We Try It: Ibotta

Ibotta is a new coupon app that works differently that most other savings programs. Instead of loading coupons directly to your store rewards card or having a barcode to scan at the register, it allows you to complete tasks within the app to earn savings on different products, then register your purchase when you get home. The best part? One you’ve accumulated at least $5 in your account, you can deposit it to PayPal and use it for something fun!

How Ibotta Works

Screencap showing how much you can earn by purchasing various products on Ibotta
Screencap from Ibotta app

After you download the app onto your Apple or Android device and create a login, you can browse the current offers to select the products you plan to buy. Each one will have a different earnings potential based on the tasks associated with the products. Most products have 2-3 different tasks worth 25-50¢ apiece, so you can choose which ones to do. There are currently 14 kinds of tasks that can be assigned to a product and all are simple — you may be asked to read a couple sentences of trivia, answer a poll question, give feedback about the product or app, watch a short video, or share your savings on social media. I tend to skip the social media ones because it’s not worth a lousy 25¢ here and there to deal with friends who would be annoyed by my tweeting about orange juice, but that’s a personal hangup and it does add up over time. I haven’t run across any products that only offered social media tasks, so even if you don’t want to link your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ accounts (or don’t have them all), you should still be able to earn at least a partial reward.

While most offers can be redeemed at any participating store, there are also special offers that only work at selected stores. The stores vary based on your location; right now I could get bonus offers at Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, Costco, Whole Foods, and Wegman’s (though they use a pretty broad area, since some of those stores don’t have stores closer than about an hour away).

One of the nice things about Ibotta is that you don’t have to do anything with it in the store. When I’m juggling store reward cards and paper coupons and other coupon apps (and trying to keep the kiddo from grabbing every candy bar in sight), I like that I can wait until I get home to deal with this. You can pull up a shopping list based on the items whose tasks you’ve completed if you forgot to write them down elsewhere, which is helpful. If you forget to check the app and realize when you get home that you bought an eligible product that you hadn’t activated yet, you can still do the tasks and then go through the redemption process!

Redeeming Ibotta offers is also pretty easy. You just have to use your phone’s camera to photograph the entire receipt, check off the items that you bought, and scan their barcodes. It’s easiest to do this as you put everything away so that you don’t have to dig everything back out of the fridge or pantry (or, ahem, go outside to get the damn egg carton out of the trash because your husband decided to “help” put groceries away). The money will be credited to your account as soon as the purchase is verified; the app says that this should occur within 24 hours, but every time I’ve submitted a receipt I’ve gotten verification within a couple hours. Once your balance passes $5, you can request a deposit to your PayPal account (happily, it allows you to cash out your full balance rather than making you do even multiples of $5 and leave the balance in limbo).

You can also earn badges in the app based on the tasks you complete and consistently redeeming offers. In theory these unlock special offers and bonuses, but I haven’t unlocked enough yet to see what these consist of.

A few drawbacks

Of course, no coupon app is perfect. Ibotta doesn’t partner with a huge number of brands yet, so sometimes nothing on my shopping list is available to redeem. Only one grocery store in my town participates in Ibotta and it’s not my favorite, so that somewhat limits my ability to redeem as many offers as I might otherwise. They do partner with more than 50 retail chains, including groceries, pharmacies, warehouse clubs, and dollar/discount stores, so your mileage may vary. And obviously, the savings aren’t immediate. It won’t save you money as you shop, but getting the occasional lump sum payout is still helpful.

The best part, though? If you sign for Ibotta up now, you can earn up to $10 in welcome bonuses! The app is free, so what have you got to lose?

Disclosure: This post contains a referral link. Use it or not as you please. All opinions in this review are honest.

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[E] Hillary

Hillary is a giant nerd and former Mathlete. She once read large swaths of "Why Evolution is True" and a geology book aloud to her infant daughter, in the hopes of a) instilling a love of science in her from a very young age and b) boring her to sleep. After escaping the wilds of Waco, Texas and spending the next decade in NYC, she currently lives in upstate New York, where she misses being able to get decent pizza and Chinese takeout delivered to her house. She lost on Jeopardy.

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