Groceries are one of the most significant expenses in many people’s budgets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American family spent over $8,169 ($680.75 per month) on food in 2019, including eating at home and at restaurants.
It’s no wonder 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 groceries and other in-store and online purchases as well as eating out at restaurants.
How Ibotta Works
Ibotta is a smartphone app and browser extension that lets you earn cash back on products and services you use every day. It works a bit like clipping coupons, but instead of money off the top, you get rebates on preselected goods you buy during shopping trips, either in-store or online.
It partners with over 300 retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, convenience stores, home improvement centers, pet stores, and pharmacies as well as brands to encourage shoppers to check out their new stuff and reward shoppers for purchases they make every day.
So while apps like Ibotta are typically associated with grocery shopping, you can earn cash back on other purchases as well, including at major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. You can check the full list of supported retailers on Ibotta’s website.
Although Ibotta is currently only available for use in the United States and Puerto Rico, you can use it on military bases worldwide.
Ibotta is reasonably straightforward to use.
1. Find Offers
Before you shop, open your Ibotta app or browser extension and select a retailer. That takes you to a page where you can browse offers for products that store carries.
If you find any offers for products you plan to buy, select the offer, and Ibotta adds it to your grocery list. Sometimes, you must watch a short video or answer a survey question before it adds the offer. For others, you just have to select it.
Many offers overlap with other retailers. For example, if you select an offer for a $1 rebate on apples at Walmart and it’s something supported by Whole Foods or Aldi, the offer will automatically apply to your shopping trips at those stores too. But check the offer details, as the offers don’t always apply to all stores, even if it’s a brand another store carries.
2. Go Shopping
You can buy the products you selected from any supported retailer, bearing in mind that some offers are retailer-exclusive.
Check the offer details and exclusions to ensure you buy the correct product, or you won’t get your cash back. Sometimes, you have to purchase a specific variety of item — for example, Cool Ranch Doritos rather than just any Doritos — to qualify. You may also be required to buy a particular size or quantity. The Ibotta app allows you to scan a product’s bar code in-store before purchasing it to check.
And if you’re shopping online, the Ibotta browser extension works as a pop-up sidebar. The sidebar works differently with each retailer.
For example, if you’re shopping Walmart’s grocery pickup and delivery service, the sidebar takes you directly to the products that qualify for the rebate when you push the Shop button next to each item in the List tab of the sidebar. It also highlights the correct products on the retailer’s website with either a green or pink box. A green box means you already clipped the rebate. A pink box means the product qualifies for a rebate, but you didn’t clip it yet. That makes it incredibly easy to know if you’re buying the right product.
Other retailers, such as Target, aren’t as straightforward. While you can still shop with the handy sidebar, you don’t benefit from the pink and green boxes surrounding qualifying products.
Also, you can only use some rebates once, such as a single container of Yoplait yogurt, no matter how many units you purchase. You can use other rebates multiple times, such as $0.25 cash back on each of up to 10 Yoplait yogurts. Additionally, some rebates require you to buy multiple items or units to qualify for the offer.
Once you’ve purchased your selected goods, there are several ways you can send Ibotta proof of purchase to qualify for your rebates and get your payout.
Send a Receipt
If you shopped in-store, open your Ibotta app, select the Redeem icon and then select your store. The app then prompts you to either scan the bar code or QR code at the bottom of the receipt or snap a photo of the entire receipt, depending on the retailer’s preference. Ibotta then automatically matches your receipt to your selected offers.
If it doesn’t match a selected offer, you can add it before sending your receipt. Simply select theAdd Offers button that appears after you scan your receipt. Scroll through your list, and tap the one that’s missing. The app might then require you to scan the product’s bar code to prove your purchase. Sometimes, retailers require you to scan item bar codes 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 the Send Receipt button. You can expect to see your rebates in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. You must submit all receipts within seven days of purchase to qualify.
