If you’re looking for ways to save money on everyday expenses, you may have come across Upside, an app that promises cashback on gas, grocery store, convenience store and restaurant purchases.
This Upside review will focus on a few key topics, including:
- How the Upside app works.
- Our experience and earnings while testing it.
- How much you can save by using the app for a year.
- How you collect the cash-back you earn with the app.
Upside offers savings of up to 25 cents per gallon (in the form of cashback) for filling your tank at a partnered gas station, and up to 35% back on grocery and restaurant purchases at over 30,000 participating retailers.
- Has an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.
- Allows you to cash out via PayPal or bank deposit.
- Offers great cashback rates on groceries.
- Gas pump printers are often broken, and no receipt means no cashback.
- The casback rates offered don't always equate to the lowest price available in your area.
Upside Key Facts
Upside claims that more than 30 million people earn over $2 billion in qualifying purchases each year with the platform. But before joining those ranks, take note of the following to ensure you earn money when shopping with partnered businesses.
- Cashback is only available at select gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and convenience stores.
- Each offer is valid for a gas purchase of up to 50 gallons.
- You have to activate each offer by clicking a button within the app before making a purchase.
- You have four hours after activating a restaurant, gas or convenience store offer to use it, followed by 24 hours to submit the receipt. For grocery store offers, you have 24 hours after claiming an offer to make the purchase and upload the receipt.
- If you forget a receipt, if the printer is out of paper, or if critical details are missing from the receipt, you will not earn anything.
- Some offers allow you to check in via the app rather than submitting a receipt. After you check in, you have 20 minutes to make your purchase. For check-in purchases, you must pay with a linked debit card or credit card (prepaid credit or debit cards and EBT will not work) or a digital payment method (like Apple Pay or Google Pay).
- Different locations of the same chain may offer different rates (or no cashback at all).
- Activating a cashback offer at one location does not activate it at others.
- The same location may offer different rates to you and the person standing next to you; offers are personalized based on the business’s current margins and your history with the business.
- Your cashback may take up to 10 days to process and post.
- Groceries or meals purchased through delivery services do not qualify for cashback.
- Upside may deny receipts that are also processed by another cashback program (e.g., GasBuddy or Checkout 51). In other words, no double dipping is allowed.
How the Upside Gas App Works
Here’s a quick overview of how to use Upside.
Step 1: Sign up.
Download the free app for iOS or Android, then sign up.
Step 2: Activate an offer.
If you forget to activate the offer before making your purchase, you will not receive a cashback reward. To activate, click “Claim” (as shown in the image below).
Step 3: Link a payment card.
If you want to skip the receipt upload process (which we recommend), Upside needs to be able to link your purchases with your check-in.
To do so, you need to add at least one credit or debit card by inputting the first six and last four numbers of the card in the “My Wallet” section of the app. (Note that “My Wallet” may not appear until after you claim a check-in offer.)
Step 4: Check in when you arrive at the merchant, if possible.
Not all merchants can accommodate a check-in. Check the app for a blue lightning icon next to the business’s name to know whether check-in is available. If it is, press “Check In” when you arrive.
Note that you will need to share your location data to use this feature; however, you can select “While Using” in your phone’s settings to limit the app’s access.
Step 5: Fill up your gas tank, eat your meal or buy your groceries.
Make your purchase within four hours of claiming your offer (24 hours for grocery stores). The app will show pertinent details for each offer — e.g., whether the discount applies to a certain grade of gas, or if there’s a cashback limit for the transaction.
Step 6: Pay with a linked card.
When you check in, pay using a linked card (see Step 3). If Upside can’t match your purchase with you will not get a cashback reward.
Step 7: Upload a receipt.
If you didn’t or couldn’t check in, don’t forget to get (and then upload) a receipt within 24 hours.
Step 8: Get paid.
Once your purchase is confirmed, the cashback for your transaction shows in your account balance.
Step 9: Cash out.
Your cashback will accumulate until you withdraw the money or exchange it for a digital gift card.
Our Upside Experience
Here’s an overview of the pros and cons based on our experience.
- Upside offers a quick download and setup process.
- The user interface is straightforward and intuitive.
- When we signed up, we specified that we use regular gas, so every offer from a participating gas station was based on our selected grade.
- The app never crashed and we didn’t notice any bugs.
- Our receipt transactions processed quickly (within 24 hours).
- We received an email clearly explaining why one of our transactions could not be processed. (Our first transaction was made on a gas pump that had run out of printer paper.)
- Our check-in transaction was processed within 48 hours.
- Upside utilizes your geolocation information to notify you of offers when you’re near a participating business. This is helpful if you want to maximize your savings, but you have the option of not sharing your background location if you’d rather not use this feature.
- When attempting our first transaction the gas pump did not print a receipt. We submitted a screenshot of the transaction information from the credit card company, but Upside denied the transaction as it was missing pertinent information (i.e., the number of gallons included).
- We attempted our second transaction two days later at the same gas station. However, no cashback offer was available. A station directly across the street was offering 4 cents per gallon, but that discount simply made their price equivalent to the station not offering a discount (so there was no overall savings).
- Because we specified that we use regular gas upon sign-up, all of the offers shown were based on that selection; the app did not state whether we could receive a discount for other grades of gas. (Note that offers by grade are visible online).
- Because there were no participating restaurants within six miles and no grocery stores within 14 miles of our location, we only tested Upside on gas stations, which limited our earnings.
