The last few years have been a real struggle for many middle-class Canadian families.
First, it was the pandemic and all the economic chaos it caused. Government intervention helped, but this created other problems, including increased interest costs, economic uncertainty, and, most importantly, much higher inflation.
Inflation is manageable with higher wages, but many employers were unwilling or unable to provide a large enough raise to compensate for these additional costs. This put millions of workers in a tight spot.
Although inflation hit every aspect of our lives, it was especially felt when we went to the grocery store. Every Canadian retailer used increased input costs as an excuse to jack up prices or to be less aggressive on flyer deals, increasing the grocery bill for countless families who couldn't afford it.
There are several things consumers have traditionally done to save money on groceries, such as shopping flyers, purchasing in-store discounted products, or making their way around to multiple stores to purchase loss leaders from each. These are all still effective, but they take time and energy, not to mention gas and the wear-and-tear on a vehicle.
Besides, there are better ways to save. Millions of Canadians, in combination with picking up side hustles and ways to make money online in Canada, now use coupon apps, with many reporting big wins on items they would buy anyway. Let's take a closer look at some of the best Canadian coupon apps and how you can use them to save a surprisingly large amount of money.
What are the top coupon apps in Canada right now?
- PC Optimum
- Great Canadian Rebates
- Checkout 51
Swagbucks is less a traditional grocery or coupon app and more a way to earn gift cards doing what you usually do online -- all for free.
The premise is simple. You earn points when you shop at many top retailers, including Amazon, Walmart, or Expedia. You can also earn points by using the site's search engine for everyday searches, answering surveys or watching ad videos.
These points are then exchanged for gift cards from various retailers or cash back from Paypal.
Swagbucks is one of the largest coupon sites in North America and offers cashback shopping at more than 1,500 retailers. It's a straightforward way to earn additional rewards without any real effort.
Although Groupon is a much bigger deal in the United States than in Canada, it still offers dozens of solid deals concentrated in Canada's largest cities.
Here's how it works. Businesses offer a substantial deal exclusively to Groupon to get people in the door. Groupon gets a cut, the customer gets a deal, and hopefully, the business impresses enough to get a customer who keeps coming back and paying regular prices.
You'll find all sorts of local businesses on Groupon. Still, you'll find the most selection in hair salons, restaurants, automotive, home services, and other personal services. You won't get any grocery deals on Groupon, but saving money on various services frees up cash for groceries, and that's the next best thing.
Getting started is simple, too. You download the app, make an account, and search for deals in your area. It's a great way to save money on all sorts of different services or try a new restaurant cheaply.
Save.ca has been around since 2000 and has become one of Canada's top deal sites.
The site offers consumers two different ways to save. The first is a flyer comparison service which lists dozens of weekly flyers, including choices like drug and specialty stores. This makes it easy to find the best deals in your neighborhood. Save.ca also offers a digital coupon service, partnering with brands in various categories to help save you money.
You don't even need to spend hours looking for coupons on the site, either. Just tell them what kind of coupons you want, and they'll send them directly to your inbox as they become available.
Unfortunately, Save.ca isn't ranked higher on this list because its offerings are more limited than a few other coupon apps we'll discuss later.
PC Optimum has emerged as Canada's most extensive loyalty program, with more than ten million satisfied customers.
Owned by Loblaws, Canada's largest grocer, PC Optimum members collect points as they purchase from any Loblaw store, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart, Real Canadian Superstore, or an ever-increasing number of other locations, including Esso and Mobil gas stations.
One of the best features of this loyalty program is it offers discounts based on someone's buying history, allowing members to get deals on the products they buy most. Frequent bonus points events allow members to accumulate more points and maximize their rewards upon redemption. And there are options to earn points even faster by signing up for a PC-branded credit card.
The PC Optimum app is available on both Apple and Android phones via the App Store and the Google Play Store, respectively.
The Caddle app has become one of Canada's most extensive money-saving services. It's a free app that pays real cash to users once they reach a $20 minimum payout.
Once you download the app and sign up for a free account, you can browse the weekly offers. Typical offers include surveys, concept studies, or ratings and reviews. The surveys are quick, easy, and often only take seconds.
