows you to earn extra money from things you already buy. You don’t pay a cent, and you don’t have to buy anything unusual. It’s the perfect way for all three parties (stores, Ibotta, and you) to win. I’ve seen people ask questions like “is Ibotta legit? Is it safe?” It’s legit! And fantastic if you like getting back money for your purchases (who doesn’t?)
- Ibotta has offers for many popular brand-name items, but I like “any brand” offers for kitchen staples. For example, there’s regularly $0.50 off on any brand of eggs, bread, milk, apples, and cheese.
- There are always deals on beer and wine that can be used over and over. I see $4 off on my favorite 12-pack of beers all the time.
- Ibotta doesn’t mess around with points or unusual currencies. Everything is in dollars. If you redeem a $4 coupon, you’ll get $4 put into your account, and this $4 is worth $4. It bothers me when coupon and promotional sites use points.
- Ibotta says purchase approval takes an average of 24 hours, but I’ve received all of my redemptions within a few hours of submitting the QR code. Most of my Walmart purchases take a few minutes.
- You can turn on Nearby Store Alerts to send a notification to remind you when you enter a store that works with Ibotta.
- You can combine Ibotta deals with store deals, which is something you typically can’t do with regular coupons.
- There’s a barcode scanner that lets you know before you make the purchase whether the product you’re buying is eligible for the offer you’ve selected.
- Ibotta has challenges to get more bonus cash. For example, with the “Weekend Warrior: challenge, if you redeem three offers during the same weekend you get $5. You can get extra cash for referring friends and get a percentage of their earnings too. (Shameless plug: Join my team and get a free $10).
Things I Hate
- Stores use coupons to entice customers to spend more money than they had anticipated. Simply put: people buy things they don’t need because they get sucked into an attractive deal. We all love a good deal. But don’t buy things you don’t need just because they’re on sale. I fell into that trap when I saw a new kind of Tyson Chicken was $5 off. I wouldn’t have bought it without the coupon, but I thought I’d try it out. However, that’s not an Ibotta-specific issue.
- There aren’t many stores for me to use. I live in a small town, so Walmart and Target are my only local options.
- You can’t access Ibotta from a computer, which makes online shopping difficult. The phone app is the only way to use Ibotta. You can shop at online stores, but it has to be through Ibotta’s app. That’s where Honey and Rakuten still come in handy.
- I like the nearby alerts, but I wish I could pick and choose which stores sent me the notification.
Who is it for?
Paper coupons have never appealed to me because it’s too much effort for tiny savings. Plus, it’s too easy to buy things I don’t need.
If you’re already a “couponer,” Ibotta is definitely for you because it’s going to save you time while providing the same great deals.
If you’re looking to save a bunch of money, Ibotta probably isn’t for you.
Here are two things I do to get the most from the app:
- Before going to the grocery store: I open Ibotta and look at some of “hot” and “for you” offers. I don’t take any more than a couple of minutes. If I see something I’m going to buy regardless of the coupon, I add it to my offers. I don’t care about the brands of household items (i.e. toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags, etc.) so I buy whichever offers the best deal.)
- Before making an expensive tech purchase: I check to see if the tech stores have any generic promotions. (They usually don’t, but I’ve seen a $20 off $200 coupon at Best Buy).
In my experience, you can easily save $5 every time you go grocery shopping.
A $5 savings isn’t much, but if you grocery shop a couple of times a month, you’re looking at $100 of free money for the year.
The key is to not get sidetracked by a good-looking deal on something unnecessary. Do a quick search and add the offers that catch your eye on things that you were going to buy anyway.