Get Paid to Eat With Yelp’s New Cash-Back Program (No Reviews Necessary)

Young women eat hamburgers in a restaurant.
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Yelp has saved me from wasting plenty of money on what might have been terrible meals.

The review site, which allows customers to rate their experiences with area restaurants and other businesses, is great for deciding whether a place is worth checking out or not. When I’m weighing my dining options, Yelp is my go-to site to determine if a restaurant or bar will live up to its hype and prices.

What I didn’t realize, until just recently, was that Yelp can also earn you a little bit of money.

While planning birthday drinks with my sister, I came across Yelp’s cash-back program, which rolled out in December 2016. Now I can get some info on a restaurant and earn money back? I had to know more. Here’s what I learned.

How Yelp’s Cash-Back Program Works

The program, which is part of a partnership with Empyr, is easy enough to use. Simply head to the Yelp cash-back page to sign up and enter your most commonly used debit or credit card information.

Once you’ve registered your cards, you don’t have to do anything further. Every time you visit a participating restaurant using one of your linked cards you’ll automatically earn 7 -to 10% cash back. Cash back is not available for online orders or delivery.

There’s no need to activate offers the way you do with other cash-back apps, there are no special exclusions and there’s no minimum purchase required.

Yelp will credit any cash back you earn to your primary payment card by the 18th day of the following month. You can add or remove cards and switch which card is your primary at any time by logging in to your account.

Cash back is only available at food and drink establishments, like restaurants, bars and cafes. Yelp teased its intention to add other types of local businesses to its cash-back system, but there’s no ETA on that yet.

Nervous About Sharing Your Credit Card Info?

For those concerned with the security of their personal information, Yelp’s privacy policy pledges it will not disclose your information to third parties for marketing purposes without your consent. Furthermore, it states, When you submit credit card numbers, we encrypt that information using industry standard technology.”

That said, as with many things you sign up for online, joining will opt you in to Yelp’s “targeted offers.” However, it’s easy enough to click the “unsubscribe” option at the bottom of the first promo email you receive to prevent Yelp from sending you more.

Participating Restaurants

At launch, Yelp’s cash-back program had 8,000 businesses signed up nationwide. With new businesses joining regularly, that number is no doubt considerably higher by now. How many establishments participate near you depends on your location. If you’re in a large city like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, you’ll have more options than someone in Podunk, Wisconsin.

In my area (Buffalo, New York), only 11 restaurants offer cash back through Yelp. However, switch to New York City, and you’ll find a whopping 415 establishments to choose from across all price points.

To find out if a particular restaurant participates in Yelp cash back and how much you can earn by eating there, go to the restaurant’s Yelp page and look for a box on the upper right-hand side (just under the photographs) that reads, “Dine here for X% Cash Back.”

If you’re scanning a list of possible restaurants, look under each establishment’s name for a green dollar sign in a circle with the phrase “X% Cash Back.” You can also filter your search results to show only “Cash Back” participants if you’re in a bigger city. Curiously, if you live in a smaller area, you won’t see this option in your filters list. You can, however, type “cash back” in the search field along with the area you wish to search.

Take the Savings One Step Further

There’s no limit to the number of cards you can link to your Yelp cash-back account, so get the most bang for your buck by linking your rewards credit cards to get extra savings on your purchases.

You can also use Yelp cash back in combination with existing restaurant promotions and coupons to save even more.

So, Is it Worth Joining?

When I took my sister to Rust Belt Bar and Grill for cocktails, I spent $10.57 and got 74 cents back. While that’s not a huge bonus, we planned to go to this restaurant anyway, so the cash back was a fun bonus.

You won’t get rich with Yelp cash back, but that doesn’t mean you should pass up an opportunity for free cash. Like similar cash-back programs, like Ebates, if you plan on spending the money on a meal anyway, it doesn’t hurt to get a little something in return. It’s like a restaurant loyalty program without the hassle of a punch card.

You only have to link your cards up once. After that, just run a quick Yelp search before you go out to eat. If you eat out regularly or frequent pricy places, you could rack up a decent amount in cash back each month. And if you’re not? Cash back is always a nice bonus when you do.

Kelly Gurnett is a freelance blogger, writer and editor who runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. Follow her on Twitter @CordeliaCallsIt.