Whether you’re shopping for family, friends or colleagues — or hey, even yourself — your smartphone can be an invaluable companion as you wander the aisles at your favorite retailer or shop online (or a bit of both).
In fact, there are several free apps that can sniff out great deals, give you cash back, display coupons, or reward you in other ways for using them. Here’s a look at a few noteworthy examples, all of which are available on iOS, Android, and the web.
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Get cash back while you shop online at more than 1,500 retailers, including big names like Amazon, Walmart, and Target. That’s the premise behind Swagbucks, an app that rewards you SB points, which can then be redeemed for free gift cards at Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, and many other places — or you can choose to get cash back via PayPal.
In other words, shop at the places you normally would, but you’ll first launch the Swagbucks app, website, or use the Swagbutton browser extension. The percentage you get back from each retailer will vary, but it can add up, plus there are some exclusive deals and coupons, too.
The Swagbucks app also awards you SB points for other activities, like watching videos, answering surveys, searching the web, and more.
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Rather than sorting (and cutting through) all the paper circulars you get each week, and getting newsprint on your hands in the process, Flipp is a free app that delivers your local circulars right to your phone – and calls out the best deals, too.
Here’s how it works: the first time you open the app, let the phone identify where you are or type in your ZIP code. Then you’ll see your screen populate with those circulars (“flyers”) for stores near you – whether it’s a big box electronics store, clothing chain, home improvement center, supermarket, and so on – and you’ll can now flick through them all and virtually clip items into a shopping list by tapping it. Or tap and hold for more info.
Speaking of the shopping list, you can type a word, like “headphones,” and you’ll see the related deals near you. Another tip is to tap the flame icon at the bottom of the screen to see all the best sale prices. Or tap the magnifying glass to search by keyword.
The app also holds all your loyalty and rewards cards, so you don’t need to carry a pocket- or purse-full of plastic.
Similar to the revenue share model with other apps like Swagbucks and Ibotta — where the company splits the commission referral with you — Ebates has more than 2,500 store partners and is offering “double cash back” at participating retailers, too, for a limited time.
For example, you’ll usually get 3 percent cash back by shopping at Macy’s (by first starting at Ebates), but you’ll now get 6 percent back. Similarly, Ebates would normally pay you 6 percent of the shared revenue at Shoes.com, but you can now expect 12 percent. You get the idea.
After you make an eligible purchase, you’ll earn cash back in the form of a check or PayPal payment every quarter.
The app also offers exclusive deals, as well as sales and coupons, too.
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Here’s another handy shopping companion for leading up to (or on) Black Friday.
Dubbed the “largest deal-sharing community on the web,” the company says millions of people regularly use the Slickdeals app to discover, share, and rate the best deals and coupons for their favorite stores.
Essentially, wherever there’s an outstanding deal – like 50 percent off the hottest tech toy at Best Buy, a 2-for-1 special at Groupon, or a code to use at Kohl’s – Slickdeals may promote these on its front page of the app or site.
To ensure it’s legitimate, every deal gets vetted by the community through votes and comments, and the good ones move up to the Popular Deals forum. Then, the best Popular Deals are screened by the company’s editors after getting enough votes to be considered for the front page. There’s also a dedicated Black Friday page, too.
Alternatively, you can set a Deal Alert and get notified whenever a deal matching what you’re looking for is posted on Slickdeals, such as when the 60-inch TV you had your eye on drops below $800 for the first time.
To find other deals this season, also consider other good shopping-related apps, including eBay, Pricegrabber, RetailMeNot, Craigslist, and Red Laser (available in the iOS App and Google Play stores).
What are your “go to” shopping apps, and why? Please tell us in the Comments section or on Twitter.
Follow Marc on Twitter: @marc_saltzman. Email him at www.marcsaltzman.com
Reviewed, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK, is vetting hundreds of holidays sales each day to bring you only the best deals on recommended products. Read the best pre-Black Friday deals so far.