How to Earn Free Gift Cards and Cash While Barely Lifting a Finger

As long as you need to shop, there’s free money to be earned.
Last updated Mar 26, 2020 | By Lindsay Frankel
Similing woman sitting at cafe and using smartphone

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Imagine you are taking the trash out and you find a trail of gift cards leading to a giant tree sprouting $10 bills. What would you do with that kind of discovery?

Money may not grow on trees, but it’s about that easy to collect free gift cards — and even cash — without doing anything outside of your normal routine. Every time you shop for the things you need, there is an opportunity to earn gift cards or cash to buy the things you want.

Jump To

How to earn free gift cards and cash

There are several strategies you can use to get rewarded in gift cards or earn cash back when you shop. And the best part is, these opportunities require almost no effort on your part. Think of them like your generous uncle who always sent something of value in your birthday cards each year. Following these tips is as easy as running to the mailbox to get the card.

Use rewards apps and sites

Several rewards apps and sites actually pay you for shopping. Some require that you scan your receipts, while others don’t even require that you spend money in the stores you visit at all. Some pay you in gift cards, while others pay you in cash. What do they have in common? They’re all super easy to use and offer generous rewards.

Ibotta

With Ibotta, you can pay directly with the app to earn cash back instantly at over 30 retailers. Just enter your checkout amount in the app at qualifying retailers and present your gift card code to the cashier to earn up to 10% off instantly. It works at places like AMC, Sephora, Bed Bath & Beyond, and more.

You can also add offers to the Ibotta app to shop at more than 300 retailers and either scan your receipt or link your loyalty account to get cash back. Or, use Ibotta to shop online at more than 140 retailers.

Rakuten

Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is an impressive site because it’s affiliated with more than 2,500 stores, and that includes major retailers like Amazon, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Walmart. You can get up to 40% cash back when you shop online just by visiting Rakuten’s site first and clicking through to the store you want to visit. You’ll even get a $10 bonus just for signing up. You can see how much you’ve earned in your account, and you’ll get paid out quarterly either by check or PayPal.

Dosh

With Dosh, you just link your credit card on the app and shop as you normally would, in-store or online. It’s that easy! It’s super secure, and you’ll earn up to 10% back at thousands of retailers and restaurants. You can even travel with Dosh and earn up to 40% back on hotel stays. And you’ll get paid for referring your friends. Cash-out via PayPal, transfer money into your bank account, or donate to charity from the app.

ShopKick

When you use ShopKick, you can earn points (called kicks) for doing a number of shopping-related activities. You don’t even need to spend to earn. Once you collect enough kicks, you’ll be able to redeem them for free gift cards for stores like Target, Starbucks, and Amazon. Here are some of the things you can do to earn kicks:

  • Visiting stores
  • Scanning barcodes
  • Watching videos
  • Making online purchases
  • Linking a credit card and shopping in store
  • Shopping in store and submitting a receipt

The amount of kicks you earn depends on the task and the retailer.

Swagbucks

With Swagbucks, you can get points for watching videos, taking online surveys, and shopping online. Redeem your points for free gift cards to stores like Walmart and Amazon or cash through PayPal. The best part is, you’ll get a $10 bonus just for signing up, and it’s totally free to use. The points you earn depends on the activity. Redemption values start as low as 300 Swagbucks for gift cards, a $3 value, so you won’t have to wait too long to be rewarded.

Paribus

Paribus is different than other apps. It looks for price drops after you’ve bought something and gets you a refund if you’re owed one. So you won’t get cash back for every purchase, but you can earn some significant refunds without having to track prices yourself. It also keeps track of return windows for you and compensates you for late deliveries from companies like Amazon.

Apply for a cash back card

One of the easiest ways to rack up extra cash quickly is to apply for a cash back credit card. And with continued use, you’ll reap the rewards beyond the welcome offer. You’ll need a good credit score to take advantage of most cards out there, but there are plenty of cards with no annual fee that allow you to get cash back on everyday purchases. Used in conjunction with the apps and sites we mentioned above, a cash back credit card can be an especially lucrative tool. Here are some of our favorites:

Card name Welcome offer Rewards rate
Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card Earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 1.5% cash back rewards on every purchase, every day
Chase Freedom Unlimited Card Earn a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
Chase Freedom Card $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter) and 1% cash back on all other purchases
Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card Earn a $150 one-time cash bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months 3% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

With unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases, this is an excellent choice for everyday spending. There’s a $0 annual fee and a 0% introductory APR for new purchases for 15 months, which can make it helpful if you want to avoid high interest.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Card

This card has a similar rewards structure, earning you 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The welcome offer is particularly generous — new cardholders get a $150 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months — and there’s a $0 annual fee. There’s also a 0% introductory APR on purchases during the first 15 months. This card is a great choice for anyone who wants to earn serious cash, but it’s especially useful if you already have a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card, since you can transfer your points to your premium card to make them more valuable.

Chase Freedom Card

The Chase Freedom Card is a great card for a user who keeps track of their spending and doesn’t mind activating the bonus categories each month. The bonus categories are often places you would spend a lot of money anyway, like gas stations and grocery stores. You can earn 5% on the bonus categories, and that’s in addition to the 1% cash back you’ll earn on everything else. Plus there’s a $0 annual fee, a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 months, and contactless pay for users who are always on the go.

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

This card is a unique card that has a $0 annual fee and is great for people who enjoy dining and entertainment. That’s because you’ll get 3% unlimited cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There’s also a 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 15 months.

How to maximize your rewards

Now that you know all about the cash back credit cards and rewards apps available to you, let’s discuss how to earn the most money using these tools.

Use multiple apps

Since some of the apps we discussed reward you differently and not all apps cover the same retailers, make sure you’ve got a few in your arsenal and are using them strategically. For example, if you’re about to make an online purchase at Target, you should check to see which app or site is going to give you the best return on your spending.

Use multiple cards

Different credit cards are best for different types of spending, so you should have at least one everyday card and one specialty card in your wallet. For example, you might use the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card to pay for your night out and get 3% back, but if you use it for your bills as well, you’ll only get 1% back for those transactions. That’s why you should have an everyday card with a more lucrative rewards rate.

Having multiple cards in your wallet won’t do you any good if you don’t use them strategically, so choose your credit card wisely for every purchase.

Use credit cards to pay your monthly bills

Assuming there are no fees involved, use your credit card to pay necessary expenses like healthcare costs and utility bills. These costs can add up quickly, and so will your rewards if you use your card wisely.

Get the most value out of your points

While it might be appealing to use your credit card points for gift cards, sometimes the value is not as great as if you were to use your points for a statement credit or for travel. Always do the math to make sure you’re getting the highest possible value out of your points redemption.

Always pay your balance in full

Paying interest on a credit card negates the potential for rewards, so pay your balance in full whenever possible. Budget and save for large purchases so you can put them on your credit card and avoid paying interest. It can be easy to lose sight of your budget during that 0% introductory APR period, but don’t fall into that trap. Always make sure you’re on track to pay your balance in full once the introductory period is over.

The bottom line

While you need to use a little strategy to get the most out of cash back credit cards and rewards programs, the ongoing effort needed is minimal. Spend a few minutes deciding which app you’ll use for which stores and which card you’ll use for which purchases, and you can pretty much proceed on autopilot from there. Happy shopping!

Paribus compensates us when you sign up for Paribus using the links provided.

No-Frills Cash Back

Benefits

  • $150 early spend bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and transfers for 15 months
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day