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Know the facts before downloading a cashback app

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If you’re looking for new ways to save money on your everyday purchases, the latest trend isn’t to cut coupons; these are cashback applications. Using apps like Rakuten and Ibotta, shoppers can earn rewards, such as cash or gift cards, after making a purchase. But before signing up for one or more of these apps, be sure to do your research.

Some cashback companies build relationships with stores and brands and receive a commission for purchases made through their apps and extensions. Then, they pass part of the commission on to the consumer. Other companies offer payments based on accumulated points, which consumers can earn by downloading receipts, purchasing specific products, or scanning products in-store.

Many of these browser apps and extensions are legitimate, but, as always, be careful when a business promises big rewards for minimal effort.

To find and use cashback apps safely, the Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips:

Get to know the company behind the app or browser extension. Before you install a refund program on your phone or browser, find out about the company that runs it. Search for the business on BBB.org to see its business rating and read consumer reviews and complaints.

Choose an app that matches your shopping habits. The way apps reward consumers can vary. Some offer coupons or price comparisons to help you find the best deal. Passive cashback apps simply run in the background on your phone and track your purchases, giving you discounts when you shop at partners. Other apps reward you for shopping at specific retailers. Think about your shopping habits when choosing an app or extension for the most savings.

Never pay a membership fee. You should never have to pay a fee to receive “free” money. Beware of any app that claims to be free but asks you to pay a fee to receive payment. Disagree, this could be a scam.

Read the fine print. Most apps require you to sign up for a free subscription before you can receive discounts. Read the fine print before committing, to make sure you understand what personal information you’ll need to share, how the app works, and how it counts your purchases and rewards.

Protect your privacy. Keeping in mind that since many refund apps require you to connect your credit card, debit card, or bank account to receive discounts and make purchases, it is essential to protect your data. Before you share your sensitive information with a business, the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission suggest reviewing the company’s privacy policy.

Find out how payments work. Nerd Wallet reminds consumers that payment methods can vary from business to business. Do a little research to find out the company’s payment frequency and threshold, as well as its payment method and qualifications.

Avoid unnecessary expenses. Take advantage of great deals on the products you need, but remember that making unnecessary purchases just because you’ll receive points or small cashback bonuses won’t save you money in the long run.

Additionally, when taking advantage of a product specific offer, The Penny Hoarder advises, “Read the fine print of the offer. Make sure you’re buying the right brand and quantity. If you buy the wrong size or flavor, for example, the offer may not be valid.

For more information, visit BBB.org to search online marketplace company profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review. Visit BBB Scam Tracker to find and report scams.

Kelvin Collins is President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor, which includes the Augusta-Aiken metro area. Direct questions or complaints about a specific business or charity to (800) 763-4222 or info@centralgeorgia.bbb.org.


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