Reviews

Pei App Review: A Passive Cash-Back Shopping Program That Actually Pays

Pei Review
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This is my in-depth review of Pei, the card-linked loyalty app and Chrome cash-back extension. Multiple team members here at The Ways To Wealth downloaded Pei to see how it works and exactly what you should expect.

This review covers:

  • Eight things to know before signing up.
  • How Pei works.
  • Things I liked about Pei.
  • Things I didn’t like about Pei.
  • Alternatives to Pei (and when it makes sense to go with another option).

Let’s get to the review.

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Pei is a legit card-linked loyalty program that allows you to earn rewards passively. During a 60-day test period, I earned the equivalent of $16.60 on $799 of spending at qualified partners. Brand name partners like Target, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s make it easy to slowly earn an extra .5% to 1% cash-back. Some options, such as local restaurants, provide as much as 10% cash-back. In our testing, multiple transactions were not credited (though in each case, the problem was fixed after contacting support). Overall, you can expect to earn a couple of gift cards per year for the few minutes of time it takes to install the app and sync your cards.

Pros:
  • One of the few truly passive card-linked programs that actually works.
  • Multiple options for cashing out, including PayPal, gift cards and Bitcoin.
  • Can earn as much as 10% with certain partners.
  • Signing up takes minutes.
Cons:
  • Has a relatively high minimum cash-out threshold of $25.
  • In our testing, multiple transactions failed to credit the advertised rewards.
  • Offers a cash-back portal, but it’s only available via browser extension (not in the app) and rates are average at best.

8 Things to Know Before Signing Up for Pei

  1. Pei is a true card-linked cash-back program with a long list of partners. Most card-linked programs work at a small selection of retailers and restaurants, and they’re often not the places you regularly shop and eat. Pei is unique among the passive earning apps we’ve reviewed because its partners include major retailers like Target and Trader Joe’s, as well as national restaurant chains like Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts.
  2. Pei doesn’t always recognize transactions. During our two months of testing, the two largest eligible transactions didn’t initially show up in the app. One was for a 10% offer at a local restaurant, and the other was 0.5% back on $252 at Walgreens (our annual Epipen purchase). In both cases, the missing credit was added by customer service. However, having to monitor the app to make sure that eligible purchases are properly tracked negates some of the benefits of using a passive earning app in the first place.
  3. Pei’s cash-back shopping portal offers middle-of-the-pack rates. As a general rule, you’ll earn less cash-back when shopping through Pei than via portals like Rakuten and TopCashback. 
  4. Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency you can buy with your earnings. You can also cash out via PayPal, or request a gift card
  5. You’ll need a crypto wallet to cash out with Bitcoin
  6. Redemptions are usually instant, which is rare for an online rewards platform
  7. For the best results, enable location services. This will show you the best local offers, including small businesses and independent restaurants.
  8. There’s a $25 minimum cash-out. If you’re earning an average of 1% back on your purchases, you’ll have to spend $2,500 at partner stores before you can make a withdrawal. 

How the Pei App Works

Pei is a passive cash-back platform that allows you to earn money by using linked credit and/or debit cards to pay for in-store purchases. It also offers a cash-back shopping portal, which is accessible via a Chrome browser extension.

You earn a set amount of points for each purchase at participating retailers, and you can exchange those points for PayPal cash or gift cards.

Additionally, Pei is best known for the ability to cash-out your earnings in Bitcoin, making it one of a small but growing number of apps and rewards programs that let you earn free cryptocurrency.

More options: Check out our list of the best cash-back sites and apps.

Pei Card Linked Loyalty Program App Overview

With a card-linked loyalty program, you sync your credit and/or debit cards and then earn rewards for purchases made at participating retailers. There’s no further action required, such as scanning a receipt.

Pei uses a service called Plaid to link your payment cards. This is the same service used and trusted by many of the largest financial institutions, like American Express, Fannie Mae and Venmo. In other words, Plaid is widely considered safe and secure in the financial world. 

The amount of cash-back you earn varies by partner. When you download the app and give permission for Pei to access your location, you’ll get a list of participating stores that are nearby.

Pei App List of Merchants
Some of Pei’s partner merchants.

I’m located in the Chicago suburbs, and I was glad to see plenty of partners where I already shop, including both major name brands and a few favorite local restaurants. 

A few notable partners that you might recognize are:

  • 7-Eleven: 0.5% cash-back
  • CVS: 0.5% cash-back
  • Domino’s: 1.5% cash-back
  • McDonald’s: 1% cash-back
  • Starbucks: 1% cash-back
  • Target: 1% cash-back
  • Trader Joe’s: 5% cash-back
  • Walgreens: 0.5% cash-back

The amount you can earn with each partner is capped by a weekly limit, which was either $1 or $5 for every partner we examined in our research.

Pei Cash-Back Portal & Google Chrome Extension

Beyond the app, Pei also allows you to get cash-back when shopping online. 

There are two ways to activate cash-back offers with Pei. 

First, you can start your search for participating retailers at Pei’s website, as shown in the screenshot below.

Note that these offers are not card-linked promotions: to earn the advertised reward, you only have to click the associated link to visit the retailer’s website (and then make a qualifying purchase). Once there, you can pay with any payment method.

Pei App's Online Partners
Pei’s cash-back shopping portal.

Second, you can earn cash-back by installing the Google Chrome extension.

Once installed, you’ll see a popup prompting you to activate your cash-back whenever you visit a participating retailer. Clicking this button is required because it allows Pei to track your activity on the merchant’s website (which is how its system verifies that you made a purchase).

