The internet has completely revolutionized the way people shop. While people are spending the same amount of time shopping today as they did ten years ago — roughly 10 hours a month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) American Time Use Survey — Americans are doing more of their shopping online. In fact, over the last 10 years, Americans have increased their spending on e-commerce by more than $110 billion, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
But what hasn’t changed is our desire to save money while we shop. Finding out how to save money is an important step in learning how to manage your money. Luckily, there are also more ways to save money while shopping today than ever before. Between comparison shopping engines, promo codes, coupons, cashback apps and portals, cashback credit cards, and even more ways to save at the checkout, shopping online to do most, if not all, of your shopping might be the best way to save.
If that’s your plan, or you just want to know
regardless of how often you shop online, here’s how you can do it.
- Check Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for discounts every time you shop
- Stack cashback earnings with Ibotta
- Don’t delete your email receipts (get $$ for them with Waldo)
- You can outsmart dynamic pricing
- Use a cashback credit card
- Double-check deals on MyPoints
- Earn and redeem Swagbucks for gift cards
- How to save even more money by stacking rewards
- The bottom line on how to save money shopping online
Check Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for discounts every time you shop
Rakuten partners with over 2,500 stores to provide cash back to customers, simplifying the way you save while you shop. Whether it’s 2% cash back on your favorite book at Barnes and Noble or 7.5% when you use Rakuten to book a hotel stay with Hilton, you’re not going to want to shop any other way.
To earn your cash back, you’ll need to start by signing up with Rakuten, then navigate directly to your store. If you see a confirmation pop-up alerting you that cash back at that store is active, you’ll know you’re on your way to real savings. After you complete your purchase, your cash back will be automatically added to your account. Rakuten pays out earnings quarterly once you reach $5, and you can choose between receiving your earnings by check or through PayPal.
To sign up for Rakuten, all you need is an email and password. Then, make sure you download the Rakuten mobile app, so you can continue to save whenever you’re on the go.
Stack cashback earnings with Ibotta
Ibotta is a cashback app that rewards you for shopping both in-store and online when you buy groceries, home goods, clothing, travel, and more. From 10 cents cash back for grocery items, all the way up to $15 for gift card purchases, and with over 300 retail partners, Ibotta makes it easy to save when you shop at your favorite brands.
Before you shop, you’ll need to sign up for Ibotta. Then, open the Ibotta app and browse the offers you want in the online shopping category. After you select the pink “Shop” button on your desired offer, you’ll be taken to the retailer’s website where you can shop like normal. Once you make your purchase, you’ll automatically earn cash back for each qualifying item.
You can withdraw your money through PayPal, Venmo, or by purchasing a gift card, but you’ll need to reach $20 in cash back first. If you want to sign up for Ibotta, all you’ll need to do is enter your name, email, birthdate, and a password, and you’ll be on your way to saving in no time.
Don’t delete your email receipts (get $$ for them with Waldo)
It’s easy for all those online shopping receipts sent to your email to wind up in the trash, but did you know you can actually continue to save money by holding onto them? All you have to do is sign up for Waldo.
Waldo is a price-tracking program that monitors the shopping receipts in your email, while also comparing them to prices on over 100 brands. If one of these stores drops the price of an item you recently purchased, Waldo goes to work. Waldo detects the price change and automatically submits a refund request on your behalf, taking advantage of the price protection policies offered by the store or your credit card. You get the difference back, either credited to your card or bank account or by gift certificate or check.
To cover all your bases, sign up for Paribus1 along with Waldo. Paribus is another receipt tracker and works pretty much the same way. Sign up for both and good luck missing out on any price drop refunds.
You can outsmart dynamic pricing
Dynamic pricing is a practice used by companies in which product prices continuously adjust based on real-time supply and demand. Other factors potentially taken into account are your browsing history and spending patterns.
If you’ve ever looked up prices for a flight but didn’t buy any airfare, only to return later to find that prices increased, this is dynamic pricing at work. Similarly, online retailers may engage in dynamic pricing by quietly changing the price of an item if you return a second time to look at it. The site assumes you have a greater desire for the product and increases the price.
Dynamic pricing is legal, but it can mean you might end up paying a higher price than you would have just a short time ago. To get around dynamic pricing, follow these steps:
- Use a comparison shopping engine like Google Shopping, that way you’ll know you’re always getting the best price
- Clear your cookies and browsing history before you shop, as the store will see you as a “new customer”
- If you’re just browsing, sign out of your accounts and use “incognito mode,” so retailers can’t target you with dynamic pricing
- Browse and shop websites using a VPN, which will mask your IP address and location, allowing you to see products at their normal rates
Use a cashback credit card
If you’re using a debit card for your purchases, you’re leaving money on the table, plain and simple. That’s because you could be using cashback credit cards, which reward you with a percentage back every time you swipe your card. Just how much you earn depends on the card, but it can range from 1% all the way up to 6% cash back.
