We’ve scored another distinction, fellow Baby Boomers, having recently been recognized in the Wall Street Journal as “dominating” the online shopping market. “Older Americans are increasingly buying groceries — and just about everything else — on the Internet, and those over 65 are now the fastest-growing category of e-commerce shoppers.”
And while I’m very proud of my contribution to this fact (I’m pretty sure Amazon is about to name me “Top Shopper of Needless Stuff”), I’m confused about why this is a surprise.
Baby Boomers will be between the ages of 57-75 this year, 20-38 when Apple launched Macintosh in 1984, and 27-45 when the World Wide Web opened to the public. We’re not too old to have been a part of the technology revolution … Steve Jobs would be 66 if he were alive today. We have computers (granted we use laptops more than smartphones), we know how to access the Internet, we know how to buy things, we have more disposable income than younger generations, and since we’re older, we’re at greater risk for COVID-19 so we’re perfectly happy with social distancing.
Heck yes, I’m shopping online!
But here’s what’s interesting – although Baby Boomers are kind of known for our frugality, we are not the most deal-savvy generation when it comes to online shopping. The Millennials have us there!
Considering our growing propensity to shop online, shouldn’t we take a lesson from our Millennial mentors and start taking advantage of the many (!) sources for online savings?
And by many, I mean (way too) many!
There are hundreds (maybe billions – you know how I like to exaggerate!) of cashback apps, coupon apps, store apps, credit card points, and hybrid discount/cashback/points apps you can use when shopping online. It’s hard to choose which to use, and sometimes the discounts/cashback cancel each other out. So this won’t, by far, be a comprehensive list of each online savings source. Instead, I’ll share some apps that have good track records, unique features, and specific uses.
Before we get there, though, consider Mike Brady’s important lesson: … caveat emptor, Greg! You might want to:
- check out the privacy statements of any site on which you share your information (many like Capital One Shopping, Honey, etc.) keep track of the coupon codes that their members have successfully used. If you don’t like the idea of them tracking your online shopping and using that information to help other shoppers, you might want to pass.
- consider checking with the Better Business Bureau or a site like Trustpilot before you decide to use any of these apps.
- understand the payout period information (how much you can accumulate and when you’ll get “paid”). Will you receive a gift card? PayPal credit or credit to the site from which you’re purchasing? Check?
- determine if certain store departments (like the one you want) are excluded from the deal.
- find out if there’s a browser extension for the app so that your purchases are automatically be checked for savings.
- keep in mind that stores only let you use one cashback or reward program per purchase, so you have to choose between programs like Rakuten, Honey, Capital One Shopping and others.
Coupons vs. Cashback vs. Best Price
Another distinction necessary before we get to “the list” is that some sites offer coupons for a specific product (manufacturer’s coupon) or at a specific retailer stores coupon, some offer cash – a percentage of the purchase total before tax and after coupons, and some simply compare prices.
Ready to give it a whirl? Try something mainstream:
Capital One Shopping (formerly Wikibuy)
Capital One Shopping is a multi-talented browser extension and mobile app that saves you money when you shop by finding you the best deal for the product you’re purchasing. If there’s a better deal on another site, they’ll let you know, then you decide if you want to take advantage of that deal or if shipping, etc. makes it less valuable to you. You can also apply coupon codes that the app has found and earn rewards points that you can use to buy gift cards to popular stores like Groupon, eBay, or Staples.
They also offer cool things like price drop notifications, additional deals when you link your credit cards, universal searches allowing you to comparison shop for a specific product from their website, a barcode scanner to use when you’re in a store to compare prices from the best online and physical retailers to let you know if you’re getting a good deal, and synchronization of between your smartphone and web browser (using the same email and password for each device).
Purchased by PayPal in 2019 for a whopping $4 billion, Honey automatically searches and aggregates user data for the best coupon or promo code on 40,000+ sites. You can also earn rewards with the Honey Gold program and redeem your “Gold” for gift cards at your favorite stores.
Honey offers a price history tool that allows you to see how much an item’s price has gone up and down in the past. Based on past trends, you can choose to buy now or wait for another drop. And that’s made easier by their Droplist, which allows you to add items and be notified when there’s a price drop.
Rakuten (formerly Ebates)
Rakuten is one of the biggest coupon sites on the web with a valuation of $1 billion but its biggest draw is the cashback program (up to 40% in some cases) for purchases made through over 2500 other sites, even when shopping in-store. You’ll also find double and triple cashback events around the main holiday seasons.
