Unlike most brick-and-mortar stores, many ecommerce shops utilize dynamic pricing algorithms that reprice items based on factors like stock level, demand and competitor prices.
And sometimes, these pricing changes occur in near-real-time — making it all but impossible to pick the ideal time to pull the trigger.
That’s where Paribus comes in. Owned and operated by Capital One, it’s a free service that helps people counteract that negative aspect of the online shopping experience.
Simply put, Paribus monitors your online purchases for future price drops. When it finds one, it helps you send refund requests to merchants on your behalf. The app can also help negotiate a refund if your package arrives late.
In this Paribus review, we’ll go over the key features and talk about whether the app is safe and effective.
If you’d like to jump directly to our take on whether the app is worth your time, click here.
Paribus founder Eric Glyman noticed that many online retailers promised to refund the difference after a price drop. But the process of claiming a refund was long and complicated, and required customers to keep track of future prices of the things they’d already bought. Glyman and fellow Harvard alumnus Karim Atiyeh created the Paribus service to change that.
In 2014, they launched a beta version of the app at the TechCrunch technology conference in New York. The iOS app went public in August of 2015, followed by the Android version nine months later.
Within two years, the app’s user base had swelled to 700,000. And in 2018, Capital One bought the company. It now offers the app as one of its free money-saving services, along with the coupon-code-finding browser extension Wikibuy (which you can read about in this review).
Since its inception, Paribus has filed more than $20 million in price change claims. And while not all of those refund claims are successful, they’ve undoubtedly rescued a substantial amount of funds that would have otherwise gone unclaimed.
How It Works
Paribus monitors your inbox for purchase and shipping confirmation emails. When it finds them, it continuously cross-checks the data (i.e., the price you paid) against the retailer’s website to see if the price drops.
If the service finds that an item you purchased declined in price within the retailer’s stated price protection window (usually about 10 to 14 days), it sends an email to the merchant on your behalf, requesting the difference.
Paribus can also request a refund if your item isn’t delivered within the promised shipping time frame, but this doesn’t work quite as seamlessly. We’ll talk about why a little bit later in the article.
Paribus Requires Email Access
At this point, you’re probably wondering about the elephant in the room. Yes, it’s true: in order to work, Paribus needs access to your email account.
Without that access, it can’t monitor for confirmation emails. This work is done by bots (not humans) which monitor for keywords like “purchase,” “order number,” and the like. Many people wonder about the privacy implications of this, and we discuss that topic in a moment.
However, if that’s something that makes you feel uneasy, there’s one easy workaround — and you should probably be utilizing it anyway if you frequently shop online.
Just set up a dedicated email address for online purchases. Aside from shielding your personal correspondence from apps like Paribus, this will help you avoid having your inbox inundated with marketing emails.
Paribus currently supports only Gmail, Yahoo! and Microsoft Outlook email accounts.
Pro Tip: Paribus can only read emails that are in your inbox. If you automatically filter them to another folder, or if you delete/archive them, the service won’t be able to monitor for price drops.
How To Sign Up
To link Paribus to your email, go to Paribus’ website (or download the app, which is available at the iPhone App Store) and select the email account you want to link with. If you’re already signed in, Paribus will recognize your email address.
From there, Paribus will ask your permission to read and write emails on your behalf, and it will show you samples of outgoing refund emails sent by Paribus so that you’ll recognize them if you come across them in your sent folder.
After that, you’re done! Paribus will continue to work in the background, scanning for savings without you lifting a finger.
How The App Identifies Purchases
Paribus scans your inbox for any emails from the 20+ retailers it currently works with. The Paribus privacy page notes that the app only scans those emails, not the rest of your messages. The bots look for triggers like “purchase confirmation” or “tracking number” that online retailers typically send after you’ve bought something online.
Paribus keeps track of the prices, shipping deadlines, and return windows found in those emails so that you can take advantage of price drop refunds and reimbursements for late deliveries, and so you don’t miss out on the chance to return any of your items (when you log in, it will show you how long you still have to return each item).
What Happens When Paribus Identifies a Price Drop
Paribus sends you an email when it detects a price drop or refund opportunity, and also when it completes a successful claim. You can change your email notification settings in your dashboard (which will also cut down on any extra promotional emails from the company that you may not want).
How You Get Your Refund
Paribus petitions online retailers for a refund on your behalf, but the refund comes through the retailer, not Paribus itself.
Just like if you get a refund in a brick-and-mortar store, the money goes back to the card or account you paid with.
You don’t have to share any credit card or banking information with the Paribus app, and you get 100% of the money you save.
