16:10, Thursday 2 June 2011,
There are very few people in this world who can make money by just turning up at a location and doing nothing.
A few Premier League footballers and almost all reality TV stars are the exceptions.
But now, users of a new phone application launched by cashback site Quidco can do the same.
The free app allows shoppers to earn money when they visit certain stores by "checking-in" on their phone in order to let Quidco know where they are. It also gives users access to vouchers for nearby shops and restaurants as well as in-store cashback deals.
So is this location-tracking app a convenient way to pick up nearby bargains or a creepy new way for companies to target you with advertising?
[See also: The dangers of mobile banking]Check-in for cash
The checking-in phenomenon really took off last year with the launch of Facebook Places; the online tool that allows you to 'check-in' at a location and let your friends know where you are. Since then several companies have latched onto this new craze, offering special deals to customers who check-in on their phone while inside one of their stores.
Quidco have taken this one step further by offering money back to customers who check-in on their app while inside certain shops. Some companies may also require you to review their current offers in order to qualify for the cashback. The app even uses your phone's location to find stores in the surrounding area that have signed up to the offer.
After checking-in, the cashback is transferred into your Quidco account where it can be withdrawn twice monthly.
Typical check-in cashback offers include:
- 25p for checking in and reviewing offers at Carphone Warehouse stores.
- 20p for checking in and reviewing offers at Halfords.
- 15p for checking in and reviewing offers at Majestic Wine.
[See also: Top apps to make your money go further]Other deals
In addition to the check-in cashback deals, the new app also allows you to find shops that offer in-store cashback on your purchases. However, you will need to register a credit or debit card with Quidco, and use this card for your purchase to be eligible for the cashback.
Here a few of the current in-store cashback offers:
- Debenhams — 2% cashback.
- Cineworld — 4.5% cashback.
- Austin Reed — 5.4% cashback.
If you have used Quidco before, you'll find that the app also tailors the offers displayed to your personal profile. The site has said that as more retailers sign up to the app, the offers you access on your handset will influence what discounts are displayed in the future.
What's the catch?
While this app can undoubtedly save you money, it's certainly as much of a marketing tool as it is a bargain-hunting tool.
Obviously, by launching the check-in cashback function, both Quidco and the stores in question are hoping that in the process of checking-in inside their store, you also buy something. Needless to say, any check-in cashback benefits will be totally cancelled out if you allow temptation to get the better of you, and purchase something you don't really need.
Some users may also feel a little uncomfortable allowing a company to know their exact location and buying habits. Indeed, there is something very 'big-brother' about a company holding a location-specific, preference-specific log of your every shopping activity.
If you are planning on using Quidco's in-store cashback, you should also make sure you pay for the purchases in a cost effective way. If you religiously pay off your bill in full each month, you could be really clever and use a cashback credit card and earn even more money for your spend! The American Express Cashback Credit Card, for example, allows you to earn 5% cashback in the first three months, and up to 1.25% thereafter.
However, do ensure you pay off your bill as soon as it arrives, as any interest charges will cancel out the cashback - both from the credit card and from the Quidco app.
If you think this will be a problem, make sure you use a 0% purchase credit card instead, such as the Tesco Clubcard Credit Card, which allows you to spread out your payments over a number of months - 15 months for the Tesco card - interest-free. Just ensure you pay off the bill before the end of the interest-free period.
You should also remember to read all the small print on any vouchers or discounts, as many offers are only valid on weekdays or at certain times (especially in restaurants).
[Useful: Apply for a rewards credit card]More money-saving apps
Quidco's new tool is certainly not the first money-saving app; there are now a whole host of free phone downloads that could save you a bundle. Here are some of the best...
Vouchers: Voucher cloud, Local sale finder and MyVoucherCodes all have free apps that will alert you to bargains in the nearby area and download the appropriate voucher to your handset.
Supermarkets: Tesco now offers an online shopping app that allows you to scan items in-store and add them to your online trolley, as well as a download that turns your phone into your Clubcard. Sainsbury's offers a similar app for its Nectar Card as well as a tool that allows you to access personalised offers and bonus Nectar points. Asda also has an app that enables you to access its price guarantee scheme.
Motoring: Petrol Prices is a must if you spend a lot of time on the road as it will track down the cheapest fuel prices in the surrounding area. What Gas also offers a similar app for Android phone users.
Cheap calls: If you're fed up of being lumped with hefty phone bills after lengthy calls to expensive numbers then the 0870 app could save you a fortune. It works by searching for the cheap landline alternative of any 08 number, saving you from calling the line with the premium rate. Apps that utilise your internet connection to make phone calls like Skype and Viber are also worth a download, especially if you call abroad frequently.
What do you think?
Is this new Quidco app just a convenient, 21st century take on the voucher booklet? Or a creepy marketing tactic?
Have your say in the comment box below.
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