Ibotta Review: Pros, Cons, and How the Grocery Cashback App Works

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Are you missing out on easy cash rewards? In this Ibotta review, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the shopping rewards app Ibotta, how it works, who it's best suited for, and how to earn more rewards using your Ibotta referral code.

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I’m a single woman with no kids.

I’m picky about the brands I buy, eat mostly organic, gluten-free, and dairy-free, and am terrible at planning my grocery shopping.

Even with all that in play, I earned $23 using Ibotta over the last three weeks, without changing my shopping habits.

At this rate, I’ll easily earn around $250 cashback this year using Ibotta.

By taking just a few minutes to pre-plan my grocery trips, scanning my receipt, and referring the occasional friend or family member to the app. I’m on pace to cover my Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify subscriptions each money with the cashback I earn from Ibotta.

If you have a family (which means probably a larger grocery bill than mine), are less picky about the types of food and brands you buy, and are willing to put in even the smallest amount of effort (like checking the deals in the app before you shop), you could possibly earn much more than that by using Ibotta.

What Is Ibotta?

Ibotta is a simple-to-use cashback platform. You can earn by shopping in store or online at participating retailers using the Ibotta app, website, or browser extension.

With the array of offers available — from groceries to travel, pet supplies, and even home and auto deals — there’s something for everyone on Ibotta. Some of their popular partner retailers include Whole Foods, Kroger, Target, Walmart, Instacart, Old Navy, American Eagle, and Uber.

Aside from your normal shopping, you can earn with Ibotta by purchasing gift cards, referring friends and family, and qualifying for bonuses when you redeem a certain number of offers within a given timeframe (e.g. earn a $10 bonus when you redeem 18 offers in a month).

You’ll also receive up to $20 in bonuses when you sign up with Ibotta and start redeeming offers.

Free Price Earn rewards for things you already buy.
DollarSprout Rating Easy to use and 300+ gift card options.

Ibotta is a cash back shopping app. Earn rewards when you shop at Target, Amazon, Kroger, and more. Visit stores in person or online, scan your receipt or link a store loyalty card, and Ibotta will credit your account within 24 hours. Exchange your earnings for free gift cards or have cash sent straight to your Venmo or PayPal account.

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Pros

  • Free to sign up and use
  • Earn rewards for shopping you already do
  • Easy to use
  • Don’t have to link your bank or credit cards
  • Extension makes it easy to get deals while shopping online

Cons

  • Have to claim deals ahead of time
  • Cash back only available on certain products
  • $20 minimum to redeem your rewards
  • Not able to link certain loyalty accounts

Related: 14 Best Ways to Save Money on Groceries

Is Ibotta Legit?

According to Ibotta’s website, they’ve paid out over $1 billion to more than 35 million users since the company’s inception in 2012. The app offers more than 1,500 deals at over 1,000 retailers.

I’ve tested a lot of cashback apps over the years, and, personally, Ibotta is one of my favorites, by far. But I’m only one user. Let’s see what the data says.

Looking at Ibotta’s Better Business Bureau profile shows that the company is accredited with a B rating. It appears they’ve had over 700 complaints in the last three years. However, all complaints are marked resolved, meaning the person who wrote the complaint verified that the issue was dealt with to their satisfaction.

It appears that the most common complaint is having an account deactivated and not being able to redeem previous earnings. According to Ibotta’s BBB responses, most, if not all, of the accounts in question violated their Terms of Use by creating multiple accounts with the same user information.

Still, Ibotta has a 4.8 rating from the Apple app store and a 4.4 rating from the Google Play store. The company has a combined 1.7 million reviews from both platforms and more than 10,000,000 installs on the Play store. One user said she’s gotten hundreds of dollars in savings, and another said she’s had no trouble using her rewards at restaurants or other retailers.

Based on publicly available data from Ibotta users, as well as my own personal experience, I’d say the company is legitimate and as safe to use as any other app of its kind.

Related: 22 Best Money-Making Apps to Earn Extra Cash

How Does Ibotta Work?

Ibotta offers five ways to earn: in-store shopping, online shopping, referrals, and bonuses.

In-Store Shopping

Ibotta makes in-store savings easy by allowing you the option to link your store loyalty account, scan receipts after you shop, or buy gift cards to spend later. You can also turn on notifications for Nearby Offer Alerts to stay in the loop about new offers in your area.

Link your store loyalty account

This is the most convenient way to shop in stores with Ibotta. From within your Ibotta account, all you have to do is find a store that offers account linking, click “Link account,” add offers you want from that store, and then shop as usual.

