How Does Upside Make Money

We all love saving money, especially on everyday purchases like gas, groceries, and dining out. Well, the Upside Cashback App helps you do just that, offering real cash-back rewards to thousands of businesses across the USA. Upside operates on a profit-sharing model with participating companies. This means the company partners with gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores to attract new customers or encourage existing ones to spend more. When customers use Upside at a business, and Upside can verify that it resulted in a new or increased purchase, they share a portion of the profit with the customer as cashback.

This keeps businesses happy because they gain new customers or increase sales, and it keeps the users happy because they’re saving money on things they normally buy.

In this blog topic, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about Upside, its business model, and how this model can be a goldmine of opportunities for other similar businesses!

What is the Upside Cashback App?

The Upside App is a free, mobile cashback platform that partners with businesses like gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants to offer users real cash back on everyday purchases, eliminating confusing points systems and directly depositing the earned money into users’ accounts.

Upside partners with a wide range of businesses, such as gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants, to offer users real cash back on their purchases. This benefits both consumers and businesses. Users save significantly on their everyday spending, while companies gain access to a targeted marketing platform to bring in fresh customers and encourage existing ones to spend more. This mutually beneficial model has fueled Upside’s rapid growth, making it a favorite among savvy shoppers and a trusted partner for businesses across the USA.

How Does the Upside App Work?

The Upside App has become a popular choice for consumers looking to save on everyday purchases. However, for businesses looking to develop a similar app and tap into a loyal user base, understanding Upside’s user journey can be a valuable source of inspiration. Here’s how this app works,

1. Downloading the App

The journey begins by downloading the Upside App and creating an account. Users then link their debit or credit card for verification within the app’s secure “my wallet” section. This step ensures smooth cashback processing.

2. Finding Deals Around You

Upside displays a convenient map highlighting nearby businesses offering cash-back incentives. The app goes a step further by showcasing gas prices after factoring in the Upside discount, allowing users to identify the most valuable deals easily.

3. Claiming Your Cash Back

Once a user finds a participating business (like a gas station, grocery store, or restaurant) that suits their needs, they simply claim the offer within the app. This ensures they’re eligible for the specific cash-back reward.

4. Frictionless Transactions

Upon arrival at the chosen business, users check-in through the app to activate their cash back. Upside may occasionally request a receipt upload for verification purposes. This helps maintain the program’s integrity.

5. Earning Effortlessly

Upside processes cash-back rewards within a few business days (typically 2-4), though it can take up to a week, according to the app. Users don’t need to worry about complicated points systems or keeping track of multiple rewards programs.

6. Cashing Out is Easy

Once their accumulated earnings reach a minimum threshold ($10), users can easily transfer their cash back to their bank account, PayPal or even redeem it as a gift card. This flexibility helps users to choose the most convenient option for managing their savings.

Key Market Takeaways for Cashback Apps

According to GlobalGrowthIinsights, the cashback app market is experiencing remarkable growth, with a projected value of USD 5.7 billion by 2030. The recent increase in popularity can be attributed to several key factors.

Key Market Takeaways for Cashback Apps

Source: GlobalGrowthIinsights

Firstly, cashback apps cater to a fundamental consumer desire: saving money. They offer real cash back on everyday purchases, providing a tangible benefit for users. Secondly, these apps leverage the convenience of smartphones and the rise of e-commerce. Consumers can easily browse deals, shop, and earn rewards all within a single app, streamlining the shopping experience in a fast-paced world. This user-centric approach, coupled with the promise of savings, is driving the rapid adoption of cashback apps across demographics. Businesses in the retail and service industries can capitalize on this trend by partnering with cashback apps to reach new customers and incentivize existing ones.

Take, for example, the recent partnership between Ibotta, a popular cashback app, and Walmart, a retail giant. This collaboration allows Ibotta users to earn cashback not only in-store but also on online grocery orders placed through Walmart’s website and app. 

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Upside Cashback App SWOT Analysis

Did you know that Upside boasts over 50 million users who have collectively earned over $1 billion in cashback rewards? So this basically means that the current market presents a great opportunity for businesses to try their luck in a similar field!

Let’s look at its detailed SWOT analysis, which can illuminate its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

1. Strengths

Upside prioritizes a user-centric approach. Their app streamlines the entire cashback experience, from discovering deals to redeeming rewards. This focus on ease of use makes Upside a great option for consumers seeking a hassle-free way to save money on everyday purchases. Businesses can learn from this by prioritizing a user-friendly interface and a clear value proposition in their own apps.

