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Honey Review: Is It Safe & Does It Work?

Honey Review Featured
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There are many shopping apps and browser extensions that claim to save you money on your online purchases. Is the popular Honey browser extension any different? And is it worth downloading and trying?

I’ll answer those two questions in this in-depth Honey review, which covers:

  • What I like most about the Honey browser extension (and what I hated).
  • How to use Honey to save money when shopping online.
  • When you should use a different browser extension, like Capital One Shopping.
  • What kind of person will benefit from Honey the most.
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Pros:
  • Fast payout of cash-back earned, including instant PayPal deposits.
  • Features a multi-site product search engine that can help you find the lowest price.
  • Allows you to create and customize price-drop notifications.
Cons:
  • Limited cash-back earning opportunities compared to other platforms.
  • Coupon code database is not always up-to-date and lacks features offered by other services.

What Is Honey?

Honey is a free service that helps you save money when shopping online. In order to use the service, you are required to install the browser extension (or use the Honey mobile app).

Unlike some other platforms, you cannot access coupons or earn cash-back by going through the Honey website — although the website is useful in some cases, as we’ll discuss in the next section.

Normally, if you’re serious about finding the best price on an item, you have to do a decent amount of work; you need to track the prices of products, hunt down coupons and promo codes, compare prices on multiple websites, and see if you can get any cash-back on your purchases. 

All these steps take time and effort — and it’s still not always clear whether you’re getting the best possible deal. Honey aims to simplify and speed up this process, using algorithms and databases to automatically help you find the lowest prices and best promo codes available.

Note that Honey is owned by PayPal, but you don’t have to be a PayPal user to access the service.

Honey’s Top Five Money-Saving Features

Honey is like a Swiss army knife of savings. It has multiple tools that serve slightly different functions, all focused on helping you keep money in your bank account.

#1. Cash-Back on Purchases

Honey’s cash-back program is called Honey Gold. Unlike many coupon apps and browser extensions, Honey doesn’t guarantee a flat cash-back percentage at any given store. Instead, it offers cash-back on eligible items offered by participating vendors. 

These are called “exclusive offers.” In order to get Honey Gold for an exclusive offer, you need to activate the offer ahead of time by clicking the little orange “H” icon at the top of your screen (as shown in the screenshot below). After installing the browser extension, this icon will be visible any time you visit a participating retailer’s website.

Example of the Honey browser extension in action.
Clicking the Honey extension icon opens the menu shown above.

You can scan the day’s top exclusive offers in the same pop-up, or find them organically as you shop in a separate pop-up on product pages. 

The information shown in the Honey pop-up changes based on the page you're browsing.
The information shown in the Honey pop-up changes based on the page you’re browsing.

However, I found that the best way to search for Honey Gold offers is to go to Honey’s homepage rather than the retailer’s website. From there, you can type your query into the search bar and filter results to only show “exclusive offers.” 

Example of the Honey universal item search feature.
You can search for any item you’re looking for to see options offered by Honey’s partnered vendors.

After you search, you’ll get a list of all the matching items in Honey’s database from partnered merchants. 

Example of Honey universal search results with no filtering.
These items have not been filtered down to the ones with a cash-back promotion.

Clicking the “Exclusive Offers” toggle button filters down to only those with a cash-back offer, as shown below: 

Example of Honey's universal search feature with filtering enabled.
This filtering tool essentially allows you to perform a multi-site cash-back search for a specific item, making it easy to find the best promotion available.

Getting Paid Your Cash-Back

Once you’ve accumulated 1,000 in Honey Gold ($10) you can cash out for one of three options:

  • $10 PayPal shopping credit, which you can use at any store that accepts PayPal.
  • $10 gift card to select retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Target and more. 
  • $10 into your PayPal account, which can then be transferred out to any other account (like your bank). 

You can only cash out in 1,000 Gold increments, but you get your gift cards emailed to you within 24 hours, and your PayPal cash is deposited instantly. That makes Honey one of both the fastest ways to get free gift cards and the fastest ways to get free PayPal cash.

#2. Automatic Coupon Codes

Honey’s automatic coupon code tool draws from its database of thousands of offers and automatically applies the one (or combination) that gets you the best deal. If you’re someone who doesn’t spend time searching for promo codes before making a purchase, it’s a fast and easy way to save money.

