Ibotta vs Ebates: How to Maximize Both! - Financial Analyst Insider

Ibotta vs Ebates: How to Maximize Both!

Ebates and Ibotta are two popular cashback websites which will give you a small rebate on your purchases.

In other words, you can get paid for buying things you would buy anyway. Many similar sites have sprung up in recent years, but these are two of the best-known options.  Both sites provide you with cash back, but the use slightly different methods.  This means that savvy shoppers can actually combine the benefits of both sites to earn extra cash back!

This article provides readers with an in depth picture of how each site works and compares the benefits and features of each platform.  Finally we will take you through a few simple examples for how to utilize both platforms to increase your savings.

How do cashback sites work? Are they legitimate?

Cashback sites work by taking a commission in exchange for routing traffic to a retail or box store. This works kind of like a commission – instead of a salesperson being compensated for selling you an item, some of that markup is passed on to you, and you get to keep a percentage of the cost of the item.

Anything from food items to electronics, clothing and household goods purchased online or in person can give you either cashback or manufacturer rebates. The exact amount you can get back varies, but is typically between 1% and 10% of your total purchase cost.  Keep in mind that cash back sites don’t provide cash back for your sales tax.

When I first learned about cash back web sites, I’ll admit I was a little bit skeptical.  It just seemed suspicious that you could earn free money for purchasing items you already planned to purchase.

Online Traffic Business Model

In 2017, online sales of physical goods was $446.8 billion.  That number is projected to nearly double to $700.5 billion by 2022.  Since consumers have the ability to purchase the same things at multiple retailers, this motivates retailers to find ways to encourage online traffic to purchase from their platform.

As a result, online retailers started to offer small commission to other web sites that referred traffic to their online store.  The more traffic that you refer, the larger potential commission you can earn.  Cash back web sites developed an innovative business model that actually shares a portion of their sales commission with consumers.

That means that when a shopper uses Ebates before purchasing a product, Ebates will receive a small commission.  Ebates will then keep a portion of that rebate for itself and share the remaining amount with the shopper who purchased a product through Ebates.

So cash back web sites are in fact a very legitimate business model that offers very real savings to consumers.  For example, Ebates was founded in 1999 and has generated over $1 billion of savings for its 10 million individual members.

Ibotta hasn’t been around as long as Ebates, but Ibotta has been growing rapidly since its launch in 2012.  Since that date, Ibotta’s app has been downloaded over 22 million times.  Ibotta has provided consumers with over $200 million of cash back rebates since 2012.

Is Participating in a Cashback Site Worth It?

Cashback sites are a lot like the digital-age equivalent of couponing. It does take time and effort to seek out the best deals, scan receipts, or go through a browser extension before you make every purchase.

Depending on the site, you may also need to complete tasks such as posting on your social media to get a cashback reward. These can be varying degrees of invasive or annoying to complete, but the money you can earn back does add up over time.

If you are diligent about using sites and tracking the best percentage deals, rebates can easily add up to over $1,000 a year just from buying things you would anyway. Most people don’t make that much, but even a few dollars here and there can make a big difference over time, especially when combined with traditional coupons and sales.

Which Site Should I Use?

There are a lot of these sites out there, and it can be difficult to decide which sites offer the highest cash back.  The main drawback of cash back web sites is that you can only pick one site to use for a given purchase.  That means if you make a purchase with Mr. Rebates and find out that Ebates is offering a higher cash back percentage at that same merchant, you miss out on a little bit of extra cash.

The other issue is that not all cash back sites have access to the same number of retailers.  Ideally you want to utilize a cash back site that has a relationship with online retailers that you will be using.

Ebates has relationships with over 2,500 individual online merchants.  Ibotta has partnerships with over 300 retailers located at over 500,000 locations around the country.  In other words, Ebates provides cash back for online purchases and Ibotta provides cash back for purchases at brick and mortar retailers.

This means you can utilize both options to combine cash back shopping at both traditional retailers and online purchases.

Before we talk about strategies to combine those shopping options, let’s take a closer look at Ibotta and Ebates.