Once you check out, Ibotta will automatically scan through your purchases, match them with offers in your Ibotta account, and add the cashback to your total earnings.

If you have the Ibotta browser extension installed, you’ll also receive a pop-up notification whenever you visit a site that allows account linking. You can add your information straight from there and link your account with the click of a button.

🔍 Reviewer’s take: The only loyalty account I have linked with Ibotta so far is Target Circle.

I didn’t even realize I could link my account until I went to Target’s website to do some online shopping. Since I was already logged in, I got a pop-up from the Ibotta extension asking me to add my login information for my Target account.

Ibotta Target Circle Account Linking

Having my account linked to Ibotta eliminates the step that I most often forget: scanning my receipt after shopping.

However, my one complaint is that you still have to add offers in Ibotta before shopping. If you buy something that Ibotta has a deal on but didn’t add it in the app, then you won’t get the savings for that purchase.

I also found that Ibotta doesn’t allow loyalty account linking with all retailers. So even though I have a Kroger loyalty card, for example, I can’t link it to my Ibotta profile. That’s not a deal breaker for me, though, since I can still earn points for scanning my receipts.

Related: 74 Creative Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

Scan your receipts

The process is similar to linking your loyalty account: find the store you want to shop at in the Ibotta app, add the offers you want, and shop in store. The only difference is that you’ll need to take a picture of your receipt to receive your cashback.

🔍 Reviewer’s take: This is the main way I’ve used Ibotta so far since Kroger is my go-to for groceries and, as I mentioned before, I can’t link my store account with Ibotta.

I like to scroll through the app before I go grocery shopping. If I find a good deal, I’ll click the “+” to add it to my offers and use my final list of offers to plan the week’s meals. My favorite are the “any item” offers, where you can choose any brand of a certain item, like milk, bread, popcorn, single-serve coffee, etc.

Ibotta Adding OffersAdding offers to your account is usually a one-click process, but sometimes you’ll have to watch a short video (usually 30 seconds or less) before you can claim a deal.

Once you claim a deal, you’ll see a checkmark beside it.

Be sure to read the details of each deal before you go shopping. If you use a shopping list, write down how many of each item you need to buy to redeem the offer.

I made this mistake early on, not realizing that the oat milk on my grocery list was a BOGO (buy one, get one) deal. So I only bought one and when I scanned my receipt, I didn’t get the cashback I expected.

Each deal usually has a limit (typically 2 or 5) for how many times you can redeem that offer.

My main complaint with this method is that you have to remember to get a receipt and keep track of it long enough to scan it to your account.

This was an adjustment for me since I’m used to throwing my receipt away as I walk out the door or not taking one at all.

And even if I do get a receipt, there’s a 50% chance I lose it somewhere between the cash register and my kitchen.

Because of this, I’ve gotten into the habit of scanning my receipt as soon as I get to my car. It only takes a few seconds, and that way I don’t miss out on any cashback because of lost receipts.

However, I’m still crossing my fingers that Ibotta adds Kroger to their list of loyalty linking programs in the near future. I’d also like to see more diet-specific filters to help sort through store deals, like organic, gluten-free, etc.

Related: 11 Apps Like Ibotta to Save Money with Cashback

Buy gift cards

Ibotta’s gift card feature is pretty unique. From inside the app, you can purchase gift cards to over 130 retailers, including Starbucks, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s, Walmart, Uber, and Airbnb.

To purchase a gift card on Ibotta, you can either add a personal debit card or use your Ibotta earnings. Either way, you’ll get cashback.

If you’re buying the gift card for someone else, you can toggle the “This is a gift” option. On the next screen, you’ll choose how you want to send the gift card off. Whoever you send it to doesn’t need an Ibotta account to use the card.

🔍 Reviewer’s take: I’ll admit, I haven’t used this feature yet, but I have my eye on it for birthday gifts in the next couple of months.

I’m minorly annoyed that I can’t use my credit card to buy gift cards through Ibotta, but they’re not the only company with this policy. However, I like having the option to use my Ibotta earnings to pay.

I think buying gift cards through Ibotta is a great way to earn cashback if you’re buying it for someone else. If you’re buying the gift card for yourself, I would caution you to check if Ibotta has a better deal for shopping in-store or online with that retailer.

