Ibotta App Review 2018: Does Ibotta Actually Work?

Ibotta App Review 2018: Does Ibotta Actually Work?

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Ibotta…

Ibotta who?

Ibotta bunch of groceries and earned cash back!

I know… my publisher hated this pun too!

It’s awful.

I get it.

But I bet you like saving money...

Trust me, you’ll want to stick around and hear all about Ibotta then.

For starters…

What is Ibotta?

How does Ibotta work?

Are there any deals, promo codes, etc?

Is Ibotta legit?

Why am I capitalizing Ibotta?

So let’s get down to business, shall we? 

Look no further that yours truly to get all of your questions answered with my honest Ibotta review.

What is Ibotta?

Ibotta is a website that takes coupon clipping to the next level.

A cyber level, if you will. 

Ibotta’s premise, and its promise, is to allow you to earn cash back on items you purchase regularly. 

Things like milk, eggs, bread, butter, cheese, razors, toothpaste, toilet paper… even liquor. 

Yes, liquor.

It also offers discounts (typically ranging from 2% - 5% back) for shopping online at their partner stores.

You can also link a loyalty card from an Ibotta preferred partner store to your account, and it will track your eligible purchases for you.  Sadly, the full list of partner stores is not readily available… Ibotta keeps this very hush hush.

Basically, if a loyalty card prompt doesn’t show up next to the retailer on the app, it is not a preferred partner.

That being said, the Ibotta blog page offers info and email support, where you can reach out and ask any questions.

Finally, you can earn even more bonuses for things like “teamwork” and “friend referrals”, which you should check out if you’re feeling particularly motivated.  

I did try and send referral invites out via Facebook, but didn’t have time to try and form an earnings team. 

Sounds pretty good so far, right?

So it must cost something… a membership fee, perhaps?

Nope...

It’s free.

But…

And there is always a but…

Ibotta requires you to download an app (to your smartphone or tablet) in order to take advantage of its offers.

Ah ha!

Now, this probably isn’t a problem for most of you.

After all, if you’re reading this article, you’re likely doing so on a mobile device or computer.

And you likely have a way to download the app.

No big deal.

However, if you are the exception... as in, you either have no way or no interest in downloading the app, you should stop reading now.

I won’t waste your time.

Ibotta isn’t for you.

Ibotta is for the tech savvy, information highway surfing, “cyber junkie” types who love a good deal when they see one.

Got it?

Good.

If you’re still with me, we’ll move on to the hows and whats of it.

How does Ibotta work?

So once you sign up for an Ibotta account, it will ask you to select your favorites from a list of supported retailers… both brick and mortar, as well as online.

You will then need to download the app in order to take advantage of any offers.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review.

Straight out of the gate, they entice you to start spending by offering bonuses for hitting target levels.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

For example, I was offered a $10 cash back bonus once I hit $10 in earnings.

I was also offered an additional $5 cash back bonus for mobile shopping with an online partner (such as Amazon, American Eagle, Booking.com, etc…).

Sounds easy enough.

But is it?

Well…

Yes, it’s easy but

Mobile shopping has to be done directly through the Ibotta app!

If you click on one of the mobile shopping links via Ibotta,  it will bring up the retailer’s current offer. For instance, I went to the booking.com icon and clicked to unveil a 4% cash back on bookings.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

From there, I was automatically redirected to booking.com’s mobile page with Ibotta’s “4% cash back” displayed in green on the bottom right corner of my screen.

I use an android phone.

In case that matters.

Again, if you leave the supported Ibotta page, the discount will not apply.

Also, these bonus offers (like the 10% and 5% I was given), do expire. Typically within days.

They also recirculate new ones all of the time, so it’s not the end of the world.

Ibotta wants to keep you interested.

And I was interested.

As a mother of four, I am always looking for ways to save our family money. I am also big on convenience.

Enter amazon.com.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

I’m a fan.