The Chase Freedom Flex, for instance, rewards you with 5% on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal; 3% at restaurants (including takeout and delivery) and drugstores; and 1% on all other purchases. You will need to keep track of their official bonus category of the quarter to get the most from this card.
The Chase Freedom Unlimited is another solid option. Cardmembers earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases.
If you’re new to cashback credit cards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited would be a good one to start with, as you can use it to earn generous rewards for every purchase, no matter where you shop.
Double-check deals on MyPoints
MyPoints is a website that allows you to earn points by shopping online. Those points can then be redeemed for cash through PayPal or for physical or online gift cards from a variety of online stores, restaurants, hotels, and airlines. It’s a similar idea to Rakuten in that you start your shopping trip from MyPoints, and then navigate to the retailer where you then shop like normal. It differs, however, in that there are other ways to earn, such as watching videos, taking surveys, and even playing video games.
When you shop online using MyPoints, you’ll earn 25 points per dollar spent. When you watch videos, you can earn up to 500 points per day. Surveys will earn you up to 300 points per day, and you can earn 10 points per dollar spent playing video games.
To sign up for MyPoints, all you need is your name, email, and password.
Earn and redeem Swagbucks for gift cards
Similar to MyPoints, you can earn points with Swagbucks by shopping online, watching videos, answering surveys, and even by just searching the web. When you’re ready to cash out, you can redeem your points for gift cards or get cash back through PayPal.
When you sign up for Swagbucks, you’ll get access to 1,500 retailers to shop with, including popular brands such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target. As there is a mobile app, so you can earn Swagbucks even while you’re on the go.
How to save even more money by stacking rewards
Now that you’re familiar with the variety of ways you can save money when you shop online, from mobile apps to cashback credit cards, here are a few scenarios of how you can stack some of these deals together to save money shopping online:
Save at Amazon with Rakuten, Waldo, and a cashback credit card
Amazon already makes it easy to save, but you can save even more when you stack rewards.
- Navigate to Rakuten first and search for Amazon where you’ll find offers for upward of 5% cash back. You’ll be able to earn on everything from clothing, electronics, and jewelry to furniture, Amazon devices, and even groceries.
- When you’re ready to check out, use your cashback credit card. While the Chase Freedom Unlimited will earn you 1.5% for your purchase, it’s good to be aware that Amazon sometimes makes its way into the rotating bonus categories (worth up to 5% cash back) of the Chase Freedom Flex.
- After you make your purchase, keep your receipt in your inbox so Waldo (and Paribus) can take over. If your recent purchase drops in price, you’ll save even more.
Select your offers with Ibotta, do your grocery shopping, and pay with your cashback credit card
We’ve all got to eat, and we all want to save. You can do both when you stack these rewards.
- Before you head out to the store, open Ibotta and add all the offers for items you know you’ll be purchasing. To make sure you’re saving the most, check the offers at similar stores as well, in case it makes sense to shop at a different store or multiple stores.
- When you check out at the store, pay with your cashback credit card.
- When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt through the Ibotta app and watch your cash back roll in.
Earn gift cards with Swagbucks or MyPoints for stores supported by Rakuten or Ibotta (use Waldo, of course, too)
- Spend your downtime taking surveys and watching videos. Earn points and when you’re ready to cash out, snag a gift card for a store that partners with Rakuten or Ibotta.
- With that gift card in hand, do some shopping. You’ll save by shopping through Rakuten or Ibotta and you can pay using the gift card you just earned.
- Finally, make sure to keep your receipt so Waldo can do its thing.
The bottom line on how to save money shopping online
Considering how easy it is to save money shopping online, the hardest part might be remembering all the different ways you can go about saving. It can take a few tries to remember to check with some of these cashback sites before you shop, but once you do it a few times, it will become second nature.
Hands down, the easiest way to save money shopping online every single time is by always using a cashback credit card. That way, you’ll quickly and easily earn cash no matter where you shop and no matter what you shop for.
Unlimited Cash Back
$200 cash back
up to 5% cash back
- $200 sign-up bonus
- Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
- 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $12k in your first year)
- No annual fee
- 0% intro APR on purchases
- Has foreign transaction fee
- Earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year)
- 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases
- Intro purchase 0% offer: 0% for 15 months then 14.99% to 23.74% (variable)