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Home > Autobiographical Stories, New York City, Reviews > Swagbucks vs. Ibotta: Two Cash-back Shopping Programs for Beer Money

Swagbucks vs. Ibotta: Two Cash-back Shopping Programs for Beer Money

I first heard the term “beer money” on https://www.reddit.com/r/beermoney/ .

/r/beermoney is a community for people to discuss mostly online money-making opportunities (some exceptions are allowed). You shouldn’t expect to make a living, but it’s possible to make extra cash on the side for your habits/needs.”

As a cash-strapped individual, I was on the lookout for some non-scam extra ways to make some money. After reviewing all the options including: Swagbucks, Amazon Mechanical Turks, and InstaGC, I decided on the seemingly most popular one, Swagbucks.

Swagbucks

 

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I have been using Swagbucks for a couple years now and have earned a couple hundred dollars. These were deposited into my PayPal account at $25 intervals with my earnings averaging about $20 a month when I consistently used the service. It has been a serious grind however; making a couple extra dollars is far easier to do with a regular job than with Swagbucks.

Swagbucks’ model revolves around users doing various online tasks and also getting points for online purchases. Each task or purchase is worth a certain amount of points or “Swagbucks” (SB). You can then redeem your SB for Paypal deposits or gift cards.

The main task I do on the site is taking surveys. Surveys are similar to an online focus group. You fill out profile information about yourself—such as age, gender, and income, and Swagbucks will match you to appropriate surveys, usually about products or services that you use frequently. The number of SB you get will vary depending on the survey. Longer surveys are normally worth more. Surveys can be tedious at times (I often find myself answering 50 variations of the same exact question.), but some of them will genuinely match your interests and you receive the credit automatically at the end of the survey.

The other way to earn SB is through cash-back on online purchases. They offer a small % back on many popular retailers such as Macy’s, Amazon, Old Navy, and Sephora. All you have to do is click on the website through the Swagbucks website and make the purchase through there. There is about a month waiting period for the SB to credit, probably to make sure you don’t return the purchase, and they also have help tickets available for people who have trouble getting credit for their purchase.

Sometimes Swagbucks also offers a fixed amount of SB for certain kinds of purchases. I have previously seen them offer several hundred SB for purchases for popular products from brands such as Proactiv, Dollar Shave Club, and Audible.

If I’m short a few points for the minimum payout of SB, I’ll either watch videos (They offer small amounts of SB for watching a set of videos.) or do an “offer” where I give my e-mail to a mailing list in exchange for a small amount of SB. The e-mail has to match the e-mail on your Swagbucks account so I use my secondary spam account for my Swagbucksing. These are my least favorite Swagbucks activities because they pay so low, and I only do them if I really need them.

I’ve also used Swagbucks’ main competitor, InstaGC. They are very similar to Swagbucks to the point where I’ve even seen the same surveys on each site. InstaGC’s main benefit is their gift card payout is much lower than Swagbucks’ minimum payout. You can get 100 points for $1 on Amazon on InstaGC as opposed to 2500 SB for a $25 Amazon on Swagbucks. They do offer PayPal, but you must redeem $50+ in other cash rewards or gift cards in order to gain PayPal access. I haven’t earned this much yet.

Another thing about InstaGC is I can’t use my VPN with it—I get an error message and the site is blocked. This is only a mild annoyance however. I mostly don’t use InstaGC anymore because of its redundancies with Swagbucks.

Ibotta

 

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Ibotta is an app you use with your smartphone. I first heard about Ibotta through a friend. She told me it was a cash-back program and eagerly sent me a referral link via text. The text said I could get $10 for joining.

I thought a straight cash-back program was too good to be true so I looked at the stipulations. Sure enough, there were a few catches with Ibotta.

The first thing I noticed is there was a $20 minimum payout for PayPal. (They also offer gift cards, but I’ll probably focus on the money.) Then I looked at what kinds of products they offered cash-back on. They did have popular retailers such as CVS, Duane Reade, and Walmart, but they only offered the cash-back on certain items. You also have to watch an ad or do a short task to unlock the items. There were a couple hundred items advertised at my local pharmacies.

I also didn’t just get $10 free for joining. I had to make my first purchase within 10 days of signing up. So, wanting my $10, I trekked over to my local Rite Aid and looked for one of the items on the list—a SinfulColors brand nail polish that credits for 25 cents. Not a big credit, but I use that brand of nail polish anyway. I look for it everywhere; apparently they don’t carry it. I go to the other Rite Aid, which is just up the street. They have a bigger selection of nail polish. I could have sworn I saw SinfulColors there before but they don’t have it anymore either.

I decide to buy a Protein Powerbar that credits for $1 and sells for $2.75. It’s not until I buy the Powerbar and try to credit it that it says it actually requires you buy two Powerbars. I also just can’t buy another because they both need to be on the same receipt. I eat the Powerbar and decide it’s not worth buying more of them.

I then go to the households aisle and try to find Rubbermaid Freshworks Produce Saver tupperwear which credits for $2. They don’t carry this at RiteAid either. I get frustrated, think maybe it’s just this store, and head to CVS instead.

I look for the tupperwear at CVS but they don’t carry it there. I then look for Seventh Generation brand laundry detergent and dish soap. They don’t have either one of them. I find a Flintstones Gummy Vitamin bottle that credits for $1, but only the large-size bottle credits, it costs $17, and I don’t want to spend that much. I eventually get a $7 bottle of ZzzQuil that credits $1. I purchase it, scan my barcode and receipt with my phone, and the dollar credits to my account in an hour. I also finally get my $10 joining bonus.

I looked at the other ways to make money on Ibotta. The clothing stores had a lot of offers around $5 on a $50 purchase. So it’s really not that much more than what Swagbucks offers or common credit card cash-back offers.

I haven’t hit my minimum amount to cash out yet, and considering the limitations of the app, it may take a few more weeks before I get my beer money. (I don’t live near any major grocery stores, so I’m limited to the pharmacy options.) I just hope they don’t raise the minimum while I’m making progress. I Googled and apparently the minimum payout used to to be $5, so it appears they can arbitrarily change the program whenever they want.

My final advice on Ibotta: Use it on things you were going to buy anyway, but be careful you don’t end up buying things you don’t need.

If you would like to join Swagbucks use my referral link here: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/scandalousmuffin

If you would like to join Ibotta use my referral link here: https://ibotta.com/r/kgdorsl

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  1. AbsentElemental
    August 16, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    I’ve used Ibotta for quite some time. Over the lifetime of having the app, I’ve made about $90 back in coupon rebates. There’s not a lot I want to buy that they have on their app, so I’m relegated to making somewhere between $0.25 and $0.75 per grocery trip. It adds up over time, however it took a very long time for me to get there.

    • August 16, 2016 at 8:00 pm

      Yeah, their item limitations seem to be the biggest downfall of the app. I was also frustrated that the products they did have didn’t seem to be in the stores.

      • AbsentElemental
        August 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm

        About 50% of their items that were “on sale” in my local grocery store aren’t even carried by the store closest to me. Couple that with the fact that I don’t drink and don’t have kids, and all I can really save on is milk and pop.

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