There’s no denying that groceries are a consistent and significant expense for most households. And when you consider the price of most grocery categories increased by 0.3% to 2% from 2018 to 2019, it’s clear food spending will likely continue to rise alongside inflation.
Thankfully, there are plenty of strategies to help save money on groceries. Many of these frugal tricks only require using your smartphone the next time you shop.
Receipt-scanning apps pay you for buying certain grocery products and uploading your receipts to earn rebates. One of the most popular of these is Checkout 51.
If you’re tired of reward apps that don’t actually pay or take too long to redeem rewards, you’re in luck. There’s a reason Checkout 51 has grown into one of the top contenders in the space alongside apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards. If you want to save money on groceries, Checkout 51 is worth checking out.
How Checkout 51 Works
Checkout 51 is a free app for Android and IOS that lets you earn cash back on groceries and, more recently, fuel purchases. The app has more than 10 million downloads, and the cash-back earning process is straightforward. Checkout 51 is available in both the U.S. and Canada, unlike most reward apps that only work in the United States. It also works on overseas U.S. military bases.
If you’re an Ibotta user, you’ll immediately understand how Checkout 51 works. In fact, the process is nearly identical.
Checkout 51 partners with more than 400 U.S. retailers and 150 Canadian retailers and pays you for buying specific products from these partners. As long as you preselect grocery rebates and follow a few steps, cutting down on your grocery spending with this app is easy.
Step 1: Find Offers
Browse rebate offers within the mobile app or on your computer. Unlike many cash-back rewards platforms that require a mobile device, Checkout 51 also works on your desktop, and you can sync your mobile and desktop accounts for easy access.
Checkout 51 organizes rebates in the “Offers” tab. There are a variety of online-only offers, featured offers, and even a “pick your own offer” that lets you choose essential grocery items like produce, bread, or eggs to earn cash back. Checkout 51 also organizes offers into grocery categories, such as pantry or household essentials.
If you see products you want to buy, simply add them to your Checkout 51 shopping list before heading to the store. New offers launch every Thursday at 12am in each time zone and expire the following Wednesday at 11:59pm in each time zone.
Because offers run out, it’s important to regularly check the app, especially for new offers on Thursday. Get in the habit of creating your shopping list every Thursday or Friday before your next grocery store trip.
Step 2: Shop
Once you have your virtual shopping list, you’re ready to start shopping. As you shop, you can skim through the Checkout 51 app and buy each item in-store. Just remember to check the terms of each offer since some are retailer-specific or require you to buy a certain type or size of product.
Checkout 51 has plenty of generic offers, and you can also filter by store within the app. This is a useful feature because it prevents you from adding offers from stores that aren’t in your city or that you never visit.
Pay attention to your rebate claim limit. Checkout 51 offers have varying redemption limits, which are clearly shown under each offer.
Step 3: Redeem Offers
Once you’re done shopping, you’re ready to earn cash back for your efforts. Currently, Checkout 51 has four offer-redemption methods:
1. Upload Receipts
The easiest way to provide proof of purchase is to upload a receipt to Checkout 51 that contains eligible rebate items. You can upload receipts via the mobile app or desktop version, but using the app is faster.
To be processed, receipts must contain:
- The purchase date
- The store name or logo
- The transaction total
- All offers you’re claiming
Long receipts require multiple photos. Uploading clear photos speeds up the processing time.
Some offers require barcode scanning verification. If you claim a product with this requirement, a barcode scanner automatically appears in the app. Simply scan the barcode of the product and continue uploading your receipt.
2. Link a Loyalty Card
Checkout 51 is similar to apps like SavingStar in that you can link various store loyalty cards to your account to automatically earn cash back on eligible products.
Linking a card is easy. Select the “Your Loyalty Cards” option under your account page and then select “Add Card.” A list of loyalty card options appears. Simply enter your loyalty card numbers to link the card to your account.
This feature isn’t available in every state or in Canada. Because linking a card lets you earn cash back automatically, however, this feature is an easy way to save time if it’s available in your area.
3. Shop Online
Checkout 51 doesn’t accept e-receipts. That means email purchase confirmations and PDFs aren’t eligible for cash back.
However, you can still earn cash back for online purchases if you receive and upload an itemized packing slip. Packing slips must contain the same information as paper receipts, and you upload them through the app the same way.
If you use a common Walmart saving trick and order items online for store pickup, you can also submit your Walmart pickup receipts. You have to upload these receipts through the Checkout 51 website, however.
Checkout 51 also has an “Online Offers” section in the mobile app. There are generally only a few of these offers, however, and cash back can take up to 75 days to appear in your account.
Ultimately, Checkout 51 is less versatile than cash-back websites like Rakuten for online shopping. If you frequently shop online and struggle with Checkout 51, Ibotta’s online shopping section has more options.
Recently, Checkout 51 has launched a “Save on Gas” beta program. If you see gas offers in your offers tab, claiming a gas offer takes four steps:
- Enable location services to let Checkout 51 find nearby gas stations and fuel prices.
- Add cash-back offers for fuel purchases to your shopping list.
- Pay for gas with a debit or credit card and upload your receipt.
- Earn cash back in your Checkout 51 account.
These offers are location-specific. You can claim two gas offers per day, with a maximum of 50 gallons per offer. There’s no minimum purchase requirement, but you must upload receipts and claim your offer within 24 hours of purchase.
