When shopping for a a service, meal, or product, there are many avenues for getting discounts besides the cash back rewards trick. Advanced shopping ninjas will quickly learn how to combine two or more of these options for optimal savings.
Find the Lowest Price First
Most offers start with finding the lowest price. There are many search engines besides Google that specialize in deals for particular industries – Hotels.com for hotels, Kayak for travel. If you know someone who is using the service or product you want to buy, ask them if they can give you a referral code (Money Viking Referral Codes for services mentioned in this post are in the flowchart below).
Use Your Rewards
Once you’ve got the best base price, check if your credit card will kick in more cashback for using them. Often cards will offer a basic 1% cashback, but if you shop at a specific site, like Amazon (5%), Costco (4%), or purchase a plane ticket, say on Southwest (i.e. get double miles), your benefits go even further for using their affiliation with the credit card. Bank of America and Chase also offer deals from inside their apps and sites that allow you to add a deal for a particular vendor such as Einstein Bagels or Starbucks. Once you are eligible to receive your rewards, try to cash out as quickly as possible.
Does the Vendor have an App with Hidden Deals?
Once you’re in the store, or have decided on a particular vendor, check if they have an app with secret coupons or discounts. For example, Target offers coupons and discounts through their app in the Cartwheel section. You can also sign up with Target for their Red card and automatically get 5% back. I choose to go the Raise.com route for most of my Target shopping rather than sign up for yet another card.
Try eBates, Shopkick, or Swagbucks
If you don’t have a high cash back reward credit card opportunity and the business doesn’t offer secret coupons in their app, all is not lost, you still have several more options with other apps that pay cashback by initiating the transactions through their app. eBates is my favorite because they route money into my PayPal account every few months. Shopkick and Swagbucks also offer similar features. I find that the best deals seem to be online with these options, with fewer in-store cash back opportunities.
Groupon and Raise.com
If the above don’t work, hit up Groupon.com for a deal to see if one exists. Many kids trampoline gyms and local restaurants offer fabulous Groupons if you just search for them first. Groupon has added a lot more deals to their service than I remember when I first started using them.
Raise.com is always a good last resort and can often surpass the cash back deal you would get just by using a credit card. I have found 25% off YogurtLand, and have searches turned on to notify me via email for more than 4% off at stores I frequent. Raise can be used when you are in the store before you checkout, but make sure you purchase an electronic giftcard, not a physical card that is shipped via UPS (unless you can afford to wait a few days/weeks).
If you Raise.com you will need to know the exact price in advance. I suggest you find out first, and purchase a card for slightly less than the total, so you’re not stuck with a surplus on the card you don’t need. Note that going the Raise route means you can’t check out at the vendor’s site with the cash back deal from your credit card. One hack I have found though is to initiate the Raise.com transaction through eBates first to get some cashback in my PayPal account.