There’s no denying that people love reward programs and finding ways to save money. According to the 2017 Loyalty Census by COLLOQUY, U.S. consumers have more than 3.8 billion memberships across different loyalty programs.
Although loyalty program usage is widespread, the study also found that 57% of consumers abandon a loyalty program because it takes too long to earn rewards. If you’ve ever downloaded a rewards app only to realize it will take you months to earn anything, you understand the frustration.
Grocery reward programs are no exception. There are plenty of couponing apps and cash-back platforms out there, but only a few are worth keeping on your smartphone. Apps like Ibotta and Fetch Rewards are prime examples of such apps due to their rebate variety and ability to redeem rewards easily.
A lesser-known app that also makes it incredibly easy to save money on groceries is SavingStar. If you want hassle-free grocery rebates and to automatically earn when you shop, SavingStar is the perfect app to test out.
How SavingStar Works
SavingStar is a free app for Android and IOS that has grown to more than 8 million members since starting in 2011. SavingStar is also part of the Quotient Technology family of companies, which includes other reward apps like Shopmium and Coupons.com. Clearly, helping people save money on groceries is something Quotient Technology understands.
Once you download the SavingStar app, you create an account with your email address or by connecting your Facebook account. You can also sign up online and use SavingStar on your computer.
Like Ibotta, SavingStar lets you preselect stores and rebate offers you plan on buying. There are several other nifty features and ways to save money on groceries with this app.
Step #1: Link Loyalty Cards & Choose Stores
SavingStar separates participating stores into two categories: automatic stores and receipt stores.
Most SavingStar partners are automatic stores. Shopping at automatic stores is the easiest way to earn rebates, and getting started requires three steps:
- Browse Stores. Select the “Stores” button within the app to browse the list of SavingStar partners for stores you frequent.
- Select Stores. Pick stores where you already have a loyalty card. This is the only automatic way to earn rebates with SavingStar.
- Link Cards. Enter your card details in the SavingStar app to finish linking a card.
Linking your loyalty cards lets SavingStar automatically detect when you shop at their partners and whether your purchases are eligible for rebates. More than 22,000 stores from 75 chains nationwide participate as automatic-savings stores, so there’s plenty of opportunity to save money automatically.
Once you link your loyalty cards, the next step is to choose receipt stores. While most SavingStar partners are automatic, some require you to upload your receipts to earn rebates. Some popular receipt store merchants include:
- Sam’s Club
To add receipt stores to your account, just browse the “Store” tab again and add stores. There’s no need to link any payment information or loyalty card.
Step #2: Activate Rebates
Before you shop, use the SavingStar app or website to browse for rebate offers to add to your virtual shopping list. Unlike with Fetch Rewards, your receipts and automatic purchases don’t credit unless you activate them, so it’s critical to activate rebates before shopping.
You can activate rebates quickly by selecting the “Quick-Add’ button. You can also expand the rebate details, which may include certain purchase requirements like package size, number of products, and eligible retailers.
It’s important to activate offers quickly because some brands place limits on the number of activations available for a given offer. Additionally, you must activate receipt-scan offers within the same day you make the purchase.
SavingStar is different from many grocery reward apps for having three types of special offers in addition to regular rebates:
- One or Many Offers. These offers pay larger rewards for meeting a specific spending goal — for example, earning $15 cash back after purchasing $75 worth of Allegra allergy medication. One or Many gives you the flexibility to complete an offer in a single trip or track your progress over multiple trips. You can also choose to make your purchases at a single store or shop around. Progress and cash back appear in your SavingStar account within two to 14 days of purchase.
- Always On Programs. This rebate category is the easiest way to save money with SavingStar. Always On promotions are specific brand promotions you only have to enroll in once to automatically save when you make eligible purchases. These offers have a limited lifespan, but enrolling saves you the step of having to constantly activate rebates before shopping. Plus, brands usually include multiple products or categories in this offer, making it easier to save than with highly specific rebate offers. Note that you share your name, ZIP code, and email with brands upon enrollment. Also, brands may require other information, such as your age or birthday.
- Healthy Offers. SavingStar makes it easy to follow a healthy diet while on a budget. SavingStar releases a Healthy Offer of the week each Tuesday for a produce product. You must earn at least two qualifying rewards in the previous month to be eligible for a Healthy Offer.
Ultimately, the versatility of normal in-app rebates and three different types of special offers makes it incredibly easy to save money with SavingStar without having to alter your shopping habits. The Healthy Offers feature is a nice touch for more health-conscious individuals.
Step #3: Activate & Earn
For automatic stores, you earn cash back as long as you remember to activate rebates before shopping and shop with your loyalty card. Cash back appears in your SavingStar account within two to seven days for most purchases, not at the register.
Receipt stores also require rebate activation before shopping. Once you make an eligible purchase, enter the UPC code for each eligible product in the SavingStar app. Then take a photo of your receipt and upload it through the app or SavingStar website.
