It’s the three-word phrase that terrifies children and budgeters alike: back to school.
With back-to-school shopping, success is measured both by what you buy and how little you spend. And that’s where your favorite mobile apps can help, collecting discounts, coupons and cash-back offers — and putting them all at your fingertips.
Many apps also let you integrate your rewards cards if you choose, so you can seamlessly double-up on deals and stack up savings like Lego blocks. And those card rewards can be a rich source of back-to-school savings, says Michelle Madhok, founder and CEO of SheFinds.com, a site dedicated to bargain shopping.
While it’s a business card that may not fit an average consumer’s needs, Chase’s Ink Business Cash Card, for example, offers five times the cash back for office supplies year-round. Other issuers, like American Express, supply a changing menu of deals that you can check by logging in to your account. So carving out an extra discount can be a matter of pulling out the right plastic, she says.
Want a head start? Here are five free apps to supercharge back-to-school savings:
Cartwheel “is a coupon app for Target shoppers,” says Kendal Perez, spokeswoman for CouponSherpa, a coupon aggregator.
How it works: Register with your name and email address. Scroll through by hot deals, or product category — or search for specific items. Depending on how much you shop and spend at Target, “You can unlock different levels of coupons,” says Perez. “The more you use it, the more access you have.”
“You just have to select (deals) before you get to the register,” says Stephanie Nelson, author of “Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom” and founder of CouponMom.com.
Shoppers also get 5 percent cash back with a Target Redcard, “which does make sense, as long as you pay off your bill,” Nelson says.
Today’s Groupon is more than the “buy local services now, use them later” marketplace of old. The app offers coupons and discounts for a wide array of popular retailers for both in-store and online shopping. And you don’t necessarily have to pay in advance.
How it works: You sign up with your name, email and location. You can also link a credit card to your account. With some offers, that will get you the discount automatically when you pay with that card. Accepted or preferred cards can vary with the offer. And deals vary widely by location.
Groupon also hosts an online marketplace, Groupon Goods, where you can buy items from third-party sellers. Groupon handles the transaction, but you won’t necessarily know the vendor’s identity. And you can’t currently vet sellers via customer reviews.
“Most people associate it with grocery cash-back rewards,” says Perez. “But you can use it for retail cash-back rewards.”
How it works: Create an account with your name, email, birth date and ZIP code, or register through Facebook. Review what rebates are available. To claim one, you “have to complete a task.” It might be answering a survey question or watching an ad.
Once you make your buy, “unlock” your reward by taking a photo of your receipt or, if you’re shopping online, uploading it. While Ibotta encourages selecting deals before you shop, you can also claim them after the fact.
Once you accumulate $20 in rebates, you can take your cash via Venmo, PayPal or retailer gift cards.
Also a rebate app. This one reimburses shoppers every three months — if you’ve accumulated more than $5. You can elect a paper check or deposit to your PayPal account.
How it works: Register with your name and email address. Then you start online shopping through the app. And you can also add credit cards and a shipping address to your account.
For in-store shopping, add an American Express or Visa card to your Ebates account, and link specific offers to your card. When you use it to pay, those Ebates will be credited to your account.
If your American Express also offers any discounts or rewards, “you’ll get both deals,” says Madhok. “It’s a great way to stack savings.”
Not technically a coupon app, but it is an online savings option popular during back-to-school shopping season.
How it works: Subscribe to Amazon Prime for $11 a month or $99 a year. Then download the free Amazon app, and link it to your Prime account.
Or sample Amazon Prime for one month free. (Students can get a six-month free trial, with a 50 percent discount on paid membership after that.)
“Prime members get early access for ‘Lightning Deals,'” — one-time sales that average about 50 percent off and last only a short time, says Glaser. Set a notification for Lightning Deals, and “Keep an eye out for the deals to help you with school supplies,” he says.
*The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.
Editor’s note: This story, “5 apps to turbocharge back-to-school savings” originally was posted on CreditCards.com.