ShopSmarter Review: Scam or Worth it? Here’s What I Found

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Many of us shop online nowadays. With the rise of online shopping, there’s a growing number of tools designed to help us save money such as reward apps and browser extensions.

If you’re someone who loves a good deal, this surge in options can only be a good thing. For instance, well-known platforms like Honey, for example, allow you to sign up quickly and snag discounts or cashback when you purchase from certain stores. Each platform has its own way of saving you money, paying you, and offering rewards.

Today, I’d like to discuss Shop Smarter, a platform that’s a bit unique in how it gives cashback rewards. You might wonder if it’s a trustworthy platform and whether the membership fee is worth it. I’ve tried it out myself to give you the details.  As in all of my reviews, I’m always 100% honest, only recommending what I feel is worth your time.

What is ShopSmarter?

Shop Smarter is a platform where you can explore popular brands and earn cashback through its membership program. It’s like being paid to shop from its many partner brands. They claim that you can earn up to 10% cashback and even offer a $10 bonus when you join.

It differs from the others in that it’s neither a browser extension nor an app, but you can easily access it on your mobile device. When you buy items, you do it as you typically would on any online site. After that, Shop Smarter keeps track of what you’ve bought and credits the cashback to your account.

If you’ve previously used platforms like TopCashback, this setup will feel familiar. Yet, there’s a catch with Shop Smarter. Unlike the others, there’s a membership fee, which might deter some people looking for quick savings. I’ll delve into that aspect shortly.

How it Works

I joined Shop Smarter to personally experience its functionality. The process involves four primary steps:

  1. Registration: First, you sign up using your email address.
  2. Exploration: Browse various stores offering cashback.
  3. Shopping: Make purchases and accumulate rewards.
  4. Redemption: Transfer the earned cashback to your account.

On special occasions, like holidays or seasonal events like back-to-school promotions, for instance, Shop Smarter sometimes offers up to 20% cashback for individual brands. While this all sounds promising, let’s dive deeper to understand the nuances.

Signing Up

When you visit the Shop Smarter website, there’s a prominent orange “Join Now” button. Clicking on this button will ask you for details like your email, physical address, and credit card information. The reason they require your address is to mail you cashback checks each month, while your credit card details are needed because of the membership-based nature of the platform.

Here’s the catch, however.  A Shop Smarter membership isn’t free. At the moment, it’s priced at about $10 monthly, with the rate being higher in some regions. Considering you’re potentially paying for a chance to earn 10% cashback on regular buys, it might seem steep. They do offer a 7-day trial for a few dollars if you’re just looking to try it out.

The membership fee might be off-putting for many. Think about it — you need to spend $100 at qualifying stores each month just to balance out the membership cost.

Explaining the Membership Free

Joining Shop Smarter costs about $9.97 per month, and without this membership, you can’t access the cashback offers. In certain areas, this fee might even be closer to $13 per month. Unlike some other platforms that provide both free and premium versions, Shop Smarter only has the premium option, which provides all the benefits of earning rewards. There is no free option at the moment.

If you find it’s not for you, remember that platforms like Rakuten offer similar services, often with no associated fees.

If, after trying out Shop Smarter, you decide it’s not the right fit and want to terminate your membership, you can do so via your personal profile page.

Once you’ve followed these instructions, your account should be deactivated right away, and billing will cease after the upcoming full month. If you’re not satisfied with the service, they even offer a refund for your initial monthly payment without any hassle.

Earning Cash Back with Stores

When using Shop Smarter, you’re presented with over a thousand stores to choose from, spanning diverse categories like clothing, tech, and household items, to name a few. I’ll delve deeper into the exact categories and stores a bit later in this overview, but it’s evident there’s a plethora of choices available.  If you shop with a big name retailer, there’s a good chance you will find it on this list.

For those who maintain an active Shop Smarter membership, shopping is straightforward.

You simply visit your desired stores through the Shop Smarter portal. This way, the platform can monitor your transactions and credit the cashback to your account. Consistently, Shop Smarter promises you’ll earn 10% cashback at any partnered store. Additionally, during special times such as holiday seasons, there are opportunities to earn even more. They also refresh their coupon offerings daily, ensuring that members always have access to the most up-to-date deals. And the best part? These coupons can be used alongside the standard 10% cashback.

Making Purchases

Looking at the site, it’s evident they collaborate with a multitude of renowned online retailers. This broad network suggests that acquiring cashback rewards should be straightforward. However, a vital detail to bear in mind is the need to spend more than $100 monthly to justify the membership fee. If your monthly shopping doesn’t surpass this amount, you may find yourself in a financial deficit.

For those who routinely spend upwards of $100 at these retailers, the benefits of Shop Smarter could be appealing. But, if hitting this monthly target feels challenging, other free cashback options like Honey or the Ibotta app might be more suitable. Notably, platforms like Rakuten still offer competitive cashback rates at various stores, contributing to its widespread appeal.  Again, these sites are 100% free.

An added convenience Shop Smarter provides is the “buy online, pick up in-store” feature, available for brands that support this service. This is especially handy for those who wish to receive their products a tad faster.

Getting Paid

Every month, Shop Smarter tallies up the cashback you’ve earned, which is typically 10% of what you’ve spent, unless there were other special rewards involved.

