Saving Money

How to Paint a Mirror Frame: Easy DIY on a Budget

Chalk paint on sliver mirror frame with texting reading Easy DIY on a Budget: Refresh a Mirror Frame on a Budget

Before and after of a mirror frame that's been paintedOne of the easiest and cheapest ways to update a bathroom is to with paint. You can paint the walls, sure, but why not paint mirror frames, fixtures, lights, towel holders, and even doorknobs?

What’s “in” can change pretty quickly – much quicker than your lights, doorknobs, or mirror frames break or stop working. Rather than wasting money on buying new and figuring out how to switch them out, you can easily update what you already have without breaking the bank.

Our bathroom needed a refresh but just wasn’t in the budget, since we’re focusing on the kitchen. So instead, we chose to go after some small and simple wins by choosing to renew pieces rather than replace them.

One of the pieces we focused on renewing was our bathroom mirror. My husband hated the silver, heavy finish, and candidly, it was pretty dated.

So with a couple of hours to kill and $20 burning a hole in my pocket, I set off to paint the mirror frame.

Silver mirror frame with chalk paint, metallic paint, and brush

How to Paint an Old Mirror Frame

What paint do I use to paint a mirror frame?

There are a lot of different options out there, and this is a small enough project that it’s perfect for trying something new.

While I did a mix of chalk paint, acrylic, and wax in layers on my mirror frame, you can easily try something else. Some paint ideas include:

  1. Chalk paint.

     I love, love using chalk paint on mirror frames because they tend to have a lot of details and crevices. It makes it easy to layer colors, play with tinted wax, and build a layered look to your color palette. Plus, you don’t have to use a primer with chalk paint. It adheres great to wood, metal, and plastic mirror frames.

  2. Spray paint.

    If you’re not looking for a lot of layered color or dimension, spray paint can work. You can get it textured, matte, metallic, hammered and even chalkboard. Plus, some spray paints have primer and paint in one, so you don’t always have to use a primer. Spray paint would work if your mirror frame is flat without a lot of crevices or detail work, and you can easily remove it from the wall.

  3. Latex paint.

    If you have a wall color that you love, you can use latex paint on your mirror frame. Make sure to use a foam roller to avoid brush strokes. I would only recommend this if your frame is relatively plain and doesn’t require a lot of brushwork. Also, you’ll need to use a primer to get solid coverage. If your mirror belongs in a bathroom or an area with high moisture, consider latex paint specifically for bathrooms. 

  4. Wood Stain.

    If your mirror frame is wood, you can sand down the old stain (or paint) and restain it with a stain like this. Sanding, restaining, and sealing can be time-intensive but will produce a beautiful wood finish. 

  5. Milk paint.

     This paint often comes in a powder that you mix to create your perfect hue. Since mirror frames are small, this could be an excellent opportunity to try out milk paint. It produces a more ‘chippy’ look and will distress more over time. Milk paint also ages over time, creating a sheen that gives it an authentic antique look.

  6. Salt wash.

    Salt wash is perfect if you want an aged and antiqued look. It creates a very textured surface that makes the piece look like it’s been sitting out in the sea air and sun for ages. Combining salt wash with any of the paints above creates a unique and beautiful piece!

  7. Gold leaf/foil.

    If you want to learn how to paint a mirror frame antique gold, try gold leaf. Once painted, you apply thin sheets of gold leaf to create a beautiful and luxurious finish. If you’re want to change a gold mirror frame to silver or bronze, they make silver and bronze leaf as well. The gold leaf look can be acheived with paint without the work – I would recommend using something like this paint.

What you will need to paint a mirror frame:

To paint this mirror frame, I used chalk paint since I knew I could create some beautiful textures and layers with the details of the frame. My frame is plastic, so I knew that chalk paint would be easier to use since I wouldn’t have to mess with a primer.

Supplies:

How to protect a mirror when painting a frame

My mirror and frame are the door of a medicine cabinet. Luckily, I was able to use a screwdriver to dismantle the frame and remove it entirely from the door. 

On the inside of the door were screws around the entire oval. I removed the screws from the top so that I could slide out the glass part of the mirror before removing the plastic frame. I then placed the mirror in a safe place (ekkk!), removed the rest of the screws, and popped off the mirror frame.

If your frame doesn’t come off, try removing the full door/mirror.

