Using your smart phone to save money every time you walk into a store, no matter whether you're buying or just browsing? That's what we call smart. We tested several of the most popular money-saving applications for iPhones and Android devices to find the biggest budget boons. If you can overlook the Big Brother aspect of getting a discount by letting retailers know when you're in their store, you can not only save on real-time purchases but also rack up points that you can redeem for gift cards, dinners out or new music.
The CheckPoints app uses your phone's GPS to determine if you're in a store. Check in, and the app will present you with a list of products. Use the phone's camera to scan the barcodes, and you'll get points to redeem for prizes.
What you'll love: You don't have to buy anything to rack up points, which makes this app ideal for browsers. You can accumulate points relatively quickly, which makes claiming a $5 gift card feel like instant gratification. Locations include department and grocery stores and pharmacies throughout the United States.
What you won't: Scanning bar codes might make you feel a bit like a shill, and CheckPoints' retail partners are banking on your buying.
How much you'll save: According to chief executive Mark DiPaola, active users are making about $1 or $2 on each shopping trip.
ShopKick partnered with Best Buy, Target, Macy's, Sports Authority, American Eagle and Simon malls, installing sensors in store ceilings that detect app users. Visiting stores, scanning products and referring friends will earn you "kickbucks," which can be redeemed for prizes.
What you'll love: The app shows user-only deals, including 15 percent off at American Eagle or a spend-$50-get-$10 deal at Sports Authority. Redeem kickbucks for iTunes cards, restaurant vouchers and TVs.
What you won't: Redemption varies by store — at American Eagle, Sports Authority and Target, you show the cashier a code on your phone; at Best Buy, you give your phone number; at Macy's, the app price shows up automatically at checkout. There's a gaming element that feels juvenile.
How much you'll save: With 625 kickbucks, you can get a $25 card that can be used for discounted hotel rooms.
A grocery-store-only app, PushPins synchs manufacturer and online coupons to your store membership card. Scan items as you shop to see whether a coupon is available, then when you swipe the membership card at checkout, the value of the coupons will be deducted from your total.
What you'll love: PushPins deals are similar to coupons printed in the Sunday paper, without the need to clip. There's less temptation, because you don't have to scan items you don't intend to purchase.
What you won't: For now, PushPins works only at Safeway, Vons, Randalls, Genuardi's stores and Shop-Rite.
How much you'll save: Coupon savings range from 50 cents to $5 an item.