Monday, November 18, 2019

Make (Very Little) Money Off Your Receipts! An In-Depth Look at Receipt Hog (Digital App)


WHAT IS IT?
Receipt Hog is one of an ever-growing number of apps that pay people to upload their receipts in exchange for “coins”, which can then be cashed out for actual cash once a certain amount is reached. Unlike Ibotta, which only gives cash back on certain items—which you have to seek out and “add” before you upload the receipt—Receipt Hog rewards you for the whole receipt: just upload it and you're done! It's available for both Apple and Android users from their respective app stores; there is currently no PC functionality, which is actually the norm for this type of app.

INTERFACE/NAVIGATION

Navigating the Receipt Hog app is pretty straightforward: The main screen gives you the amount of coins you have accrued and also keeps track of your monthly bonuses—the more consecutive weeks within a month that you upload at least one receipt, the more bonus spins you're awarded on the slot machine (more on this below).

The main dashboard, which has all of your options
rather conveniently laid out.
The main options run along the bottom, and are as easily accessible as they should be: this is where you can see the receipts you've uploaded in the past, launch the camera app to take a photo of a new one, access the slot machine, or see additional reward opportunities, such as surveys or bonuses. This is probably where you'll be spending a majority of your focus, so it's set up pretty well.

The rest of the page is fairly pointless, showing you whether or not your Amazon and email accounts are connected, your current number of sweepstakes entries, and some tiles offering up some tips. It would be nice if this page was configurable, allowing the user to remove the information that isn't relevant to them, but as far as I can tell, it's not; it gets really old seeing the same useless info every single time you start up the app. Especially since you are not actually rewarded for doing either of these things, save for receiving 5 sweepstakes entries for every month your Amazon account is connected.

There's also a little gear at the top right of the screen which will take you to the "administrative" section, where you can access help documents, update your profile, and change a few settings to help personalize the Receipt Hog experience. You can even set it up to automatically open the camera when you open the app, which is a pretty nice touch.

It won't win any awards for outstanding design, but it's an intuitive, straightforward interface that should easily let you find what you're looking for with minimal effort.

REWARDS SYSTEM



Receipt Hog's reward system is a confusing labyrinth of rules and regulations that you should probably read through in order to get a better understanding of how exactly everything works, and if it's something that would even be worth your time. I'll attempt to break the basics down as succinctly as possible, but even this is probably going to translate into a rambling six-paragraph mess (as most of my articles tend to be).

Basically, there are three types of “rewards” you can get based on the type of receipt you upload: coins, a spin on the “Pig Slots”, or a sweepstakes entry. I'm not completely well-versed in what does what, so I had to take a look at the (outdated) FAQ, but to give a very general idea, grocery stores pay out in coins (and a sweepstakes entry), specialty stores (i.e. shops that specifically focus in one category, such as electronics stores, pet retailers, arts and crafts shops, etc.) hand out a spin on the slot machine, while restaurants and cafes (and the like) reward you with only an entry into the sweepstakes.

Rules and regulations, part one.
For the sweepstakes, 5,505 people are randomly chosen to win either 20 coins (5,000 winners), 200 coins (500 winners), or the grand prize of 5,000 coins (5 winners), in a drawing that takes place the first week of every month. Sweepstakes entries are accrued by linking your Amazon account using your email address, which automatically gives you five extra entries per month. You also gain one entry for every receipt that you upload (outside of those that reward only in slot pulls), so the more coins you get, the greater your chances of winning!

That's not all though: certain kinds of receipts are “sweepstakes only” receipts, meaning they only grant you entries into the sweepstakes upon being uploaded, rather than leading to any coin payouts. Receipts from restaurants, bakeries, cafes, and bars all fall into this category. To be honest, I don't even bother uploading those kinds of receipts here. Am I missing out on a chance to win? Perhaps, and it's not like the act of submitting receipts even takes that long, but even if you end up winning the grand prize, 5,000 coins only translates to about $30. Don't get me wrong, while I would never turn down a free $30, the idea of defying lottery-level odds (for reference, as of October 260h, there are almost 675,000 qualified entrants for the November 1st drawing) for that amount just doesn't appeal to me. Besides, receipts that pay out coins also grant you one entry into the sweepstakes, so I'm fine with just relying on those.