If you can’t remove the mirror from the frame, you’ll want to cut a piece of cardboard to place over the mirror area. Then, you’ll use painter’s tape to tape under the edge of the frame, so that paint doesn’t end up on the mirror.

An alternative idea: Another interesting idea is to use vaseline, however, then you have to worry about it getting on the frame and preventing the paint from sticking well, especially since vaseline can be used to distress chalk paint. Plus, then you have to clean vaseline off your mirror, which seems like it could be a smeary pain in the butt.

Next, prep your mirror frame for painting.

If you’re choosing to stain a wood frame, now is when you would use a sander or sandpaper to strip the wood down. Once the sanding is done, make sure to wipe the frame down with a damp cloth or a tack cloth to remove all the bits of dust. If you don’t, your paint job will be a bumpy, hot mess!

If you’re painting your frame (whether metal, wood, or plastic), wipe it down and clean it with a damp cloth or Magic Eraser. This removes any stray toothpaste chunks, dirt, or gunk that’s made its way onto the frame over the years. 

Paint your base coat.

I chose FolkArt’s White Adirondack and put down two layers with a small sponge brush. Using a sponge kept the frame from having brushstrokes that would create a different texture than I wanted.

Here’s the mirror frame after one coat of chalk paint:

Mirror with first coat of chalk paint being added

And after the second coat of chalk paint:

Mirror with two coats of chalk paint

Now that I have my base down, I could do several things. I could add some wax (from a candle) or vaseline to create spots where I can show this bottom color through. I did that on this dresser, to show the blue through.

If I did a second chalk paint color, I could paint and wipe to show some of the base color. Or, I could let it dry and sand where I’ve added the vaseline/candle wax to create a chunkier removal of paint, as I did here.

However, for this project, I decided to just stick with one chalk paint for the mirror frame to keep it from being too heavy and dark.  

Next, use wax to seal the frame.

Since we have rubbed oil bronze in our bathroom, I decided to pull some brown into the mirror frame. I did this by sealing the frame with brown wax.

You can see it best in the coils around the frame here:

Brown wax over white chalk paint on mirror frame

Wax comes in various colors, including clear, white, brown, and even grey. It will give a beautiful tint to your piece. Remember that wax settles in the cracks and crevices of your frame, so that’s the color you’ll see in those areas.

To use the wax, brush it on over a small area. Then, use a clean white cloth to wipe it off. 

Bonus Tip for Using Wax: If the brown is too dark, you can mix your wax with clear wax before brushing it on. Or, if you’ve already brushed and wiped your brown wax off, you can brush on a clear wax over the top. Then, use the cloth to wipe and help pick up and remove some of the brown wax. Using the clear wax will help soften that heavier color.

Once you’re done with your wax layer, you want to let it dry overnight. Then you’re going to want to use a soft, white cloth to buff the wax to a dull shine.

Antique wax over white chalk paint on plastic mirror frame

Add some highlights to your frame.

You can choose to stop here, but since I was attempting to match the rubbed oil bronze look, I opted to do some dry brushing of highlights.

Dry brushing is a method where you use very little paint to highlight spots of your frame. Start with a dry brush and dab the tip in the paint. Then, you’re going to use a paper towel to dab the brush onto to remove any excess paint.

You want to make sure the brush is dry and not saturated with paint. Once you have most of the color off, you’re going to hit the high parts of the frame to create a highlight with your accent color. I went through and did a round with a beautiful rose gold metallic paint:

Metallic rose gold paint with plastic mirror frame

And then the second dry brush was with a metallic bronze acrylic paint:

Painted mirror frame with metallic highlights and brown wax

If you feel like it’s too much of a highlight, use a cloth to wipe off the excess. You just want to hit the high points of the mirror frame with paint to give it a little pop.

Seal the entire frame (optional).

If you’re feeling especially froggy, you can then seal the entire frame with a coat of clear wax. This wax layer ensures that all the layers of paint set and are covered. 

The final wax coat is entirely optional and up to you! At this point, I just wanted to get the finished piece back in place – and then mirror back in the frame before a kid or cat knocked it over!

FInished chalk paint mirror frame

Clean the mirror.

Now that your mirror is done, remove any painter’s tape and cardboard. If you got paint on the mirror, no worries! The easiest way to remove any paint is to use a flat razor blade like this one to scrap off the paint. Luckily you aren’t likely to scratch the mirror since it’s flat to the surface when it scrapes.

