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7 Ways to Keep More Cash While You Shop 

A decade ago, I was standing behind a woman in the checkout line. She had a cart full of groceries, all bagged up and ready to roll. She pulled out a long wallet and handed the cashier a stack of coupons. After what seemed like 100 beeps, the register popped open.

That woman left the store with twelve dollars and change from the cashier. She hadn’t paid one cent for the mound of groceries she was wheeling away.

I’ll never forget the scene. How did she do that?

She paid with her time. She figured out a way to get the maximum savings on items she wanted. What shocked me then is a common practice now. It’s called extreme couponing, and it’s a concept that can be applied to just about any shopping trip.

In this post, I’ll share seven ways you can get the most out of coupons, points, and rewards programs. I’ll also cover why you can still take advantage of savings programs when you choose a buy now pay later option on big ticket items.

First, let’s explore the concepts behind the savings.

What Is Extreme Couponing?

Extreme couponing is a system of combining or layering coupons on top of discounted items coupled with the use of loyalty or rewards programs. Some people make couponing a full-time job. They spend a lot of time researching stores, sale prices, rewards programs, manufacturer coupons, in-store coupons, cash-back programs and the like. 

Years ago, grocery stores were caught off guard by these extreme, money-saving shoppers, as they had programs in place like double and triple coupon days.

Extreme couponers were making out like bandits, albeit legally.

Stores adjusted policies and added lots of fine print. They also began offering their own programs to offer savings to repeat shoppers. Still, if you spend the time researching money-saving options, you can get excellent deals.

Whether you are shopping for groceries, the latest fashions, or a dog crate, you can save money. You might not walk away from the purchase with a cashier putting cash in your hand, but you can certainly keep more of it, shopping in person or online.

You don’t have to be extreme, but you can definitely change the way you shop by using rewards programs that offer a variety of benefits without too much effort on your part.

How Can You Save Money Through Rewards Programs?

If you’re not already doing so, begin exploring what programs are in place at your favorite stores. If you like the terms, sign up. Some rewards programs are free to use and some have an annual fee. You must weigh the price of admission against the benefits.

Rewards programs often provide points, cash-back options, and exclusive discounts to enrollees. These money-saving features are automatic as long as you follow the rules such as using your loyalty card at the register.

Checking with your favorite stores is a good first step, but don’t stop there. Just like the concept of extreme couponing, you can layer the discounts.

7 Ways to Maximize Savings When You Shop

In addition to using coupons, and shopping during sales and promotional events, here are seven of the most popular ways to save money when you shop:

  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Credit card rewards programs
  • Banking rewards programs
  • Insurance rewards programs
  • Cash-back programs and apps
  • Memberships, affiliations, and military service
  • Browser-based rewards

I’ll break down each one.

1. Customer Loyalty Programs

Customer loyalty programs reward you when you shop frequently. Often, businesses will issue points that add up to free products. Those points may also convert to cash rewards that can be applied to purchases.

How to take action:

Go to the customer service desk or ask for the manager in your favorite retail store and ask what loyalty programs are available and how to sign up. When shopping online, be sure to sign up for retail newsletters and loyalty programs.

You may be issued a card, keychain tag, or be able to use your phone number or ID at checkout to claim your rewards. Some stores are even creating their own apps and savings clubs to manage points and rewards, offering QR codes that can be scanned in-store.

2. Credit Card Rewards Programs

Credit card companies offer a multitude of programs: partnering with other businesses, inviting you to get cash back on specific purchases, and offering tiers of points-based programs aimed at saving money based on how often you shop or how much you spend.

For example, Chase Bank and Amazon partnered to create an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa. Not only can you get cash back when you shop on Amazon and Whole Foods, but also at featured retailers and businesses that have promotional offers through Chase.

How to take action:

Inquire about rewards card options from your current credit card issuer. Be aware that some require an annual fee. If you don’t have a credit card, go to sites like Credit-Land.com to compare rewards cards to find what is best for you.

Once you have a card, find out what you need to do to earn the maximum rewards. To redeem rewards you’ll often have to shop using a special link or add the offers to your account so that they are automatic when you shop at those places.

Often, point systems have an exchange rate for cash back such as 1 point per $1 spent. Once you have a fair amount of points, you can check your account to see what rewards are available based on your point level.

3. Banking Rewards Programs

Just like credit card issuers, banks often have rewards programs that are built into the use of your bank-issued debit card. They may even have cash rewards just for opening a new account and making a qualified deposit.