Another strength lies in Upside’s robust partner network. The app has also partnered with a wide range of businesses, including gas stations, grocery stores, and restaurants. This diversity allows users to earn cash back on a variety of purchases, maximizing their potential savings. This highlights the importance of businesses developing strong relationships with relevant businesses to offer users a diverse selection of cashback opportunities.

2. Areas for Improvement

Upside’s reach might currently be limited to specific areas. This restricts their user base and hinders potential growth. Businesses can address this by considering a phased rollout strategy, expanding into new geographic regions as the app gains traction.

Upside’s success is heavily reliant on its network of partner businesses. Losing key partners could significantly impact the app’s value proposition for users. Businesses can address this risk by diversifying their partner network and fostering strong relationships with existing partners.

3. Growth Potential

Upside has the opportunity to broaden its reach into new geographic regions, attracting a wider user base and increasing its market share. Businesses can leverage data and market research to identify promising new regions for expansion.

Getting into strategic partnerships with complementary businesses, such as loyalty programs or financial institutions, could enhance Upside’s value proposition and attract new users. Businesses can explore similar partnerships to create a more compelling user experience and tap into new customer segments.

4. Competitive Landscape

The cashback app market is becoming increasingly saturated. New entrants and established players could pose a significant threat to Upside’s market share. Businesses need to stay updated on competitor activities and be ready to adjust their strategies to maintain a competitive advantage.

Consumer preferences and shopping habits can evolve rapidly. Upside needs to remain adaptable to stay relevant in a dynamic market. They should prioritize user research and be prepared to pivot their approach based on changing consumer needs.

Business Model of the Upside Cashback App

So, let’s address the elephant in the room – how does Upside itself make money? Well, the answer lies in a multi-faceted approach that utilizes partnerships, data insights, and innovative technologies. Let’s discuss this in detail,

1. Affiliate Commissions

Upside’s primary revenue stream comes from affiliate commission fees. Whenever a customer makes a purchase through a partnered business using the Upside app and submits a receipt, Upside earns a commission. These commission rates may vary depending on the product or business, providing Upside with an incentive to negotiate favorable deals with partners. For example, they might earn a higher commission on a pizza purchase from McDonald’s than on a general grocery order from Walmart!

2. Data Monetization

Upside collects data on user purchases, but this data is anonymized and aggregated to comply with regulations like GDPR. This anonymized data becomes valuable for businesses looking to enhance their marketing campaigns by understanding broader consumer trends. Upside can then sell this anonymized data to interested companies, similar to how other cashback apps like Ibotta operate.

3. White-Label Solutions

Upside doesn’t limit itself to its own app. They also offer white-label software solutions to larger partners like Uber, Current, GasBuddy, and Lyft. This means these companies can integrate Upside’s cashback functionality directly into their own apps using Upside’s partner API. Upside benefits include earning additional referral income whenever a user makes a purchase through these integrated features.

4. Personalized Deals with AI

Upside also uses machine learning algorithms to analyze customer data, including location and past debit/credit card transactions. This allows them to provide users with personalized deals that are more likely to be relevant and enticing. For instance, a user who frequently buys gas might see more targeted deals from gas stations near their location. By using AI-driven recommendations, Upside can not only increase user engagement but also potentially collaborate with AI development companies to further enhance the personalized features within their cashback app.

Why has the Upside App Become So Popular?

Let’s explore some of the important advantages of the Upside cashback app,

1. Earn Cash Back on Everyday Essentials

Upside goes beyond traditional couponing by offering cashback on a wide range of everyday purchases. This includes items individuals already buy, such as gas, groceries, restaurant meals, and even convenience store items. Upside partners with various businesses to provide these cashback rewards, ensuring a diverse selection of opportunities to save.

2. User-Friendly and Streamlined

Upside features a user-friendly interface that makes navigation easy. This makes it simple to find participating businesses and current cashback deals, allowing users to start earning rewards quickly and hassle-free.

3. Flexible Redemption Options

Upside understands that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to rewards. That’s why they provide various ways to redeem cash back. Customers can choose to have the money deposited directly into their bank account for immediate access or opt to receive gift cards from their favorite retailers. This flexibility allows individuals to customize their rewards based on their own needs and preferences.

4. Always Fresh Deals, Always Saving

They continuously update their cashback offers, ensuring users always have new opportunities to save money in their area. Plus, the app keeps users informed by sending notifications about the best deals available nearby.