As a final step, make sure to use window cleaner (or vinegar and water) to clean the glass after you’re all done. Here’s the final outcome:

Before and after of chalk paint mirror frame

 

Now that you know how to paint a metal, wooden or plastic mirror frame, what do you plan to try out? Leave a note in the comments below!

The 4 C’s of Credit: How to Slam Dunk Loan Approvals

Hands pulling money out of wallet with text that reads How to Slam Dunk Getting Approved for Any Loan Immediately

Are you considering getting a house, car, or personal loan this year (or in the next 2 – 3)? If so, you’re going to need to know about the 4 c’s of credit.

No, they’re not horsemen bringing the apocalypse or the top cuss words your kids will spout out in front of their kindergarten class (again). The 4 c’s of lending are markers that help lenders (like Freddie Mac) decide if you’re a safe bet for a loan.

Candidly, I’ve never heard of the 4 c’s of credit framework before, and I’ve had a handful of car loans, mortgages, and student loans. While it’s not a significant term amongst borrowers, it’s a big piece of the puzzle for lenders.

I knew that they checked your credit score and employment, but I never thought much about why they do so. It turns out lenders are checking your 4 c’s (or 5, 6 c’s of credit, depending upon who you ask) to make sure that you’re not likely to default on the loan.

So, ready to jump into what exactly the four c’s are, and how you can plan to slam dunk them without breaking a sweat? Let’s get started!

The 4 C’s of Credit Analysis

Without further ado, the four C’s of credit analysis are (in no particular order):

  • Capacity
  • Credit 
  • Capital
  • Collateral

And, if you’re feeling extra cheeky, you can consider these as numbers 5 and 6 of the c’s of credit: 

  • Character
  • Conditions

Infographic with icons depicting the four c's of credit analysis

The 4 c’s help mortgage lenders and loan companies gauge just how much of a risk you are. All of these add up to create a picture of your risk factor. When your picture looks good, these companies will gladly offer you a loan. If it’s not great, it can affect the conditions of the loan. 

Person getting money out of a wallet with text that reads How to Get Approved for Any Loan ImmediatelyBut if your four C’s are trash? You’re out of luck. At least until you get to work fixing them.

So how do loan companies determine if you’ve got what it takes? Lenders begin by asking for various documents and information to review. These documents vary depending upon the type of loan you want. However, they can include:

  • Employment records to see work history
  • Most current pay stub
  • Letter explaining any gaps in the past two years of employment; extra points if you have documentation to back it up
  • Self-employed workers will need to provide two years of tax returns (and possibly additional documents depending upon your business structure)
  • Social security number and birth date to pull credit reports
  • Two months of bank statements, including checking, savings, retirement and investment accounts

Now that the lender has your information, they’re going to analyze it to see if you’re a good match for a loan. Here, we get in-depth of just what each of the four c’s of credit mean, and how they can work for (or against) your chances of landing a loan.

The 4 C’s of Credit Analysis: Capacity

Capacity refers to your ability to handle the loan payment. Lenders want to know:

  • Are you able to make the payment? What’s your debt load now?
  • Do you have a stable job?
  • Do you carry high credit card debt?
  • What’s your monthly disposable income?

Lenders will look at a couple of things to determine this:

DTI Ratio: This is your debt-to-income ratio. They’ll add together all your minimum payments of your monthly debts, then divide by your gross monthly income (that’s what you make before taxes).

The lower the DTI ratio, the better your chances of getting approved. A rough rule of thumb is 35% or less, however, take that with a HUGE grain of salt. Each lender varies, not to mention the other c’s of credit analysis can play into this as well.

Your DTI ratio includes monthly debts like car payments, student loans, credit card payments, personal loans, child support, alimony, any other debts that you have more than ten months left to pay.

Example: You make $2,000 gross a month. Your student loan, car loan, and minimum credit card payments add up to $1,000. Therefore, your DTI ratio is 50% because your debts take up half of your gross monthly income.

Housing Expense Ratio. (This applies specifically to applying for a mortgage.) This ratio states the cost of owning a home should be 28% or less of your gross monthly income (again, a generalization, there are lots of other factors).

Lenders don’t consider utilities or garbage to be part of your housing expenses, but do consider the following to be so:

  • Principle
  • Interest
  • Property taxes
  • Homeowner’s insurance
  • HOA costs (if applicable)
  • PMI (private mortgage insurance; added to your loan if you are putting down less than 20% as a down payment)

Example: Your gross monthly income is $2,000. Lenders would want your total housing expenses not to exceed $560 a month (28% of your gross monthly income).

