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FOX43 Finds Out: How to make money while holiday shopping

There are dozens of cash back apps you can download this holiday season to make some cash while you shop. FOX43 Finds Out the pros and cons of these apps.

PALMYRA, Pa. — Pick up your phone and search the app store for cash back apps, you'll find dozens of choices.

It's an easy way to make money especially since a lot of us are likely to spend a decent amount between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

FOX43 Finds Out what you should know before using these apps to make money on your holiday shopping spree.

Rakuten, Ibotta, Swagbucks, Shopkick and the list goes on and on.

These are all cash back shopping apps and they all have the same goal: to make you some money. 

Cliff Luhrs of Palmyra has been using e-commerce sites for about 5 years and has made about $5,000.

He earns that cash a few different ways.

The first is by doing your shopping on the apps.

The more you add to your cart when you check out, the more money you make.

 "If you go through the swag bucks website and click on the link to go to the shopping website you then get 8% back or 4% back and that's just about every retailer that's out there," said Luhrs.

He plays games, takes surveys, or reads emails to earn even more points - which turn into cash.

Luhrs says if people do enough shopping between Black Friday and Cyber Monday they can see a nice payday.

"You do get more bang for your buck," he said.

Free money isn't exactly free.

While he enjoys the perks, Luhrs knows there is a risk when using these apps.

"Mainly I'm worried that somebody is going to try and scam me. I'm also worried that on more than one occasion that the two companies that have said on more than one occasion that they don't sell the information, are going to sell that information to somebody else."

Terrill Frantz, a cybersecurity and e-commerce associate professor at Harrisburg University says using cashback apps or websites is like rolling the dice.

"It's like going to the casino in the sense that the odds are always in the favor of the house," said the professor.

He these companies don't always want your money, they want your information and shopping habits.

According to some of the terms and conditions for a lot of these companies, they share your information with third-party vendors or you do it for them by filling out surveys. 

Sometimes these companies have a marketing agreement with cashback sites.

However, no matter how much money you make or save on these apps the developers and retailers will always come out on top.

Frantz said, "They are not your friend. They are creating a website or app for their benefit."

For Luhrs and many others though, the risk is worth the reward. 

"There is a risk anywhere that you doing shopping or anything like that."

RELATED: Shopping small this holiday season during the COVID-19 pandemic is a 'patriotic duty' says York's Mayor

Tips if you plan on using cashback apps

For the most part, these cashback sites and apps have decent reviews with the better business bureau. 

Again, it all comes down to what you're willing to give up. 

Here are some tips to keep your information a bit more secure while using these cashback apps.

1. Read the privacy policy. I know this can be a pain, however, most of these are pretty easy to read and list the websites and other companies that it gives your information to. That way, if you see a name you don't like, don't use that site.

2. Create an email just for sites like this. That way it doesn't clog your normal inbox that you use to pay bills or email grandma. All the promotional emails will go to your other address, so you can look at it when you want to.

3. If you want to shop local or small, you may still be able to earn some cashback. Check with your bank or credit card companies, to see if they are offering any discounts for small businesses during the holiday season. I know at least American Express is offering some incentives on purchases made at a small business between now and the end of the year. 

RELATED: State Police share tips to avoid falling prey to holiday financial scams

Finally, happy shopping! If you find any great deals or have any other hacks, let us know. 

If you have a story you want Jackie to look into, FOX43 wants to find out. Send her a message on Facebook or send an email to FOX43FindsOut@FOX43.com