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Fear not, Ibotta users – it’s not as bad as it originally appeared.

What had first looked to be a major unannounced policy change for the cash-back app has been changed once again, in response to inquiries from Coupons in the News.

In short, combining coupons with Ibotta cash-back offers is still allowed. Sometimes.

A majority of the time, to be precise, though there are a number of individual exceptions. So you’re going to have to read the terms of each offer when you activate it, to look for the wording “offer not eligible for cash back when combined with other coupons and/or promo codes,” if you’re planning to use a coupon on the same purchase.

But that’s not what Ibotta’s Help Center said for the past several days, which caused a lot of confusion and upset. “Can I use coupons or other promotions with Ibotta offers?” read a new entry that was quietly added last week. “No,” was the answer. “Ibotta offers available in-store and online cannot be combined with other discounts including: Manufacturer coupons, Paper coupons, Digital coupon codes, Retailer digital rewards.”

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That would be a drastic change for the app, and an odd one to just spring on its millions of users without a heads up. In the eleven years since its founding, the ability to “stack” coupons and cash-back offers on the purchase of a single product has been a large part of Ibotta’s appeal for many users. And it’s never been outright forbidden. “Unless (manufacturers) specifically state you can not combine discounts with the rebate, you are allowed to,” an Ibotta spokesperson told Coupons in the News a number of years ago.

So the new Help Center entry sent some Ibotta users into a panic, and others into a rage. “This new change is horrible,” one online commenter wrote. “Unhappy about the new policy. No warning, no nothing,” another complained. “Extremely shady on Ibotta’s part to do it this way,” a third wrote.

The outrage began after many users had their rebate submissions denied, or reversed, and discovered the Help Center entry in their search for answers.

It turns out, though, that stacking is only forbidden with some offers, not all of them. “It is currently a subset of all Ibotta offers, not everything, which is why the offer details are important,” Ibotta’s Chief Marketing Officer Rich Donahue told Coupons in the News.

He acknowledged that the Help Center language needed some “cleaning up,” and by yesterday evening, that language had been changed again. It now clarifies that “some (emphasis added) Ibotta offers have restrictions which would not allow them to be combined with Manufacturer coupons, Paper coupons, Digital coupon codes, Retailer digital rewards, among others. It is important to always check the offer details to understand the specific exclusions or restrictions for that offer.”

As of this writing, a perusal of the app shows that certain brands like Stouffer’s, Heinz, Little Debbie, Danone and others include the restriction against combining their Ibotta cash-back offers with other discounts. The majority of other offers do not, though, which means combining coupons and cash-back offers on these items is still perfectly fine.

But the whole episode once again raises the issue of how, exactly, a cash-back offer should be categorized. Ibotta and some other cash-back apps have long considered them to be something of a separate category from manufacturer’s coupons – sort of like a store coupon or an in-store promotion. In most cases, there’s no prohibition against stacking a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon or an in-store promotion on the purchase of a single product – in fact, many retailers and brands promote this very type of stacking, so their savviest shoppers can get some extra savings.

Similarly, in most cases, there’s been no prohibition against stacking a manufacturer’s coupon with an Ibotta rebate on the purchase of a single product. In fact, some brands promote this very type of stacking, too – a current Arm & Hammer toothpaste ad encourages users to print a $1.50 coupon from Coupons.com, and combine it with a $2 Ibotta rebate: “It’s like getting $3.50 off any one Arm & Hammer toothpaste!” the ad proclaims.

Some manufacturers frown upon this practice, though, and would prefer that consumers use a coupon, or a cash-back offer, but not both. The Joint Industry Coupon Council, a coalition of manufacturers, retailers and other industry stakeholders, recently updated its “anti-stacking” guide, which advises members to clearly state their policies and guard against “the risk that more than one manufacturer offer may be applied to a single item purchase.”

And by stating that their offers are “not eligible for cash back when combined with other coupons and/or promo codes,” that’s precisely what some brands are now doing on Ibotta.

“We work with thousands of different brand partners who place their offer content in our network and deepen their investments with Ibotta as we grow,” Donahue said. “Part of maintaining access to the best possible offer content means that, where possible, we give our partners the flexibility to determine how they want their offers to be delivered – including whether they want to allow stacking of their offers within different environments.”

So there’s no blanket prohibition against stacking offers from Ibotta, but there’s not a blanket policy allowing it with every offer, either. For now, it’s being handled on a case-by-case, brand-by-brand basis. The alternative, Donahue suggests, could be worse. “Other companies that allow or encourage practices that brands do not like will soon lose access to those brands’ content, and that will negatively impact their users and the entire savings community,” he said. “Our approach means the breadth and depth of offer content for consumers will continue to grow, and a larger percentage of the best offers will only be found on our properties and partner properties.”

The bottom line, then, is that coupon-and-cash-back stacking isn’t dead, so Ibotta super savers who like combining deals within the rules can rest easy. As always, though, you need to know those rules in order to comply with, and benefit from, them. So the next time you activate an Ibotta offer, just as you do when you clip out a coupon or browse through your store’s sales circular – be sure to read the fine print.

3 Comments

  1. Honest Couponer says:

    Excellent reporting by Coupons In The News! Ibotta is truly a hot mess!

  2. It looks like they still have to update the rest of their help section. The one titled ‘Can I stack Any Brand and Branded offers?’ still explicitly indicates it’s not allowed.
    https://help.ibotta.com/hc/en-us/articles/360001846288-Can-I-stack-Any-Brand-and-Branded-offers-

    It’s amazing how haphazardly this whole episode has been handled in such a rush and reactive way. There was a commenter in the Ibotta Deal Stacking community who indicated they had offers without the anti-sticking verbiage declined last week.

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