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It’s difficult saving money during a pandemic. It’s also difficult if your entire business model is based on helping people to save money, when people are trying to avoid shopping as much as possible.

So some of your favorite rebate and rewards apps are having to get creative to keep you engaged, and keep their businesses up and running. Some are offering more ways to earn from home, while others are offering special rewards on items they otherwise wouldn’t.

Several apps are emphasizing online shopping as an alternate way to continue earning rewards. Ibotta, for one, is well-placed to promote cash back for online purchases as an alternative to in-store shopping, since it’s been offering the feature for some time now.

“Whether you are shopping at the grocery store, ordering items online, or receiving your contact-less dinner delivery, we want you to know that you can count on Ibotta during this time,” Ibotta CEO Bryan Leach wrote in a recent message to users. You can earn cash back from Ibotta in the form of a flat percentage of your online purchase total if you navigate to your favorite store through the Ibotta app. And you can continue taking advantage of specific grocery rebate offers even if you order online, as long as your grocery loyalty account is linked to Ibotta, or you get a printed receipt to scan.

Fetch Rewards recently added the ability to earn rewards for online purchases, and not a moment too soon. “Shopping from home? We’ve got you,” the app is informing users. “Earn points on eReceipts when you connect your Amazon or email accounts in the app.” Typically, you earn Fetch points that can be converted into gift cards, when you upload printed receipts from in-store shopping trips. But now, Fetch allows you to link your Amazon account, or you can grant it permission to scan your email account for digital receipts for online orders from retailers like Walmart, Target, Costco and more.

Checkout 51, in contrast, is limited in what it can offer for online purchases. Right now, only online purchases from Safeway are eligible for Checkout 51 rebates. Otherwise, you have to shop in a physical store. So Checkout 51 is trying to sweeten the deal a bit with special offers. “We know this is a difficult time for many,” Checkout 51 General Manager Tim Ryan wrote in a message to users. So “we’ll be offering cash back on key grocery staples to help you put a little more money back in your pocket during this critical time. You can start saving on these offers right now. We hope this helps make a difference.”

So if you’ve gotten out of the habit of browsing through Checkout 51’s grocery offers looking for good deals, you can still save on more everyday, essential purchases. Just open the app and you’ll find special offers for 25 cents cash back on “any brand” items including bread, eggs and bananas or apples.

The cash-back app Makeena is following a similar strategy. Makeena typically focuses on smaller, specialty brands as part of its mission to give you cash back for purchases of healthy and organic products. But to help you save on items that are more in demand these days, Makeena has offered some “any brand” offers of its own, for items including toilet paper, hand sanitizers, vitamins and produce. Just be sure you’re buying the good stuff – because, in keeping with Makeena’s mission, only “biodegradable or eco-friendly toilet paper” or hand sanitizers that are “non-GMO, no triclosan, no synthetic frangrances” are eligible for cash back.

Then there are the apps that reward you not for specific purchases, but for visiting stores. With fewer shoppers browsing the aisles, how can apps like Shopkick and Observa keep users engaged and rewarded?

Shopkick gives you points that can be converted into gift cards, every time you walk into a participating store, or scan the bar codes of various items inside. But at a time like this, no one wants to encourage shoppers to make frequent visits to stores, or grab packages to scan their bar codes and then put them back on the shelf for others to touch.

So Shopkick is offering increased rewards for mobile purchases, and special bonus opportunities to earn without having to visit a store. “Our mission at Shopkick is to make everyday shopping fun and rewarding,” Shopkick General Manager Dave Fisch wrote in a message to users. “Thankfully, that doesn’t require you to leave your home.”

And what about an app like Observa, which doesn’t really work if you don’t leave your home? Observa gives you cash rewards for lingering in stores to answer questions about specific displays, or for interacting with store staff – not exactly the kind of thing anyone wants to encourage right now. “We don’t want you to do anything to negatively impact your health or endanger those around you. With that in mind, we ask you to be safe whenever you are completing observations,” Observa is informing users. “We are also working on a new type of observation that you can complete from your phone wherever you are in just a matter of seconds. The pay reflects a lower amount of effort.”

In the meantime, Observa is trying out some special, coronavirus-themed offers to keep you checking in. “We want to know what you are doing to protect yourself and the community from COVID-19. So please send us a picture of hand soaps or hand sanitizers!” one offer reads. “A photo will be randomly chosen once per day, and the person whose photo is chosen will be notified via email and paid $5.” The app is also inviting users to “be a good neighbor” and take photos of local stores’ supplies of essential items like toilet paper, wipes and soap so other nearby residents can see what the shelves look like before they head out.

Even during these uncertain times, most of us are going to have to shop at some point. So you might as well save while you’re at it. “At Ibotta, our mission is to Make Every Purchase Rewarding,” Leach said. “Now more than ever we believe this mission is of paramount importance, as it will help millions of families increase their ability to buy more food and essentials.”

You may not be doing as much shopping now as you used to. But when you have to venture out, or place an order online, just think – the more you save now, the more you’ll have to spend whenever this is all over.

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