5. Share the Savings with Friends

Upside’s referral program enables users to share the love of saving money. When they refer friends to the app and their friends sign up using the referral code, both parties can earn bonus cash back. It’s a win-win situation – the user gets rewarded for sharing the app, and their friends benefit from the savings as well.

6. Significant Savings on Gas

Gas prices can significantly impact a person’s budget. Upside makes it easier by offering cashback on every gallon of gas purchased from a partnering station. These savings can quickly accumulate over time, leading to substantial long-term reductions in gas expenses. Upside makes filling up a tank a little less stressful on the wallet.

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Some Potential Drawbacks of the Upside CashBack App

Let’s discuss some potential drawbacks while developing a cashback app and how you can tackle them,

1. Limited Geographic Reach

A major drawback for some users is limited availability. Cashback apps may not be operational in all regions, potentially excluding users in certain locations. This can be frustrating for those who live outside the app’s service area. To address this, cashback app companies like Upside could consider phased rollouts, expanding into new geographic regions based on user demand and business partnerships.

2. Data Discrepancies

Another potential issue is inaccurate pricing information. Cashback apps rely on data feeds from businesses to display deals and cashback rates. However, discrepancies can occur between the app’s listed gas prices, for example, and the actual charges at the gas station pump. This can lead to disappointment for users expecting a certain level of savings. Companies can tackle this by implementing stricter data verification processes and collaborating with partner businesses to ensure accurate and up-to-date information.

3. No Option for Cash Payments 

Cashback apps typically reward users for transactions made with debit or credit cards. This excludes users who prefer to pay with cash, a significant segment of the population. To be more inclusive, companies could explore alternative solutions. One possibility is partnering with on-demand app development companies to create a feature that allows users to pay with cash and still receive cashback. This would require additional development effort, but it could significantly increase the app’s user base.

How Much Will it Cost to Develop a Similar App like Upside?

StageDescriptionCost Range
Pre-Development ResearchMarket Analysis & User Research$5,000 – $15,000
Mobile App Development
* Front-End Development (UI Design)Visual elements users interact with$20,000 – $75,000
* Back-End Development (App Functionality)Engine powering the app (data storage, user authentication, etc.)$30,000 – $125,000+
App Features
* Core Features (Must-Haves):
* Real-time gas price comparisonData provider subscription fees$1,000 – $5,000 annually
* Cashback calculation & reward systemDevelopment based on reward complexity$5,000 – $20,000
* User location servicesIntegration effort$2,000 – $10,000
* User account management & secure loginStandard functionalities$5,000 – $10,000
* Advanced Features (Optional):
* Gas station finder with filtersAdditional development$5,000 – $15,000
* Payment gateway integrationVaries depending on providerVariable
* Loyalty program integrationPotential integration feesVariable
Testing and Deployment
* Quality Assurance (QA) TestingEnsuring app functionality$10,000 – $20,000
* App Store Submission FeesPublishing fees per platform$100 – $200 per platform
User Interface (UI) DesignCreating a user-friendly interface$10,000 – $30,000
Estimated Total Cost Range (Base on Core Features):$93,000 – $230,000

So you’re building a cashback app to rival the big boys like Upside? Great idea! But before you dive headfirst into development, consider this: the final cost won’t be a single number. 

While core features like real-time gas price comparisons and cashback calculations are essential, several other choices you make can significantly impact your budget. Here are some key factors that can personalize your app and influence the overall development cost.

1. Feature: Beyond the Basics

Sure, showing nearby gas prices and offering cashback is a good start. But what if you want to stand out? Adding a gas station finder with filters for amenities like car washes or convenience stores requires more development effort compared to a simple station listing. Similarly, imagine letting users pay for car washes directly through your app using a payment gateway. This adds convenience for users but involves additional development work and might incur fees from payment processing companies.

2. Rewarding Your Way: Simple or Savvy? 

A straightforward cashback system offering a flat 3 cents per gallon is relatively inexpensive to develop. But what if you want to get creative? Offering tiered cashback based on the total gas purchased or rewarding users for filling up during off-peak hours requires more complex development, increasing the cost.

3. Gas Price Powerhouse: Keeping it Updated

Real-time gas price comparisons are a game-changer for users. But how do you get those prices? Integrating with gas price data providers is key, but it often comes with subscription fees that can range from $1,000 to $5,000 annually. Remember, this is an ongoing cost to consider when determining your app’s long-term financial health.

