Mobile apps can be a deal hunters' dream come true--if you know where to look. Plenty of apps aggregate the best deals and coupons from around the web, but some actually reward you with your own points or currency, simply through engaging in things you're probably already doing in the first place.
Swagbucks, a site and mobile app that doles out points to members just through online interaction, announced a new partnership with Coupons.com on Tuesday. This partnership allows you to earn points--known as Swag Bucks, fittingly--by making purchases at participating retail stores through linking a credit card to your account. You unlock these deals by launching the app on your smartphone and accessing a list of local stores nearby that are offering a Swagbucks reward. And it's not based on buying specific items: Simply make a purchase of a given amount, and instantly earn Swag Bucks back.
The Swagbucks system is really simple to use. You just create an account, log in, and start interacting with Swagbucks' website, which is full of content provided by the company's various partners. Every interaction you have through Swagbucks earns you Bucks of varying values. You can take a survey, play a game, watch a quick video, or sign up for trials of a new subscription service, as a few examples. Once you earn enough Bucks, you can trade them in for gift cards, ranging from PayPal and Amazon to the always-practical gas station credit, or even translate your points to a charitable donation. Rewards start at 450 Swag Bucks, so sometimes you have to do quite a bit of interaction to get the reward you really want.
You can also interact with Swagbucks' app for Android and iOS devices, so you can earn credit while on the go. Like its website, you can watch videos, answer surveys, and discover new services through the app, and you'll instantly earn Swag credit.
The app's new Local Discovery feature (which is iOS-only, for now) is the first feature that rewards you for real-life activity outside of the app. I did a little shopping using this feature before it launched, and it was a painless process that only required a few extra steps. While I was out, I launched Swagbucks and went to the Discovery section, and then tapped Local to see what nearby stores had a special promotion. I found five shops where I could earn a reward: Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, and Tilly's (which, along with Travelocity, are the only retail partners to support this in-app feature so far). Each rewarded between 120 and 200 Swag Bucks if I spent $50.
I decided on Gap, and tapped on the deal to find maps and directions to the closest stores to my current location (powered by Google Maps). To earn credit back, it asked me to link a credit or debit card to the deal. Swagbucks doesn't charge the card, nor does it actually save the card info within the app: It simply associates the deal with the credit card I wanted to use, and uses bank level security to encrypt the information.
Once I stored the deal to my Swagbucks account, I continued to shop as usual. The whole process of finding a store and adding my card info maybe took two minutes. At checkout, I just used the linked credit card--I didn't have to launch the app or show the store associate anything else--and a few minutes later I got a notification from Swagbucks saying the transaction was successful and that my account was credited.
If you want to take advantage of more than one deal, or return to the same store and earn more Swag Bucks, you can, but you have to re-enter your credit card info and save each individual deal or transaction--which is a bit annoying, sure, but it's an extra security measure that should provide some peace of mind. I had no issue finding nearby stores in San Francisco, and Swagbucks' partnerships are nationwide.
Though it may take a little time to finally cash in your Swag for rewards, Swagbucks' wide-ranging partnerships and ease of earning rewards make it a worthwhile deal system if you're willing to take a few extra steps. Overall, though, I'd say it's worth it: Who doesn't like getting useful gifts at no extra cost?