My latest obsession is booking hotels, rental cars and other travel arrangements through rebate apps on my iPad. These apps give you cash-back bonuses if you visit booking websites through the apps instead of going directly to the websites to make your reservations.
They also give you bonuses for buying everything from groceries to new sneakers, so you can build up your vacation fund a little faster if you use them.
Privacy experts and conspiracy theorists are probably cringing right about now, worried about all the data these apps are collecting about me and my spending habits. Am I concerned? Not in the least. Retail companies are already collecting loads of data about us. Do you think your supermarket loyalty card is only about discounts? Do you think your credit card usage isn’t being analyzed?
My feeling is that they spend a lot of money to collect data about me, so I might as well cash in on that. Plus, the cash I receive each month in my PayPal account feels like a little present.
There are two rebate apps I use for travel purchases.
Ebates is probably the most widely used rebate app and website. It also works with the greatest number of travel industry partners, including Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Marriott, Park ‘N Fly and Virgin America. Travel product retailers also offer rebates on the site — Patagonia and Samsonite are among them — as do package tour companies, including Cheap Caribbean and OneTravel.
The site offers straightforward “percentage back” rebates of up to 12 percent back, but also has a number of other coupons and special deals. A handful of companies even periodically offer double cash back.
Using a Chrome-based web browser, I installed Ebates’ special extension in order to receive a pop-up alert anytime I navigate to a partner company site. I didn’t know, for instance, that eBags was a participant until I was price-checking new luggage and the Ebates pop-up alerted me.
Ibotta is the other app I like. An app strictly for mobile devices, Ibotta was useful last month in nabbing $11.04 back from a New York City hotel booking. I have the last-minute hotel app Hotel Tonight downloaded onto my iPad, so by clicking through to that app via the Ibotta app, I was able to receive 4 percent cash back for the amazingly priced and very clean $109-a-night hotel I secured two blocks from the Empire State Building. Bundled with my $10 bonus for downloading the free app, the rebate will cover my Netflix bill for a couple of months.
Unfortunately, Ibotta only currently works with four travel partners. But it’s useful for grocery purchases, and those rebates will steadily help cushion your travel fund. Other useful retail rebate apps to try include Checkout 51, SavingStar and Receipt Hog.