Unfortunately, Honey’s coupon code tool isn’t infallible. There were a few times I knew about coupon codes it did not — some of which were boldly advertised on the retailer’s home page. This suggests that the service’s database is not perfectly up-to-date.

In other cases, the extension would not automatically test coupons; I could see the options (usually 15 or more) and type each in manually, but this obviously takes much longer. 

Related: Capital One Shipping is a free extension that offers many of the same features as Honey, including a significantly more powerful coupon code tool that automatically crowdsources discounts from its user base. Learn more in our Capital One Shopping review.

#3. Price Drop Notifications

When you’re trying to get a good deal, patience is often key. But because few people have the time to regularly check all the items they’re watching, Honey offers a free price tracker (called the Droplist) that notifies you when an item goes on sale. 

You can add items to your Droplist in a few different ways.

First, you can do it right on a partnered retailer’s site. When you navigate to a product page, you can click the orange “H” in the top corner of your browser and scroll to the bottom of the pop-up, where you can click “Add to Droplist” (as shown in the screenshot below).

Example of Honey's add to droplist feature.
Just click “Add to Droplist” to start tracking the item.

You can customize your Droplist by selecting items you want to monitor, and choosing when you want an email notification triggered — for example, when it’s 5%, 25% even 95% off. (This is an advantage over competing extension Capital One Shopping’s price tracking feature, which does not allow you to set custom notification triggers).

Honey droplist customizations.
Honey allows you to customize your Droplist notification settings.

When an item on your Droplist gets discounted at or beyond your desired percentage, you get an immediate email.  

The biggest problem I experienced with Droplist is that you need to create separate entries for the same item at different stores. I wish it allowed you to add an item and notify you if it goes on sale at any store.

It also allows you to create “collections” within your Droplist, which help you organize the items within their own folders.

Droplist categories.
You can create custom categories within your Droplist.

If you want to know when your favorite store is having a sale, you can also “follow” an entire retailer to get email notifications about big promotions. 

Finally, Honey is currently testing out a “Smart Droplist” functionality. This automatically adds frequently-browsed items to your Droplist, since it assumes you’re waiting for a good price before pulling the trigger. The feature is optional, however, and you don’t have to enable the setting. 

#4. Amazon Price Comparison

When you’re shopping on Amazon, it’s easy to assume that the online retail giant has the best deal on everything. But that’s not always true, so it’s good to have Honey working in the background to compare the price you see on Amazon with other retailers selling that same product. 

The first function of Honey’s Amazon tool is to compare multiple seller prices to each other. If a third-party seller has a lower price than Amazon, the tool automatically catches it and directs you towards the seller that offers the most savings. I found this to be very accurate. 

Honey inserts a price comparison widget right into the Amazon product page.
Honey inserts a price comparison widget directly into the Amazon product page.

It also compares prices between Amazon and other retailers like Walmart, though indirectly. This function isn’t as helpful as the on-site comparison, however, because instead of definitively saying, “Yes, this is the best price,” or “No, you can get a better deal by going to X,” Honey keeps it vague. 

For example, I once looked at an Amazon product that was 93% more expensive than the same item sold at Walmart. But the price comparison tool only said “Compare at 4 Stores: This price is currently on the higher side compared to other stores we checked, but it could change.” 

Luckily, you can click the “See what else we found” button for the complete picture. That opens a new tab with a full comparison table between Amazon and every other retailer selling that item.

Here’s a video showing what the process looks like:

Honey’s multi-site price comparison tool in action.

#5. Universal Product Search Engine

If you go directly to joinhoney.com, you can type any product into its search engine. From there, it will automatically compare the prices of that item at the service’s major partnered stores. 

The screenshot below shows one example — you can quickly compare prices at Walmart, Amazon and Target, as well as other outlets.

Second Honey multi-site price comparison example.
You can see more options by clicking the right-facing arrow to scroll through the carousel.

I actually found this to be the most helpful of the five tools, since it contained all the information I needed on a single page, such as which stores offered Honey Gold, which had active coupons, and which had similar products but at lower prices. 