Late Shipping Rebates
Paribus offers late shipping rebates, but as far as we can tell, this only works with Amazon purchases — and the results are spotty. The feature previously worked with Walmart orders, but the company was removed from Paribus’ list of partner merchants in July 2020.
Amazon’s guaranteed shipping policy is pretty specific on what qualifies as a late order for a refund or incentive. Notably, the language of the policy suggests that you’re only entitled to a refund if you actually paid for shipping — which means that late Amazon Prime deliveries would not be eligible.
It also explicitly states that they won’t refund shipping fees for “circumstances beyond our control, such as a strike, natural disaster, or severe winter storm.” (We’re looking at you, COVID-19.)
That said, Amazon’s policy seems to be continually evolving, and whether the shipping rebate goes through may just depend on who is providing customer service on that day. Other bloggers that have tested Paribus’ success at getting late shipping rebates have received an extra month of Prime or Amazon gift cards for their trouble.
I tested this out, and the first thing worth noting is that Paribus does not negotiate with Amazon on your behalf — it simply nudges you in the right direction so that you can do so yourself. Here’s a screenshot of the notice that I received when the app detected a late delivery.
After clicking “Live chat with Amazon” and pasting the suggested message, I was offered a $5 Amazon account statement credit for the inconvenience of my late shipment (which was a Prime delivery). And from what I can tell, this is the most frequent form of reimbursement.
Where It Works
The online retailers supported by Paribus change from time to time. For instance, Walmart was previously supported, but no longer is. At the time of this writing, Paribus works with the following 22 major retailers. We’ve included their respective price protection policies for reference.
- Amazon: No price protection policy — Paribus only monitor for late shipments.
- Anthropologie: 14 days. Only applies to full-priced purchases.
- Athleta: 14 days. Does not apply if you use a discount code (except for free shipping), and does not apply to “final sale” items.
- Banana Republic: 14 days. Does not apply if you use a discount code (except for free shipping), and does not apply to “final sale” items.
- Best Buy: Applies for the duration of your item’s return and exchange period, which ranges from 14 to 45 days, depending on the item and your Best Buy loyalty status.
- Bloomingdale’s: 10 days.
- Bonobos: 14 days. Applies to all items (including final sale items), but only if the size and fit you purchased is still in stock.
- Costco: 30 days.
- Gap: 14 days. Does not apply if you use a discount code (except for free shipping), and does not apply to “final sale” items.
- Crate & Barrel: Unknown. The company does not publish a specific price adjustment policy, and one blogger was told both that it’s 14 days and that it’s applied at the company’s discretion.
- Home Depot: 90 days.
- L. L. Bean: 7 days.
- Loft: 7 Days. Only applies to full-priced items.
- Neiman Marcus: 10 days. Only applies to full-priced items.
- Newegg: 14 days. Only applies to items sold by Newegg that display at a “Price Match Guarantee” badge on the product page (third-party seller items are not eligible). Also, the policy excludes major shopping holidays like Black Friday.
- Old Navy: 14 days. Does not apply if you use a discount code (except for free shipping), and does not apply to “final sale” items.
- QVC: 30 days.
- REI: 14 days. Only applies to items of the same color and size, and REI Outlet products are excluded.
- Saks Fifth Avenue: 7 days. Only applies to full-priced items.
- Sears: 30 days, plus 365 days for “Best Stuff” mattresses. Black Friday sales are excluded. So are “Shop Your Way” sales, extra points promotions, “Online Only” special offers and clearance clothing. Finally, the policy does not apply to third-party sellers offering their products on the Sears marketplace.
- Target: 14 days. Black Friday sales are excluded.
- Zappos: 10 days.
Policies and merchants change from time to time, so check the Paribus policy website to see the latest info from each individual merchant.
Safety And Privacy Concerns
Is Paribus safe? That’s the key question posed by many potential users of the service.
And that’s understandable. So many “free” apps, browser extensions and other technologies come at the hidden cost of your privacy and the safety of your online information.
Naturally, allowing an app to access something as personal as your email inbox might give you pause. So let’s dive into what permissions and access Paribus requires, as well as whether the app is legit and safe.
When you grant Paribus permission to access your inbox, it uses a token system; this means that Paribus gets a token from the email provider, rather than your actual password. Think of it as using a bus token rather than cash to ride the bus. Both get you onto the bus, but you can’t use a bus token to pay your bills or buy a sandwich; it only functions for the bus.
The app’s logic ensures it only opens emails from the list of providers it works with and it identifies messages that appear to be receipts. The app does not access any other emails, so the odds of Paribus viewing or leaking sensitive email data are very low.