Unfortunately, the payouts reflect that, with many only paying five or ten cents. Still, it's better than nothing.
Caddle will also send users digital coupons on various products. To redeem, you only need to purchase the product, take a picture of the receipt, and upload it to the app. It doesn't take much time and can be especially powerful if you're stacking coupons on top of store sales.
Caddle also offers receipt uploads for many prominent Canadian retailers, paying as much as $0.50 each time you upload a receipt -- even if you don't buy any participating products.
New offers are uploaded each Thursday to the Caddle app, and space is limited.
Great Canadian Rebates
Think of Great Canadian Rebates as a giant marketplace where you get cash back for making the purchases you'd be making anyway.
It's a simple concept. You go to the company's portal online -- it doesn't even have an app -- and look for your retailer of choice. Most of Canada's largest retailers are represented, as well as all sorts of other offers from various financial services and travel companies.
Use the provided link to make your purchase, and GCR earns a commission, which is then shared with you.
Once you get to $10 worth of rewards, you can cash out via a gift card, available at dozens of different stores such as Best Buy and Canadian Tire. You can then use that gift card to make additional purchases, collecting cash back. It's the closest thing you'll find to coupon stacking in Canada.
Finally, GCR offers a sale of the week, which can also be an excellent way to save some money.
Rakuten and Great Canadian Rebates are two very similar services. However, some essential features make Rakuten the king of these two cashback apps.
Firstly, Rakuten is the leader in the space, operating in the United States, Asia, and Europe. It has partnerships with over 750 retailers and owns other brands like Rakuten Travel and Rakuten Kobo, the eReading giant. It's larger than GCR and therefore has more clout.
The other thing that separates Rakuten from the pack is it offers cash back on gift cards. Many only offer 1% cash back, but that's still a decent deal on gift cards you know you'll use anyway, like ones provided by Canada's top grocers.
There are also better discounts for gift cards at specialty stores. For instance, Rakuten offers 2.5% cash back at Old Navy and 4% at Pizza Pizza, among many others.
Rakuten's app is also available on iOS and Android.
Checkout 51 has quickly become one of Canada's best coupon apps.
Rather than giving paper coupons, Checkout 51 has an all-digital offering. Each Thursday, the app gives you a set of offers. You browse the app for deals of interest, purchase the items as part of your regular grocery shopping, and take a picture of the receipt to prove your purchase.
Many people like Checkout 51 because, unlike many competitors, this app allows users to earn cold hard cash.
Once your account balance gets to $20, the company will physically send you a cheque rather than forcing you to take your payment in gift cards.
Checkout 51 has plenty of offers on products you'll use, too. As of this writing, active offers on the app include cash back on diapers, cereal, shredded cheese, razors, and dozens more.
The Checkout 51 app is available on both Apple and Android devices.
The Flipp app has become the go-to place to quickly compare prices from local flyers.
The first step is giving the app your postal code to narrow deals to those offered nearby. As you flip through the various flyers, you can select items stored on your shopping list. Most of Canada's top retailers and many of the country's leading food brands work with Flipp. The convenience of having all these flyers and coupon offers in one place is enticing.
The real beauty of this app is the time it saves. You can easily shop multiple flyers and make a shopping list in just a few minutes. It's a simple way to comparison shop and save money on your weekly grocery trip.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if you see people checking the Flipp app inside the grocery store, seeing what's on sale as they browse the aisles.
Flashfood gets the top spot on this list because it effectively tackles the problem of grocery food waste, a big issue for retailers and customers.
Local stores cull through their meat, produce, and other perishable departments daily. They then upload any food near its expiry date onto the app at prices up to 50% off regular retail. You pay for the order on the app, and it's ready to pick up a few hours later.
Picking up your order is a breeze, too. Flashfood orders are stored in refrigerated lockers at the front of the store. You grab your order from the fridge, confirm it's correct with customer service, and you're on your way.
Flashfood works best for customers who are more flexible about what they eat. And depending on the item, you won't need to consume it immediately since meat and bread will be kept for weeks in the freezer.
The only downfall is Flashfood is limited in Canada. At this time, it only works with Loblaw stores, which may be an issue for certain folks.