You then receive this cashback every month for you to spend as you see fit. However, one limitation is that currently, the only way to get your cash is through a mailed check. Unlike some other platforms, there aren’t options like gift cards or PayPal transfers.

It’s worth noting that while cashing out is legitimate and most users receive their checks without any hitches, there have been instances where cashback wasn’t credited. This issue isn’t unique to Shop Smarter; many other cashback sites face similar challenges where, at times, certain purchases might not get credited for reasons that aren’t always clear.

Is it Legit?

Is Shop Smarter a genuine platform? Yes, it is.

The platform rewards its members with cashback for purchasing from many retailers. From my observations, navigating their website is a breeze. Shop Smarter has also earned a respectable rating of about a 3.8~ out of 5 on Trust Pilot, and a significant portion of these reviews appear to be authentic.

However, there’s a caveat: the membership fee you pay can cut into your cashback earnings. So, it’s worth pondering whether it’s beneficial to pay for Shop Smarter’s service when there are, again, no-cost options like Rakuten available.

There’s also a concerning note some users have shared: they mention their accounts getting suspended after making a sizable purchase eligible for cashback. If that’s accurate, it’s a red flag. Therefore, if you’re using Shop Smarter, it’s advisable to withdraw your balance promptly and be extra cautious with substantial purchases.   I will talk about the pros/cons shortly.

How Much Can I Make?

Shop Smarter’s official stance is clear: if you shop through their listed stores, you’re on track to earn a minimum of 10% cashback on your monthly expenditures. But, there’s more. They offer a few additional methods to increase your earnings:

  • Cashback Specials: These are unique deals where, during specific periods or events (like holidays or seasonal promotions), you can earn up to 20% cashback. Some past examples of participating stores are Target and JC Penny, for example.
  • Stack & Save: This feature lets you add to your savings. On top of your standard 10% cashback, you can apply coupons, and yes, these coupons won’t interfere with your cashback eligibility.
  • Discount Codes: Simply put, Shop Smarter provides discount codes on their platform, so you won’t have to scour the web to find them. And, these codes are refreshed daily.

When computing your cashback rewards, always account for the membership fee you’re paying. It’s essential to determine if the net savings are worthwhile.

In the end, how much you make will greatly depend on how much you spend on your shopping trips.  If you spend $300 a month, that’s $30 in cash back, but when you factor in the monthly fee, you’re pocketing $20.

The Pros

  • Rebates and Savings: Many users appreciate the rebates offered by ShopSmarter. The 10% cashback feature is particularly popular.
  • Rebate Checks: The checks are delivered in a timely manner to users.
  • Customer Support: Some users feel that ShopSmarter has above-average customer service.
  • Number of Retailers: The platform supports a wide variety of retailers, giving users numerous options to shop from.
  • Ease of Use: The website is intuitive and user-friendly.
  • No Hassle: Some users have highlighted the seamless process of getting their cash back without any unnecessary delays.
  • Automatic Payouts: Checks are sent out automatically every month, making it convenient for users.
  • Cost-Effective for Regular Shoppers: For those who frequently shop online, the monthly fee can be offset by the savings from the cashback.

The Cons

  • Account Issues: Some users have reported their accounts being cancelled without prior notice or legitimate reason.
  • Membership Fee: There has been a noted increase in the monthly membership fee, which has been a point of contention among some users.
  • Limited Rebate Amount: Some users believe that the annual total rebate cap should be increased.
  • Restrictions: Not all items from stores like Sam’s are eligible for cashback. Additionally, if a coupon is used at certain stores, like Belk, the purchase may not qualify for cashback.
  • Delayed Rebates: Several users mentioned delays in receiving their rebates, especially for high-dollar purchases.
  • Customer Service: While some praise the customer service, others find it lacking. Issues include not receiving credit for some purchases and having to repeatedly contact support to get issues resolved.
  • Unexpected Charges: There are reports of unauthorized charges, with some users being unaware of signing up but still getting charged.
  • Communication: Some users have expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of proper communication, especially regarding price increases.

Final Thoughts

1/10Getting  10% cashback seems tempting, right? But there’s a price attached to it, of course.

In my view, the monthly membership fee isn’t justified. Asking for $10 every month might be a bit much for regular folks who are only trying to pinch some pennies.

I’d suggest taking a look at alternatives to Shop Smarter, such as Rakuten, Honey and Ibotta. They don’t cost a dime and the rewards you get for such minimal effort are quite splendid.

Of course, if you’re inclined, you can test out Shop Smarter for just a few dollars with their trial. It might make sense if you’re the type to drop roughly $200 or more monthly.

For the time being, I’m sticking with my no-cost cashback tools and browser add-ons. I hope this review provides clarity on whether Shop Smarter aligns with your shopping habits.

In the end, I’d say skip out and consider the free versions that do the same thing.  The only downfall is that you may find that the cashback rate will be slightly less.

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Tom Nathaniel

Hi! My name is Tom Nathaniel, and I created LushDollar to help share my honest thoughts on everything money. You won't find gimmicks here. It's the Internet's most honest money site after all. I graduated from Arizona State University, and I have worked in the finance industry since 2006, consulting with multiple Fortune 5000 companies.

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