Can you believe it's that time again? The holiday season is here. For us, a small part of that season is Black Friday shopping. Yes, we make our shopping list and look for good deals.
We usually don't join all the crazies at 4 am Black Friday morning or 6 pm Thanksgiving night. Instead, we use other shopping tools to save on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
To avoid the crowds, we shop online. And, we use several cashback apps to earn cash rewards on almost every Black Friday purchase. Even for the other 51 weeks of the year, we use these apps to maximize our online shopping trips.
Tip: Get a $30 cash bonus on your first $30 purchase with Rakuten.
Save Money on Black Friday Purchases
If you don't have time to read the full review, below are my two favorite shopping apps. My wife and I use these portals to get cashback every month. They are free and make it easy to get cash back on nearly any Black Friday purchase.
I'll explain them in more detail below. For now, these are my two favorite apps:
- Rakuten <————-Get $30 bonus cash after your first $30 purchase
- TopCashback <——-Get a $10 Amazon gift card when you earn your first $10 in cash rewards
Now that this spoiler alert is over, I'll show you how they work. I'll also give a brief review of both to help you make the best choice.
For simplicity's sake, you might only choose one app. This is why I'm going to give a short review of each.
Using Cash Back Shopping Apps for In-store Purchases
These rewards apps may also help you save money for in-store purchases. Rakuten, for example, offers in-store cash back at participating retailers.
If you like shopping at warehouse clubs like Sam's Club, these apps can reduce the cost of your annual membership. You can shop in-store and scoop up store specials or shop online if that's more convenient.
1. Rakuten (Previously Ebates)
Rakuten is probably the better of the two apps as it's easier to use and has faster customer service response times.
Although TopCashback usually has higher rates, Rakuten has better customer service and a more user-friendly platform. Their payout schedule is more rigid, but we prefer Rakuten to all the other cashback apps because we've had a better overall experience.
Read my in-depth Rakuten review to learn why this is my #1 shopping app.
What I Like About Rakuten
- Browser Extension (Chrome and Safari) makes sure you never miss a cashback opportunity
- Earn extra cashback at select stores with the Rakuten mobile app
- Get cashback for select in-store and restaurant purchases
- Quick customer service when you have a question or problem
- Get a $30 welcome bonus after your first $30 shopping trip using Rakuten
When your cashback balance reaches $5.01, Rakuten sends you a payment each calendar quarter. (May 15, August 15, November 15, and February 15). So, you will receive your Black Friday earnings on February 15.
Your payment options are PayPal, paper check, or gift card.
What I Dislike About Rakuten
- Lower cashback rates than other portals for select stores
- Payments only issue four times a year
Rakuten is similar to a big bank like Citi, Chase, or Bank of America. You have a convenient service, but you don't earn as much interest on your deposits as online bank that make it harder to access your money.
Rakuten Browser Extension
My favorite reason to use Rakuten is their browser extension. My wife and I still do most of our shopping using a laptop. We forget to visit the Rakuten website first. This extension window notifies us that the store pays cash back. You can click the button and start your session quickly.
When you visit an online store that offers cashback, the browser extension instantly alerts you of the cash back option.
Learn more: Read my Rakuten app review to learn more.
The best Rakuten alternative is TopCashback. It tends to offer higher cashback rates and doesn't have a minimum payout requirement.
You can redeem your cash rewards for cash or gift cards. You usually get a redemption bonus when redeeming your rewards for a gift card (like 3% more cash for Amazon gift cards).
But TopCashback tends to have less responsive customer service and a slightly less user-friendly platform than Rakuten. In fairness, when we've had a customer service issue, TopCashback responds but it can take several days longer.
It's not uncommon to see higher cashback rates with TopCashback compared to Rakuten. It depends on what stores you visit, but here's the difference for some of our favorite stores:
There are other stores that have similar or higher cashback rates than Rakuten. If you know which stores you shop at most often, compare the cashback rates with each portal. Then, pick the better option.
What I Like About Topcashback
- Offers higher cashback rates at more stores than Rakuten
- Can redeem rewards with any balance amount (after the 6-8 week holding period)
- Redemption bonus for select gift cards
- Periodic contests and scavenger hunts for cash prizes
- Mobile app and web browser extension (Chrome only)
Although you can get paid with PayPal or direct deposit, you can get a redemption bonus for select gift cards:
- Amazon: 3% redemption bonus
- Walmart: 2% bonus
- Visa Gift Card: 7% bonus
In all, there are 15 different redemption options to choose from.
