Groceries are one of the largest items on many people’s budgets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent over $7,700 – $641 per month – on food in 2017, including eating at home and at restaurants.
It’s no wonder, then, that many households search for ways to save on this expense, including using coupons and shopping apps. One such shopping app is Ibotta, which can help you earn cash back on your grocery purchases, as well as on other in-store and online purchases and eating out at restaurants. Here’s a look at what Ibotta can do for you.
How Ibotta Works
Ibotta gives you rebates on pre-selected items you buy during any of your shopping trips, both in-store and online. It partners with stores and brands to encourage shoppers to check out their new stuff and rewards shoppers for purchases they make every day.
Although Ibotta is currently only available for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, you can use it on military bases around the world.
Here’s how the Ibotta process works.
Step #1: Find Offers
Before you shop, open your Ibotta app and select “find offers.” You’ll be taken to a page where you can select the store where you plan to shop, or you can peruse categories such as “grocery” or “online shopping.”
If you find any offers for items you plan to buy, you simply select the offer, and Ibotta adds it to your list. Sometimes, you’ll be required to watch a short video or answer a survey question before the offer is added. For others, you just have to select it.
Step #2: Go Shopping
Once you’ve loaded the app with your selected offers, you then go shopping. You can buy the products you selected from any supported retailer, bearing in mind that some offers are retailer-exclusive.
Be sure to check the offer details and exclusions to make sure you buy the correct product. The Ibotta app allows you to scan a product’s barcode in store before you purchase it to ensure you have the right item. Sometimes, you have to purchase a specific variety of an item – for example, Cool Ranch Doritos rather than just any Doritos – to qualify for the rebate. You may also be required to purchase a specific size or quantity.
Some ebates can sometimes only be used once, such as on a single container of Yoplait yogurt, no matter how many of the item you purchase. Other rebates can be used multiple times, such as $0.25 cash back on each of up to 10 Yoplait yogurts.
Step #3: Redeem
Once you’ve purchased your selected items, there are several ways you can send Ibotta proof of purchase to qualify for your rebates.
Send a Receipt
After your shopping trip, open your Ibotta app and select “Redeem” and then your store. The app will prompt you to either scan the QR code at the bottom of the receipt or snap a photo of the entire receipt, depending on the retailer’s preference. It will then automatically match your receipt to your selected offers.
If a selected offer was not automatically matched to your receipt, Ibotta will give you the opportunity to add it before sending in your receipt. Simply select “Add Offers,” scroll through your list, and tap the one that’s missing. The app might then require you to scan the item’s barcode to prove your purchase. Sometimes, retailers require you to scan item barcodes regardless of whether they’re matched on the receipt. It all depends on the retailer’s preference.
Once everything is correct and all your rebates are accounted for, tap “Send Receipt,” and your rebates will show up in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. All receipts must be submitted within seven days of purchase to qualify.
Link a Loyalty Card
You can also use your store’s loyalty card to prove your purchases. If a retailer is set up to use loyalty cards with Ibotta, you can input your card’s membership number directly into the app. Then, whenever you purchase items at that retailer that match your selected offers, they’re automatically transmitted to Ibotta, saving you the step of having to scan or take a picture of your receipt.
Make Mobile In-App Purchases
In addition to in-store shopping, you can also use Ibotta to make online purchases at any of its partner retailers. Simply open your Ibotta app, select “Find Offers,” and then select the category “Online Shopping.” It will take you to a page listing stores where your purchases can earn you cash back. These include mega-retailers such as Amazon, eBay, and Groupon.
The Ibotta app allows only for in-app and app-to-app purchases, so be sure to always start in the Ibotta app instead of going directly to a shopping website. If you don’t start from the app, it will have no way to track your purchases.
Although you won’t need to send Ibotta a receipt if you shop through the app, it encourages shoppers to hang onto their receipts until the offer has been credited, just in case something goes wrong during the purchase process.
Step #4: Get Cash Back
After you’ve completed your shopping and submitted your proof of purchase, cash is deposited in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. Once you reach a threshold of $20 in your account, you can choose to have Ibotta send your funds via PayPal or Venmo, or you can opt to purchase a gift card from one of their supported retailers.
Key features of the Ibotta shopping app include:
Ibotta’s customer support features dedicated teams that can help with specific questions, such as an Online Shopping Team specifically dedicated to answering questions about online shopping. It allows customers to be directed to the right support people to quickly and efficiently deal with questions and problems.
Ibotta supports a wide variety of online retailers in non-grocery categories such as clothing, sporting goods, hardware, entertainment, and travel. Before you do any online shopping, check out Ibotta’s list of retailers and compare their current cash back offers to those from other online shopping tools you may use, such as Rakuten, Honey, or Capital One Shopping.