All email data is stored with AES 128-bit encryption, which would literally take a billion years to crack. Paribus also uses industry-standard security precautions like VPNs, firewalls, and intrusion prevention systems. They conduct regular security audits, which are essential to the ongoing safety of your data.
Cookies And Other Privacy Issues
Like search engines, blogs and social media sites, Paribus stores bits of information on how you use the app or website, called cookies.
These cookies are used to compile information about how users interact with the app or website, as well as to tailor ads based on your preferences. You cannot control the settings of these cookies as you can on an internet browser.
This can be annoying, but it’s a common method that businesses use to provide free apps and services. Nothing is truly free; you’re paying for the app by letting companies advertise to you.
Paribus states explicitly that they never sell your data. However, they do allow third parties to use it in aggregate (i.e., anonymized form) to perform certain tasks, including directing contextually-relevant advertisements to you.
Paribus vs. Earny
The Earny app is similar to Paribus in some respects: it links to your email to get you refunds for price drops and late shipping, and both companies work with a similar list of vendors (Amazon, Target, the Gap-owned stores, etc.).
The similarities stop there, however. Paribus is 100% free, whereas Earny charges a monthly subscription of $2.99. Plus, Paribus works with several more vendors than Earny does.
Earny does have a few perks that may justify the monthly subscription fee. For example, Paribus has discontinued its monitoring of hotel stays, but Earny still offers that feature.
Earny also offers a browser extension that earns you cash-back at participating retailers, similar to Rakuten (formerly known as ebates) and Swagbucks. The browser extension also has an affiliate program, offering you $5 cash-back when your friend uses Earny to make a cash-back-eligible purchase.
As a competitor to Paribus, Earny makes a good showing by offering more features. However, many of these features are offered for free in other apps or browser extensions — with the hotel refunds feature being a notable exception.
Unless you’re a heavy traveler, it would be hard to justify Earny’s subscription cost when you can get the same features for free by pairing Paribus with a cash-back browser extension like Wikibuy or Rakuten.
Paribus offers a hassle-free way to identify when something you bought has dropped in price. And at the affordable price of free, there’s little downside. It only takes a few clicks to have the Paribus app working in the background, saving your money whenever you shop online.
The fact that Paribus can scan your emails (even if it’s just the purchase confirmation ones) and target ads to you is the biggest potential barrier to signing up.
Even though Paribus claims that it does not read (let alone, store) your personal emails, it’s impossible to say with absolute certainty that its security measures could not be breached, or that a data protection mistake could not be made.
So, from a purely best-practice security standpoint, we recommend using a shopping-only email address to sign up for the service. This rules out even the remote possibility that your personal information could be compromised.
With that said, we think Paribus is best for those who frequently shop online at the list of supported retailers. Paribus has a lot of big hitters in its merchant lineup. But if you do most of your shopping elsewhere, the app has little to offer you.
Still, it’s worth letting the app try to save you a few bucks — even if you only ship online occasionally.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions readers ask about Paribus.
Prior to its acquisition by Capital One, Paribus took 25% of all refunds they obtained as a commission. Now the app is completely free to customers. Capital One does aggregate data and target ads to you on their user interface, based on your purchases and buying habits — and they may provide anonymized data to third-parties for that purpose.
In other words, they sell data — just not your personally identifiable data.
The refunds that Paribus obtains go back to the card or bank account you originally paid with. That’s another perk of Paribus — you don’t have to give out your credit card information or wait for a check in the mail to take advantage of the savings!
The word “paribus” is Latin for “equal.” It is often used in the phrase “ceteris paribus,” a scientific/legal phrase that translates to “all other things being equal.” Does that have anything to do with the name of this app? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The list of Paribus partner merchants changes frequently. Some retailers that once participated but not longer do include Bed Bath & Beyond, J.Crew, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Office Depot and Wayfair.
Summary: An Effective, Passive Money-Saving Tool
Because Paribus runs in the background to save money and requires no intervention from you, it can be a slam dunk for those who frequently shop online. For the affordable cost of free, you can reap potential savings of anywhere from zero dollars to a few hundred bucks each year.
The app is legit and takes appropriate steps to protect your privacy. But if giving the service access to your email still makes you nervous, you can take advantage of the potential savings by using a separate email account when signing up for your Paribus account — just make sure to use that email when actually shopping online.
Interested in trying Paribus? Sign up here.
What savings have you obtained from using the Paribus app? Share your experience in the comments below!
*Paribus and Wikibuy compensate us when you sign up for each service using the links we provided.