I discovered the LevelUp app for my iPhone when one of my favorite, local-food inspired, independent restaurants wrote on Facebook that if you paid there with your LevelUp app, you’d receive $5 off your bill. So I checked it out.

LevelUp is free for iPhone, Android and Windows phones. After it’s downloaded, you need to link a credit or debit card to your account, and you'll get a LevelUp code. When you pay at businesses that accept LevelUp, your code is scanned from the phone and the card is charged, minus any discount for using LevelUp. The physical credit or debit card never needs to come out of your wallet.

Usually, the first time you use LevelUp at a business, you'll receive a discount. After that, the amount of money you spend at that business using LevelUp is kept track of until you earn another discount. Take the restaurant where I received a $5 discount. I spent $68 there that night. To earn another discount, I need to spend a cumulative total of $150 there using LevelUp. Once I do, I’ll receive a $15 discount to the restaurant.

Not all businesses offer a first-time discount. Instead, they require you to earn it by spending a certain amount there first.

Each business will have its own reward system. Yesterday, I used LevelUp at the Fair Food Farmstand in Philadelphia for the first time. I spent $8, and received a $1 discount. When I’ve spent a total of $100 there, I’ll receive a $10 discount.

There are many establishments that I visit frequently that are already using LevelUp. A local coffee house that only sells fair trade coffee and sells baked goods using local ingredients is using the service and there are several of my local, favorite restaurants offering $5 first-time discounts.

It’s not just food establishments that offer discounts through LevelUp, although in my region they do make up the most of the offerings. There are also discounts at dry cleaners, yoga studios, salons and more.

Before you can scan your code to pay, you have to put in a personal security number that you’ve chosen. The code is a safety measure so that someone can’t grab your phone and use it to pay. If it wasn’t for this security measure, I wouldn’t be comfortable having LevelUp on my phone.

In fact, the only downside I see to LevelUp is that it's putting my financial information out there, yet again, for someone to hack into. But, that’s true with my bank, my online store accounts and several other places.

I’m going to continue to use LevelUp because it does offer discounts at places that I frequently regularly, and I’m all for getting discounts.

Have you used LevelUp yet? What are your thoughts on the app?

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

LevelUp app saves money at restaurants and markets
The smartphone app offers discounts to local business and makes paying easy.