What is Ibotta?

Ibotta was founded in 2012 and is based in Denver, Colorado.  Since the company’s founding, the Ibotta app has been downloaded over 22 million times and is the 16th most used app in the United States.

Ibotta partners with traditional retailers and brands at brick and mortar locations around the country.  Consumers have the ability to use Ibotta’s app to receive cash back and manufacturer rebates directly through their mobile app which is available on Apple and Android smart phones.

Ibotta’s smart phone app is easy to use and offers access to over 300 retailers.  Since its founding, Ibotta has provided consumers with $200 million of cash back savings through its mobile app.

How does Ibotta Make Money?

Ibotta has a slightly different business model than Ebates.  Instead of generating affiliate income from online retailers like Ebates, Ibotta provides real time consumer and market research to consumer brands.

For example, many rebates available in Ibotta require you to answer a question about your preferences or buying habits.  Answering the question takes a few seconds of your time, but the information is valuable to consumer products companies because it helps them customize their product offerings to be more appealing to consumers.

Because of the large size of Ibotta’s membership, consumer product companies are willing to pay Ibotta for the real time feedback offered by Ibotta’s members.

You could also think of Ibotta’s business model like a large, but real time focus group.  Consumer product companies used to pay focus group companies to spend a few hours of their time offering opinions about various products and their buying preferences.  This model was time consuming, expensive, and offered a much smaller sample size.

Ibotta offers a modern take on the focus group concept, but provides a larger sample size with the ability to receive real time information.  In return for their feedback and opinions, consumers get access to discounts for their favorite products and receive manufacturer rebates for new product launches.

How does Ibotta Work?

After opening the Ibotta app, you have the ability to search for retailers you use frequently and save them to your account as favorites.  Once you have selected your favorite retailers, the app’s home page will display current deals and coupons for various products sorted by retailer.

When you see a coupon or product you plan to buy, just click it to add it to your account.  Grocery stores tend to have the largest selection of product coupons.  You can sort the options by product category or you can just go through a long list of every available product for your grocery store.

After you select the various products you plan to purchase and save them into your Ibotta account, your selections will be saved into your account and available for use whenever you purchase those products.

Ibotta Preferred Partners

Ibotta retailers that link your store loyalty card

ShopRite’s profile screen on Ibotta which shows you how to link your loyalty card.

 

Any retailer that allows you to link your store loyalty card with Ibotta is considered a preferred retailer.  The easiest way to find out if a particular retailer is a preferred partner is to click the retailer’s profile in the Ibotta app.  When you click their profile you will see an option to connect your store loyalty card.

We’ve included a few large retailers that are preferred partners and allow you to link your store loyalty card:

  • Bi-Lo
  • ShopRite
  • Food Lion
  • Redner’s
  • Weis Markets
  • Wegmans
  • Rite Aid

There are many other preferred retailers on Ibotta’s platform and existing retailers regularly add the additional functionality.

Available Ibotta Stores

Ibotta focuses on brick and mortar stores, though it does support some online purchases.  Retailers with an online purchase option have a small phone icon on the top right of their profile.

Ibotta’s platform includes a variety of the top retailers around the country.  These retailers offer the ability to upload your receipts to Ibotta after you purchase an item saved in your account.  We’ve highlighted a handful of the most popular retailers below:

  • Best Buy
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Dollar General

How to Redeem Coupons?

The best part about Ibotta is how easy it is to redeem your purchases.  You only need to spend a little time saving coupons into your account.  After that, your coupons will be available for use whenever you feel like shopping.  Just keep in mind that some coupons have an expiration date.

Ibotta provides you with two ways to redeem your coupons.  You can either upload a copy of your receipt to your phone or you can add your store loyalty card to Ibotta.  When you purchase a product from a store with your linked loyalty card, the purchase will be directly linked to your Ibotta account and you will receive instant credit for your purchase.

If you shopped with a regular retailer, you have to remember to save your receipt.  After you get home, you’ll need to scan the receipt into the Ibotta app.

upload your receipt to Ibotta

After you click the redeem button in the Ibotta app, you’ll see easy to follow instructions for how to upload your receipt.

