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The app I used to earn $620 in three months - for nothing

Nicole uses the app to get cash back on everything she buys.

Call it an occupational hazard, but I love getting something for nothing. So, the rise of cashback apps and services made me more curious by the day.

Last year, I jumped in and trialed the ShopBack app, which has deals with more than 2,300 online stores and 1,800 physical ones. There are some things you need to know to make sure you actually get your cash back - and to get the maximum advertised amount - but in just a few short months, I have earned $620 in rebates for necessary spending. That’s, essentially, free money.

Compilation image of Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon with a background of what you can save money on with cashback apps - holidays, groceries, shopping and energy australia
Cashback apps are an easy way to save (or earn) money. (Source: Supplied/Getty) (Samantha Menzies)

Here’s what you need to know.

What you can earn with cashback apps

Cashback apps and sites are essentially the ‘middleman’ between you and a merchant. They approach merchants with a simple proposition: we will drive more customers to your site or store if you give them a small rebate. Of course, the apps ‘clip the ticket’ on the way back and take a commission.

It’s quite a genius setup and, used well, can help to boost your finances. When I signed on, I committed to three personal purchasing rules:

  1. I must only buy what I need or intend to buy, and not be persuaded by the cashback to spend extra

  2. I must only buy items through the cashback app that are also on sale

  3. I must only buy when the cashback is boosted

ShopBack is simply an app and site through which you connect to your merchant of choice. You must click through from the platform, and not close that tab, or the cashback won’t ‘track’ It will take you to the merchant’s regular site, so you can also access regular sales.

Also by Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon:

What ShopBack does is tell you about boosted cashback offers. For example, Chemist Warehouse might usually return 0.7 per cent to you but, on particular products on particular days, can pay up to 15 per cent.

My top tip - because the cost is so large - is that boosted cashback on hotel accommodation is particularly valuable. ShopBack has partnered with Expedia, wotif, hotels.com, booking.com and more.

What you need to know to make it work

When you click through to a merchant from ShopBack, you can further click through to ‘cashback info’ at the bottom of the screen. There’s also a browser extension available, so you don’t miss a cashback opportunity when you’re browsing.

To use ShopBack in physical stores, look out for a ShopBack QR code that will be displayed somewhere and scan it so you can pay with the ShopBack app. This especially works at food outlets. On the info or T&Cs page, you’ll be able to see any products that are excluded from cashback.

You also often can’t use any coupon codes or discounts additional to straight sales. So weigh up, in this case, whether you’ll save more by going directly to a merchant’s site and doing so.

You can buy gift cards on ShopBack and receive the specified cashback, which is often different to buying products. Just bear in mind you shouldn’t redeem them on ShopBack – usually using gift cards forfeit the cashback (the T&Cs will tell you). When I have vouchers, I instead transact through Qantas shopping.

Also, note whether the cashback is only available for the first transaction with a particular store. And, bear in mind with ShopBack, you may have to wait three months for the cash to land in your account, at which point you just transfer it out. That is to allow, they say, for any refunds or returned items. You also have the option, at this stage, to use your cashback for further purchases so no money comes out of your bank account.

The final thing to know about ShopBack is that it has partnered with Westpac. So, if you purchase using a Westpac card, there might be extra cashback available on the nattily named Westpac Wednesdays. Just check the caps.

Of course, there are other cashback apps out there, Cashrewards is probably Shopback’s largest competitor, for example, and can offer higher cashback with some merchants on some days. It also similarly ties up with a financial institution for extra discounts – in fact, they are part-owned by it: ANZ.

And there’s a very interesting new offering from what was formerly called Super Rewards. Just rebranded to GrowMyMoney, this now lets you pay your cash back straight into your mortgage, to dramatically reduce your overall interest.

Whatever service you use, for any spending you are going to make anyway, it pays to get savvy and get cashback at the same time.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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