I am also a happy Amazon Prime member for a few years now... even have the Amazon Visa through chase. 

So when I saw amazon.com was an online partner with Ibotta, I was psyched! Thought, “what could be better than doubling my rewards?”

Well…

But…

I told you there is always a but.

The amazon.com offers through Ibotta (and there are many) are not all valid if you’re a current prime member.

No double-dipping folks!

I guess it’s fair.

Still, it was a wee bit of a letdown for me.

But…

Wink.

I’m over it.

After all, there is life after amazon.com (via Ibotta, that is).

In fact, the bulk of my spending these days is spent in the grocery or big box stores. Gas is another big expense for us, running the kids all over creation for their various activities.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

With that being said, I was more enticed with those kinds of offers.

So once I selected my favorite stores, I went click happy on offers that best suited my family.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

50-cents off this... 25-cents off that… $3.00 off vodka.

Sold!

Although it took some work… some time. 

After every offer I accepted, a screen popped up asking me questions. Questions about things such as:

  • Household income
  • Ethnicity
  • Spending habits
  • question-circle
    Education level
  • question-circle
    Extra curricular activities
  • question-circle
    How many people in the home
  • question-circle
    The brand of products I purchased
Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

In two cases, a promotional product video or add popped up

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

Another time, it was a recipe.

I’ll be honest… I’m not a big fan of putting my personal information out there unless it’s absolutely necessary.

And so I think Ibotta may lose a few people here.

I did it for research purposes, albeit utilizing false information. It had to be done to accept the offers.

While I’m sure the questions have to do with an algorithm Ibotta uses to offer its shoppers deals that are specific to their needs and interests… I still found it a bit unsettling.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

Ok.

Moving on…

Once my offers were selected, I went shopping with my youngest daughter. 

I kept the app open and worked off my list. 

In addition to the fine print associated with each offer, which I did read beforehand, the app offers a “scan product” feature that you can utilize in store to make sure you are buying the proper item associated with the offer. 

The deal is very specific when it comes to things like product size, quantity, flavors, exclusions, etc… similar to manufacturer’s coupons.

Use the scanner.

I implore you to use the scan feature.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

It will add a few minutes to your shopping trip... but I did not use it the first time and wound up buying two wrong items.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

A shampoo and conditioner.

At first, I was miffed.

I read and re-read the fine print carefully and still don’t quite understand; however, the barcode was invalid with the offer.

How did I find out, you ask?

Well…

Once I got home, I logged onto the Ibotta app to claim my offers and scan my receipt.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

This is a two-step process.

Ibotta requires that you scan the item barcode of every offer you are redeeming.

So, little tip... don’t put the groceries away first thing.

Unless you like extra work.

On the plus side, the scanner is very user friendly.  It’s able to focus and register the item within seconds, without much effort on your part.

It’s actually the best phone scanner I’ve used so far.  Others I’ve used typically have focus or stability issues.  Not the Ibotta scanner.

Everything was going fine, until I scanned the aforementioned invalid shampoo and conditioner bottles.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

Grrr!

Try as I might, the app kept telling me they were not the right items.

Ibotta does offer a customer support feature where you can plead your case on this. You can either email them, which has a 24-48 hour turnaround time… or you can take a picture of the front and back of the item in question via the app and send it to them.

Same turnaround time.

At the time, I was in between school pickups and didn’t feel it was worth the $50-cent savings to deal with it immediately.   I’d get back to it.

Maybe.

So I kept scanning.

The rest of the products were accepted and the receipt submitted.

Minutes later I received confirmation of receipt.

Within two hours, I received confirmation of $8.00 in cash back from my grocery store purchase. The money was in my account shortly after that.

You have three options for withdrawing the money:

  1. PayPal
  2. Venmo
  3. Merchant gift card

But, before you do…

You must have accumulated $20 before you can take any money out of your Ibotta account.

So with only $8 earned in my first week or so with Ibotta… I needed to shop some more.