Note that using coupons or various gas reward credit cards reduces your savings. Checkout 51 reduces your cash-back earnings to account for other rewards programs and promotions. This prevents reward stacking that can potentially cost gas stations too much in discounts. GasBuddy, another popular gas-savings app, uses the same policy.
But it’s still worth stacking Checkout 51 gas offers with other ways to save money on gas to maximize savings. This is an exciting beta, so check to see if fuel offers are available in your city.
Step 4: Cash Out
You can cash out once you reach $20 in your account. You don’t have to redeem your account balance as soon as you reach $20, but you can’t redeem portions of it; you must redeem the full amount.
Currently, Checkout 51 lets everyone cash out via check. When you cash out for the first time, you provide a mailing address, and your check arrives within 15 to 30 business days.
Checkout 51 is testing PayPal rewards for some users. If you have this option, you still need $20 in your account to cash out. PayPal cash arrives in your account within five to 15 business days.
Checkout 51 is similar to Ibotta and many other rebate apps. However, Checkout 51 has several key features that make it one of the top reward apps for in-store shoppers:
One of Checkout 51’s main strengths is that you can claim many offers more than once. In fact, plenty of categories have products you can claim as many as five times. Plus, you can claim multiple offers on the same receipt, which is useful if you buy in bulk.
Read offer terms carefully to ensure you maximize savings. For example, if an offer states you have to buy five cans of soup to earn cash back, and you can claim the offer up to three times, it would take 15 cans of soup to completely max out that offer.
Many receipt scanning apps only pay you pennies for your receipts and have fairly limited well-paying sponsored offers. By contrast, Checkout 51 is one of the higher-paying rebate apps alongside competitors like Ibotta.
Between grocery products, medication, and household essentials, it’s easy to find rebates of several dollars whenever you shop. In fact, some rebates even cover a significant portion of a product’s price since companies are willing to spend money to attract customers.
When you factor in claim amounts, you can definitely put a dent in your grocery bill if you take the time to create a Checkout 51 shopping list each week.
There are several other advantages of using Checkout 51 in addition to claiming multiple high-paying offers:
1. Gas Rewards
Although gas rewards are not available for everyone, if you can redeem them, this feature makes Checkout 51 a must-download app.
Since the app uses your location to find offers, it’s incredibly easy to save money at the pump without having to go out of your way. Between your gas rewards card and Checkout 51, your monthly fuel costs shouldn’t sting as much.
2. Rewards Stack
Tapping offers within the app displays any specific terms and conditions. Many offers don’t prohibit coupons or cash back, so it’s relatively easy to stack rewards and maximize savings.
3. Pick Your Own Offer
Apps like SavingStar present weekly offers on produce. Checkout 51’s “Pick Your Own Offer” is more flexible and lets you earn cash back on specific produce items or other grocery essentials.
These rebates are lower than most other offers. However, since you’re likely buying these essentials anyway, you might as well enjoy the free savings.
4. Multiple Ways to Earn
Uploading receipts, linking loyalty cards, shopping online, and buying gas are all ways to save money with Checkout 51.
Additionally, Checkout 51 also runs regular sweepstakes that pay random grocery shoppers hundreds of dollars in prize money. To enter monthly sweepstakes, all you have to do is upload a receipt.
5. Continual Improvements
It’s clear that Checkout 51 has aspirations to create an even better savings app. The gas rewards beta program is one example of how Checkout 51 plans to help you save more money each month. Plus, adding PayPal as a redemption option makes rewards more accessible than before.
Finally, Checkout 51 is looking to add prescription savings in the future according to an in-app announcement. Continual improvements plus existing earning methods make Checkout 51 one of the more robust saving apps around.
Despite a variety of earning methods and high-paying rebates, Checkout 51 has several downsides:
1. Rewards Lack Variety
Although Checkout 51 is testing PayPal rewards, this app is behind the competition for reward options. A lack of free gift cards and PayPal cash are downsides, especially since paper checks take up to 30 business days to arrive.
2. Online-Only Offers
Online shopping is another weakness for Checkout 51. You can’t upload e-receipts, and the in-app shopping portal lacks variety. This is definitely an in-store focused app. You’re better off using a combination of Capital One Shopping and Rakuten when shopping online.
3. Redemption Threshold
A $20 redemption minimum used to be standard in the rewards app space. SavingStar, Ibotta, and Checkout 51 all have this requirement.
However, newer apps like Fetch Rewards let you redeem for prizes for as low as $3. Other receipt scanning apps, like CoinOut, even let you redeem for free Amazon gift cards or withdraw through direct deposit at any amount.
Checkout 51 mitigates this slightly with high-paying rebates and multiclaim offers. However, it’s not the fastest rebate app out there for redeeming cash back.
The world of grocery rebate apps is competitive. There are many reasons why Checkout 51 has emerged as one of the top apps in the space.
Multiple earning options and the testing of new programs, such as gas rewards and prescription savings, are promising signs for the future of this app. As long as you remember to check for offers every Thursday and shop before they expire, you can certainly save money on groceries with Checkout 51.
But, as with any rewards app, it’s important to have realistic expectations for your earning potential. Use apps like Checkout 51 to supplement your savings rather than relying on reward apps for your entire strategy. Checkout 51 truly shines when you incorporate it with other money-saving tactics, like creating a budget and being more frugal overall.