As for the slots, there are two ways to gain those: from weekly bonuses, and from “spin only” receipts. Examples of the types of places that result in spin only receipts are including but not limited to: office supply, electronics, apparel, and home improvement stores. Now, keep in mind this is only referring to stores that deal primarily within those selling categories; so, for example, office supply stores would consist of places like Office Max, Staples, etc.; electronics stores would be Micro Center, Worst Buy, etc.; and so on and so forth. If you buy an electronics item from, say, Walmart, you will receive coins, because Walmart is considered a “supercenter”, which is under the coin category. Phew, pretty confusing so far, isn't it?

The rewards system, part two. Study up!
Bonus spins are also granted on a weekly basis based on the consecutive number of weeks in a month that you upload at least one receipt: the number of bonus spins you stand to gain are shown right on your main dashboard after logging in. Keep in mind that if you miss one week, even if it's because you signed up later in the month, you do not qualify for any bonuses going forward for that month, which is kind of a drag.

Lastly, and the most satisfying of all the categories, are the coin receipts. These are the ones that pay you in cold, hard coins, giving you near-instant gratification for all your hard work and spent money. Thankfully, this hits a majority of the kinds of places most Americans shop the most, and include, but are not completely limited to: supercenters, grocery stores, dollar stores (pretty surprising), mom and pop shops (very surprising), and gas stations, which used to be in the “sweeps only” category (and still are, according to their outdated FAQ), but have since switched to coins-and-a-sweep.

Since Receipt Hog seems to want to make things as confusing and curvebackwards (the opposite of “straightforward”...get it?) as possible, the amount of coins granted depend on the amount spent on the receipt: receipts under $10 are worth 5 coins; $10-$50 receipts are worth 10 coins; $50-$100 will earn you 15 coins; and any receipt over $100 brings in 20 coins. In the one instance they make things pretty easy to understand, the total is the complete total, after tax, coupons, and the deduction of all gift cards and government programs.

So we're finally done, right? Not quite: there's a weekly “soft limit” of 100 coins that follow the above rules: for every qualifying coin receipt you upload above the 100 coin limit in a given week, you receive 5 coins (along with the standard sweepstakes entry)—regardless of total--up to the “hard limit” of 20 total receipts. This is never an issue for me, but if you are an avid shopper, or are in a large household where the receipts add up quickly, it's something to pay attention to.

One final thing of note that will be a dealbreaker for some: they do not take e-receipts of any kind. So then what's the point of connecting your Amazon or email accounts? According to them, they monitor your email accounts for digital receipts, to better gain an understanding of purchasing behaviors, in the hopes that they will be able to add e-receipt functionality in the future. In other words, there is currently no point (unless you're obsessed with sweepstakes entries), and considering they've been using that line for at least the year I've been using the app, I wouldn't hold my breath that it's something on the priority list.

PAID ACTIVITIES

There really aren't many other ways to earn coins in Receipt Hog, making it a slow earner for anyone who doesn't consistently get dozens of receipts weekly. But there are two other ways to boost up your account a little bit quicker: surveys, and the “Pig Slots”. The surveys are totally random, and very rare (at least in my opinion), but they are quick to fill out (they can usually be done in under 5 minutes), have no disqualifications, and usually “pay” out an average of about 40 coins. Hey, that's the equivalent of two $100+ receipts in Receipt Hog's world, so that's a pretty big deal!

(In my experience, and it might be complete coincidence, but it seems that I receive most of my survey offers on Saturday mornings, with as many as three popping up at once within that time frame. It's important to remember, though, that surveys are triggered by a specific item you bought, so the more receipts you upload, the greater the chance you will have purchased something that they want more specific information about.)

What are the odds? After not having a survey for two
months, one popped up just for this picture!
The surveys deal with a specific item purchased from a specific receipt you uploaded, so the more receipts you upload, the greater the chance you will qualify for one. If you do, there will be a red notification light on the “Rewards” button located at the bottom right of the main dashboard. Hurry, though, because they apparently go quickly: I once had three on my dashboard, but was out running and figured I'd have time to do them later. When I got home and opened up the app not an hour later, all three of the surveys were gone, screwing me out of the potential for a nice coin payday!