4. Design Decisions: Simple or Stylish? 

Having an interesting and intuitive interface is crucial for keeping users engaged. But there’s a difference between user-friendly and fancy. Imagine an app with tons of flashy animations and custom graphics – it might look cool, but it will require more design time and expertise, translating to higher costs. So, strike a balance between an attractive design and development efficiency.

5. Location of Your Developers

The expense of hiring developers can vary greatly depending on where they’re located. While outsourcing to regions with lower hourly rates can be tempting, consider potential communication challenges and time zone differences. These can slow down development and make project management a headache. Carefully weigh the cost benefits against these drawbacks when selecting your development team.

What Tech Stacks Do You Need to Develop a Cashback App like Upside?

Before jumping into the development process, choosing the right tech stack is also crucial. This refers to the underlying technologies that power your app, influencing its functionality, performance, and overall cost. Let’s explore some key tech components to consider for your cash-back app:

1. Mobile App Development Framework

This is the foundation on which your app is constructed. Some popular options for app development include React Native, Flutter, and native development (Swift for iOS, Kotlin for Android). React Native and Flutter enable you to build a single codebase that functions on both iOS and Android, potentially reducing development time and cost. However, native development provides the best performance and user experience customized for each platform.

2. Back-End Development

This is the engine that keeps your app running smoothly. Here, languages like Python, Java, or JavaScript (Node.js) are common choices. These languages offer robust functionalities for data storage, user authentication, and managing complex backend processes like cashback calculations and integrations with gas price data providers.

3. Database Management

Your app will likely store user data, gas station locations, and cashback information. Popular choices include relational databases like MySQL or PostgreSQL or NoSQL databases like MongoDB. The choice depends on the type and volume of data you expect to manage.

4. Mapping and Location Services

Since gas station location is a core feature, integrating mapping services like Google Maps or Apple Maps is essential. These services allow users to find nearby stations and display real-time directions. Some mapping services offer free tiers with usage limitations, while others have paid plans with more features.

5. Payment Gateway Integration (Optional)

If you plan to allow users to pay for car washes or other services directly through your app, integrating a payment gateway is necessary. Popular options include Stripe, PayPal, or Braintree. These services handle secure payment processing but typically charge transaction fees.

A Stepwise Guide for Developing an App Similar to Upside

Here’s a detailed guide to developing a cashback app like Upside from scratch,

1. Validate Your Cash Back Concept: Understanding the User’s Frustration

While general market research is important, delve deeper into the specific frustrations users face with existing gas station rewards programs. Upside, for example, focuses on offering real-time gas price comparisons and cashback incentives. Analyze how your app can address these specific needs and potentially offer a more user-friendly or rewarding experience. Also, consider whether your app will cater to a nationwide audience or focus on a specific region. This will influence your marketing strategy and partnerships with gas stations.

2. Assemble Your Development Team: Building the App that Simplifies Filling Up

Consider teaming up with a well-established mobile app development company that specializes in creating location-based apps. This ensures your app seamlessly integrates gas station data and user location to deliver real-time rewards and price comparisons without a hitch. Your development team should include skilled designers who prioritize user experience. The main objective should be to develop an app that is user-friendly and easy to navigate, even for individuals with limited technical knowledge. After all, filling up the tank shouldn’t feel like solving a complex puzzle.

3. Prototype and Design: Crafting a Pumpside Experience

Consider a user standing at the gas pump, phone in hand. The app’s design needs to be clear, concise, and easy to navigate with minimal taps or swipes. Focus on features readily accessible at a glance, like real-time gas prices and cashback offers at nearby stations. During user testing, replicate real-world situations. Can users easily find the information they need while standing at the pump? Is the app responsive and quick to load, even with potentially spotty reception at gas stations?

4. Building a Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Launching with Core Value

Focus on developing core functionalities that provide immediate value to users. This might include features like displaying real-time gas prices at nearby stations, calculating potential Cashback based on current fuel prices, and a user-friendly interface for claiming earned rewards. Similar to your market research, tailor your MVP’s features to address the specific needs identified by users who are frustrated with existing gas station rewards programs.

5. Testing, Launch, and Beyond: Ensuring Your App Fuels User Engagement

Since your app relies on location data to show users nearby gas stations and cashback offers, rigorous testing is essential. Ensure the app accurately locates users and provides up-to-date gas price information. After your app is launched, collect feedback from users to pinpoint areas for improvement. Are users finding the gas price comparisons accurate? Is the cashback redemption process smooth? Continuously enhance your app based on user feedback to deliver an outstanding user experience.

