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I get a kick out of saving money when I shop. I get an even bigger kick when I can earn money when I shop. Now you may be thinking “Yup, mystery shopping, heard of it before …”  but that’s not what I’m talking about.

With advances in technology – retail competition is fierce! So much so, companies and brands are getting creative with how they reach and acquire new customers. Instead of spending marketing dollars on traditional advertising methods, many brands are reaching out to consumers in unique ways. One of these ways is by enticing customers to shop with them through cash-back opportunities.

So today, I’m going to share with you how I make money when I go shopping.

Smartphone Apps:

To be honest with you, I’m slightly addicted to money-making smartphone apps. It’s like a game to me to see how much I can earn. I’ve even got my husband using them! In fact, it’s how I pay for my Starbuck’s habit.

I’ve tried all of these smartphone apps, but currently, I’m only using Ibotta, Swagbucks, ReceiptHog, and ShopKick.

1. Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an online platform where you can earn points called SB, which can be redeemed for gift cards, coupons, and sweepstake entries. They also have a smartphone app for iPhone and Android operating systems. You can quickly earn SB by watching videos, answering questions, completing offers, surfing the web using their toolbar, and of course, shopping using their online rewards store. You can shop brands like Amazon, Walmart, and Macy’s. Just log in and click on the store you want to shop at, once you find the right retailer, click on the link and you will earn a certain number of SB for each dollar you spend. Refer your friends to Swagbucks, and you’ll earn even more. Your SB points can be traded in for gift cards from Amazon, Target, Starbucks, PayPal, and Walmart. You also get a $5.00 sign up bonus when you register, sweet!

2. GrouponSnap

GrouponSnap allows you to get cash-back when you shop for groceries. Check out the weekly offers and snap a picture of your receipt for the items you purchase. Once your account hits $20 you can request payment via check. You can also earn $1 for each friend you refer who redeems an offer. GrouponSnap is available for both Android and Apple operating systems and it has a customer rating of 4.5 stars.

3. Ibotta

Ibotta is a smartphone application you can use to earn money when you go shopping. Before you head out on a shopping trip complete the tasks related to your favorite brands and companies. Next, go shopping, scan the barcodes of the items you purchased, and snap a photo of your receipt. Once your transaction has been verified, your account will be credited with the specified cash-back amount. Refer your friends and earn even more money. Once your account hits $10 you can request a payout via PayPal, Venmo, or you can purchase gift cards from Best Buy, Amazon, Starbucks, Sephora, Walmart, or others. Ibotta has been featured on Mashable, Good Morning America, and Business Insider and it is available for both Android and Apple operating systems. Ibotta has a customer rating of 4.5 stars.

4. Receipt Hog

With Receipt Hog you can earn virtual coins simply by snapping pictures of your receipts. The virtual coins you earn can be traded in for cash via PayPal or for Amazon gift cards. The information that Receipt Hog collects is used for market research. You can submit up to 20 receipts per week and it takes 1,000 virtual coins to earn $5. You can earn additional coins by referring friends and taking mini surveys. This app is available for both Android and Apple operating systems and it has a customer rating of 4.5 stars.

5. SavingStar

With SavingStar you can earn cash-back online and at the grocery store. To redeem grocery rebates download the smartphone app and snap a picture of your receipt. To earn money online, log in through their cash mall, shop at specified retailers, and you’ll earn cash-back on purchases. Once your account hits the $5 mark you can request a payout via direct deposit, PayPal, Upromise or you can purchase Starbucks, iTunes, or AMC Theatres gift cards. SavingStar is available for both Android and Apple operating systems and it has a customer rating of 4 stars.

6. Shopkick

This is by far my favorite app … it’s just so darn fun! Download it to your Apple or Android smartphone and open it up when you walk into your favorite stores (on their list) and you’ll instantly earn kicks. Scan specified bar codes on products once you’re in the store to earn even more kicks. Link up your credit card, browse through lookbooks, and refer your friends to earn even more kicks. Kicks can be traded in for gift cards from Target, Old Navy, Starbucks, Tiffany, and lots more. Shopkick has been featured on The Huffington Post, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal and it has a customer rating of 4 stars.

There are other smartphone apps that will pay you for shopping, but these are the ones that I use and recommend. If you use one that is not on this list – feel free to drop a note in the comment section so others can check it out.