And so I went to the liquor store.

We were having company.

We have four kids.

Don’t judge me.

There were good deals on vodka and beer, so I purchased the items from my offers and went home to scan.

The liquor store receipt, however, had two hiccups.

Yes, two.

Maybe someone is trying to tell me something?

The receipt was illegible.

I didn’t stare at it closely after the cashier handed it to me; however, I probably should have. The printed item name and product number had a white line through it and so the Ibotta app could not accept it.

And the thought of going to the store to get a reprint… um… no.

So my $2.00 cash back offer on a 12-pack of beer... gone.

Finally, while a second receipt from the same store did scan clearly, I received confirmation hours later from Ibotta that the store was not a recognized retailer.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

Although it was owned by the same grocery store I did my shopping at, it had a different name on the receipt and therefore not accepted.

$3.00 off vodka… gone.

Frustrating!

I mean, I could email customer service and see what comes of it… or I could let it go.

Decisions. Decisions.  

Since we were now talking about $5.50 versus 50-cents, I decided to give customer service a shout.

Email.

Whatever.

So I went to log back onto the app.

And this happened.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

The app was not working.

I actually uninstalled it and reinstalled it... noticed a note in the Google Play store that Ibotta was “fixing bugs”.

The uninstall worked for two minutes…

And then I got a server error.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

Finally, I tried to see where I could get on my laptop.

I logged on and went to “submit a request” in the top right corner.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review.

I filled out the form the best I could, many of the subcategories were a bit vague for my concerns “illegible receipt” and “incorrect vendor”.

Still, I did my best.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review.

And then we wait.

I’m not optimistic that this will work out in my favor, but I tried. 

For $5.50, I tried.

Ibotta Referral Codes

If you google, they will come.

But you do have to look for them.

There are bloggers and websites that claim to offer promo codes to maximize your Ibotta experience.

Some are legit.

Some I’d be a little weary of.

It seems that some of the supposed “promo codes” are existing Ibotta users trying to get you to join their team…  or else they want you to use their personally assigned “friend” referral code so they can reap the rewards.

Honestly, I found the best way to earn and learn about the latest promotions was on Ibotta’s Facebook page.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review.

That or directly on their website.

Is Ibotta Legit?

Yes.

Ibotta does deliver on its promise to pay you for qualifying purchases.

I have $8.00 in my account to prove it.

Learn how to save money shopping using the Ibotta app in this ultimate Ibotta app review. #budget #budgeting #cashflow #tips #apps

And Ibotta seems to be rather popular.

While there are some competitors out there, and similar apps, Ibotta doesn’t seem to be struggling.

And it generates a good amount of buzz from its supporters.

As with anything, though, it all comes down to personal preference. 

Blue Apron or Hello Fresh?

Target or WalMart?

Honda or Hondai?

I, for example, love the Ibotta scanner.

I mentioned that.

But…

I’ve also had a few hiccups along my journey thus far.

  • The unaccepted products
  • The illegible receipt
  • The questionable store affiliation

Regardless of what happens, though, we live and learn.

And I can share my advice. 

  1. Scan every item in-store to avoid any surprises.
  2. Check your receipts for legibility and ask cashier to reprint on the spot if anything is unclear.
  3. Don’t assume anything. If the “exact” store name matching the offer is not visible on the top of the receipt you are submitting, it will likely not be accepted.
  4. Read the fine print of each offer.

Final Thoughts on Ibotta

Ibotta is based in Colorado and has been around for about 7 years.

Similar companies like Ebates and Swagbucks for significantly longer.

Partnerships is key for these types of businesses to succeed… and is also vital when it comes down to the consumer’s choice as to which one to go with.

Online partnerships (such as ticketmaster, VRBO, sephora.com) are less geographically relevant. You can shop online from most any part of the world at those stores.

The storefronts are where you gain or lose potential customers.

In my case, Ibotta had quite a few larger retailers relevant to the New York Metro Area.