The slots, on the other hand, are a fun way to kill time while not really winning anything, unless you happen to upload a lot of “slots only” receipts, or get real lucky. I generally only get pulls when they are a bonus for either “leveling up”, or for hitting the weekly (and/or monthly) receipt streak, and have never won anything more than 10 coins on roughly 50 or so pulls. I have also gotten them from uploading receipts from craft stores on a couple of occasions: I don't know if it's just the way luck worked, or if it's typical, but I did tend to win more often when playing the slots from craft store receipts, as opposed to the “bonus” pulls.

UPLOADING RECEIPTS

Simple receipt upload template...it really
is the best in the business.
As difficult as they make the process of understanding what your receipts are worth is, the process of actually uploading them couldn't be simpler: click the “Camera” button highlighted in blue at the bottom of your dashboard, line up the receipt to the edge lines, and snap a photo. Got a long receipt? No problem! Just keep going down the receipt, snapping photos of each section, until you're all done, and then click “submit”. Is the photo blurry as you line it up? Simply tap the screen to get it to autofocus. This is by far the most well-implemented picture-taking system across all the receipt apps I've come across: every photo you take moves to the top of the screen immediately after it's taken, allowing you to continue on down until you reach the bottom of the receipt, without having to interact with the screen at all, should you need to take more photos.

From there, it will be processed by the system: if it's a clear photo, the coins are generally updated within minutes, although I've also had a few that have taken several hours, which I assume just depends on the system's workload at any given time. Once you've snapped and submitted it, just be patient, because you'll receive your reward!

There is a generous 14-day acceptance window for receipt uploads, which means you have a whole two weeks from the date shown on the receipt to submit it into the app. This is actually a pretty typical window for similar apps, and is very helpful for those just starting out; it's nice to be able to upload all the receipts you might have laying around all at once to help build up your coin balance right off the bat. You really don't realize how many things you buy, or how much paper you're wasting, until you start uploading them all!

CASHING OUT

Once you hit 1,000 coins—which will be a lengthy process for most—you are eligible to cash out...for $5. Payment can be rendered via Paypal, or Amazon gift card, which should cover the bases for a vast majority of people. If you'd rather build them up, the coins become slightly more valuable the higher up you go: 2,900 coins are worth $15; 4,300 will net you $25; and 6,500 coins are worth $40 in the real world. Somewhat surprisingly, no matter whether you choose Paypal or the gift card, the amounts are the same; this is different than some reward sites, who will give “discounted rates” on gift cards to encourage those over the money. That's a nice touch.

Cashout options, and also proof of
my two cash outs to prove this isn't a scam.
In about six total months of semi-frequent use, I was able to cash out for $10 total, which I added to my Paypal balance. The process for requesting a payout is very simple, although the turnaround time can be a little lengthy: you will receive an email confirmation of your payout request from Receipt Hog, typically within 24 hours. From there, those fine Receipt Hoggers will look it over and either approve or deny your request (presumably they're just double-checking to make sure you're not cheating the system somehow; I've never had a problem getting accepted) within seven days. Once it's accepted, it can take Paypal up to another seven days to actually send the money! So, you're looking at a possible 14 day waiting period, just for a measly five bucks.

From personal experience, the first time I requested payout (on a Sunday), it was approved on Wednesday, with the actual payment arriving in Paypal that same day. The second time, I requested payout on a Monday, and was approved and paid out within 24 hours. I don't know if repeat requesters are given priority, or if I just happened to get them at a good time, but my overall experience cashing out has been pretty positive.

HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE?
All this info is fine and good, but chances are you want to know how much you can make, or rather, how quickly the points accumulate. To put things into perspective, I've been using the app for a total of about five months (started in June, 2018, quit by the end of the month, and picked it back up almost exactly a year later in June, 2019, uploading several receipts per week up through October), and accumulated a “whopping” 2,202 points. Rather than slogging through to 2,900, which I was planning on doing to get $15, I just opted to break it down into two $5 payouts.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I tend to upload only coin-qualifying receipts, and very rarely hit the 100 weekly coin threshold, probably averaging somewhere around five receipts per week. So if you have more activity than that in your household, then the coin amounts will fill up much faster. Keep in mind “much faster” is a relative term here: clearly, these sites are just designed to pay out as little as possible, and are never geared toward earning anyone a livable income (otherwise people would just snap receipts and fill out surveys all day instead of getting a job). With a combination of extra effort, a little slot luck, a lot of receipts, and constant checking of the app for survey opportunities, I'd say hitting $5 per month is possible, but let's take a look at what would go into that.