Job History and Future Job Stability. Lenders want to know that you’re going to show up for work and make that dough to support that loan payment. If you’ve been flaky with jobs in the past, they’re going to notice. 

If you’re working in a shaky industry, they’re going to take note of this as well. Lenders want to be sure you have what it takes to pay during the life of your loan and that you’re likely to be gainfully employed.

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Capacity

If your capacity if looking a little rough, you can work on the following to beef it up:

  1. Pay off any debts that you can quickly boost your debt-to-income ratio or housing expense ratio.
  2. Boost your income by getting a better paying job or a side hustle.
  3. If your housing expense ratio is too high, consider a different area with lower property taxes or a smaller house.
  4. If you have gaps in your employment in the past two years, provide documentation and a letter to explain the absences.

The 4 C’s of Credit Analysis: Credit

You knew this one was coming, right? Your credit score follows you around like a ray of sunshine. (Or a rain cloud, depending upon your numbers.)

Lenders pull your credit reports and score to see if you’ve been naughty or nice. And much like Santa Claus, they can determine if you deserve a loan based on your previous actions. 

Credit Reports and History. Lenders want to see if you’ve had late payments and all of the debts you’ve had before. They need to know your history – otherwise, how can they be sure you understand how to handle debt?

The main pieces they’re looking for are late payments, outstanding loans, and defaults. They want to know that when you’ve been trusted with money before, that you’ve acted responsibly.

Credit Score. What’s in a credit score? These scores dictate the type of financing available, as well as how much of a down payment is required.

Even though there are now loans with super low down payments, if your credit score is trash, they’re not going to let you apply for these. 

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Credit

Before you apply for a loan, pull your credit reports from the three big reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) and go over them with a fine-tooth comb. 

  1. Anything that comes back as incorrect, you’ll need to start a dispute with that agency to get it removed from your record.
  2. Check your credit score for free through a service like Credit Sesame. If your credit score is low, read up on how to boost it quickly.
  3. Contact any companies that you have outstanding debts with and set up a payment plan to get the debt current and stop the late payment strikes on your record.

While cleaning up your credit report is easy to do, it does take time. The sooner you start, the better everything will look to lenders when you decide to apply for your loan.

The 4 C’s of Credit Analysis: Capital

Much like a flaky ex, lenders want to know what you’re worth. They need proof that you can afford the down payment, as well as the closing costs and additional fees associated with the loan. 

You’ll Need to Provide Financial Statements. Yes, it can feel intrusive to just lay your financial information out like that, but lenders need to know that you’re not living paycheck to paycheck. Lenders will ask to see:

  • Checking and savings statements
  • Retirement and investment accounts

They want to see that you have accounts you can quickly get into if you need to make that mortgage payment after getting laid off. While no one wants to tap their 401k to make a mortgage payment, loan companies need to know that you have back up if things go pear-shaped.

Having a down payment signals to lenders that you’re serious about doing this right and paying this loan off. It can also help save you money because you’re able to avoid PMI (private mortgage insurance). This form of capital can also affect your rates and terms of the loan, so consider waiting to build a more significant down payment if possible.

Other means of capital can also include gifts from family members, down payment assistance programs, and grants or matching fund programs.

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Capital

Boosting your capital is essentially one step: build your savings. If you choose to receive a gift from a family member, you will need to provide documentation proving it’s a gift and not a loan. 

The 4 C’s of Credit Analysis: Collateral

When you’re buying a house or car, those items become the collateral for the loan. These are called secured loans, and these debts are less risky because the lender can repossess the item if you don’t pay. 

The other bright side to a secured loan is that you can also get lower interest rates and better terms because you have that collateral available if you can’t make the payments. (It’s a strange win-win, but I’ll take it.)

Knowing that loan companies see houses and cars as collateral, they want to make sure the property is worth the purchase price. Assessing collateral involves a couple of steps by third parties:

Home Inspection. Depending upon where you’re buying, a home inspection might not be required. However, it’s an excellent idea to get one anyway.

Unless you’re a contractor and know the ins and outs of housing, hire a home inspector to check for mold, termites, and the like. Both you and the mortgage company need to know what you’re signing up to take on. 

Home Appraisal. This step is non-negotiable, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a lender that doesn’t require it. An appraiser will review the house and the neighborhood, while also looking at recent sales.

