Digital offers are supposed to make saving money easy – no more sorting, clipping and remembering to bring little pieces of paper to the store! But for committed digital savers, it can be a challenge as you end up juggling multiple apps or visiting several different websites – clipping digital coupons on one, selecting rebate offers on another, uploading a receipt to yet another.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could access digital coupons from your favorite store, and rebate offers from Ibotta and Checkout 51, all in one place?

Now you can, if you shop in the right store. Kroger-owned YouTech is expanding a new savings program, turning it into a one-stop shop for coupons and cash back that could have you setting aside your separate savings apps and putting away your paper receipts for good.

“Cash Back Rewards” was piloted at Kroger-owned Fry’s stores in Arizona earlier this year. Now, the program has been introduced to two additional Kroger chains, Ralphs and Smith’s, with aims of expanding to more Kroger-owned stores and other retailers in the near future. And the program also now includes offers from Ibotta in addition to those previously available from Checkout 51.


Cash Back Rewards is accessible via the stores’ websites. There, you can load YouTech-powered digital coupons to your loyalty account as you normally would. You can also now choose the “Cash Back” tab to access more than a hundred rebate offers. Many are the same as those already offered on the standalone Ibotta and Checkout 51 platforms, while many others are store-specific, like $1.25 cash back on a case of store-brand bottled water, or $3 cash back when you spend $10 on produce. A few offers are even labeled “unlimited use”, so instead of loading the offer, using it once and having it disappear, you can get cash back for purchasing that particular item as many times and in as many shopping trips as you’d like before it expires.

After you earn cash back, you can either apply it toward future purchases, or get the cash deposited into a PayPal account once you earn at least $20.

So why offer cash back rewards alongside the hundreds of digital coupons that already exist? “The benefit is twofold,” YouTech CEO Cheryl Black told Coupons in the News. “It gives shoppers more ways to save money. In today’s world, shoppers are seeking choice and control. We help retailers deliver convenient options.” In addition, Black said, Cash Back Rewards “makes the rebate experience seamless. We’ve improved a cumbersome process by eliminating the need to take a picture of the receipt.”

Uploading images of your paper receipt has always been kind of a pain when submitting for otherwise “paperless” digital rebates. SavingStar pioneered card-linked rebates, and is currently ramping up efforts to switch more stores from receipt-scanning to loyalty account-linked programs where the rebates are submitted automatically. Ibotta, and to a lesser extent Checkout 51, have been working to do the same. But Kroger has remained a prominent holdout. It quit working with SavingStar to allow automatic rebates several years ago, and has never linked up with Ibotta or Checkout 51 before. That’s forced shoppers at the country’s largest traditional grocery retailer to go through the hassle of photographing their receipts if they want a rebate from a cash-back app.

Until now, that is. Whether you redeem via the store’s website or use the Ibotta app to claim your rebates, you can now get your cash back seamlessly from Fry’s, Ralphs and Smith’s by linking Ibotta to your store loyalty account (Checkout 51 still requires you to scan your receipt if you submit for rebates through its app). And as more Kroger-owned stores come aboard, the receipt-scanning requirement is likely to be phased out in those stores as well. Linking Ibotta rebates to your loyalty account also eliminates the annoying step of having to scan the bar codes of the products you purchase (Checkout 51 doesn’t require this).

Ibotta declined to comment on its participation in the program, but Checkout 51 addressed it when Cash Back Rewards first went live with Fry’s earlier this year. The idea was to allow brands “to provide their offers to as many shoppers as possible, and give shoppers the freedom to decide where and how to save,” Tim Ryan, General Manager of Digital Incentives at News America Marketing/Checkout 51, told Coupons in the News. Brands offering rebates “obviously want to reach as many people as possible and give them incentives to try that product,” Ryan said, but those brands are often “hesitant to put the offers for the same products on multiple savings apps/destinations at the same time because some people will redeem across all apps/destinations.”

So incorporating Ibotta and Checkout 51 offers into a retailer-specific platform gives those brand offers more visibility, while also giving the brands some peace of mind that they won’t be paying out twice for overlapping offers on a single purchase. “There are technical controls in place or in the process of being implemented” to prevent deal-stacking, Black explained. Since the offers are all linked to your loyalty account, the system will know if you’ve tried to stack a paper coupon, a digital coupon and/or a cash-back offer on a single purchase, and will be able to prevent it.

Stacking coupons and cash-back offers has been a sticky subject ever since cash-back apps first came along. Many shoppers see nothing wrong with it, likening the practice to the perfectly legitimate act of stacking store and manufacturer’s coupons, or using a coupon in conjunction with an in-store promotion. Many brands don’t like it though, considering the practice to be no different than trying to stack two manufacturer’s offers on a single item. Checkout 51 has been trying to get in brands’ good graces by working to prevent deal-stacking, while Ibotta has been publicly ambivalent about it.

By joining forces with YouTech and Kroger, however, Ibotta is effectively coming down on the side of the deal-stacking opponents by preventing those who participate in Cash Back Rewards from using a coupon and submitting for an Ibotta rebate on a single purchase. For committed couponers, being able to stack offers has long been one of the big appeals of cash-back apps. So the jury is out on how much they will embrace a platform that prevents them from doing so.

But then Cash Back Rewards probably isn’t for committed couponers anyway. It seems designed for the more casual shopper who doesn’t want to have to juggle multiple apps in search of savings. That raises another question, though – could Cash Back Rewards be too complicated for the everyday saver?

“The process is a bit more complicated than coupons,” Black acknowledged. Some shoppers may be confused about why some offers are in the form of digital coupons that come off right away, while others are in the form of rebates that end up in an account that can’t be cashed out until it reaches $20. Why, they might wonder, can’t all of the offers just be digital coupons, accessible in the same place, without having to toggle back and forth between coupons and cash back?

Despite those concerns, Cash Back Rewards has gotten “mostly positive feedback” from users, Black said. And since its initial introduction, “we have tweaked a few things, mostly making the program easier to understand,” she said. “We expect to learn and tweak more as we expand the program to more banners and retailers.”

So when might you see Cash Back Rewards at your store? “The program will be offered to all Kroger-owned stores, rolled out at their convenience,” Black said. And YouTech runs the digital coupon platforms for many other stores that aren’t Kroger-owned, so Cash Back Rewards could ultimately roll out to even more retailers across the country.

It’s too soon to know whether integrating cash-back offers into a retailer’s digital savings platform will make standalone rebate apps redundant, and usher in a new age of digital discounts that relegates receipt-scanning to the dustbin of promotional history. For now, at least, more shoppers have a choice in how they want to save. And if giving up deal-stacking in exchange for the one-stop-shopping convenience of Cash Back Rewards helps you save time along with saving money – then YouTech, Kroger, Ibotta, Checkout 51 and hundreds of brands are betting that you might just decide it’s worth it.

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