To date, Rakuten’s 12 million members in the U.S. have earned over $1 billion in cash at their favorite stores.
Join more than 15 million members who earn on average $345 cashback a year and save money from all the top 4,400 online retailers with TopCashBack. Your rewards go directly to your bank account, PayPal, or gift cards.
Like most sites of this nature, the retailer gives TopCashBack a commission for sending you to their website and they pass 100% of this commission back to you.
Cashback should track to your “Earnings” page within seven days of your purchase, but it isn’t ready to withdraw until the retailer’s return policy is over to confirm your cashback. Once the retailer has paid TopCashBack their commission for your purchase, they’ll make your cashback ‘payable’ and ready to withdraw.
When you shop with ibotta, called the “new version of grocery store coupons,” you’ll earn cash whenever you shop, both online and in-store. ibotta pays you cash for your purchases and has paid out over $797 million in cash rewards to more than 35 million users since its founding in 2012.
You can also link store loyalty cards in the ibotta app and earn cash, enable “nearby store alerts” and be notified when you’re near an ibotta retailer, review deals on the app before you go shopping (or in the store if you forgot to review deals ahead of time) and browse available savings. Then, when you get home from the store, just pull the app back up, scan barcodes for eligible items, and take a photo of your receipt. After a short review, you’ll get the coupon value added to your account. Once you hit $20, you can withdraw to PayPal for cash.
I love this one because of its story. In 2001, Brad Wilson was a cash-strapped college student who couldn’t believe the markup on textbooks. After finding cheaper prices online, he taught himself to build a website and started Brad’s Deals. Now, he leads a team who find the best deals on the Internet and blog on the latest in smart shopping.
With the promise of “Consumers first, always,” when you buy one of the site’s deals or use one of its coupons, they receive a small commission on the sale that doesn’t affect the price you pay (like most apps of this sort). Because you’re never buying directly from Brad’s Deals, they have no access to your order history or credit card information.
Despite being the queen of Amazon shopping, I had no idea that they offered coupons! Nothing overly complicated here but remember these are only for Amazon’s own products, and some of the deals are for Amazon Prime customers only.
Or try something a little different:
Like the other programs, you can earn cash by purchasing products through the Swagbucks portal, but you can ALSO earn Swagbucks (called SBs) by participating in a variety of activities like taking surveys, watching videos, playing games, printing grocery coupons, and even just adding the browser extension. You can redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards, PayPal credits, cash, or donate them to one or more of the charities on their site (you choose which one). Swagbucks has been around since 2005 and has paid out more than $240 million in cash and free gift cards (they distribute more than 7000 per day).
You’ll find lots of tips to increase your Swagbucks earnings with a simple Google search but don’t expect big earnings. If you like the idea of earning a little green while you’re watching tv, go for it.
iConsumer, a cashback/coupon/discount service, wants to share its value with its users. When you purchase with iConsumer, you earn shares of their publicly traded stock (RWRDP) as well as whatever deal their 2,400 stores offer. Your first purchase earns you at least 100 shares, subsequent purchases increase your “portfolio value” as does the referral program.
If you want to become a shareholder in a publicly traded company just by purchasing something you were going to purchase anyway, iConsumer might be the choice for you. Granted, as of today the price per share is $0.12, so you might do better just buying it outright and starting a trend on reddit.
Coupons for a Cause
iGive.com and Coupon Cause are coupon sites that donate a portion of their commission to great causes.
iGive does this by donating your rebate (whatever the store has agreed upon with iGive) to the cause you choose from more than 60,000 from local to worldwide on their site. Your cause receives the full donation percentage (listed on the iGive site) of the purchase price, excluding tax, shipping, or handling. iGive also offers great deals such as free shipping and discounts at select online stores.
Coupon Cause gives shoppers deals and coupon codes available on the web, and they test the coupons to make sure they work. When you make a purchase with one of their coupons, they are paid a commission, part of which they then donate to various causes and charities around the world (including The National Alliance to End Homelessness, Feeding America, Charity: Water, City of Hope, CDC Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention). Unlike iGive, you cannot choose which charity will receive your donation, however they may offer you a better discount than iGive.
Confused about which to try? Start here:
Since you can often only use one cashback program per purchase, and they often cancel out a coupon deal, it’s often best to choose one that will be the most beneficial and stick with it to increase your savings and payout period. And the easiest way to tell which app will give you the best cashback rewards is with Cashback Monitor.
This site tracks cashback rates and miles and points earning rates. So before you make a purchase, head there to find out the best portal to use to maximize your savings and rewards.