Money-Making Apps: What You Need to Know

Is boosting your income on your to-do list? If so, you can start a side hustle or angle for a better a job. But, there may be an easier way to make a few extra bucks: money-making apps.

“While money-making and cash back apps can’t replace your 9 to 5, they’re a great way to earn some change to tuck away for a rainy day,” says Joy Hearn, founder of deal site Cards and Clips.

Indeed, money-making apps can put cash in your wallet. That’s money you can use to pad your savings account or pay off debt. Yet, you may be confused about what these apps do or which ones you might want to try, right? Well, we’ve got the details here, along with tips on how to leverage money-making apps. To learn more, read on.

How Money-Making Apps Work

The basic premise of money-making apps is that they allow you to earn a percentage of what you spend as cash back. You link your debit or credit card to the app, spend at partner merchants and cash back rewards are credited to your app account.

You’re free to use the cash back you’ve earned however you want. And you can double up on rewards if you’re also earning cash back from your linked debit or credit card.

What makes each money-making app and website different is the amount of cash back you can earn, where you can earn it and how that cash is paid out. Some of the most popular money-making apps include:

With Dosh, you can earn up to 10% cash back automatically when you pay with a linked debit or credit card at more than 1,000 stores and restaurants. You can also snag an extra five dollars each time you refer a friend to Dosh and they sign up for an account using your referral link. You can transfer the money you’ve made to your bank account, PayPal account or donate it to charity.

Lushdollar founder Tom Nathaniel likes Dosh because it’s a set-it-and-forget-it way to earn cash back.

“While I could check out which merchants give me cash back, I just look at it as a bonus if my purchase triggers a reward. Since you just add your credit card, the app always knows what you’re buying,” says Nathaniel.

Marc Andre, personal finance blogger at VitalDollar.com says Ebates is his money-making app of choice. Ebates offers up to 40% cash back at more than 2,500 partner retailers. Besides the app, you can also use the Ebates browser extension to make money from your desktop.

“When you’re visiting a website that participates with Ebates you’ll be notified and all you need to do is click on a button in the notification so Ebates can track your purchases. There have been many times when I wasn’t even thinking about getting cash back but the alert from the browser extension reminded me of it,” says Andre.

Another great feature: Ebates automatically searches for coupon codes to help you find even more savings when you shop.

Like Ebates, TopCashback.com is a money-making app that also has a downloadable browser extension. It also features one of the largest merchant networks, with over 4,400 partner businesses.

Hearn at Cards and Clips is partial to Shopkick and Checkpoints, both of which reward you with cash instantly just for walking into stores or browsing retailers online. The difference is that with these apps, you’re earning gift cards instead of cold hard cash. But, the gift card selection includes retailers like Target, Amazon and Starbucks – which can come in handy if you regularly spend with these brands.

Using Money-Making Apps Wisely

Cash back apps and websites can put money in your pocket fairly easily, but there are a few rules to keep in mind as you use them.

1. Set realistic expectations for what you can earn.

Don’t think of money-making apps as a way to get rich quick.

“I think some people download these apps expecting hundreds of dollars. As long as you go in knowing you’ll make a few bucks, they’re fun to use,” Nathaniel says.

2. Don’t try to game the system.

It sounds simple but pay attention to the rules set down by an app for making money. For example, Hearn says that in her experience, survey apps tend to have explicit rules about misuse.

“If they find you’ve created multiple accounts and can track it back to your specific IP address, you can be banned from using the app. Or, if they feel you deliberately raced through a survey to earn money, your account can be terminated,” says Hearn.

Bottom line? “It’s always best to follow instructions and do exactly what an app requires so you can earn your payout,” she says.

3. Be selective.

Deciding which money-making apps to use partly depends on your spending habits, says VitalDollar’s Andre.

Checkout51 and Ibotta, for instance, are designed for earning money on groceries while other money-making apps cover restaurants or major retail brands.

“There are so many different cash back apps that you really can’t use them all effectively. My best advice is to pick a few and stick with those,” says Andre.

4. Don’t let apps dictate buying decisions.

When using money-making apps, it’s easy to get caught up in earning cash. So easy, in fact, that you might end up overspending just to chase down a few extra dollars.

“You have to keep it in perspective,” says Andre.

“Getting 10% cash back on a purchase that you need to make anyway is great. But making a purchase that you don’t need just to get 10% cash back is not wise,” he says.

In other words, keep your spending habits firmly in sight. Getting cash back is great but not if it means blowing your budget.

A Penny Saved Is a Penny Earned

When you’re earning extra cash with these apps, think about what you plan to do with it. Money-making apps can turn into money-saving apps if you’re using those dollars and cents to grow your emergency fund or save up for other goals. Plus, it’s motivating to watch the cash from mobile payment apps pile into a savings account. Are you ready to give money-making apps a try?

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