Banks like Capital One and Bank of America have separate areas in your secure account where you can view a list of offers and select them to be added to your card. When you follow the rules of the offer, the money gets deposited into your account. 

How to take action:

Check with your bank to learn more about what they offer in terms of rewards or point-based programs. It’s also good to know how long each offer lasts as well as the timing of cash-back payments.

4. Insurance Rewards Programs

Insurers are even getting in on the appeal of rewards programs. They often offer discounts on travel, retail, and dining on an ongoing basis.

For example, Allstate has a program called Drivewise that allows its insured drivers to earn points for safe driving that transform into cash-back rewards, policy discounts, or can be used to purchase retail items in their rewards marketplace.

How to take action:

Contact your insurance company and ask what’s available. You may be able to find most of what you need online. Auto insurers tend to have the most perks, but it can’t hurt to see what your life insurance, renter’s insurance, or homeowners insurance provider offers.

Looking for new insurance? This is a great time to choose one that gives you the most perks. Take your time and ask lots of questions via email, phone, or live chat. Some companies even have a responsive social media presence.

5. Cash-Back Programs and Apps

Some companies have hundreds of partnerships with retailers and other businesses to offer you cash-back on your purchases. Here are just a few of the most popular ones:

  • Rakuten (formerly Ebates): best for retail, travel, and dining offers
  • Ibotta: best for grocery, retail, and travel offers
  • Fetch Rewards: best for grocery offers
  • RetailMeNot: best for retail, online coupon codes, and in-store discounts by zip code 
  • GetUpside: best for gas, groceries, and restaurants
  • Dosh: best for local retail, online retail, travel, and dining
  • CoinOut: upload any receipt, regardless of retailer to earn cash-back
  • Receipt Hog: upload receipt from any retailer to earn cash-back and play games and sweepstakes to increase your earnings.

It all depends on the cash-back program, but typically you get paid through PayPal, by check, gift cards, or some other form of payment. Some will also require you to hit a threshold of earnings, like $25, before you get paid.

How to take action:

Research each of these programs to understand how and when you get paid. Sign up for all of the ones that make the most sense for how you live your life. Go through these apps or programs to do your shopping to claim the cash-back rewards.

6. Memberships, Affiliations, and Military Service

Memberships are another great way to get discounts, earn cash-back, and rack up rewards. Businesses like Costco and programs like AARP and AAA roadside club have a variety of offers that are exclusive to members. 

Similarly, discounts are often available to military service members, students, educators, and other people who work or serve in different professions that give back to the communities we live in.

For example, Purple, a buy now pay later (BNPL) mattress company, offers discounts for healthcare professionals, military service members, first responders, truck drivers, students, and educators. Just visit their site and scroll to the bottom of the homepage to learn more.

How to take action:

Always inquire about special discounts and rewards up front when joining a club. You may even get perks for referring others. Mention your affiliation, service, or profession in-store to see what is available. Check websites for discounts based on the work you do. 

7. Browser-based Rewards

Some rewards and cash-back programs are accessible when you add them to your browser as an extension. These programs work in the background while you shop.

When an offer is available, it will pop up so that you can accept or ignore it. Even credit cards and banks are offering browser deals that pop up for your consideration.

Here are some of the more popular extensions:

  • Honey
  • Rakuten
  • Capital One Shopping
  • CouponCabin Sidekick
  • Piggy
  • Amazon Assistant

These are just a few browser-based, money-saving and earning extensions.

How to take action:

Find the extensions you like and add them to your browser. Some have requirements and can only be added to certain browsers, so keep that in mind. When you shop, it will automatically share savings options, whether for better pricing, cash-back, or discounts. 

Can You Still Use Rewards Programs with BNPL?

Yes, you can still enjoy your credit card reward benefits and perks when you use a credit card-based buy now pay later (BNPL) solution like Splitit. With Splitit, you can choose your own BNPL adventure, selecting the monthly payment terms that suit your budget while enjoying the benefits of shopping with your existing rewards Visa or Mastercard.

Final Thoughts

You can use a combination of these money-saving and earning tools to get the most out of your shopping. A little planning can go a long way. Before long, you’ll have to figure out what to do with all of that extra money in your pocket.

Imagine shopping for something you want during a sale, with an eligible coupon, using a rewards credit card through a rewards browser or app, and paying in monthly installments to boot.

That sounds like a smart shopper’s dream.

Robyn Evans (Content Contributor), March 5, 2021 Share this article

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