They’ll come up with comps that determine if the fair market value of the property and the house’s condition, which means any issues have to be fixed before the sale is complete.

Loan-to-value ratio. For cars, there’s LTV, which is the loan-to-value ratio. This ratio is how much you’re borrowing versus how much the car is worth. Clearly, the loan company doesn’t want to lose their shirts if things go south, right?

If the LTV is too high, you might be required to provide a downpayment. By doing so, you’ll lower the LTV and make the loan company more comfortable with handing over that cash.

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Collateral

There’s not much you can do proactively to boost your collateral. If a lender feels the property you want to buy isn’t up to snuff, chances are you’ll have to provide a larger down payment, or you’ll have to keep looking for a different house/car. 

In all seriousness, though – do you want to want to go upside down on a loan? It might be time to rethink things if the house/car doesn’t appraise for what you’re willing to pay for it. 

Additional C’s of Credit Analysis

What, wait? Didn’t I say there were four? What’s this craziness?

Depending upon the loan situation, there can be up to four more c’s of credit. I know, I know – you’re thinking, what the heck else could they possibly need to know about me? I’m not telling anyone about my underwear size. Some things should just remain a mystery.

Underwear size aside, there are two more pieces to the credit puzzle that are worth mentioning.

Bonus C’s of Credit Analysis: Character

No, we’re not talking about what your Harry Potter character name should be (though mine’s The Grey Lady of Warrington, FYI). Lenders want to know your character, as in your reputation.

This one’s not as measurable as the other C’s and isn’t entirely as black and white either. It can also be an important deciding factor if the lender’s decision isn’t clear enough.

Your character is a snapshot of your creditworthiness and is assessed by looking at your credit reports. Loan companies want to see that you’ve paid loans back in entirety and that you’re trustworthy.

Now is when your squeaky clean credit reports will come into play, as well as your FICO score. The better each are, the better your chances of getting a loan.

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Character

Again, this is your credit score and reports, so you need to make sure they’re clean. Dispute anything that you don’t think belongs, and start cleaning up anything questionable, such as:

    • Late payments
    • Collection accounts
    • Charge-offs 
    • Judgments
    • Bankruptcies
    • Foreclosures
    • Delinquent accounts

Bonus C’s of Credit Analysis: Conditions

Conditions refer to the lending terms, state of the economy, and intent of the loan. Some of these you can influence, but some you can’t. 

Lending terms. The lending terms include the interest rate and amount of the loan. The better your other C’s of credit are, the better the conditions you’re offered. 

The economy. Unfortunately, no one can predict the economy, and when it might take a turn for better or worse. When the housing market collapsed in 2008, it became much harder to get a loan. Loan companies cracked down on the requirements needed to get approved because they had tons of homeowners defaulting on loans. 

Intention for the loan. Loans for things like houses, cars, and home improvement have a specific intent. Personal loans, however, don’t since you can use them for just about anything. Lenders like to know if a loan is secured or not, and if there’s potential collateral to back it up.

To-Dos: How to Boost Your Conditions

While you can’t control all the conditions (side-eyeing you, economy), you can control the items that influence your lending terms.

  1. Make sure your debt’s paid down, and your DTI ratio is excellent.
  2. Build your capital by having a larger down payment.
  3. Review and clean up your credit report.

Now that you know more about how to crush the 4 c’s of credit when buying a home or car, get to work! Remember that cleaning up credit reports, saving down payments, and boosting your credit score is going to take some time. So get to it!

 

Is IBotta Legit? A Thorough Review + $10 Bonus Code

Woman's hand on shopping cart with text

Ever try a new cashback app only to find out you have to bend over backward while juggling plates and singing the Star Spangled Banner to average making about…4 cents?

Yeah, no thanks.

So when I mention Ibotta to my friends, most ask – is Ibotta legit? Or am I gonna have to start stretching and get out the plates?

You could go check out reddit for the answer, but I’ve been using Ibotta for over four years, but only got serious about using it recently. During that time, I’ve earned over $440! Even with earning over $400, is Ibotta legit? Let’s walk through how it works, the types of offers available, and the different ways to redeem these offers.

Hand on grocery cart

What is Ibotta and How Does Ibotta Work?

Ibotta originally started as an app for your smartphone. The primary way to get money from Ibotta while using the app is to:

  1. Review the offers available for the store you are shopping at
  2. Make your purchases
  3. Scan your receipt and barcodes on the products
  4. Submit and earn cashback

It’s that easy! 