Our Upside Earnings
We tested Upside for just over three weeks (22 days). Our earnings were underwhelming, in large part because we tested using a hybrid vehicle and our mileage was limited because of COVID-related work from home policies. As a result, we only filled up our tank twice.
More data! The “Potential Annual Earnings” section below shows how much the average American could earn using the app, based on data collected from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Our earnings are summarized here:
Potential Annual Earnings
Our testing may not accurately represent the average American household. Therefore, we got a bit creative to approximate the earning potential.
Below, we calculated potential earnings for gas purchases by using average annual use numbers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s most recent Average Annual Fuel Use by Vehicle Type report.
Similarly, we estimated potential food-related savings using cost-of-living estimates for Maryland (where we tested), provided by MIT’s Living Wage Calculator. The calculator can provide average annual food cost in your area and for various family sizes, to give you a sense of what your earnings could be.
Potential Earnings When Using Upside Only for Gas
According to the most recent Average Annual Fuel Use by Vehicle Type report from the DOE, the average car uses 474 gallons per year while the average light truck or van uses 660 gallons per year.
Assuming every gallon of gas is purchased using Upside with earnings of between 1 cent (the lowest rate we found while testing) and 25 cents per gallon (the highest advertised rate), you could conceivably earn between $5 and $119 per year (for the average car), or between $7 and $165 per year (for the average truck or van).
If your offers align with what ours were during our testing, the annual earnings will likely be toward the lower end of the range. After two transactions we expanded the search area to view all gas offers in our test county and saw the following:
Offers change regularly based on merchant margins and the app user’s history with a particular gas station. If we calculate annual savings based on the average savings of 7 cents offered in our test county at the time of publication, the average driver would earn $33 per year filling up with Upside.
Potential Earnings When Using Upside for Groceries and Restaurants
To determine potential food-related earnings, first calculate your yearly expenditures. Many free budgeting apps offer spend analyzers that bucketize your charges, which makes identifying relevant purchases easier.
If combing through your statements sounds overly tedious, use MIT’s Living Wage Calculator to determine the average cost for a family your size in your area.
Based on the calculator, the average two-adult, two-child household in Maryland can expect to spend $9,305 per year on food. To estimate the maximum cash-back potential, we assumed that all food is purchased through participating grocery stores and restaurants with earnings between 13% (the lowest rate we saw while testing) and 35% (the maximum rate advertised by Upside).
Note that this is unrealistic given how limited grocery and restaurant partners are: we only found 21 restaurant partners and four grocery partners in our test county.
For the sake of this exercise, using those assumptions you could conceivably earn a substantial amount: $1,210 to $3,260 per year in cash or gift cards on food purchases.
The average savings in our county was 15% for restaurants and 17% for grocery stores. If we use 16% for our potential savings across both categories, and assume all purchases fall within offer parameters, we would earn an impressive $1,490 cashback per year on food purchases.
Unfortunately, we were unable to earn enough money during our trial period to cash-out.
When you do have enough to cash-out, Upside offers a decent selection and relatively fast payment processing, though whether there is a fee (and how long it takes to receive your money) depends upon the cash-out amount and method.
The available redemption options are:
- Cash via PayPal: A $1 fee applies if the cash-out amount is under $15.
- Cash via Bank Transfer: A $1 fee applies if the cash-out amount is under $10.
- Digital gift card: No cost, but the cash-out amount must be rounded to the nearest whole dollar, and most cards have a minimum threshold (typically $10).
Estimated Time to Cash-Out
Upside’s cash-out timing also varies by method.
- PayPal: Funds arrive in PayPal accounts within 48 hours of email verification completion (which involves clicking a link that Upside emails you after you request a cash-out).
- Bank Transfer: Funds are deposited within three business days of request.
- Digital gift card: Gift cards are e-mailed within 48 hours of request.
Upside Referral Program
Upside’s referral bonus changes frequently, but it tends to be one of the most generous you’ll find. At the time of publication, the referral bonus was a solid $7 per user + 1 cent on all of their future gas purchases.
Plus, your referrals earn an extra 15% bonus on their gas purchase.
Upside Gas App FAQ
Yes. The app has very positive overall ratings from users on the iOS and Google Play stores and a good reputation within the personal finance industry. However, we should note that our opportunities to test the app were limited and we didn’t earn enough after three weeks to test the payment process.
Upside regularly offers promo codes that will give you an additional discount on your gas purchase, ranging from a few cents per gallon to as much as an additional 50 cents per gallon. Here is a page that keeps a relatively up-to-date list of Upside promo codes.
No. Upside states that they do not delete funds from the app.
Technically, you can. You can’t use Upside with Fuelman or Fleetcor loyalty cards, and receipts that were already processed by an affiliate program like GasBuddy or Checkout 51 will be denied (cash-back for a receipt can only be issued once).
However, you can use Upside with other promotions. Note that Upside will reduce your cash back to account for the cost of the other promotion. If the other offer is more than the Upside offer, you will not earn any cash back.
Upside utilizes transaction histories to create personalized offers that fall within margin parameters of participating merchants. Consumers make their typical purchases but adjust where they purchase based on the current incentives.
Upside App Review: Our Final Verdict and Recommendation
We wanted to love the Upside app, and we do — kind of. We see a clear benefit to using the service while traveling. Highway travelers stopping for gas in unknown areas are subject to whatever the price is at the pump closest to the offramp. Any discount on gas is welcome in this scenario.
While we intend to continue to check the local gas offers, our experience to date indicates that Upside’s cashback rates don’t always result in the lowest possible prices.
Of course, if you regularly fill up at a participating gas station, then this app represents an easy win.