Rewards programs are something that I take advantage of whenever possible. They are an incentive for me to continue using a company’s product. You will find reward programs with various credit card companies, restaurants, and clothing stores, to name a few. It is a great marketing tool to keep you coming back for more. Essentially, it is like training a dog. If you want the dog to sit, you must give the dog a treat if it obeys a command. No, I am not likening humans to dogs, but if you think about it, we enjoy treats too and if we buy, just as the dog sits, we get a treat.
I am especially drawn in by the awards that I receive via email or mail, that award me $15 off if I redeem $15 or more in the store or online. From the comfort of my home, I go to their website, shop a while and secure the deal. Sometimes you can save more by going to the store and buying there to avoid shipping and handling.
There are also “cash back” awards where you earn pennies on the dollar each time you use your credit card. Again, this is a nice treat after logging in to pay a credit card bill and see that you have earned $5.86 in reward money that you can use towards your payment. Not to dampen the spirit of rewards, but if all you do is charge and pay the minimum, they are happy to give you $5.86 as they take $25.00 in interest from you each month. Make sure you do your math when choosing credit cards and the interest rates associated with them.
Everyone shops for groceries, right? And most of us have to purchase gasoline, and we like to go out once in a while. Let’s not even get started on online shopping. Why not make some of your money back — without having to do anything extra but take a picture?
If you’ve got a smart phone, you’re in luck: there are quite a few apps around, dying to know what you’re buying, and from where. All of these apps are free (though some require you to register with an email address). You get points which turn into credit at stores like Amazon, or money in your PayPal! Here’s a list of some of the easiest to use, and how they work!
NCP is an extensive survey company which likes to know who’s buying what and from where. If you’re accepted into their free program, you simply choose the store you went to and scan all the bar codes. At the end, you confirm who shopped and your total bill, and submit! You accrue points over time which can be cashed in for Amazon dollars or money in your pocket.
Receipt Hog is a super-quick app which gives you coins for “feeding the pig” snaps, or photos, of your receipts. They accept paper receipts from grocery and department stores, gas stations, restaurants, and for services like haircuts. Like most of the apps on this list, Receipt Hog will also enter you in extra giveaways.
Another speedy snap app, Receipt Pal is quite similar to Receipt Hog except they accept online receipts – you just forward your email receipt to them, and they link it to your account. They also will take receipts from all the same types of vendors as Receipt Hog.
For online shoppers, TCB is arguably the best way to go! You have a free account which allows you to shop online at thousands of stores. Simply use the app as your hub, or shop the same way from their website. Percentages of your purchase get credited back to you, and you can cash out your account whenever you want. TCB tends to have the highest percentage of cash back, and also has grocery offers! And, like all of the apps on this list, it’s completely free to have an account!
If you shop online, eBates is another great option. Simply create a free account in the eBates app (or on their website) and look at the stores. Practically any store you can think of, including Etsy and the Apple App Store, is listed! When you’re ready to shop, just use the eBates link to that store — essentially you go to the store’s website through eBates, and you earn cash back. Places like Target and Wal-mart have low percentages like 1-2%, but other stores have 15% back or more!
If you’re particularly savvy, you can start to see how you can use one receipt with multiple apps. For example, you go to the store for bread and snap the receipt for Receipt Hog and Receipt Pal, and then scan the bread for NCP. Likewise, you can do an online purchase through eBates and then send your email receipt to Receipt Pal, and scan it via NCP when you get it!
Let’s face it: you have to spend money sometimes. If it’s something you’re going to buy anyway, why not make some of that money back? That’s the way to be frugal AND brilliant.