The top retail apps of 2018 to earn shopping rewards

The top retail apps of 2018 to earn shopping rewards

It’s hard to imagine now, but when I started high school I didn’t have my own phone. Not to give away my age (ahem), but nobody did. About midway through sophomore year, though, my classmates started showing up with cell phones, like the blue Nokia phones with the super addictive snake game and the Motorola Razr flip phone. I didn’t want to be left out, so I had to have one. Miraculously, after much begging, my parents agreed.

Fast-forward to 2018 and my phone is now a necessity in my life—I even use it to shop! I need to have my phone with me anytime I go shopping these days because I’ve discovered something amazing: retail shopping rewards apps.

My favorite retail apps make my shopping experience easier, help me rake in the savings, and make shopping even more fun! If you want your phone to make you money in 2018, here is my list of the top retail apps that will help you earn big shopping rewards.

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The Top Retail Apps of 2018 That Reward Loyalty

The best way to save money with your phone these days is to combine multiple rebate apps together to maximize your rewards. I like to think of the top retail apps of 2018 as the parts of a house: when you put them all together, they make your life fun and comfortable. Think of this list of store loyalty apps as the foundation, the walls, and the roof. They give your shopping app usage some structure:

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Walmart’s focus is already “everyday low prices,” so this app is less about helping you accrue major savings than it is about simplifying the shopping process at Walmart stores. It has a pretty wide range of features, including Walmart Pay—which lets you pay via your phone so you don’t even have to reach for your wallet—and online ordering with in-store pickup at your local Walmart (sometimes you even get a special in-app discount).

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Target’s app is a bit similar to Walmart’s; it has many features that simplify your shopping trips to Target, like notifications about deals, a copy of the store’s weekly flyer, and even maps of where to find your favorite products. Target also recently integrated its old Cartwheel savings app into its main store one, which makes it really easy to earn rewards for shopping at Target (especially if you’re also using one of the multi-store shopping apps below).

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If you’ve been shopping at Walgreens for your prescription and drugstore needs as long as I have, you’re probably familiar with the Walgreens Balance Rewards program. With this app-based program, you can accumulate points whenever you make purchases at Walgreens, and then later trade them in for savings at the store. You also get to participate in the Walgreens Register Rewards program, which prints out coupons for you when you make your purchases, all of which is designed to reward you for your loyalty to Walgreens.

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The Top Retail Apps of 2018 for Online Shopping

I love groceries; you literally have to have them. But you know what I love much more? The finer things in life, like stylish clothes and modern electronics—and I suspect you may feel the same way that I do.

Did you know that there are in-store mobile apps that you can use while perusing racks and shelves filled with all the finer things in life? No? Well, allow me to blow your mind and tell you about two of my all-time favorites!

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What makes the Nordstrom in-store app among my all time favorites is the way it does all of the shopping app basics so well. Can you browse products by department or brand? Oh yeah, super easily. Are all the functions listed in an easy-to-use bar at the bottom of the app at all times? You bet they are. Is there also a fun style section that features the company’s editorial and social media content? Sure is. Okay, so maybe that last one isn’t as basic as the others, but it’s still worth including. This is a well-designed app, artsy and eye-catching, exactly the kind of sidekick I need when out looking for a dress for my cousin’s wedding or shoes for New Year’s with my man.

How you save: This app provides notifications on big sales so you don’t miss out. You can also download a version for the company’s savings brand Nordstrom Rack, which makes it easy to find locations for that store.

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Etsy is my go-to app anytime I’m interested in checking out some high-quality handmade or vintage goods. There really is no telling what you’ll find on there, but this app does its best to ensure you don’t miss out on anything great. With it, you can browse all the items that artisans and crafters post for sale. The two features I find especially nice are the curated collections based on fun themes, and the personalized recommendations based on your past purchases.