Other Honey Features

There are a few other miscellaneous tasks that Honey can take care of for you. 

Honey Tips

Honey Tips is a button that pops up on the right side of your browser whenever you visit a product page from an affiliated retailer.

If you click on it, Tips will give you tons of quick information about the product, the retailer, and how Honey interacts with both — just in case you needed a reminder. (In contrast, the orange “H” browser extension button at the top focuses on retailer-wide information.)

Example of a Honey Tips pop-up.
Example of a Honey Tips pop-up.

You can also activate cash-back offers and browse promotions from the Tips button.

My favorite nerdy tool in the Honey Tips arsenal, however, is the price history graph. Sometimes, you can spot trends (like when an item has had a price spike right before it goes on sale) and try to predict discounts before they happen. 

Honey makes it easy to see the overall price history of a product.
Honey makes it easy to see the overall price history of a product.

Honey Checkout

Because PayPal owns Honey, they’ve taken care of processing payments through Honey for select retailers. Instead of inputting your credit card information directly to the website, you can choose to go through Honey Checkout and use PayPal as an intermediary, even if you don’t have a PayPal account (though you won’t get payment protection). 

There doesn’t seem to be much of a benefit to using Honey Checkout, however. You don’t get more Gold or better coupons. As far as I can tell, it’s just a way for Honey and PayPal to collect more of your data. 

Gift Card Deals

Sometimes, Honey will show you a pop-up if you can save money by purchasing a store-specific gift card before completing your order.

Buying a gift card first can seem convoluted, but it can also result in savings of up to 10%.
Buying a gift card first can seem convoluted, but it can also result in savings of up to 10%.

It works like this: you purchase a store gift card at a discount, and then use that gift card to make your purchase. This effectively saves you money, even if there were no coupons or Honey Gold available for the purchase. 

Honey iOS and Android App

The Honey mobile app functions in many of the same ways as the extension’s home page. 

With the Honey app, you can…

  • Search for stores or items.
  • Compare prices.
  • View special daily promotions.
  • Check your Droplist.
  • Browse products related to items you’ve viewed in the past.

The biggest difference between Honey’s homepage and the Honey app is that you actually can make purchases through the app, which is not possible on the homepage (since you have to navigate to the retailer’s site). 

You can also use the app to enable push notifications when items on your Droplist get discounted or become eligible for Honey Gold. This way, you don’t have to worry about missing an email with a price drop alert. 

Honey Downsides

Like any couponing app or extension, there are downsides to using Honey. Some of these might not be a deal-breaker for you, but it’s important that you know what they are so you can make an informed decision. 

#1. Honey Can Slow Down Your Browser 

Any additional software you add onto your web browser has the potential to slow it down. If you have multiple shopping extensions downloaded onto your browser like I do, speeds can become almost debilitatingly slow. So be choosy when picking the best cash-back browser extensions. 

One pro tip is to have a shopping-only browser. For example, if you primarily use Chrome, download Firefox and add your shopping extensions.

#2. Honey Collects Your Browsing and Shopping Data

Some of Honey’s data collection doesn’t feel intrusive, like how it checks prices of items you view to inform its price-checking tool for other users. 

However, Honey can learn a lot about you and your personal shopping habits. It knows what, when, where and how you buy products. It also knows the items you look at, even if you didn’t buy them.

All of this is very valuable data, because Honey can then use this and other information to “deliver content, including ads relevant to your interests, on [their] sites or on third party sites.” 

In other words, understand that you are giving access to a significant amount of data for the right to use this service.

Honey Review: Final Verdict

Honey can help you find discounts, coupons and promotions you would never have known about, and can potentially save you a lot of money.

I always want to find the lowest price when I’m shopping online, but I’m not willing to spend 20 hours comparing prices for a single product. Honey is the sweet spot between doing no research (and likely overpaying) and over-researching (and still only maybe getting the best deal). 

I’m happy to use Honey to do 90% of the research for me for basically the same results, and then get on with my life. 

Hillary Swetz
Hillary Swetz reviews personal finance products, apps and services for The Ways To Wealth. Connect with her on Twitter @hillaryswetz and read more of her work on her frugal living website Homegrown Hillary.

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