Thursday, January 19, 2017

Websites and Apps for Making Money

Inspired by The Penny Hoarder website ( and the book Frugality for Depressives: Money-saving tips for those who find life a little harder by Abigail Perry, I binged on money-making websites and apps in 2016, and here I’m going to report the results.

But first, some thoughts and caveats.

I realize using these websites and apps requires having certain devices such as a computer, smartphone, or tablet, and some people don’t have these things, but I think a lot of people have at least one device such as a computer or smartphone, or maybe they have a friend or family member who would let them use a computer or tablet. And yes, I realize some people don’t have friends or devices. I don’t have a car so I can’t drive for Uber, but I know other people do. We all have to find the strategies that work for us that we can tolerate.

Some of these sites and apps are for shopping rebates. So you’re getting a dollar amount or percentage of what you spent at a store or online, which means you had to spend money to get the rebate. These make sense to do if you were going to buy things from that store or site anyway. The real purpose of these websites and apps is to sell you things and motivate you to shop. So you have to know not to buy things you don’t want or need to benefit. If getting the rebate becomes the motivation for you buying stuff, then that is counterproductive if your goal is to use these sites and apps to save and make money. But if you were going to buy whatever it is anyway, you might as well get the rebate. I think I would have made more money with the rebate apps if I was buying food and clothing for children. I don’t have children. I go out to events in Chicago a lot, so I got rebates for buying drinks at bars and restaurants.

I’m fascinated that there is a whole culture of people doing these things. I think it reflects some trends and facts of life. I notice a lot of single and/or stay-at-home mothers using these apps and sites. Some of the activities you can do in little spurts, and they don’t take too much mental effort, so you can get them done while the kids are napping, or while taking a break from household chores, or when sitting on the couch too exhausted to move and watching TV. Also, I think the tasks are things people with disabilities could do when they felt up to it without having to leave the house. I noticed in the comments a lot of men who were actively doing them while they were at home sending out resumes. When you’re looking for work and not used to being unemployed, there might be some comfort in doing anything to make money.  Some people said they used them to get gift cards to go to a restaurant for “date night.” A lot of women said they were trying to get money to buy their children Christmas presents.

I want to make it clear that this wasn’t something I “worked at,” in the sense of forcing myself to do something I didn’t want to do and wasn’t interested in simply to make money. This would not make sense, because doing anything else would be a better use of time: scrubbing the toilet; taking a walk; reading a book. So I played and dabbled at them just to find out how they worked. I did them when I was taking a break from doing household chores or when I was having an extreme low energy day. They are something to do while you’re avoiding doing something else or taking a break from something else or just too tired to do something else.

I did only the tasks I felt comfortable with. If they wanted more information than I wanted to give, or if it required paying for offers I wasn’t interested in, or if it just seemed skeevy, I didn’t do it. I read reviews of the sites and apps, and in some cases decided not to do certain things because of bad reviews. I also read “terms and conditions” and “privacy policies.” In some cases I decided against using a site or offer based on these. I think, in general, the more I did these types of activities the more comfortable I became with them and the idea that most of them are reasonably safe. It’s possible I made myself more vulnerable to spam and phishing and that some activities slowed my computer down, but no disasters.

I would have made more money if I had been able to recruit people to do these things using my referral codes, but I didn’t have luck with that. Some people didn’t want any more advertising sent their way, even if they were getting paid to look at it. I have some interest in marketing and branding and find it impossible to avoid being bombarded by advertising anyway, so I’m ok with being paid to look at it.

I’m going to put down what I successfully redeemed, often in gift cards, and sometimes sent directly to my PayPal account.

The standout winner of all the sites and apps I tried is Swagbucks. There are a variety of apps and things to do. Most of them paid as expected. On a very few occasions, as with all of these sites, I wasn't credited as expected for certain offers or surveys, but the amounts for any one thing are so small, most of the time it isn’t worth pursuing. On this issue Swagbucks is better than the others, for example Ebates. Sometimes I would see the same offer on multiple sites, and on Swagbucks the offer paid more than, for example, on  InboxDollars or Earnably.  The things that pay best are rebates on Shop and Earn, though it takes awhile for the amount to credit to your account, and surveys. The frustrating thing about surveys is that I didn’t qualify for a lot of them, so I might attempt several before finding one I was qualified for so I could get paid. Still, Swagbucks is the most fun with games and contests and bonuses for motivation. Also Swagbucks is connected to MyGiftCardsPlus where you can earn Swagbucks for buying online gift cards. So, if you knew you had to buy something at Home Depot or Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or Ebay, or Sephora, for example (there are a whole bunch of them), you could get the gift card and get money back in the form of Swagbucks. By the way, 1 Swagbuck = $0.01, so 100 Swagbucks = $1.00. 

Total earned and redeemed in gift cards (for Amazon, Starbucks, Whole Foods, Target, McCormick & Schmick’s, etc.) from Swagbucks =  $415
My referral link:   

bevRAGE ( is relatively new. If you go to a bar or restaurant with a POS system where they can print out an itemized receipt of what you order, you can scan your receipt and get money sent to your PayPal account within a day or two. This was easy to use and worked for me.

