Smartphones are crazy expensive. I actually spent more on my iPhone 6S than on my own laptop! But, that’s also why I love to find ways to put my smartphone to work for me.
One of my favorite ways to make my smartphone earn its keep is with scanning apps. You know—the kind where you scan products and receipts from purchases you’ve made. Here are four apps that I use every week to do just that—including my favorite one, which doesn’t even require you to make any purchases at all.
Cool ‘Scanning Apps’
Shopkick is an awesome app that rewards you with points called “kicks” that you can use to redeem for gift cards at retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Fandango. You can earn kicks from either online stores or big box stores located near you.
There are four ways to earn kicks from stores:
- Walking into the store (or visiting it online)
- Scanning product barcodes from in-store items (or viewing them online)
- Making a purchase and scanning the receipt (or making an online purchase through the app)
- Linking up a credit card and making a purchase with it
Not all stores offer you the ability to earn kicks through each of these methods. But when you open the app, you can easily see which stores offer which ways to get kicks through small icons underneath them.
For example, my local grocery store has a barcode icon and a receipt icon underneath it, meaning that I can earn kicks by either scanning products or by making a purchase and scanning the receipt.
My favorite thing about the Shopkick app is that you don’t actually need to buy anything if you’re just scanning products in the store. It’s actually pretty fun to hunt around the store to find the item—just like a scavenger hunt! Plus, the Kicks Center shows you quickly and easily how close you are to earning your reward. Right now I’m about a quarter of the way towards a Barnes & Noble gift card.
Pro tip: keep your GPS and notifications enabled on your phone, so that when you’re out around town you’ll be notified when there’s a store with free kicks available nearby.
Here are some screenshots from the application!
Here are some examples of products that can provide you with Kicks:
These are participating stores nearby.
Get as many Kicks as you can, and you can earn gift cards.
Ibotta is my second-favorite scanning app. It’s the granddaddy of all receipt-scanning apps, because it’s one of the first ones developed and it’s the most popular out there.
It works sort of like a virtual coupon delivery system, but you redeem the savings directly through the app rather than scanning coupons at the register when you’re checking out. You can earn varying amounts of cash back by making purchases of specific brands of foods.
My favorite thing about Ibotta is that every week, there’s a few generic products. For example, sometimes just “fresh peaches,” “yogurt,” or “milk” is offered, and you can choose any brand you want. These are getting to be less and less common, but you can still find them, and they’re a great way to save on pantry staples—especially if you’re frugal like me and usually buy the store-brand products.
Even better, they’ve been offering a lot of “any item” coupons lately, for 25 cents. All you have to do is make a purchase—any purchase—and you’ll automatically earn a bit of cash. I’ve been able to redeem several of these per week, which is handy when I have to run to the grocery store for a last-minute dinner item.
Once you hit $20 in cash credits, you can redeem them to your PayPal account. It’s as simple as that.
My profile shows how much I’ve earned.
Here are the types of products you can use with Ibotta and earn cash back.
This app works just like Ibotta, but it’s a bit more restrictive. They don’t offer any coupons for generic food items, and there’s no 25-cent “any item” coupon.
Where Checkout 51 shines is with its selection of healthy-eating coupons. Sure, they’ve got coupons for snack foods like Teddy Grahams and Fig Newtons, but they also have a great selection of organic and dietary-specific foods. Just this week, they’re offering coupons for Back to Nature nuts, Hummustir organic hummus, Udi’s gluten-free bread.
When you reach $20 in cash credits, you’re eligible to redeem them. In this case, they send the cash to you in the form of a check, not to your PayPal account.
Here are some products to help you can earn cash back with Checkout 51.
Receipt-Focused Scanning App
I just recently found out about this app and so far I love it, even if it does seem a bit odd that it’s so swine-centered. Receipt Hog doesn’t require you to scan certain items, per se, but rather receipts—and as many of them as you can remember to keep and scan.
Depending on the type of store you scan a receipt from, you’ll be eligible to earn between 5-20 coins per receipt (based on how much you spent), an entry into the monthly coin sweepstakes, or a free spin at a coin slot machine. You can also earn coins from completing questionnaires and connecting your Amazon, Facebook, and email accounts.
Once you earn 1,000 coins, you can trade them in for a $5 Amazon gift card or Paypal deposit. This is a great option to earn some cash back from all those odds-and-ends receipts, like from the gas station, the liquor store, or restaurants.
Here is the homepage of Receipt Hog when you first start out.
While I love all of these apps and use them regularly, I do have to say that my favorite one is Shopkick, followed closely by Ibotta. I love that I can earn rewards simply by walking into a store and walking around to find different products to scan—all totally free. Plus, it’s a great way to help me meet my 10,000 step goal for the day.
But, the best scanning app is the one you actually use. Test out each of these apps to see which one you like best. After all, the best way to earn cash back from these apps is by using it as consistently as possible. Bonus points if you find a way to make money for grocery shopping for other people, too!
Now, what would you do with that extra money?