Even better, Ibotta has expanded to include saving your loyalty cards to the app (think CVS ExtraCare or Kroger Plus Card). When you use that loyalty card at the register, Ibotta picks up on it, and there are no receipts involved.

Ibotta can also be used for mobile purchases. By clicking through a link in the app to do your online shopping, the purchase is recorded automatically. Again, no need for receipts!

New in 2019, Ibotta also offers a brand new browser plugin so that saving while shopping online is a no-brainer.

With so many ways to save, what’s not to love?

Does Ibotta really give you money? 

Yes, Ibotta does really give you money! Each offer varies from 25 cents to upwards of $10. Some of the online offers are a precentage of your total purchase, such as 2%. 

If you want to know if Ibotta’s legit, I’ve earned over $440 and have cashed my account out several times through Paypal. It’s an easy way to make some extra cash for Christmas, birthday presents, or vacations. 

Here’s a screenshot of my earnings from Ibotta, the majority of which have been in the past year and a half:

Screenshot of earnings from Ibotta app

How does Ibotta pay me my money? 

When researching if an app is legit (specifically, if Ibotta is legit), it’s important to see what the payout threshold is, and how the app pays you. So, how do you get your money from Ibotta?

Ibotta pays out several ways once you hit the $20 threshold:

  1. Through your linked PayPal account
  2. Through your linked Venmo account
  3. Purchase a gift card through the app (some have a $25 minimum)

There are currently over 65 gift card options to use when cashing out – including Target, Chiptole, Whole Foods, Bath and Body Works, and everything in between. 

What’s the catch with Ibotta? How does Ibotta make money?

Since you’re wondering is Ibotta legit, chances are you’re expecting a catch. But there really is no catch with Ibotta. Ibotta makes money through affiliate partnerships. By driving users to these offers, they earn money. They also get paid for playing short video clips and polls when you unlock an offer.

It only takes seconds to do and is probably the only downside to Ibotta. The good news is, both are legal, and neither cost you anything. 

Is the Ibotta App Safe to Use?

Yes, the Ibotta app is save to use. You don’t have to link your bank accounts with it, unless you want to use the pay feature through the app.

The only thing that could potentially be accessed by hackers would be your store loyalty cards, if you choose to link them.

All the Different Ways to Use Ibotta: App vs. Mobile vs. Browser

To get started, sign up for Ibotta here. By using this link (you don’t even need an Ibotta referral code), you can get a $10 bonus. Easy money!

Next, you’ll want to install the app. Even if you end up purchasing through the other methods, having the app is great because it’s easier to check your bonuses, earnings, and submit customer service requests.

How Ibotta works In-Store with the app

In the app, you’ll start by looking at the store you’ll be shopping at. One thing to note is that not all offers are available at all stores. They vary by store, so you’ll want to make sure that the items you wish to buy are available where you shop.

There are about 300 stores that are currently available to shop at, so you have a wide variety of places to shop at.

I like to unlock my offers before I shop. That way, I know what I need to do to get that rebate. 

For example, there might be a restriction where you have to purchase two of an item to get the cashback. Or, it might only apply to items that are 11oz or larger in that brand. It can vary, so it’s essential to pay attention to the details on each offer.

You may have to watch a video or take a short poll, but it’s seconds to do and super easy.

Now that you have your cash back rebates picked at the store of your choice, do your shopping as usual.

After you’ve done your shopping, now it’s time to scan your receipt. (Which really means you’ll just take pictures of your receipt.) Often, it takes more than a couple to get the entire receipt. There are guides to show you how to line it up and to add multiple images.

Now that you’ve submitted your receipt, you’ll be asked to scan the barcodes on the products you’ve purchased and are filing for cashback.

Pro Tip: Scan your receipt and purchases as soon as you get home. Don’t wait! Otherwise, the chances of the packaging being damaged or thrown out are high. Without that barcode, it’s difficult (not impossible) to claim that offer.

And that’s it! Don’t forget to check out the bonuses to see if those apply as well.

How Ibotta works In-Store with Loyalty Cards

By linking your loyal cards to your app, you can really shorten the submittal process.

Start by adding all of your loyalty cards to the app. You’ll find the retailer and add your loyalty card number, store account number, or phone number, depending upon the retailer.

Next, you’ll unlock the offers you want to purchase and do your usual shopping.