There are several benefits of using Ibotta, including:
1. It’s Easy to Check Items Against Offers
Ibotta is an app exclusively for smartphones. That means you can’t use it to shop online on your computer, but the advantage is that you can easily take your list of offers with you during in-store shopping trips, as well as scan barcodes in store to make sure you purchase the right item to qualify for the rebate.
2. You Can Score Cash Back For Products You Normally Purchase
Ibotta is a great tool to keep in your arsenal for saving money on regular, everyday purchases. It not only helps you save on your grocery purchases, but it also supports a wide variety of online shopping. And anything that can help you save money is a plus.
3. Some Offers Aren’t Brand-Specific
Although the vast majority of Ibotta’s rebates are for brand name items, it does offer the occasional “any brand” offer. With “any brand” rebates, you can earn cash back on pantry staples you regularly purchase – such as milk, eggs, bread, cereal, and fresh produce – regardless of brand.
4. You Can Boost Your Savings By Combining Rebates & Coupons
Perhaps one of the best benefits of using Ibotta is that you can stack your savings with coupons. Even if your store has rules against coupon stacking – using multiple coupons on the same item – Ibotta is not a coupon, but a rebate, so it gets around these rules.
In addition to earning cash back on your purchases, many Ibotta users have been able to make money by combining Ibotta rebates and coupons. For example, if you want to purchase an item that costs $1, and you have a $0.50-off coupon for it plus an Ibotta rebate for $0.75, you could actually earn $0.25 by buying that item.
5. It Partners With a Wide Variety of Retailers
Ibotta partners with over 300 different retailers, including physical stores and online retailers. Ibotta’s partner retailers include retail chain stores, movie theaters, restaurants, pharmacies, pet stores, hardware stores, travel sites, and flower shops. If you’re doing any kind of shopping, whether in-store or online, it can be worth it to check your Ibotta app first to see if the retailer is connected with Ibotta.
If your preferred shop is not currently connected, you can encourage them to join. Ibotta serves both customers and businesses by helping customers save while also increasing traffic to businesses by “luring in” customers with rebate offers.
6. You Can Use It for More Than Just Groceries
Although Ibotta’s original purpose is grocery savings, the app is continually expanding to include a variety of other kinds of shopping. In addition to groceries, Ibotta can be used to purchase everything from clothing and cosmetics to music and travel. It can also be used for certain restaurant purchases, such as beer, wine, and liquor. You can find the full range of rebates Ibotta is currently offering here.
7. You Get Real Cash
Unlike some shopping apps, such as Capital One Shopping, where the points you earn are redeemable only for gift cards, Ibotta’s cash back is real cash. Although you can certainly use your cash to purchase a gift card from any of Ibotta’s supported retailers, you can also opt to have cash directly deposited into your PayPal or Venmo account.
8. You Can Earn More Through “Teamwork,” Bonuses & Invite Offers
In addition to its normal rebate offers, Ibotta allows you to earn even more by building shopping teams, participating in seasonal bonuses, and taking advantage of invite offers.
When you create a “team” with your friends, your collective shopping and selected rebate offers can earn you cash back beyond what you can earn alone. You can build your shopping team by linking your Facebook account to your Ibotta account and adding friends from Facebook. You can then pool your shopping efforts to qualify for Teamwork bonuses every month. The bigger your team, the faster you can earn.
Ibotta also runs seasonal bonus opportunities. These allow you to earn additional cash back by buying a certain number of a specific kind of purchase. For example, in one opportunity, shoppers who redeemed 10 offers during a two-week period at the start of June were eligible to receive an additional $10 cash back.
Sometimes, bonus events allow you to redeem any offers to qualify, while others require you to buy specific featured products or redeem offers with specific retailers.
Ibotta also rewards shoppers who invite their friends to join and use the app. If you have a lot of friends, that can add up to significant cash. For example, one month-long invite offer paid shoppers $3 for each referral who downloaded the app and redeemed at least one offer. After their third qualifying referral, referrers were entered into a pool where they had a chance to split $100,000 with other qualifying referrers.
Although there are several advantages to using the Ibotta app, there are also some disadvantages to keep in mind.
1. It May Not Have Offers for the Products You Normally Buy
Ibotta adds new rebate offers all the time; however, they may not be for items you normally buy. In order to earn cash back rebates for your shopping, you must purchase the specific item in the offer. Although the app occasionally offers “any item” rebates, these are typically for small amounts such as $0.25. If you can’t find any offers for the things on your family’s shopping list, Ibotta is unlikely to save you much money.