Looking at some quick math here, the most you could get per week from receipt uploads is 175 coins (five $100+ purchases = 100 coins, then 15 further receipts at 5 coins a pop, regardless of amount = 175). So not counting surveys, it would take you six weeks to hit the minimum amount for the minimum $5 payout. And this is a best-case scenario: if you take more receipts than five to hit the 100 coin threshold, then you'll have fewer 5 coin receipts to upload, because there's a hard limit of 20 total. So, for example, if you have a bunch of transactions under $5, it would take you all 20 receipts (at five coins a pop) to hit 100, and you wouldn't be able to add any additional receipts for that week at all.

One more thing of note, and another positive in its favor, is that it's one of the few sites that seem to reward more active users, so the longer you stay committed to it, the more you stand to earn. This is in the form of a “level” system, which grants a one-time bonus every time you “level up”. In the earlier stages (1-11), the bonus is some extra spins on the Hog Slots, but once you hit level 12, it starts paying out a coin bonus. Currently, the maximum level is 40, which pays out 480 coins (although I shudder to think how many years it would take for the average person to work up to that).

Your level is also clearly visible at the top of the screen, right next to your coin total, along with a progress bar underneath that gauges your progress toward the next level. Rather annoyingly, the progress bar doesn't seem to be updated until the end of the week—it would be kind of nice to actively see the fruits of your labor paying off with each receipt you upload, but that might just be more of a personal preference. At the end of the day, it's still nice to see they have something in place to encourage and reward those that grind it out, even though it will still be a slow slog through this hog.

SUPPORT


The fairly new Receipt Hog help desk, courtesy of Zendesk.
I've never had to use Receipt Hog's support, but the general consensus online seems to be that...they're really not that bad. Of course, there are lots of pissed off people on their Facebook page (that's where everyone seems to migrate to these days), complaining that their receipts got denied, or that the system is deleting coins from them randomly, but--and I'm going to be a little ageist here--most of them seem to be from old people who have no idea how to use technology. 

If you do need them, their support system was overhauled in February, 2019, allowing users to open "tickets" for receipt-related issues; most people seem to be satisfied with quick responses. If that fails, you can always reach out to them via Facebook (or Twitter), which usually results in quicker responses. Just be sure to contact them via DM...don't post to their wall, which will get lost in a sea of notifications, and is the number one mistake people tend to do. Direct messages give you notices when they open the message, so it's like "Certified Mail" for email.

OVERALL

PROS (+)
+Get paid simply to upload receipts from any retailer, with no “deals” to clip first.
+Coin payments for uploaded receipts are by dollar amount, which is nice for larger purchases.
+Surveys pay out pretty well if you're lucky enough to get some.
+The “leveling up” idea is cool.
+Cash out options cover all the bases: Paypal, Visa gift card, or Amazon gift card.
+Gas only receipts, which were only good for sweepstakes entries in the past, now pay out in coins.
+Scanned receipts can be used for store returns if original thrown away.

CONS (-)
-Unless you're in a large household with dozens of receipts weekly, this will be a slow slog even for $5.
-No payment options between 1,000 coins ($5) and 2,900 coins ($15).
-Some receipts don't pay coins at all, instead giving you sweepstakes entries, or a spin on the “Pig Slots”.
-Surveys, which pay decently (relatively speaking), are all too rare, and disappear quickly.

It will be a slow slog to the very bare minimum for most people, but used in conjunction with other slow-earning apps, it can at least add up to a slightly worthwhile amount after a few months. I was going to get rid of it after cashing out 2,000 points, but honestly, the payouts are no better or worse than other receipt apps, so unless something better comes along, I'll probably just keep it as part of a tandem of other slow-earners.

On the plus side, the receipt upload process is the simplest and best out of all the receipt uploading apps, and the saved images from scanned receipts can be used to return items even after you throw away the originals. If you get a ton of receipts, this might be more worth your time; otherwise, it's by no means a required app.

OVERALL: 5/10

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