Rewards programs are popular because they let you earn points on your current spending — points that translate to free stuff down the line.
But rewards programs can be a lot of work. You may have to fly a certain airline, shop at a specific store or carry a certain credit card. That means making purchases you may not be planning to make or engaging with a risky financial product.
The following free apps, however, earn you points on normal daily activities. You can later cash in those points for gift cards to your favorite retailers. While they’re not completely effortless, and reward points may accumulate slowly, these programs are the most flexible ways to earn free stuff.
Shopkick. You spend a good chunk of your week running errands, and Shopkick lets you earn rewards points while doing it. Shopkick, created almost a decade ago, is the pioneer of free rewards apps. And it has millions of users today because of the variety of ways it allows you to earn rewards.
At the very least, you can earn points, called “kicks,” by simply walking into a store. To earn even more kicks, take a moment to scan bar codes of certain products, submit a receipt after you make a purchase or perform other relatively simple tasks on your next shopping run.
Kicks can be cashed in for gift cards at retailers, including Amazon, Starbucks, Target and Walmart.
Ebates. Don’t have or want a cash-back credit card? Ebates fills the void with no commitment required from you.
Sign up, visit Ebates.com and click through to its partner merchants. There are more than 2,500 of them, including Macy’s, JCPenney, Ulta, Expedia, Overstock, Neiman Marcus, Hotels.com and more.
When you click through and make a purchase, that retailer gives Ebates a small kickback, which it then shares with you. You can earn up to 40 percent back at certain merchants on certain purchases. However, 2 percent to 10 percent is a much more common rebate.
If clicking through from the Ebates site is too onerous, you can download the site’s browser extension and activate Ebates (using a button) while you’re shopping at any partner store.
You’ll receive your cash back via check or PayPal. Ebates typically pays out its members on an every-three-months schedule. You must have earned at least $5 per payment period to receive your accrued rewards. If you haven’t, you must wait until the next period.
Miles. One of the newest players in the reward app game, Miles is extra compelling, thanks to its ease of use. However, since its launch earlier this year, it’s frequently frozen new sign-ups as it scales.
If you manage to get an account, Miles will credit you for all the miles you travel throughout your day, whether they’re by car, foot, bus, plane or practically any other mode of transportation. Mass transit accrues three points per mile, walking builds 10 points per mile, and biking earns five points per mile. These modes of transportation get you more points per mile than driving by car, which earns one point per mile.
Based on past habits, location and speed, the app detects which form of transit you’re using. However, if it makes an error, you can adjust the transportation mode for past trips to get credited for more points per mile if, say, the app thinks you drove but you took the train.
Viggle. This app pays you for streaming television shows. Check in via the app when you have an eligible show playing on your TV or other viewing device. Viggle verifies that the show is actually on by “listening” to your TV’s, laptop’s or tablet’s audio. You can earn bonus points by answering questions during the show, but this is optional. You can earn points simply by having the show on while checked in via Viggle. Note that by checking in when you watch a show and creating a profile, you are giving Viggle permission to collect and market your TV-watching habits.
[See: 10 Steps to Cut the Cable Cord.]
Don’t want to actually watch the show? Put it on in the background while going about your day.
Points accrue slowly, but effort is minimal. Once you’ve accrued enough for a prize, you can cash in your points for gift cards from retailers, including Best Buy, Sephora and Starbucks, or redeem for products from retailers such as Sony, Samsung and Apple. Thresholds to redeem prizes vary, depending on which prize you want.
Companies and products mentioned in this article may be promoted on www.offers.com.
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4 Free Apps That Earn You Rewards for the Least Effort originally appeared on usnews.com