Who needs another cash-back app when you can go on a fun treasure hunt for discounts instead? Or an aggravating wild goose chase, depending on your perspective.

The MobiSave rebate app is transitioning from a traditional rebate app, into something of a peelie-redemption processor. Many users aren’t happy about it – but there may be a bit of hidden genius behind the move.

Until now, MobiSave followed the standard rebate-app procedure of having you select an offer, buy a product, scan your receipt and get some money back. But now, most or all of its rebates require you to first find a peelie on a product, so you can enter a code on the sticker in order to unlock the offer and claim your cash.

Where might those peelies be? Nobody knows!

“We do not know which store will be receiving these special packages,” a customer service representative explained. “They are chosen at random by the manufacturer.”

Interesting.

MobiSave first experimented with this type of offer earlier this year. An offer for free Oreos appeared at the top of the list of products eligible for cash back – but the offer was locked unless you found a product with a special sticker attached. The sticker promised a digital rebate of “100% cash back fast through the MobiSave app”. You’d buy the product, peel off the sticker, find the code printed on the other side, enter it into the app, then scan your receipt as normal.

Over the next several months, MobiSave began adding more and more coded offers. And now, virtually all of the offers are locked. You need to find a product with a peelie attached in order to claim a rebate – so there’s almost no point in checking the app in advance anymore.

“We are focusing on coupons that are financed by the manufacturers at this time, which are the offers that you see with the codes,” customer service explained. “Because you have to buy the item to get the code, with these rebates you do not have to choose them on the app ahead of time.”

Many longtime users who’d grown accustomed to the way things were, are expressing disappointment in the way things are. “This used to be a good app until they changed all of the offers to need a code from packaging. I’ve yet to see any packaging in my area that has codes,” one reviewer wrote on the Google Play store. “Like all good coupon apps, this one started off good and is just awful now,” added another.

In a way, though, the changes are actually kind of ingenious. They help position MobiSave as an entirely different kind of rebate app, which offers the added benefit of potentially solving the problem of peelie theft.

Imagine that those “free Oreo” stickers were actual peelie coupons for free Oreos. They’d be gone in a second, stripped off each and every package by someone with a sweet tooth, or an eye toward selling them online. By instead using special peelies with codes, which can only be used to claim a single rebate in the MobiSave app with a receipt as a proof of purchase, manufacturers can feel better knowing that their offers will be redeemed as intended – one per customer.

So instead of typical on-pack instant redeemable coupons, the MobiSave peelies are more like mail-in rebates that don’t actually need to be mailed in. So you’ll no longer need to check MobiSave regularly – it’s just there when you need it, to help you process your rebate after you happen upon a sticker.

That may not please users who liked the way it was – but it may be what MobiSave needs to do to survive. With more and larger competitors, MobiSave risked getting lost in the shuffle.

MobiSave actually came along long before there was an Ibotta, Checkout 51 or SavingStar. It was founded way back in 2009, several years before the others. It wasn’t until 2015, though, that it emerged from a long development process to make an official launch.

But by then, what could have been a me-first app had become something of a me-too app. The others already dominated the space, so MobiSave was forced to play catch-up from day one.

It did have some advantages over the others. Users appreciated that you didn’t have to take quizzes or watch videos to unlock offers, didn’t have to scan bar codes, and could get cash back right away instead of having to accumulate a $10 or $20 balance first. And brands appreciated that MobiSave required you to select an offer before you shopped instead of after, so they didn’t have to reimburse anyone for items they already bought and would have bought anyway even without a rebate.

Curiously, MobiSave’s recent changes come just as some of its competitors are beginning to work together to set some new standards. Checkout 51 and SavingStar are now preventing users from “double-dipping” by requesting the same rebate from both apps. That could result in more of the same offers showing up on all of the rebate apps.

And that could have given MobiSave an advantage. If all the apps have all the same offers, which one would you choose – the ones that require you to scan bar codes, take quizzes and wait forever to be able to cash out, or the one that does none of those things?

There’s always a chance the “new” MobiSave may not represent a permanent change. We don’t know, because MobiSave isn’t saying. Customer service has been answering some questions, but a company representative has not responded to further requests for any official comments.

Regardless, some users are already predicting this could be the beginning of MobiSave’s end. “I think Mobi’s ship has sailed,” one reviewer wrote. “I see this app biting the dust soon,” another added.

Still, while regular users might be turned off, you can bet that anyone who finds a sticker promising free cash if they enter a code, will find their way to MobiSave to claim it. So the app could still have plenty of life left. That is, if you want an app that you rarely check to be taking up space on your phone, on the off chance you happen to come across a rebate sticker.

Time will tell, then, whether MobiSave successfully reinvents itself as a brand new type of rebate app, or if it ends up like so many others have – as another also-ran.

(Click here for the latest on MobiSave’s efforts to push users to try Fetch Rewards instead).

9 Comments

  1. Denise Mercurio says:

    I don’t bother with MobiSave any longer. It’s not worth the hassle. I use to like it. Now it gets a thumbs down in my book.

  2. Deborah Jordan says:

    I live in Charleston SC and have not seen the special codes on any products

  3. What’s up with the “Fetch” app advertising in the Mobi save app. I downloaded it and never got the points that Mobi save advertised.

  4. I did see the Oreo offer and participated in it. My local Shop Rite had a special display near the store entrance. However, I have never seen any of the other offers anywhere and I have been looking. These other offers have not been for free products either so they are not going to be as effective in getting consumers to purchase or stores to promote. The average person is not a coupon nut like me and will not go to all this trouble to get 50 cents. I would go to the trouble but you have to make the stickers much more widespread. Even I am going to get tired of the search if there is never a prize.

  5. I worked at an independent grocery store for over 20 years and the salespeople (including those representing OREO) would offer deals where they offer a pallet or three of product and throw in rolls of manufacturer’s coupons that the store was supposed to pay their employees to affix to each product. But, the store would take peel the coupons off the roll and submit them as if they were redeemed by customers for buying the product (the salespeople know this as they monitored their merchandise and would see that none of the product had coupons on them.) As long as the store’s invoice showed they purchased enough product to cover the coupons, the manufacture didn’t complain. The store’s reasoning was that they could just drop the price on the product and avoid inconveniencing the customer. The problem with that is, if the store doesn’t reduce the product price by the full amount of the coupon, the store is making out and not the customer. This may also be why the manufacturers are using a digital redemption scheme. It is a lot easier to send a box of coupons into the manufacturer (or the store’s warehouse who may be acting as a clearinghouse for them) than it is to have someone type in codes on an app.

  6. I haven’t seen a single sticker on any of these products. I would buy the product if they could tell me which stores they are in.

  7. Living in Mississippi, I have of yet to find these stickers/codes. I enjoyed using this app, but have found lately since only see rediwhip on it, going to less and less

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