Steps to Redeem with your Store Receipt

  1. Click on the Redeem button at the bottom of the Ibotta app.
  2. Choose the retailer you made your purchases.
  3. Click the continue button to automatically access your camera.
  4. Take a picture of your receipt.
  5. Sit back as Ibotta automatically scans the details and calculates your cash back.
  6. Your cash will be credited to your account within 48 hours.

Ibotta Cash Out Options

In order to take cash out of your Ibotta account, you need to have earned at least $20.  When you’ve reached this threshold, you have the option of transferring the cash to a Paypal account or to Venmo.  You can also redeem your cash for merchant giftcards.

Ibotta Deals and Bonuses

In addition to standard coupons and rebates, Ibotta offers a variety of bonuses linked to your account.  To check your available bonuses, click on your account at the bottom of the app and then click on bonuses.

Some of the current bonuses include:

  • $10 Money Maker: earn $10 when you redeem 18 coupons in the next 30 days.
  • $10 Gift: earn $10 when you 2 friends to use Ibotta.
  • Merchant Bonuses: Spent a certain amount of money and receive instant cash back.  You will see a long list of available merchants each with different cash back amounts.  These bonuses are on top of any individual coupons you redeem at those merchants.

Ibotta Referral and Promo Codes

Ibotta is currently offering a $10 Welcome Bonus to new members that sign up for Ibotta.

  • Click here for the $10 Welcome Bonus.

All new members are eligible for the Welcome Bonus after making their first coupon redemption through Ibotta.  The other benefit of signing up for a welcome bonus is that you automatically join a team.  When your combined team reaches certain redemption thresholds through Ibotta, all team members receive extra bonuses.

What is Ebates?

Ebates is exclusively for online shopping, but supports many more stores than Ibotta – over 2,000 retailers offer deals through the site. It works as a browser extension which you go through before making an online purchase – you won’t need to scan any receipts, but you will need to remember to check the site before buying.

You can also shop through the Ebates app itself and link your credit card to shop as normal. If you use an Ebates credit card, you’ll also get 3% back on qualifying purchases and 1% everywhere else.

The amount of cash back you’ll get back ranges widely depending on what you’re buying and from where – some rebates go as high as 40%, though the average is closer to 4% to 7%.

For more information on Ebates business model and strategies to maximize your cash back, you can also read our full review of Ebates.

How Often Does Ebates Pay?

The main downside of using Ebates is that they don’t pay out as frequently as Ibotta.  Ebates offers quarterly payments spread out over a calendar year.  Ibotta will add cash to your account within 48 hours and you can access the money within a few days using ACH payment with Paypal or Venmo.  Ebates will send you a check directly to your house in the mail.

Ebates Refer a Friend Bonus

Similar to Ibotta, Ebates offers a sign-up bonus for new customers.  However, Ebates offers a higher initial reward which is currently $25 for new members.

  • Click here for the $25 new member bonus.

Business Reputation

Ebates was one of the very first cashback sites, and this history makes a difference in both customer service and available support resources.

Ebates sports a Better Business Bureau rating of A+.  Ibotta has a strong reputation as well, but since they have a shorter history, they have a slightly lower Better Business Bureau rating of B.  Ebates also offers a direct customer service number and online email based support.  Ibotta’s customer support is online and email based.

Ebates & Ibotta Tricks and Hacks

Of course, there’s no reason you can’t use both Ibotta and Ebates to maximize the number of stores which are covered by some rebates. They can also both be combined with coupons and sales to further maximize savings.

One of the easiest ways to benefit is to pair the Ibotta merchant bonuses with your online purchases.  Ibotta’s merchant bonuses are linked to the number of redemptions made or by the number of redemptions at a particular merchant or retailer.  All you need to do is activate a coupon for a particular merchant and then use the Ebates shopping portal to shop directly at that merchant.

Afterwards, just upload your receipt to Ibotta and you’ll be able to get discounts from both Ibotta and Ebates.

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