UPDATE: Pei Discontinued Operations December 30th, 2021.
For the last couple years, Pei was my favorite cash back app.
After you installed it and linked your cards, you’d earn automatic extra cash back at 100,000 places where you were already spending money.
And this was on top of the credit card rewards you’re already earning!
It was a cool, easy way to earn free money on the stuff you’d be buying anyway.
But then it changed significantly for the worse. Read on to see what sucks now and my top Pei app alternatives.
Pei App Review
Ease of Use
Pei was almost too-good-to-be-true. Then one day, it stopped being good altogether.
What is the Pei App?
Pei is an app that pays you an extra 1-20% cash back when you use your linked credit card at partner stores.
In earlier versions of the app, this cash back was automatic. No offers to claim in advance — just seamless free money for going about your life.
Too good to last?
Turns out, yes.
In mid-2021, Pei shifted to a model where you had to claim your offers in the app before you did your shopping. There’s still a strong selection of partner stores (see below), but this extra friction — along with some other less-than-user-friendly developments — make it so I can no longer recommend Pei.
After you’ve earned $25 worth of points, you can “cash out” in Bitcoin.
How Pei Works
Pei has partnered with retail stores nationwide to offer extra cash back on your purchases. Once you install the app, you can see which stores nearby Pei will work at.
Here in Livermore, there were lots of options (all the blue and green dots on the map).
Many of these are stores I’m already spending money with, so signing up for Pei was a no-brainer way to pad my bank account.
The cash back varies by store, but so far I’ve earned cash back at:
- Trader Joe’s
- In ‘n Out
- Papa Murphy’s
The list of participating stores is actually pretty extensive, and the good news here is there are no receipts to scan.
Once you’re in, you’ll start to get notifications like this:
The Pei Sign-Up Process
So how to do you sign up for Pei? It’s quick and easy.
First, download the app.
Then, link your banking and credit card information. You’ll see that Pei uses bank-level security and encryption to protect your data.
Pei makes it easy to enter in your card information and get started. It will also send you a 2-factor authentication code for protection as well.
After that, you’re ready to go. Pei will automatically track your spending at participating stores and credit your account.
Cashing Out Your Pei Rewards
I’ve cashed out my Pei rewards a couple times so far, and both times were super easy. You can cash out once you hit $25 worth of points.
When you go to withdraw, you have one option:
Not a Bitcoin fan? Then this app definitely isn’t for you.
(Pei used to offer PayPal and gift card withdrawals, and even gave a 1-3% bonus on top of your earnings when you opted for certain gift cards, but those have been discontinued.)
The first time I redeemed for cash, in the form of a PayPal deposit. The money hit my account almost instantly.
Creating Your Pei Bitcoin Wallet
Here’s where my beef with Pei really starts.
(And yes, it feels weird to complain about a free app that was giving me free money! But it’s the Internet, so here we are.)
If you choose the Bitcoin option, you’ll be prompted to create a Pei Bitcoin wallet. Because of government rules and regulations surrounding cryptocurrency holdings, this requires adding your social security number, uploading a picture of your photo ID, and linking your bank account information.
To do this, Pei uses Plaid, the FinTech industry-standard for securely sharing account details.
Note: Just make sure the name you enter matches what’s on your photo ID. I didn’t think twice about it and entered “Nick”, where my driver’s license says “Nicholas”. A little warning like “the name you enter must match your ID” would have been nice!
I’ve contacted Pei’s (woefully understaffed) support team to correct this several times over the last 3 months and have gotten nowhere.
Outside of the automated response that says “We are currently experiencing a high volume of support tickets,” I’ve got nothing useful in reply.
No shit you’re experiencing a high volume of support tickets! The app has more bugs than a New York hotel bed.
That means my precious (fraction of a) Bitcoin is locked and lost in the void until this gets sorted … and I’m not optimistic that’s gonna happen anytime soon.
(It also means that every Pei point I’ve earned since my failed attempt to set up my wallet is also worthless since I can’t withdraw it.)
Already have a Bitcoin wallet elsewhere? In theory you can withdraw directly to that wallet, provided their aren’t any hiccups in setting up your Pei Bitcoin wallet.
Earn Interest on Your BTC Holdings
All over the Pei app, you’ll see messages proclaiming you can earn “up to 8%” interest on your Bitcoin holdings.
This aspect takes Pei from a cash back app to an interesting alternative investment platform as well. With interest rates on traditional savings and checking accounts at almost 0%, 8% is definitely compelling — even if it’s not FDIC-insured.