For example, I almost used my account balance to buy a gift card to Lowe’s since I need to make a trip there this week. But out of curiosity, I stopped to see if there was an in-store or online offer available. It turns out that Ibotta is currently offering 10% cashback for online purchases at Lowe’s, and my gift card would’ve gotten me just 2%.

Needless to say, I placed my order online.

My second qualm with Ibotta gift cards is that, while they have a good selection of stores to choose from, they don’t offer gift cards to some of the places I shop at the most with Ibotta, like Kroger and Target. I guess this makes sense because if they did, it would be easy to earn double cashback for buying a gift card through the app, then redeeming offers in-store.

But even with these minor complaints, I still think buying gift cards through Ibotta is a great way to get cashback, especially if you’re buying for someone else.

Online Shopping

If you’re more of an online shopper, or for deals and stores that aren’t in your area, Ibotta offers two options: shopping online with their browser extension or directly through the Ibotta app.

Shop online with the Ibotta browser extension

The Ibotta extension is available for Firefox and Chrome and works similarly to other cash-back apps. When you’re shopping on a site where they offer cashback, you’ll get a popup notification. Click the “activate” button to claim the deal and continue shopping as normal.

Ibotta American Eagle Browser Extension Deal

In about a week, you’ll see your cashback added your Ibotta account.

🔍 Reviewer’s take: If you’ve ever used a cash-back browser extension like Rakuten or Honey, Ibotta works essentially the same: see a popup, click activate, shop, earn.

However, after doing some extra-extensive research for this review, I’m concerned about the accuracy of Ibotta’s extension. I’ve used the extension for online shopping before, but I thought I’d try some new sites and click different buttons than I usually do to test the experience from all angles.

And I think I found a glitch in the matrix.

In my Ibotta account, Athleta is listed as a partner retailer offering 2% cashback:

Ibotta Athleta Deal

But when I went directly to Athleta’s website, I didn’t get a popup from Ibotta. So I clicked on the extension in my browser, and there’s no deal listed:

Ibotta Athleta No Deal

For reference, if there is a deal available that hasn’t been activated, you should see the same popup from the American Eagle picture in the previous section.

I submitted a request to Ibotta’s customer service to see why this is happening, but this makes me question how much cashback Ibotta browser extension users have missed out on because of this error.

Beyond this issue that I just so happened to stumble upon while writing this review, there are two things in the fine print to watch out for when shopping online with Ibotta:

  1. From the time you activate a deal, you have 45 minutes to check out before the deal expires. You can reactivate it, you just have to remember to do so.
  2. Items added to your cart before activating a deal won’t count toward your cashback. If you find a deal in the middle of shopping, you’ll have to remove the items in your cart, activate the deal, and add them back.

Ibotta Online Shopping 45 Minute Limit

I’ve always enjoyed the user experience of the Ibotta extension and find it a convenient way to earn cashback for shopping online. But you’ll want to double check the retailers section of Ibotta and make sure your deal is activated (and includes all the items in your cart) if you decide to use it.

Related: 7 Frugality Experts Share Their Best Hacks for Saving Money

Shop directly through the Ibotta app

If your laptop isn’t handy, you can shop online with Ibotta directly from the app.

Unlike the browser extension that pops up when you’ve landed on a site with a deal, you have to be more intentional shopping through the Ibotta app. That is, you have to know where you want to shop or browse through the available stores until you find a place you like.

When you choose the store you want, the website will open in Ibotta’s app, where you can shop like normal.

Ibotta Online Shopping In App🔍 Reviewer’s take: This is my least favorite (and least used) Ibotta shopping feature.

You’ve probably had the experience where you clicked on a link in Instagram and it opened the website in Instagram’s app. It’s a similar experience with shopping through the Ibotta app.

It would be nice if the store website opened in Safari or Chrome, or if you at least had that option. The current experience is a bit slow and clunky. I can’t imagine many Ibotta users shop this way. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Other Ways to Earn with Ibotta

Aside from your normal shopping, you can earn cash back with Ibotta by referring friends and completing bonuses.

Refer friends and family

Like many apps of its kind, you can earn for referring new users to Ibotta with your unique referral code. You can share your code via text, email, or social media straight from the app.

When your new recruits sign up with your code and submit their first receipt, you’ll both earn a $10 referral bonus.

Ibotta Referral Notification🔍 Reviewer’s take: It’s hard to complain about a referral program, and I think Ibotta’s is pretty generous. So far, I’ve sent my referral code to three people and successfully referred one person to the app.

