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Cash back

These are just some of the items that have recently been available to earn cash-back.

If you like the idea of saving money, but don’t want to commit to full-time couponing, then you need to use your smartphone wisely by downloading these apps. Once you learn how to use them, you can earn back a good chunk of your hard-earned money.

1. Ibotta

Ibotta is my favorite app because you get cash back on things you already buy at major retailers, and even some online stores, on a wide range of products. Plus, there are often bonus offers to get more cash. To redeem, all you need to do is select offers. Then, after shopping, open the app and follow prompts to take a picture of your receipt and product barcodes. Be sure to do this right after shopping before the offer disappears because there are expiration dates. Once you have earned $20 cash-back, you can withdraw cash through PayPal or Venmo, or purchase gift cards to a variety of places. I have earned more than $400 cash-back through Ibotta.

2. Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is very similar to Ibotta. The biggest difference is that offers come out on Thursdays and you need to buy and redeem them by the following Wednesday. If you don’t, the chance to get cash-back is gone. Another difference is that many of the offers are not store-specific, so you can even redeem offers from stores like Aldi for non-branded items. There are also bonus offers available. Be sure you read the fine print on the offers, because there are some offers that specify you cannot use any other coupons. Once you earn $20, you can redeem for a physical check sent in the mail. This app has been more slow going for me, so I’ve only earned about $60 cash-back, but hey, $60 is $60.

3. SavingStar

My favorite thing about SavingStar is that I have to do very little to earn money back. This app allows you to add your store loyalty cards from CVS, Hy-Vee and others. Usually at the beginning of the month there are new offers, and many are General Mills products. Each month, I try to remember to add the products I am likely to buy. If you have added your loyalty card and selected your offers, there is nothing else to do. The app automatically adds the cash-back for the offers you purchased. You can also upload receipts to other stores like Target and Walmart. Admittedly, I pretty much forget about this option and rely almost solely on the loyalty cards. Once you have earned $5, you can redeem for PayPal or a gift card. I’ve earned back almost $100 for doing almost nothing.

4. Ebates

If you are an online shopper, you need to be using Ebates. All you have to do is go to the Ebates app or and search for the site you want to shop at, click Shop Now, and it will take you to the website. That is all you have to do. Stay on that page, shop and purchase as usual, and within a couple days, you will get the percentage of cash-back in your account. Each quarter Ebates sends a “Big Fat Check” or PayPal, if you have earned over $5; if not, it carries over to the next quarter. The great thing about Ebates is that you can even earn cash back from travel websites, such as Priceline and You just have to get in the habit of checking Ebates first, and even I sometimes forget. But even with forgetting, I’ve earned over $350 back.

There are other cash-back apps out there, but these are the ones I’ve tried and had the best luck with. You don’t need to use tons of apps to save big money. By just using these four apps on a semi-regular basis, I am approaching $1,000 in cash back from purchasing things I would be buying anyway. Think about all you can do with an extra $1,000 back in the bank.

Maggie Hensler is a teacher living the frugal life in Davenport with her husband and two boys. Her column runs every Saturday in the Quad-City Times.