When you check out, make sure to use your loyalty card (or provide your phone number, in some cases). This notifies Ibotta that you’ve made the purchase.

The best part about this is there’s no need to scan a receipt or barcodes! By linking your rewards card, Ibotta sees what you’ve purchased and can verify it without the extra work. 

How Ibotta works with Mobile Purchases

It just keeps getting easier to make purchases with Ibotta! In 2018 or so (maybe earlier? I can’t quite remember…), they added the ability to shop online with your phone.

Awesome, right?

Just find the online retailer you want to buy from, and look through the offers available. Some offer a flat percentage back on all purchases. Others offer cashback on specific items. It varies, so you’ll have to take the time to look through and decide which are worth your time.

For example, they currently offer a 1% cashback with an online purchase at Lowes. 

But online at The Home Depot, they are currently offering 1.5% cashback on furniture and home decor.

Again, make sure to check the offers thoroughly before you make your purchase. 

Once you’ve decided on a retailer and offer, just click through the link that Ibotta offers and your shopping trip is recorded. Make your purchase, and your job is done. No submitting receipts!

Please note that the processing time can be longer on these types of cashback offers. Often they wait for the order to process, ship and make sure it isn’t returned before the money shows up in your account.

How Ibotta works with the Browser Plugin

New in 2019, Ibotta has released a browser plugin for Chrome. This makes it easy to see when an offer is available and that you’ll never forget to get cashback on any purchase!

This works a little bit differently than the app. You’ll install the browser plugin for Chrome and sign in to your account.

To use this, you’ll need to link a debit or credit card to your Ibotta account (I recommend credit for better security). 

When you load a retailer’s website, a small pop-up appears in the corner of the page. It has exact instructions on how to get cashback.

You’ll add items to your cart, and when you’re ready to check out, you’ll pay with the plugin rather than putting in your credit card information. This ensures that you get credit for your purchase and receive your cashback offer.

I’ve often used Rakuten for this (formerly Ebates), but I’m excited to try out the Ibotta browser plugin now!

Stores that Ibotta Works At

There are over 300 stores that Ibotta works at. When you create your account, you’ll be asked to add any stores that you’re interested in seeing offers for.

You can always edit or add to this list. Also, Ibotta will show you these stores (and more!) whenever you open the app. This way you can browse offers for places you love, as well as others that are similar.

Ibotta stores are also organized by category, so if you know you need to make a travel purchase, you can compare the offers and figure out which is best.

The current categories available include:

  • Grocery
  • Online Shopping
  • Beer, Wine, and Spirits
  • Pharmacy
  • Clothing
  • Beauty and Wellness
  • Specialty
  • Restaurants and Bars
  • Convenience Stores
  • Crafts and Gifts
  • Travel
  • Home and Electronics

As of September 2019, there are over 300 retail chains, restaurants, movie theaters, convenience stores, home improvement centers, pet stores, and pharmacies nationwide. The app caters to your location and shows you offers and stores available in your area, rather than a bunch of suggestions for stores you’ll never visit.

Tips and tricks to using Ibotta

After using Ibotta for a while, it’s easy to pick up tips and tricks to maximize your savings. These are the hacks I’ve found to be the easiest and quickest to use:

  1. Take advantage of the “Any Brand” offers. These offers are easy savings since it’s for things like eggs, milk, cereal, or other staples just about everyone buys. There are usually no restrictions on these, just as long as they fall into that category, they qualify!
  2. Make sure the offer isn’t going to expire. The thing I love about Ibotta is that it has a visual reminder to let you know that the offer is going to expire soon. With other apps, I’ve struggled with making the purchase only to find out it’s expired by the time I try to submit it. Which leads to the next tip…
  3. Submit your receipt as soon as you get home from the store. Just make it a habit. Otherwise, a week will slip by, and either the offers will expire, or Ibotta will no longer accept your receipt. Just do it as soon as possible and get it off your plate!
  4. Check the offer details. I’ve been snagged on this a couple of items. I didn’t check the offer details, and found out I needed to purchase three, but only got two. Or, I got the wrong size that wasn’t covered by the offer.
  5. Scan as you shop. I love this! If I’m not sure if an offer covers a specific variation of an offer, you’ll select the offer, and then scan the barcode to see if it will accept it. No getting home and finding out you grabbed the wrong thing!
  6. Check out the bonuses. Make sure to check out the bonuses. They vary greatly and can be a great way to boost your savings. Some types of offers include:
    • A bonus for purchasing a certain number of items from a brand
    • A bonus for buying a combination of multiple brands
    • Bonuses for cashing in on a certain amount of offers (for example, $3 bonus for claiming 10 offers in a time period)
    • Weekend bonuses
    • Monthly bonuses for your team
    • Holiday/seasonal bonuses
    • Referral bonuses 
  7. Don’t buy what you don’t need. It’s easy to fall into the cashback trap of trying to snag every offer you can find. Don’t do it. Only get what you’d typically buy. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a ton of stuff you don’t need.
  8. Build your team for bonuses. You can connect your Ibotta account with Facebook or Google. When you do this, your friends that are using Ibotta will be on your team, and you’ll reach monthly bonuses faster.
  9. Use your Ibotta referral code to earn extra cash. Once you’ve tried Ibotta, send your Ibotta referral code to friends and family. Both you and they will get a bonus (usually $10 each!) when they sign up and claim their first offer.
  10. Stack Ibotta savings with sales, other apps, and coupons. This takes a little planning, but in doing so, I’ve been able to get items for free. You can learn more about stacking apps and coupons in this article. Just make sure you don’t do anything questionable and end up getting banned from Ibotta!