However, when I cashed out $20 of my Pei earnings to Bitcoin instead of PayPal, the next screen said I was only earning 4% interest:
It turns out that if you want to earn the full advertised 8%, you need to set up recurring weekly or monthly purchases of at least $10. (There’s a 2.75% processing fee for all Bitcoin purchases.)
And see how it says “first name issue”? Yeah … don’t screw that up like me.
Other Ways to Earn with Pei
Every 5 visits to a particular store earns you a loyalty bonus. It appears these are variable amounts, but it’s always been just 1 point for me.
Whenever these pop up, it’s a funny reminder that apparently we eat a lot of In ‘n Out and Papa Murphy’s!
Shop “Daily Deals” in the App
In the Pei app, you’ll see a section for Daily Deals for merchants. I’ve seen these as high as 25% cash back for certain brands, so it might make sense to take a look before you’re making a big purchase.
Refer Your Friends
The in-app referral program is a little clunky, but at press time, the app states you can earn a $10 referral bonus for each of your friends who join the app and make their first purchase.
However, for me, these referrals suddenly stopped in early August 2021, and haven’t resumed.
Pei App Store Ratings
At press time, Pei is well-rated on the iOS App Store with an average 4.6-star rating from over 4000 reviews. Android users on the Google Play store are more critical, giving it only a 2.6-star rating.
The majority of those Android reviews are the 1-star flavor, and make the same complaints I do:
- No notice of the change to how points are earned.
- Taking away PayPal as a redemption option.
- Inability to update basic user information in the app.
- Lack of customer support.
In both App Stores, Pei is listed as “Pei – Automatic Cash Back”, which I think is a bit misleading since the cash back is no longer automatic. (Nor is it cash, depending on how you view Bitcoin!)
As a Pei user for the last couple years, the interface can be slow and buggy — though it has improved. At one point I had to completely delete the app from my phone and reinstall it to get it to start working again.
It’s not without its quirks. For example, the latest version makes the phone vibrate every time you click a button or menu item. I’m not sure if that’s intentional, but either way, it’s weird.
Pei App Support
As I mentioned, Pei support is just not equipped to handle the combination of the app’s popularity and bugginess.
If you’re running into issues, you can contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I hope you have better luck than I have!
Pei Alternatives to Get Free Bitcoin and Cash Back
If Pei can get their bugs sorted out — and you can remember to “claim” offers before you run your errands — it’s still a solid cash back app. In fact, I’ve found, you can actually double-dip or stack rewards with other apps that pay you.
If the idea of earning free Bitcoin is what attracted you to Pei, you should know about the BlockFi Rewards Visa Signature card. You’ll earn unlimited 1.5% cash back in Bitcoin, with no annual fee.
At press time, there were also some attractive bonus offers to earn more in your first few months as a cardholder. Check the link to see if you’re pre-approved with no impact to your credit score.
It’s possible to double-dip your Pei rewards even further with a a few other receipt scanning apps.
I like the Fetch Rewards app because it’s so easy. It’s not fully automatic like Pei, but you can combine the two to earn extra cash back just by snapping a picture of receipt.
Fetch has partnered with over 250 popular brands, and when you buy any of those, you’ll earn points.
You can then redeem points for gift cards to retailers like Best Buy, Sephora, Staples, Gap, and more. (I’ve been cashing in for Amazon gift cards.)
It’s also kind of a cool tool to track your spending across time and across different stores:
Install through our referral link and get 2000 free bonus points ($2)!
Dosh works similarly to Pei, in that once you install and link your card, you’ll earn automatic cash back at participating merchants.
What I found was that Dosh seemed to partner with more local restaurants, while Pei had the national or regional chains.
Also, for me, Dosh has never earned anything at Trader Joe’s or Target — both frequent stops for us.
Where Dosh shines is on travel deals, often with significant cash back on hotels when you book through the app. Still, every time the little Dosh cash back notification pops up, it feels like getting paid to do nothing, so that’s a win.
I also use Ibotta, which has been around forever.
With this app, you add store-specific offers to your account in the app, and then snap a picture of your receipt. When you buy items matching the Ibotta offers, you’ll earn extra cash back.
It typically ranges from $0.10 to $3.00, but it adds up over time.
According to the company, Ibotta Savers who use the app every month earn an average of $130 a year!
What do you think of the Pei app and similar cash back apps?
I’m hopeful for a return to the good old days