Link a Loyalty Account
You can also use your store’s loyalty account to prove your purchases. If a retailer is set up to use loyalty cards with Ibotta, input your card’s membership number directly into the app. Then, when you purchase products that match your selected offers, Ibotta automatically matches them, saving you the step of having to scan or take a picture of your receipt.
Link an Online Account
If you’re using the Ibotta browser extension to shop grocery pickup or delivery services, you need to link your shopping account. That could be different from a loyalty account since not all online grocery services have them. For example, Walmart has no loyalty program, but you still need to register for a Walmart.com account online to use their grocery pickup and delivery service.
For Ibotta to track your rebates, link your store account with the Ibotta browser extension. The process varies by retailer but could include entering the email address and password or phone number you signed up with.
Make Mobile In-App Purchases
In addition to in-store shopping, you can use Ibotta to make online purchases using your smartphone at any of its partner retailers. Simply open your Ibotta app, scroll down to where it says, “Shop by category,” and select “Online shopping.” That takes you to a page listing stores where your purchases can earn you cash back. These include mega-retailers like Amazon, Groupon, Kohl’s, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
The Ibotta app allows only for in-app and app-to-app purchases, so 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 it credits the offer in case something goes wrong during the purchase process.
Activate Cash-Back Offers
If you’re not shopping for groceries, Ibotta’s offers typically include a percentage of cash back on your purchases, just like other popular browser extensions, such as Rakuten, Honey, or Capital One Shopping.
To get credit for your purchase, activate the cash-back offer in the sidebar. Then just shop as usual.
4. Get Cash Back
After you’ve completed your shopping and submitted your proof of purchase, Ibotta deposits cash in your Ibotta account within 48 hours. Once you reach a threshold of $20 in your account, you can opt to cash out. Ibotta sends your funds to your PayPal account, or you can opt to have them sent directly to your bank account. Alternatively, you can purchase a gift card from one of their supported retailers.
In-store and online cashback offers are the primary ways to save money with Ibotta. But this shopping platform offers even more features that make it a convenient tool for scoring extra cash.
If you’re in-store or have a short list, you can use the search bar in the mobile app to look for an offer on the products you’re there to buy.
Likewise, the browser extension includes a search tab, so you can look to see if there’s an offer on the product you want without having to search through hundreds of irrelevant offers.
If you have a longer list, Ibotta organizes grocery offers by common categories like produce, dairy and eggs, snacks, and meat and seafood, allowing you to zero in on what you need. It also learns your preferences and opens with offers specially selected for you. Or scroll through all the offers to discover everything available.
Ibotta supports a wide variety of online retailers in non-grocery categories like 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 use, such as Rakuten, Honey, or Capital One Shopping.
Ibotta’s customer support features individual teams that can help with specific questions, such as an online shopping team dedicated to answering questions about online shopping. It allows customers to get the right support people quickly and efficiently deal with queries and problems.
There’s a lot to like about Ibotta. These advantages make Ibotta one of the most popular cash-back apps.
1. It’s Easy to Check Products Against Offers
If you’re shopping in-store, you can easily use your smartphone to scan the product’s bar code to find out if it matches the offer. And while shopping online can be a bit trickier, if you shop a pickup and delivery service like Walmart, the color-coded boxes surrounding the products with available rebates ensure you buy the correct goods.
2. You Can Score Cash Back for Products You Regularly Purchase
Keep Ibotta in your cash-back arsenal for saving money on regular, everyday purchases. It helps you save on your grocery purchases and 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 products, it offers 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 the brand. So even if you regularly buy store brands to save money, you can still use Ibotta.
4. You Can Boost Your Savings by Combining Rebates and 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 product), Ibotta isn’t a coupon, 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 something that costs $1, and you have a $0.50-off coupon plus an Ibotta rebate for $0.75, you could actually earn $0.25 by buying it.
5. It Partners With Numerous Retailers
Ibotta partners with over 300 different retailers, including physical stores and online retailers. Ibotta’s partner retailers include retail chains, 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’s worth it to check your Ibotta app first to see if the retailer is connected with Ibotta.