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Best Buy:

One of the best ways to keep up with all the latest tech trends is via the Best Buy app, which lets you quickly and easily shop for thousands of electronics and accessories. Like the Walmart and Target apps above, you can order online through your device for pickup at your local store. It’s also one of those super cool apps that lets you scan barcodes through your phone’s camera to get more info on products when you’re in the store.

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The Top Retail Apps of 2018 That Work at Multiple Stores

The last category of top retail apps in 2018 is kind of like the many small parts of your house that you can’t live without—think furniture, indoor plumbing, electricity, and all of your carefully-selected and precisely-placed decorations. These are the retail shopping rewards apps that you can use at many featured stores, not just one. The best of this bunch can be used online and in-store and easily combined with any of the other apps on our list to really put the pièce de résistance on your house of savings!

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If I had to pick my favorite retail app of 2018, it would have to be Shopkick. It’s been my winner for years now. Not only does it help me really up my savings game and watch my budget, but it also makes my shopping experience a lot more fun. How Shopkick works is that it gives you points, called kicks, for the things you already do while you’re out shopping: walking into stores, scanning barcodes to get more info on products, and, of course, making purchases. I’ve even got my friends and family using it—and they have a really engaging Facebook page where I can connect with other mamas and shoppers! In other words, going back to my house analogy, Shopkick would be like the entertainment room where we all get together, hang out, and enjoy ourselves. I highly recommend it.

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Checkout 51:

Checkout 51 is a bit limited compared to an uber versatile app like Shopkick because it focuses primarily on helping you get paid for your grocery shopping. Still, it’s a great one to have. The cashback offers for groceries available through Checkout51 change every week on Thursday mornings, so waking up to see what deals are available can easily become part of your end-of-week shopping routine. Then, when you go grocery shopping, if you purchase any eligible items, just snap a quick picture of the receipt to accumulate money back. Once you reach $20 in savings, Checkout 51 will mail you a check. It’s usually easy to reach $20. One recent week, for example, I got $1 back on a box of cereal, another $2 back on air freshener plugins, and then $3 back on a disinfectant spray, putting me a quarter of the way to that $20 goal with just three items. As mentioned above, though, deals do change weekly.

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SavingStar is a digital coupon app that pays users to shop at grocery and drugstores—anywhere you get all the vital things you put in your fridge and medicine cabinets. More than 60,000 stores are part of SavingStar, and they represent more than 100 retail chains. It’s generally free to use, but beware: If an account is inactive for 180 straight days, they will charge a fee of $3.99. To take advantage of SavingStar, users either link their existing store loyalty cards to the app or submit receipts after they make purchases. Their savings add up until they can eventually cash out through PayPal, Upromise, or in the form of Starbucks, iTunes, or AMC Theater gift codes, so it’s pretty versatile in how it rewards you.

So there you have it, my favorite retail apps that I’ll be using on my smartphone to save money in 2018. That old Nokia snake game may be hiiiissss-tory, but I’ve replaced it with something even more fun: rewards apps that pay me to shop!

Download Shopkick, one of the top retail apps in 2018, for free. Join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered the rewards of shopping with a smartphone app sidekick that pays you to shop.

And, if you love social media as much as you loved your first flip phone, join Shopkick on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a daily shopping inspiration and fun.



Shopkick is the fun and easy way to earn free gift cards for the shopping you already do. Download the app now!


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Dima Volovik

EVP of Product and Engineering

Dima Volovik is the EVP of Product and Engineering at Trax Retail — Shopkick.

Dima Volovik is the accomplished product and engineering leader who led teams to deliver innovative and commercially successful e-commerce products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions for Amazon, Comcast, Fandango, and Universal Music. Before joining Trax, Dima was the Director at Amazon, where he led product development and Engineering for Amazon Appstore and Amazon Prime Video, CTO at Fandango, and Paciolan, head of technology at Golf Channel/Golf Now, and Global VP of Direct to Consumer Technology at Universal Music Group. Dima’s expertise includes developing consumer products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions.

Dima grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he received his MS in Electrical Engineering from Azerbaijan Oil Academy, and he currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.