Shopkick: Earn Money While You Shop!

Shopping is usually about spending money, but what if you could earn money while shopping (in some cases, without actually spending a dime)? Enter the Shopkick app for Android and iPhone. Different tasks reward you with “kicks” that can be redeemed for store gift cards and other rewards, and you can even find coupons within the app. Sound too good to be true? It’s not!

There are a lot of different ways to earn kicks. You can expend almost no effort and build up the kicks slowly, or rack up the rewards quickly by doing extra activities. It’s up to you! Here’s how it works:

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  • Download the app and set up an account; which will give you 50 kicks* right off the bat. You’ll see a home screen similar to this:

Home screen of the Shopkick app

  • The easiest way to earn kicks is to simply walk into a participating store and open the app. Shopkick sends a signal through the store’s radio system that the app detects as you enter (or, cough, if you walk reeeeally close to the doors of stores you don’t actually shop at but just happen to pass by in the mall). You can find locations near you by clicking the “Find kicks waiting nearby” tab at the bottom of the screen, which will use your phone’s GPS signal to bring up a map of participating stores. You’ll usually earn 20-50 kicks for walk-ins, but on random days may get 100 or even 200 kicks.
  • You can get extra kicks for walk-ins by browsing through some stores’ lookbooks. From the home screen, either swipe the main picture to move to the next store or tap the arrow pointing down at it to bring up a list of all participating stores, some of which will show a locked number of kicks. Tap, select a lookbook, then scroll through a few product pictures to unlock the bonus. Annoyingly, the bonus replaces the usual amount instead of adding to it like you’d think, but it’s still extra kicks so I’m not complaining (much). Some lookbooks have single kick surprise screens even if there’s no big bonus associated with the store, but unless you’re really bored or want to see the store’s products anyway, it probably isn’t worth it to go hunting for those. You can also make shopping lists within lookbooks by swiping down on an items to “fave” them; when you enter the store they’ll be listed on the store welcome screen.
  • Inside stores, you can earn kicks for scanning certain items. On the welcome page that pops up when you enter a store or tap its icon on the map screen, check for a barcode at the top of the screen with a kick value. When you tap it, a list of scannable items will appear with the kick value for each one. When you find the item in the store, simply tap the correct picture and use your phone’s camera to scan the barcode. A survey will pop up asking if this influenced your purchases; you can answer if you want but I usually just close it out. Sometimes there are even bonus trios where if you scan three related items (say, three specified flavors of Hot Pockets), you’ll get extra kicks (and if the store happens to be out of one of the items, you can always open the app and scan it elsewhere; the scanner doesn’t feed into the store’s signal). Scanning items can be a bit time-consuming, but if you have the time to kill you can get a lot of kicks quickly.
  • Some stores also allow you to earn kicks for purchases made on a linked credit card. At the moment you can only link Visa or Mastercard; I’m not sure if other cards will eventually be accepted as well. I haven’t tried this feature because I mostly charge things on Amex and am a tiny bit nervous about giving out my card number to an app anyway, but a quick google search doesn’t turn up any complaints or issues, so it’s probably fine. Most stores award a set number of kicks at different dollar amounts, say, 500 kicks for a $75+ purchase and 1250 for spending $125 or more, but sometimes you can earn 2 kicks for every dollar spent. The only catch is that the kicks aren’t credited to your account until after the return period expires, which can be 90 days (or more) at some stores.
  • Coupons are also sometimes available within the app. These will usually pop up on the store welcome page, but are sometimes in lookbooks as well. Just be careful not to activate them too far ahead of time; most expire 12 hours after you select them. They’re easy to use; when you select the coupon and tap “Use this deal,” a barcode will pop up; just have the cashier scan your phone and voila! You save money without having to remember to clip coupons before you shop.
  • Once you rack up some kicks, you can exchange them for virtual gift cards. Most rewards start at 1250 kicks for a $5 gift card, though if you’re impatient you can get a $2 Target credit for only 500 kicks. Click the present at the top of the screen to choose your reward, then when you’ve earned enough kicks you can trade them in; the app will simply give you a bar code for the cashier to scan. The screen to select the reward amount can be a tiny bit confusing; if you qualify for more than the lowest reward you have to tap the dollar amount at the bottom of the screen to change it but the design doesn’t make that obvious (at least, it wasn’t to me).


And that’s it! Free money for the shopping you’re probably doing anyway. How cool is that?

*Disclosure: This is a referral link; I’ll earn 2000 kicks for every three people who sign up through it. I am not in any other way compensated by Shopkick or obligated to give them a good review; this option is available to all users (so if you like it you can get kicks from your friends too by sending them your referral code, found within the app!). You can also sign up directly through the Shopkick site or simply download it from your app store, but I’m not sure if you’ll get the 50 kick bonus.

Image provided by Shopkick.

By [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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