Plus, even if Ibotta doesn’t support your preferred retailer, sometimes there are workarounds. For example, if you want to buy groceries at Costco, you can’t currently shop there and get per-item rebates. But if you use Instacart, which partners with both Costco and Ibotta, you can get rebates that way.
Alternatively, if Ibotta doesn’t currently partner with your preferred shop, you can encourage them to join. Ibotta serves both customers and businesses by helping customers save while increasing traffic to businesses by luring customers with rebate offers.
6. You Can Use It for More Than Just Groceries
Although Ibotta’s original purpose was grocery savings, the app is continually expanding to include other kinds of shopping. In addition to groceries, you can use Ibotta to purchase everything from clothing and cosmetics to music and travel.
You can also use it to save at restaurants, including earning cash back on your overall meal, cash back on gift cards, or cash back for certain purchases (like beer, wine, and liquor). And you can even earn cash back on restaurant food delivery and takeout services.
You can find the full range of rebates Ibotta is currently offering on its website.
7. You Get Real Cash
Unlike some rebate apps, such as Capital One Shopping, where you can only redeem the points you earn for gift cards, Ibotta’s cash back is real cash. Although you can 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 bank account.
8. You Can Earn More Through Teamwork, Bonuses, and Invite Offers
In addition to its typical 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. There are a couple of ways you can build a team with Ibotta.
You can build your shopping team by linking your Facebook account to your Ibotta account and adding friends from Facebook. You can also invite new users, called “savers,” to join Ibotta. When they join with your unique referral code, the app automatically adds them to your team.
You can then pool your shopping efforts to qualify for Teamwork bonuses every month. When your team collectively redeems a certain number of offers, all team members receive a cash-back bonus on top of your rebates. And the more offers you redeem, the better the bonuses get. So 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 quantity of specific merchandise. 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 particular 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 Ibotta is a versatile, easy-to-use shopping platform with tons of fantastic features, there are a few drawbacks.
1. It May Not Have Offers for the Products You Normally Buy
Ibotta adds new rebate offers all the time. But they may not be for products you usually buy. To earn cash-back rebates for your shopping, you must purchase the specific product 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 app’s primary purpose is to serve retailers by getting customers to buy new products and brands, it may lead you to buy goods you might not have purchased otherwise. If you do that, Ibotta is more likely to cost you money than help you save it.
2. Some Rebates Are for Specific Product Varieties
I’ve gone to the store on more than one occasion, purchased a product I thought had a rebate, and then uploaded my receipt only to discover I’d bought the wrong variety, flavor, or size. More than once, the app even insisted the product was “wrong” when it appeared to be precisely the item in the offer.
To keep that from happening to you, always check the specific offer details and exclusions to ensure you’re purchasing the right flavor, size, or quantity to qualify for the rebate.
You can also use the app to scan the bar code before you buy. Just open your Ibotta app, click on the selected offer, and verify you have the correct product by using your smartphone’s camera to scan the bar code. It takes 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, you won’t qualify for the rebate if you don’t buy it at a supported retailer.
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 check the offer details and exclusions before shopping.
4. It Requires a Time Investment
Just as with couponing, scrolling through Ibotta’s list of offers can take time. You may invest that time and find only 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 $0.25 or even $0.10.
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, especially since you have to get up to $20 to cash out.
5. Account Maintenance Fees Can Reduce Your Payout
If you actively use Ibotta, you don’t need to worry about account maintenance fees eating into your earnings. But if you go for six months or longer without using the app, Ibotta charges an account maintenance fee of $3.99 per month. It deducts this fee from your rebate earnings until your account reaches zero.
So while you never have to pay Ibotta directly, if you don’t use the app or cash out your balance, you will lose your earnings.
Cash-back apps can help put some money back in your pocket, which is why many users love Ibotta. But it may not be as much as you were hoping for if you can’t take advantage of many of the available offers or use the app at your favorite stores.
Fortunately, the app is adding more retailers and more ways to shop every day. Plus, it’s 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.
Fortunately, 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.