Also, because the primary purpose of the app is to serve retailers by getting customers to buy new products and brands, it may lead you to buy items you might not have otherwise. If you buy something for a rebate that you wouldn’t have purchased normally, Ibotta is more likely to cost you money than help you save it.
2. Some Rebates Are for Specific Product Varieties
Many times I’ve gone to the store, purchased an item I thought had a rebate, and then attempted to upload my receipt only to discover I’d purchased the wrong item. Sometimes, it was because I bought the wrong flavor or size, and other times, the app insisted the product was “wrong” even though it appeared to be precisely the item in the offer. That has happened to me more than once.
To ensure it never happens to you, always check the specific offer details and exclusions to make sure you purchase the right flavor, size, or quantity of an item to qualify for the rebate. You can also scan the barcode in store before you purchase an item. Just open your Ibotta app, click on the selected offer, and you can verify that you have the correct item by using your smartphone’s camera to scan the barcode. This step may take some extra time, but it beats finding out you have the wrong product after you’ve already bought it.
3. It Doesn’t Work With Some Retailers
Although Ibotta supports over 300 retailers and adds more all the time, it may not currently support your favorite store. Even if you buy the right product, if you don’t buy it at a supported retailer, you won’t qualify for the rebate.
Moreover, some rebates are specific to certain stores, so even if Ibotta supports your store, it may not support a particular rebate at that store. Always make sure to check the offer details and exclusions before shopping.
4. It Doesn’t Work With Some Online Ordering Programs
One of my favorite ways to save money on groceries is to do all my shopping through online ordering. It allows me to see what my total will be before I buy, and if I go over budget, I can always go back over my list and weed out any non-essentials.
If you also like to do your grocery shopping this way, you can still use Ibotta as long as your store of choice has a loyalty card. Because you can link the Ibotta app with your loyalty card, then use your loyalty card when you check out with your online order, proof of all your eligible purchases will be automatically transferred to Ibotta.
One of my other favorite ways to save on groceries is to shop at the lowest-cost stores. After considerable price comparison, I discovered Walmart was the cheapest place to buy groceries in our area, so I do all my online ordering and grocery pickup from Walmart. However, Walmart doesn’t use loyalty cards; it simply has great everyday prices.
Also, when you do grocery pickup, you won’t get a standard cash register receipt. Instead, you’ll get one delivered via email. Because these aren’t typical receipts with a barcode or QR code, Ibotta won’t accept them. When I contacted Ibotta support to ask about this, I was told that because the primary purpose of their app is to get customers to directly interact with brands in store, they don’t currently support grocery pickup receipts.
If you’re not sure if your shopping receipt counts as proof of purchase, be sure to check Ibotta’s receipt qualifications.
5. It Requires a Time Investment
Just as with couponing, scrolling through Ibotta’s list of offers can take some time. You may invest that time only to find one or two offers you can use, and they may be for nominal cash back amounts. Although Ibotta often has cash back offers of $1 or more, it’s more common to find rebates worth $0.50 or $0.25.
So as with any money-saving tool, consider whether the time investment is worth it to you. For example, if you only come across one nominal offer, ask yourself if 30 minutes of your time is worth $0.25.
6. It Has No Browser Extension for Online Shopping
Ibotta is a shopping app designed for smartphones; it doesn’t include a browser extension. In order to use Ibotta for online shopping, you must shop directly through the app on your smartphone. That could be a drawback for some users who prefer the easier navigation of shopping via computer.
Ibotta can definitely help put some money back in your pocket, but it may not be as much as you were hoping for. You may not be able to take advantage of many of the available offers or even use the app at your favorite stores.
For example, I used to use Ibotta every time I shopped at my local grocery store. Because the chain has a loyalty card, it made redemption of all my rebates nearly effortless. However, after researching other ways to help my family save on groceries, I discovered that merely switching from our local chain to Walmart cut our grocery bill in half. I also now do all our shopping through online ordering and grocery pickup because it saves time and helps me stick to our budget.
Unfortunately, because Walmart doesn’t have a loyalty card and Ibotta doesn’t support email receipts, I rarely use the app anymore. What I can save by ordering online from Walmart far exceeds the nominal amounts of cash back I received from using the app.
Nevertheless, the app is easy to use, especially when it’s connected to a loyalty card. And if you’re someone whose shopping habits fit well with Ibotta’s requirements, there’s little reason not to use it.
Just keep in mind that Ibotta is only one tool in your larger toolkit for saving money on groceries and online shopping. Buying groceries in bulk, shopping at lower-cost stores, keeping an eye out for sales, and shopping with a detailed meal plan can also help you dramatically reduce your grocery bill.
Do you use Ibotta for your grocery or online shopping? What has your experience been with using the app?