What I Dislike About Topcashback
- Their website and app isn't as easy to use as Rakuten's (but it's still very user-friendly)
- Customer service takes longer to respond when you have a question
- Browser extension is only for Chrome
- Takes longer to track missing transactions
3. Capital One Shopping (Formerly Wikibuy)
A third price comparison shopping tool I sometimes use is Capital One Shopping (formerly Wikibuy). This can be your best option for saving money on Amazon.
On the Amazon website, you will see a separate box showing you who the cheapest seller is. You can also use the browser extension to compare prices on different online websites. For example, is it cheaper to buy an iPad on Amazon, eBay, Best Buy, or another legit website?
Like Rakuten and TopCashback, Capital One Shopping lets you earn cash rewards when you activate shopping sessions for most online stores. You can redeem your earnings for gift cards.
Also, this app automatically applies discount codes at the checkout screen to try and secure instant savings.
In addition to finding low prices, you can earn shopping credits on online purchases and in-store purchases. You can redeem these credits for gift cards.
What I Like About Capital One Shopping
- Compares prices from multiple stores
- Sends price alerts
- Earn gift card rewards for online and local purchases
- Applies discount codes at checkout
What I Dislike About Capital One Shopping
- No cash reward option
- Better for comparing prices than earning cash back
*I may receive a small commission if you signup for Capital One Shopping through the links on this page.
How Cash Back Apps Work
First off, cashback apps are 100% free, and you don't pay more at checkout.
Online shopping is competitive. Retailers offer cashback incentives to win your business. Even though retailers might charge the same price for the item you're buying, the cashback rate can differ widely. This is why we use Rakuten or TopCashback for almost every online purchase we make.
Even though I'm recommending two apps, you can only use one per shopping session. So, you must either use Rakuten or TopCashback. But, either app works when you shop online with your computer, tablet, or phone.
This is the step-by-step process to activate a cashback session:
- Visit the cashback website and activate a session in the browser extension or open the cashback mobile app
- Or choose the store you're going to shop at the Rakuten or TopCashback website
- Click the “Shop Now” Button
- You're now on the retail website. Complete the purchase in this browser tab
- Wait to receive an email stating how much cash back you earn
With both apps, you receive your cash rewards in about 60 days. Every cashback portal has this waiting period to ensure you don't return the item to “game the system.”
My wife and I compare the cashback rates on Rakuten and TopCashback. Then, we choose the app with the best rate for the store we're going to visit.
Other Tips To Earn More Cash Back on Every Trip
My wife and I have been using cashback apps for close to 7 years now. Here are a few tips to help make sure you get cash back on your purchases.
Read The Store Cashback Details
Many stores give you cash back on the entire order amount (not including taxes and shipping). But, some stores only give cash back for certain product categories. Amazon, Walmart, and office supply stores are some of the worst offenders in this regard.
Also, Rakuten tends to have more restrictions than TopCashback, in my experience. Once you conquer the small learning curve, it's easy to decide who's the best for you.
For Black Friday 2017, we bought a new printer. Even though several retailers had it for the same price, I got it from Office Depot because they offered cashback on printers. When I bought a new laptop, I got it from Staples to get cash back because other stores excluded laptops from the cashback option.
Install The Browser Extension
If you join Rakuten, I highly recommend the browser extension. There are several times my wife and I forgot to activate a session by going to the Rakuten website first.
Even if you might earn slightly less with Rakuten than TopCashback, the convenience of the browser can be worth it. After all, some bonus cash is better than nothing.
Share Rakuten and Topcashback With Your Friends
If you signup through either app with the links on this page, I might get a cash bonus if you make a qualifying purchase in a certain amount of time. If not, that's ok. I just want you to know about these two apps.
Refer-a-friend bonuses are awesome. While this isn't as awesome as getting a free month of rent, you can at least by a small gift for your spouse or child with this bonus.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the biggest shopping days each year. We make a list of the items we want, then we look for the best online retailer. Then, we see how much extra money we can save with either Rakuten or TopCashback.
Now, that I let you in on my little secret about how to save on Black Friday, will you join these apps to save money any day of the year?
Link: Join Rakuten
Link: Join TopCashback
Do you want to enjoy a debt-free Christmas? It's possible when you make a shopping list and stick to it.
Plus, make these money moves so you're ready for 2022.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.