What's the best cashback app for 'free money'? We tested four...

woman smiling and wearing red lipstick while holding a jar of money
PSA: free money actually exists (kinda...)Getty Images

We’re all feeling the pinch right now when it comes to cashflow (anyone else found they're fantasising about winning the lottery about 200% more regularly?) which makes the wave of new apps, platforms and schemes that promise ‘free money’ (for little to no effort) sound so appealing.

From apps that pledge you a percentage when you buy your regular items through them, to paid surveys, step-count reward schemes and quick ways to sell off your bric-a-brac, there are a ton of options. But are any of them actually a good use of time? After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right? Or is there… We put four free-to-download cashback schemes, ranging from WeAre8 to TopCashback, to the test.

Money-making idea: WeAre8, a social media site that shares revenue with users for every advert they watch

Tested by: Jade Biggs, Features Writer

Trialled for: Two weeks

So, how was it? After seeing adverts for WeAre8 plastered all over the tube, I downloaded the app to see what the fuss was about. Hailed as being a ‘social media platform with purpose’, I was enticed by WeAre8’s promise to essentially pay me for watching adverts on the app – which seemed great, considering I spend so much time online anyway. I may as well monetise that, right!?

The app is simple to use and follows the similar scroll-through-the-feed setup that most social media platforms, like Instagram and TikTok, deploy – however, none of my mates have joined, so I was left mostly just consuming WeAre8’s own posts and the odd celebrity, who had been roped into promoting the app itself or a fitness plan. As for the money-making, you have to keep an eye out for a notification that pops up and lets you know there’s an advert to watch. You can then click onto it and find out how much you’ll earn for your time. After watching the ad, all you need to do is answer a few short questions and the money is deposited into your ‘wallet’ on the app – although you have to wait 30 days to access the cash IRL.

Sadly, despite using the app every day for two weeks, there wasn’t much money in my account at the end of it – I hadn’t even earned enough money to buy a Crunchie. Most days, there were only one or two adverts available to watch, whilst on others there were no adverts at all. Many adverts come at a very low watch-cost too, with the potential to only earn a few pence at a time. One positive of the WeAre8 app is that a portion of your earnings are donated directly to charity, or you can opt to donate your entire fund. However, if you’re looking for a way to earn major money, this isn’t the way to go.

Profit: 49p plus 9p donated to charity

Money-making idea: TopCashback, an app and website that lets you get a percentage of… well, cash back on purchases made from various popular retailers (from ASOS to Argos)

Tested by: Hanna Ibraheem, Acting Beauty Editor

Trialled for: Four months

So, how was it? Between planning a wedding and buying a house, I’m in full-on money saving mode. It was during a casual conversation with a friend, in which we were talking about how expensive everything is (a common conversation nowadays…), that she mentioned TopCashback. She had just finished making a bunch of big purchases while renovating and told me she’d saved hundreds of pounds in the process. I downloaded it immediately.

The excitement was short-lived when my first TopCashback purchase saw me get 60p back for train tickets that cost £116.60 but I stuck with it, as it’s simple to use. All you have to do is search the brand or retailer you’re purchasing from on the app or website, find a cashback deal that suits you (you get more if you’re a first-time buyer from that specific retailer, for example) and click ‘Cashback’. It’ll then take you directly to the retailer’s website for you to shop as normal. When describing it to friends, I often say it requires no more effort than a quick Google search, but with money back.

Although it’s not a speedy process, over the last four months the amount of money in my ‘Payable Cashback’ amount has (very) slowly racked up and I’m now nearing £40. It might not sound like loads but considering using TopCashback requires barely any effort, I’m pretty happy – as that’s still £40 I wouldn’t have otherwise. The best bit is the range of things that TopCashback offers money back on – I’ve gotten over £16 back for a hotel stay, £8.10 for a Lego set (yep, it’s handy when buying gifts) and a fiver back on some M&S wine.