Pei App cashback offer at walmart
Pei’s Chrome extension notifies you whenever cash-back is available.

Often, cash-back rates vary by category at participating retailers. Click on “Cashback Deals” to see what kinds of purchases are eligible, as well as exactly how much you can expect to earn. 

Here’s an example from Walmart that shows a rather complicated list of eligible categories: 

Pei Walmart Eligible Categories
Not all categories are eligible for cash-back on each site.

The rewards you earn from cash-back shopping appear in your in-app points balance, and often take a day or two to hit your account. Pending transactions are shown in yellow, while transactions that have been rewarded are shown in green. 

My earnings on Pei
Earnings are reported in points, which can be converted to cash.

The waiting period differs by retailer, and often correlates with the retailer’s return policy. This is to prevent people from buying something solely to earn points (i.e., with the intent to return that item once the points have been credited). 

How to Cash Out Your Rewards

You can withdraw your earnings from Pei once you accrue $25 in rewards. This is a relatively high minimum withdrawal. (Rakuten’s is $5 and Swagbucks’ is $3). Most cash-out options are instant, which is rare in the reward space.

Cashing out via PayPal or a gift card is straightforward, and for some gift cards, you can get a small bonus. For example, Amazon gift cards had a 2% bonus at the time of our research.

Cashing out in Bitcoin is slightly more complicated. The first thing you’ll need (if you don’t already have one) is a Bitcoin wallet. Once you provide Pei with the address of your wallet, you can transfer your earnings. 

Should You Cash-Out in Bitcoin?

It’s worth noting that you can now exchange PayPal cash for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies directly within your PayPal account. If you’re new to crypto and just looking to dip your toes in the space with some cash-back earnings, this may be the simplest way to turn your Pei earnings into crypto (since no crypto wallet is required). 

The other advantage to this approach is that Pei only allows you to cash-out via Bitcoin, whereas PayPal allows you to buy other cryptocurrencies (such as Ethereum). 

On the flip side, you actually own any Bitcoin you earn with Pei and transfer to your wallet. That’s not technically the case with PayPal, which does not allow you to transfer your crypto to external wallets (limiting its usefulness).

In addition, Pei allows you to earn interest on your Bitcoin balance (plus any holdings deposited from an external address). At the time of this writing, Pei pays 4% APY on Bitcoin. However, unlike deposits made into a traditional FDIC-insured bank, there are risks associated with earning interest on your Bitcoin holdings

Alternatives to Pei

There are dozens of card-linked loyalty programs, but the two companies Pei is most often compared to are Drop and Dosh. 

Pei vs. Drop

Over time, Drop has shifted from a passive card-linked loyalty program to more of a cash-back portal with a focus on limited-time bonus offers. In other words, although it’s often categorized as one, Drop isn’t really a passive income app

With most of Drop’s card-linked offers, you’re required to log into the app and activate the offer.

For example, when researching for this review there was an offer for 1,000 points (about $1) when spending a minimum of $10 at Amazon. But you have to activate and redeem the offer (by spending $10 with a linked card) within the specified time window. With Pei, that’s never the case; just paying with a linked card is all that’s required.

If you don’t mind logging into Drop to check the available offers on a consistent basis, then the platform definitely offers some great earning opportunities. But if you’re looking for more of a passive income app, Pei is the better choice. 

Pei vs. Dosh

Dosh is another popular card-linked loyalty program. However, its March 2021 acquisition by Cardlytics has left the future of the app in doubt, as there are some indications that the program may be phased out over time.

Pei App FAQ

Do you have to enable location access to use Pei?

No. Pei is a card-linked program and you’re not required to check-in to locations or activate offers. The platform works even if you never grant the app access to your location data. However, choosing not to grant that data means that you can’t see nearby offers.

Does Pei work when paying online or through a participating merchant’s app?

Only in-store transactions are eligible for card-linked cash-back, and you must run your card as a credit card to earn; if you enter your pin number and run it as a debit card, you will not receive any points for the transaction.

In other words, you cannot earn points when paying through a partner’s website or app, and you cannot combine the card-linked offers with offers found on the cash-back portal — they are separate promotions.

Why won’t Pei sync my Capital One card?

Pei is currently not compatible with Capital One credit cards. Capital One cards also don’t sync with Drop and some other cash-back/rebate apps.

Is there a Pei app promo code?

Using this link to sign up gives you a $5 bonus.

Is the Pei app safe?

Pei uses Plaid to link to your bank account, which is widely utilized among financial services companies and is considered the gold standard for this type of account access sharing.

How long does it take for points to hit your account?

In our experience, points hit your account within two days after a purchase is made. 

Can you use Pei with other card-linked loyalty programs?

As a general rule, no. Most of the popular card-linked loyalty programs run on a network called Empyr, which prevents you from double-dipping rewards on separate programs. 

Can you use Pei with other cash-back sites?

No. The card-linked loyalty purchases are only good at local retailers. For example, you don’t get cash-back when shopping via Target.com, like you would physically visiting a Target store and making a purchase.

Pei App Review Conclusion

With most of the existing passive card-linked loyalty programs shutting down or switching their business models, Pei has emerged at a perfect time. 

If you wanted to, you could download the app, sync your cards and open it back up in a few months to potentially find you’ve earned enough to cash-out for a gift card. 

That said, to maximize your earnings, it’s best to log in to the app consistently to check for special limited-time deals (and to make sure that your transactions are properly recorded). 

While it’s not perfect, we still recommend the app due to the passive income component.  

Visit Pei’s website.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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