You must upload receipts within three days of purchase. SavingStar recommends lining up the receipt edges with your camera and taking photos in a well-lit area. Long receipts require multiple photos to capture the entire receipt.
Receipts must contain the retailer name, receipt total, and purchase date. Cash back takes one to five days to process. Currently, SavingStar doesn’t accept receipts for online groceries.
Step #4: Withdraw Cash
You can withdraw your SavingStar balance once you accumulate $20 — the same threshold as other popular rebate apps like Ibotta or Checkout 51. Depending on current rebates and your preferences, this is possible to reach within a few shopping trips.
Reward options include:
- Direct deposit
- PayPal cash
- Free gift cards to Starbucks, iTunes, or AMC Theatres
You can also donate your earnings to American Forests, a nonprofit that protects and restores forest ecosystems. Gift card rewards are electronic, and SavingStar sends codes to your account’s email address. All payouts take 24 to 48 hours.
The two features that set SavingStar apart from the competition are:
Many popular rebate apps only reward you for buying sponsored products and uploading a receipt. SavingStar is similar, but the variety of rebate categories makes this app more versatile than your average rewards app.
One or Many offers let you earn higher amounts of cash back over one or several shopping trips. Always On programs help automate your savings. Finally, Healthy Offers either encourage you to shop for more produce or award you for already making healthy choices.
Another key feature of SavingStar is their dual-earning system consisting of automatic and receipt stores. This flexibility allows SavingStar to work at more than 75 chains across the country, making it easier to save money without having to alter your shopping routine.
There are several advantages to using the SavingStar app, including:
1. Saving Time
Most reward apps solely rely on receipt scanning, which is just another step you have to remember in order to save money. However, most SavingStar stores are automatic stores. Once you link your loyalty card within the SavingStar app, you simply activate rebates and shop like normal.
2. Versatile Reward Options
One of the main drawbacks of apps like Fetch Rewards is their lack of PayPal cash or direct deposit for withdrawal options. Similarly, Checkout 51 only lets you cash out via check. By contrast, SavingStar is one of the most versatile rebate apps around. Direct deposit is perfect for boosting your savings account, and you can always redeem for PayPal cash or a variety of free gift cards as well.
3. Something for Everyone
SavingStar doesn’t always have the same number of rebates as a more popular app like Ibotta. However, it still has enough variety to suit every shopper. Grocery products, medication, supplements, and household essentials regularly have rebates. Plus, you can always download multiple rebate apps to ensure you have enough selection before shopping.
4. Rebate Rotation
SavingStar releases new rebates on the first day of each month. Typically, it also releases new rebate offers every Thursday and Sunday. Healthy Offers go live on Tuesday as long as you have two qualifying redemptions from the previous month. This schedule helps keep rebate offers fresh and increases the chance you’ll find products you’re interested in.
This app has several disadvantages that limit earning potential:
1. No Online Savings
Unfortunately, SavingStar doesn’t accept e-receipts for online grocery purchases. This limitation makes SavingStar fall short for avid online shoppers, especially since Ibotta and Checkout 51 let you earn both in-store and online.
Furthermore, you can’t shop through SavingStar’s website to earn rebates. Again, platforms like Ibotta have an easy-to-use online cash-back category, which also covers a wider variety of retailers than in-app SavingStar offers.
2. No Coupons (Usually)
Using in-store digital coupons may prevent you from earning a reward for the corresponding SavingStar rebate.
Because SavingStart coupons usually conflict with manufacturer coupons, this could hurt your current couponing routine. If you’re a serious couponer, compare the savings between SavingStar offers and your own coupon book to ensure you choose the better option.
3. Usually Requires Loyalty Cards
While several large retailers like Walmart and Target are receipt stores, most SavingStar partners require linking a loyalty card. That means you have to sign up for loyalty cards wherever you shop if you want to make the most out of this app.
That’s fine for stores where you regularly shop, or if a loyalty card has worthwhile perks. For stores you seldom visit with lackluster loyalty cards, however, the hassle might not be worth it.
In the world of grocery reward apps, SavingStar is a major player. With more than 8 million members and versatile offers, this app is a realistic way to save money on groceries and to earn rewards.
However, it’s also important to be realistic with any sort of rebate app. These types of apps make it easy to save money, but they should supplement your saving efforts, not be your only tactic. Broader strategies such as budgeting for groceries, using the right cash-back credit card, and making an effort to be more frugal will make a meaningful impact on your finances.
Use apps like SavingStar to score free gift cards or cash whenever you can. But don’t dramatically alter your current shopping routine for the sake of trying to earn rebates. If you already have several loyalty cards or shop at a receipt-only SavingStar partner, this app is certainly worth downloading.
As long as you make use of SavingStar’s different rebate types and incorporate other money-saving practices, you can save more of your hard-earned money each year.
Do you have a favorite app that helps you save money on groceries? Have you tried SavingStar?