  • Wegmans
  • Wawa
  • Walgreens
  • WalMart
  • Target
  • Best Buy
  • CVS

The liquor stores, clearly, were lacking in my neck of the woods.

Also, the restaurants and bars.

Oh, didn’t I mention that Ibotta offers coupons at select restaurants and bars as well? Nothing showed up for my postal zip code, so I can’t really speak to it.

But... if it’s in your area, go for it!  

Lucky duck!

So let’s break it down, shall we?

Ibotta Pros

  • No fee to join
  • Quick turn around on approved earnings
  • Online shopping partnerships
  • thumbs-up
    Ease of online shopping via the app
  • thumbs-up
    Local grocery, convenience store and pharmacy selection is vast
  • thumbs-up
    Ease of withdrawing your earnings (paypal, venmo, gift card), no fees
  • thumbs-up
    The barcode and receipt scanner
  • thumbs-up
    Earn money on things you want or need anyway
  • thumbs-up
    No coupons to clip and carry

Ibotta Cons

  • The lack of certain features, loyalty card program or certain partnerships in the NY Metro Area
  • No online chat or customer service phone number available for immediate resolution of issues
  • The added time spent having to scan everything from the store
  • thumbs-down
    The personal questions/surveys during the offer selection process
  • thumbs-down
    The bugs and glitches in the app (which may have been recent and/or an isolated incident at the time this article was written)

My verdict?

Ibotta is, no doubt, a contender among similar apps when it comes to saving yourself or your family a couple of bucks every month.

You’ll get out of it what you put in.

For my family of 6, who does try and follow a budget, it has great potential… especially given I can earn money back, simply by scanning the items I planned on purchasing anyway.

That being said, you need to make the time to commit to it. 

I personally don’t have the time to casually stroll through the grocery store, scanning every eligible item.

By the time you click on the offer, then click the “scan barcode” option, that’s 15 seconds easy.  If the item is rejected, you need to read the offer again and try scanning other items. 

Say I have 10 offers to redeem, that could add an extra 5-10 minutes easy.

I just don’t have that kind of time.

For me, shopping usually consists of a borderline sprint through the store... weaving in and out of stray carts and indecisive shoppers. My list is broken down by item location to expedite things.

I don’t have time to dawdle or taste a sample of this week’s promotional item.

It’s a luxury I cannot afford as a busy mom.

So if the app won’t scan the item right away, chances are I’m leaving it for another day.

And then it may expire before I get back to it on my next trip.

It’s the risk I run for using the app.

And the life I’ve chosen as a stay-at-home mom who has 30 minutes to shop for the week in between pick up at pre-school and drop off at gymnastics.

But the reward is... I earn a few extra bucks.

Which can add up.

Like I said earlier, it’s a personal decision.

At the end of the day, in-store shopping with Ibotta is not for me.

But if you have children in school all day, or no children at all, and time isn’t a factor when you’re out and about running errands… Ibotta may just be what you’re looking for.

As for the online deals… now those have potential.

I do a good amount of shopping online... so if it’s as easy as getting there using the Ibotta app, why wouldn’t I take advantage of it?

Why wouldn’t you?

Zulily. Target. Gamestop. Gap. thredUp. Fandango.

And it all counts towards your $20 withdrawal minimum.

Go for it!

If you can get past a few extra steps, and a few logistics, I say Ibotta is worth the risk.

It costs nothing to try… except a little bit of your time. 

Besides, what’s the worst the can happen?

You hit your $20 minimum... withdraw it... and say “sayonara!”

It’s a no-risk obligation with high reward potential.

Now that’s just smart business… especially if saving money is a priority. 

Maybe you’re saving for college.

Maybe a vacation property.

Maybe you’re just trying to pay down debt.

Ibotta is offering you cash back on everyday purchases… so I’m going to quote the great Steve Miller Band here and say, “Take the money and run!”

Why not?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.

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