Top 5 Alternatives of the Upside Cashback App in the USA

Let’s look at five interesting alternatives to the Upside cashback app,

1. Swagbucks (Android/iOS)


This versatile app goes beyond just cashback. Users can earn cash back or gift cards for online shopping or even for completing surveys in their spare time. Boasting over 100 million downloads and a consistent 4.3-star rating on app stores, Swagbucks offers a strong track record of user engagement. In 2021 alone, the platform processed over $700 million in rewards for its users.

2. Fetch Rewards (Android/iOS)

Fetch Rewards

Unlike most cashback apps, Fetch Rewards doesn’t require linking store accounts or hunting for specific deals. Users simply need to take a picture of any receipt from any store to earn points, which can then be later redeemed for gift cards or cash. With over 10 million downloads, Fetch Rewards features a user-friendly interface, as reflected in its 4.4 rating.

3. Shopkick (Android/iOS)


This app gamifies the shopping experience, allowing users to earn points for in-store purchases, online browsing, and simply walking into partnered stores. Shopkick has surpassed 10 million downloads and maintains a respectable 4.2-star rating. A recent Shopkick press release announced its partnership with a major retail chain, showcasing the platform’s ability to attract established businesses and expand its reach.

4. BeFrugal (Android/iOS)


BeFrugal is a one-stop shop for finding deals and saving money. It offers a combination of features, including coupons, deals, and cashback offers. While its download numbers are lower than those of some competitors, at around 1 million, it maintains a respectable 4.1 rating from users.

A 2022 report by RetailMeNot indicated that 81% of consumers use coupons or discounts before making a purchase, highlighting the continued relevance of deal-finding platforms like BeFrugal.

5. TopCashback (Android/iOS)


The app focuses on helping users maximize their online shopping rewards. Users can earn cashback not only on purchases but also on travel bookings and other online activities. TopCashback has over 10 million downloads and an impressive 4.6-star rating, indicating high user satisfaction. A 2023 Business Insider article highlighted the increasing popularity of cashback apps in the travel sector, aligning with TopCashback’s focus on maximizing online rewards beyond traditional shopping.


Upside’s success as a cashback app hinges on a smart business model that benefits both users and partner businesses. Unlike traditional coupon apps, Upside leverages a profit-sharing approach. They partner with various companies, from gas stations to grocery stores, and negotiate a share of the profits generated from purchases made through the Upside app. This incentivizes businesses to offer attractive cashback deals to attract new customers and boost sales.

By forming partnerships with a variety of companies, these apps can reach a large number of potential customers and create substantial revenue streams through profit sharing. Additionally, cashback apps like Upside can benefit from user data. Anonymous purchase data is extremely valuable to businesses, as it offers insights into consumer spending habits and preferences. This enables businesses to customize their marketing strategies and product offerings for maximum impact, further enhancing the overall ecosystem.

Intrigued by the Business Model of Upside? Want to Develop a Similar App? 

Idea Usher can help you make it a reality.  Our team of growth experts, backed by over 500,000 hours of coding experience in the cashback app space, can partner with you to develop a groundbreaking app like Upside. Together, we can create a win-win situation for both your business and your customers, fostering a dynamic and rewarding savings experience that keeps everyone happy.

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Q1: How does the upside app make a profit?

A1: Upside profits through a commission-based system. They partner with businesses and earn a share of the profits generated from purchases made through the Upside app. This incentivizes businesses to offer attractive cashback deals to lure new customers. Essentially, Upside acts as a middleman, connecting users with savings opportunities while generating revenue through these business partnerships.

Q2: What is the catch to the upside app?

A2: While Upside boasts real cashback rewards, there are a few things to consider. Cashback offers may vary depending on location and participating businesses. Additionally, some users report discrepancies between the app’s listed gas prices and actual pump prices. Finally, the app limits cashback rewards to a certain amount per gallon (typically up to 50 gallons) and may not work with cash payments.

Q3: Does Upside charge a fee?

A3: Upside itself doesn’t charge users any fees to download or use the app. Their business model revolves around partnerships with stores and gas stations. These partner businesses pay Upside a portion of the transaction amount when a user purchases the Upside app. This allows Upside to offer cashback rewards to users without directly charging them any fees.

Q4: Does the Upside name show up on the bank statement?

A4: Upside purchases typically appear on your bank statement under the name of the gas station or store where you made the purchase, not “Upside.” This is because the cashback itself comes from the business you patronized, not directly from Upside.

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