Sent directly to my PayPal account from bevRAGE = $49
My personal referral code: NQCVRMIO

InboxDollars is similar to Swagbucks in some ways. You can get rewarded for taking surveys and doing internet searches and watching videos and reading advertisement emails. It took a long time just to earn enough to redeem. The minimum to cash out is $30, but if you get to $40 you don’t have to pay the $3 service fee. Now that I know it actually pays out, I might be more motivated to do it. Before I wasn’t sure that it would actually pay. I don’t like it as much as Swagbucks, but I did better with it than with Earnably.

Total redeemed from InboxDollars in the form of Amazon gift card = $40.03
My referral link:

I like Perk. It’s really easy to get points just by watching movie trailers and doing “scratch” cards on your phone. Also, you can redeem points for smaller amounts like $5. They pay relatively quickly, in one or two business days. There are a lot of reward gift cards to choose from. If you have the Starbucks app on your phone, the Starbucks gift cards are really easy to add to your balance.

Total earned and redeemed in gift cards (for Amazon, Starbucks, etc.) from Perk = $40.00
My referral link:

I’m not thrilled with the grocery shopping apps. You have to look through the offers and they change frequently. But Ibotta ( offers rebates from lots of different kinds of stores, not just grocery. I did better with Ibotta than with Checkout 51.

Total redeemed from Ibotta ($20 Amazon gift card and $20 to my Paypal account) = $40
My referral code: eougays

All those Ebates commercials sparked my interest. It’s not a scam, and I’ve been mostly happy with it. Toward the end of the year, I was having trouble getting credit for some of the shopping I did. In some instances, I was able to file a report using the app and get credit that way. Ebates works with LOTS of online stores, so if you do lots of online shopping, it’s worth checking out. I have Swagbucks, Ebates, and Perk buttons on my browser. I check to see which one is offering the best rebate (percentage of purchase) and go with that one. It doesn’t seem to let you use more than one at a time. Sometimes the best is Swagbucks and other times it's  Ebates. Ebates pays every three months if you’ve earned over $5 for that time period.

Total sent to my Paypal account directly from Ebates: $37.55
My referral link:

Seashells ( promises 15% on the “roundups” from your purchases. You link your credit card and it keeps track of your purchases and rounds up the change. When you get up to $20 in roundups, it charges that to your card and gives you a 15% bonus on that amount. So if you purchase something for $2.25, it keeps track of the $.75 and you get 15% bonus on that from Seashells, so, in this example, $.11.  And you know your money doesn't earn 15% just sitting in your checking account. The catch is that you then need to redeem that money in the form of gift cards, but there are quite a few to choose from including Sephora, Home Depot, iHop, Groupon, etc. If you recruit other people, you each get $2 per referral. One thing I don’t like about it is that it doesn’t keep track of the history of your account in a clear way, and I couldn’t make my math match their math. I actually made more than I would have expected, maybe for referrals? 

Seashells bonus on $82.52 for a total of $119.33 in gift cards = $36.81
My referral code: TDikLZ

Amazon Mechanical Turk is different from these other apps, and in a lot of ways less frustrating. It’s not a shopping site. Instead, you do small tasks called HITs (Human Intelligence Tasks) for small amounts of money. Some of them are actually interesting to me. The work is perfect for me because I can work at it when I want and quit when I want.

Amazon gift cards from Amazon Mechanical Turk = $35

I wish ForGoods ( would catch on. This is such a great idea. It actually rewards you for doing worthwhile activities like volunteering and supporting causes.

Starbucks gift card from ForGoods = $20

Shopkick gives you “kicks” (points) just for walking into some stores. You can get “kicks” for scanning particular items in the stores. You can get “kicks” for buying things in the store with your Visa or MasterCard. The points don’t accumulate that fast for me, probably because individual points are worth fractions of a cent, and also I would feel self-conscious walking into a store frequently and never buying anything if I thought the employees would start to recognize me and wonder what I was doing with my phone. It took 1250 “kicks” to get a $5 dollar Starbucks gift card, but I did it. You can also get gift cards for Walmart, Target, Marshall’s, Macy’s, GameStop, Best Buy, Old Navy, and other places.

Starbucks gift card from Shopkick = $5
My referral link:

So the grand total for the new sites and apps I binged on for 2016 is (drum roll): $718.39!

Sites and apps I haven’t earned enough points at to redeem yet:
DailyBreak, website:;
Earnably, referral link:;
Check 51, website:

Sites and apps I don’t have much hope for or interest in at all:
Kellogg’s; Bing Rewards; SavingStar.
But someone else might like them.

Apps I just added that I have hope for: Achievemint and Lucktastic

There are all sorts of restaurant and store apps that you can get rewards or reward points with. I’ll mention just a few:

Walgreens app
Points accumulate fairly quickly for me with this app, and I frequently get $5 or $10 off using it. It gives you points for purchases, but also, if you have a fitness tracker, you can get points for steps and other “healthy choices,” if you choose to share that information. Most days I get 20 to 60 points just for walking. 5000 points = $5

Starbucks App
Reward good for one free food item or beverage every 125 points. 2 points per $1 spent, but they also have double points days and various bonuses.

Spring ( works well if you go to the same places over and over.  You connect your credit cards, and if you spend a certain amount, for example $200 at a place, you get $10 or $20 back, for example, depending on how the place has structured their promotion. Each place is different.
My Spring promo code: BWKNHE

The best deals are reward points and cash back from credit cards.
I’m getting 1% to 5% of purchases back on those.

Anyone want to do Swagbucks with me?

Join Swagbucks!
You Can Get Free Gift Cards For Shopping, Searching and Discovering What's Online at

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