Profit: £39.21

woman holding money arranged like a fan
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Money-making idea: Ziffit, a handy app that allows you to scan all your unwanted books, DVDs and CDs, then redeem them for speedy money

Tested by: Isabella Silvers, Cosmopolitan Contributor

Trialled for: Two weeks

So, how was it? Needing to clear some space on my bookshelves and keen for some pocket money, I re-downloaded Ziffit, which I first tried two years ago after seeing it advertised online; that time around, I made £14. On this second attempt, I scoured my flat for books I no longer needed and as I’d traded with Ziffit before, I already had an account, so all I needed to do was scan the books’ barcodes, which was quite satisfying. Less satisfying was the price Ziffit were willing to give me per item – most books clocked in at between 8p to 70p, one was valued at £1.10 and a few were declined altogether.

The key here is clearly volume, as even freshly released books didn’t stack up the cash. I was hoping to meet the weight limit of 5kg for my books to be collected by Ziffit’s courier (for free), but with only a few books to trade, my options were a Collect+ store or InPost locker. I opted for the lockers, but I had to go three times before a big enough locker was available – which was annoying (and time-consuming). Nine days later, I got a notification saying my items were being quality checked. Thankfully, they all passed, and the cash was in my account the same day. Ker-ching!

Profit: £5.37

Money-making idea: Sweatcoin, a simple-sounding app that sees you earn ‘sweatcoins’ correlating to how many steps you take a day (the idea is to motivate people to get moving). These points can be redeemed for vouchers, prizes and more… apparently.

Tested by: Jennifer Savin, Features Editor

Trialled for: One month

So, how was it?Although the effort, for me, to accumulate sweatcoins was pretty minimal (I try and be active in some capacity every day), the pay-off was zilch. When I first saw I’d amassed enough points for a free £10 Turtle Bay voucher, after just a couple of days, I was excited, until I clicked through and followed Sweatcoin’s clunky process. It turns out, I wasn’t just automatically being given a voucher for walking, no strings attached, but rather was being redirected to a discount scheme site that wanted to me to join and input a load of personal information, in order to get the voucher as part of the welcome package. Given I could easily have found this myself via Google, the app felt unnecessary.

There’s also the option to bid for prizes on the app, such as homewares, tech gadgets and gift cards, but you have to have points in the thousands to win (for context: after having the app for a month, I’ve now got 158 sweatcoins, elsewhere on the app, someone just won a £250 H&M gift card after bidding… 30,000 sweatcoins for it). One silver lining is that you can donate points to charitable causes too, but if you’re hoping to get some quick cash or goods for yourself, Sweatcoin feels like a waste of time. That said, I’ll probably keep it on my phone, and leave it ticking away in the background – who knows, maybe in a decade I’ll have enough points to buy myself a coffee.

Profit: £0 (and tbh I really do feel like they owe me for all that faffing)

What to know before you press download…

Money guru, Brean Horne, a personal finance expert at NerdWallet, debunks cashback schemes

“Most cashback sites and apps are free to register with and use,” explains Horne, “although some companies offer 'premium memberships' with an annual subscription cost for members to receive access to the best deals. Before signing up to any cashback service, it’s important to check the terms and conditions for any hidden costs.”

She adds that the time factor is also a biggie to consider, “Cashback websites and apps may offer shoppers an opportunity to earn rewards, which could help ease financial pressure amid the cost-of-living crisis. But it’s worth noting that you may need to build up a certain amount of earnings before you can redeem your money. And depending on your spending habits, this may take a while to accumulate.”

Horne also reminds that it’s important to only spend within your budget (Translate: resist the urge to make unnecessary purchases just because they’re discounted) and to be mindful of scammers. “Beware of any services offering the opportunity to ‘get rich quickly’. Scammers tend to use the promise of high returns to persuade people to part with their money or personal information. Remember, cashback sites and other rewards platforms take time to build up rewards and the process for earning will be clearly outlined in their Ts & Cs. So, if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.”

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