New Ibotta Functionality in 2019

Recently, Ibotta has done a big round of updates to its functionality and added new ways to save, which puts the “Is Ibotta legit?” question to rest, once and for all. While I’ve covered them a bit already, here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in 2019:

  • Ibotta browser extension. This browser extension for Chrome allows you to shop online without missing a discount. A small pop-up shows you exactly how to save and what offers are available at that retailer.
  • Pay with Ibotta. When you add a debit or credit card to Ibotta, you can use Ibotta to pay at your favorite retailers. It simplifies the purchase process by combining the offer and payment method, making it easier to spend and save. While I have not personally tried pay with Ibotta, I hear great things!
  • Walmart Grocery Pick up (HOOORAY!). If you haven’t tried Walmart grocery pick up yet, what are you waiting for? It’s so easy, and I love that I can shop online while getting the kids to bed, and pick up the groceries in the morning. No more fighting two kids over an hour to get groceries. Even better? Now you can get money back through Ibotta for using the grocery pick up. Win-win!
  • Register loyalty cards. Now you can register your loyalty cards with Ibotta so that you can redeem offers without having to scan receipts. It makes it even easier to grab those offers!

Final Verdict: Is Ibotta Legit?

So, is Ibotta legit? Yes! The pros majorly outweigh the cons. Now you don’t need a smartphone to use it, which is excellent. I love that it offers so many ways to save. Add sales and coupon stacking, and it’s a great way to shave even more money off of your grocery budget.

There are only a few cons to using Ibotta. There are restrictions and expiration dates on offers. I’ve run into issues where my receipt wouldn’t scan correctly, but their customer service is exceptional and quick to help solve the problem. Overall, I have very few complaints about Ibotta, and none of those keep me from questioning is Ibotta legit.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to use this link to sign up and your $10 bonus!

Is Ibotta Legit? Pros & Cons of the App
Pros:

  • Can earn cash back through the app, mobile, or on desktop
  • Plenty of offers that you’ll actually use, at stores you like
  • Pays out through gift cards, Paypal, or Venmo
  • Get a $10 bonus just for signing up
  • I’ve had very, very few Ibotta issues over the four years I’ve been using it
Cons:

  • Must be careful to review offer details
  • Offers do expire
  • Must submit receipt within a week or so
  • Ibotta inactivity fee
  • Your account can go negative if you withdraw funds, and then a payment is reversed (I’ve personally never seen this happen, but apparently it could in very rare cases)

Bonus: Is Ibotta or Ebates Better?

While it’s easy to lump any similar apps into the same category, Ibotta really is somwhat different from Rakuten (formerly Ebates). With Ibotta, you are submitting your receipt after your purchase. While you can also use it as a shopping portal (meaning you click through this app to get cash back online), most people tend to use it to submit receipts after a purchase.

With Rakuten, you are purchasing through their portal to receive your cash back. You don’t submit receipts after a purchase, but instead shop through their app or browser plugin.

Bonus: Similar Apps like Ibotta

Now that we’ve answered is Ibotta legit…are you interested in learning more about similar cashback and rebate apps? Here are the ones I’ve tried and recommend:

Learn more about my favorite cash back apps here.

woman's hand on grocery cart