Cash-Back Credit Card:

7. Chase Freedom Card

A word of caution here. You should ONLY use this method if you can pay off your credit card balance each month. If you can’t do that – DO NOT use this method, as you’ll accumulate costly debt with interest.

Every month, I use my credit card to purchase EVERYTHING – from groceries and gas to our cell phone bills, doctor bills, and everything else in between. For each dollar that is spent – I earn 1 point and it takes 100 points to equal $1. While this doesn’t seem like a lot of money, it can be quite the payday when you put everything on your credit card and you only cash out a couple of times a year. Depending on which credit card you have, they may have time periods where you can earn double or triple points on certain items, like gas, groceries, or travel – so they can add up quickly. Remember at the end of each month pay off your balance in full — this way you never pay interest fees.

If you want to check out the credit card that I’m using, it’s the Chase Freedom Card. With this card, you can earn up to $500 cash back per year. And if you sign up via my referral link, you can earn an extra $150.00 bonus after you’re approved and spend $500 on purchases in the first three months from account opening.

Cash-Back Websites:

8. Ebates

When I first heard of cash-back websites — I thought they were a scam. But after trying Ebates firsthand, I can tell you that is 100% legit. In fact, I use Ebates for all my online shopping. If you can earn 2% – 25% cash-back on your purchases, why not? To use this method of making money, signup for an account, and when you shop online login to their portal. Once you’re logged in, find the store you want to shop at, click on the link, and then do your shopping. Ebates will record your transaction and pay you cash via PayPal or check quarterly. Ebates also offers cash referral bonuses for referring friends and family to the platform. While there are numerous cash-back sites to choose from, my preference is Ebates. It’s been around since 1998, they have over 1,700 online stores in their directory, and they have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

Earn Referral Credits:

9. ThredUp

Every season we go through our closets and purge items that no longer fit. In the past, I’ve gone around town and tried to sell these items to consignment shops. And while I’ve made some money doing this there are two major problems. One, the time commitment it takes to drive, visit, and have them sort through my items and two, often they don’t accept my items or the payout is extremely low. This is why I love ThredUp! First, they send you a FREE bag to send your clothes in – so it doesn’t take up anytime at all. You just stuff your items into the bag, send it off, and they do the rest. Now, the payouts are similar to what you’d make at a consignment store – but I do find they accept more items than consignment shops and they do accept off-season items.

Now, the money that I make from ThredUp – we turn around and use it to buy new-to-me clothing from the site. Which every item I’ve ever purchased from them looks new! Here’s the really cool thing, if you use this referral code, you’ll get $10 to spend on ThredUp, and I’ll earn a $10 credit too. And once you sign up — you too can offer your friends the same deal. Not only that – they almost always have coupon codes listed on the top of their website giving you another 10, 20, or even 50 percent off.

10. Stitch Fix

Stitch Fix not only has a referral program, but it’s a personalized shopping service that sends you five hand-picked clothing/fashion items, either monthly or whenever you request a fix. Using Stitch Fix is not only fun and exciting, but it saves me oodles of time! I tell the stylist what I’m looking for and they send me five clothing items to try on in the comfort of my home. If I don’t like anything, I send the items back in a pre-paid envelope that comes with each fix. What I do like, I keep, and then they charge me for it – easy peasy! Not only do I use Stitch Fix, but I’ve turned many of my close friends on to them too! Now for the referral part. For each person you refer to the program that signs up for a fix — you’ll earn a $25 Stitch Fix Credit that can be used on future fixes, awesome!

11. Zulily

The other referral site I use is Zulily. They are a daily deal site that sells adorable discounted clothing, baby gear, toys, and home goods. The deals you can score are AMAZING! Like ThredUp you can earn a $15 referral credit when a friend signs up and purchases something through your referral link. When all my friends were having babies — I sent them to Zulily, they have super cute maternity clothes, baby clothes, and unique gift items. Again there are other companies that offer referral credit programs – but these are ones that I’ve personally used and can vouch for their legitimacy.

The last thing I do when I’m shopping is I look for additional discount codes and coupons on RetailMeNot. While this doesn’t make me money – it saves me a TON of money. Just search for the store you’re shopping at and more often than not there will be a discount code that you can use.

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