The only problem I have so far is that there’s no way to track the people you refer. The only reason I even know I had a successful referral is because I got a notification for it saying “$10 has been added to your account — congratulations! Keep referring your friends and earn more cash than ever before.”

But it doesn’t show in my earnings history, and there’s no record that says which of the people I sent my link to actually signed up. I wish I had this information so I knew who to thank and who might need coaching through the process to complete their first deal.

Bonuses

Ibotta offers two types of bonuses: specific and non-specific. Specific bonuses are usually related to a single brand. For example, “Earn $0.50 when you redeem three offers from Chameleon Organic Coffee.” Non-specifc bonuses are typically time-bound, like “Redeem 15 offers of any kind this weekend and earn $1.”

You can see both types on the “Bonus” tab on the bottom menu of the app.

Ibotta Flash Bonus🔍 Reviewer’s take: Bonuses can offer a serious earnings boost and are a great option if you have particular brands you really like. You can plan your shopping around bonuses, but you’ll probably earn the occasional bonus without even trying. My first bonus was a complete surprise.

I was shopping in the middle of the week, redeemed a few offers, and noticed the next day I had $3 extra added to my account. Apparently there was a Flash bonus going on that I didn’t know about where if you redeemed three offers in three days, you got an extra $3.
That’s what I like most about Ibotta’s bonus feature: you don’t have to “sign up” for a bonus or add it to your account. You can just shop as usual and be surprised with some unexpected cashback.

I also like that Ibotta lists your “in progress” bonuses separately on the bonus tab and sends you a notification when you’ve started a bonus. I never would’ve known that Chameleon Organic Coffee was offering a bonus otherwise. Now I think I’ll go ahead and stock up on some more coffee and get that extra $0.50.

I’ve noticed some of the better bonuses tend to hit mid-week, so I try to watch out for those and grab them when I can.

Ibotta promo code

It’s hard to beat a good sign-up bonus, and that’s exactly what Ibotta offers. New users can earn Ibotta’s free $20 Welcome bonus simply by using our special partner link and redeeming select offers.

  • Welcome Bonus #1: Receive a $10 Welcome Bonus for redeeming an in-store offer (Any Brand and Any Receipt offers excluded).
  • Welcome Bonus #2: Receive a $5 Welcome Bonus for redeeming a Mobile Shopping offer.
  • Welcome Bonus #3: A secondary $5 Welcome Bonus for redeeming an in-store or Mobile Shopping offer.

Build out your team

Ibotta used to offer additional earnings through Ibotta Teamwork. Every member you referred would become part of your team, and you could unlock bonuses together.

However, as of 2/1/2022, Teamwork bonuses are no longer available on the Ibotta app.

Ibotta Review in Summary (The Verdict)

Every app has its issues, but I think with Ibotta, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s a great way to earn cashback for shopping that you’re probably already doing and especially shines with grocery and department stores.

Your favorite brands and items may not always have a deal, so the more willing you are to try new brands, the more money you’ll save. With over 240 online shopping deals and 2,000+ total retailers, odds are you’ll find a few offers you like.

It’s a little cumbersome having to find and add offers to your account before you shop. My hope is that, in the future, Ibotta finds a way to automate the process so you can link all your loyalty accounts, shop as normal (without telling them what deals you want beforehand), and they can match deals with your receipts. But even if that never happens, I’ll still keep using and recommending Ibotta.

Related: This Savings Pro Collected $830 from Ibotta and Rakuten Last Year. Here’s How She Did It

 
Author
Megan Robinson

Hi! I'm Megan. I'm a personal finance enthusiast on a mission to help millennial men and women understand and make more money. Along with writing and editing content, I work one-on-one with individuals as a financial and behavioral money coach.

2 comments
S King
S King

I tried Ibotta and did not have a good experience. I linked 2 grocers, one linked correctly but the other did not. OK. So I scanned and sent in my receipt for the grocer that did not auto-update my purchases. That did not work. I filled out the support request, and the process wanted me to provide the total savings amount for the items purchased.

(I really could not be accurate as some of the offers had expired, and I really didn’t know the exact amount of the rebate).

Then I was contacted by a support person and they wanted me to resubmit my receipt (already did that one) and then scan and submit the barcodes of all the items (and to detail the bonuses involved). I don’t understand why I should have to do all this work. I would not have to if their process worked properly. I canceled my account because it wasn’t worth the hassle.

S Mather
S Mather

I just check off every single item under my store listing, that way I don’t have to do a search on each item to see if it is listed in Ibotta. It automatically redeems every available item. This is a big time saver.

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