Is there really such thing as free money? Well, it depends on what you consider “free.”
Money is almost always an exchange for value. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered a bunch of ways to make extra money with very little effort.
We’ll call it “almost free” money.
Now I want to be upfront. Individually, these ideas won’t make you a ton of extra cash, but when you combine several of them, the results can start to add up.
Here are a few ways to get some free money for yourself today.
The Best Ways to Get Free Money
Survey Websites and Apps: Up to $140/Hour
Don’t expect to earn an amazing hourly rate with most survey sites, but you can earn gift cards, cash, and other rewards by answering surveys, watching videos, playing games, and shopping online with several reputable apps and services.
I hesitated to include them on this list because you do have to do a little work to earn the money, but the work isn’t usually very hard.
User Interviews – Great resource for connecting with online consumer research studies. I made $40 in about 40 minutes, and typical rates range from $50-100 an hour.
For more, here’s my full User Interviews review.
Respondent – Respondent facilitates well-paying consumer and professional interviews and focus groups, either in-person or over the phone / video chat. According to the site, the average payout is $140 an hour.
Other Online Survey Options
- Survey Junkie – Earn gift cards or cash out via PayPal.
- Swagbucks – Earn up to $35 a survey with this mega-popular app, and get a $10 bonus just for signing up!
- InboxDollars – Get a $5 bonus just for signing up!
- Pinecone Research – Earn $3 for each 15-20 minute survey. They'll send you a $3 check after your first one.
- YouGov - Long-running survey panel, with data often cited in the media.
- Opinion Outpost – Cash out at just $5 via PayPal or Amazon gift cards. Each survey enters you into a $10,000 quarterly drawing.
- American Consumer Opinion – Join millions of free members and earn up to $50 per survey.
Max Out Your Company’s 401(k) Match: $1000+ Per Year
Your employer’s 401(k) matching program is probably the single best source of free money in existence.
How this works is your company adds money to your retirement account when you contribute. According to Investopedia, most companies offer some sort of retirement plan matching, with the most common structure being 50% of every dollar, up to 6% of your salary.
That means if you make $50,000 a year, and contribute 6% of your salary to your 401(k) — $3000 a year — your employer would add an extra $1500 on top of that for free!
It’s a deal that’s tough to beat … but doesn’t really help you if you need money quickly. For faster options, read on.
Get Free Stock: Up to $200
Robinhood is an online brokerage that gives new customers a free stock when you sign up.
It’s a random draw–not your choice. I got Groupon (currently worth about $16.00), but apparently Microsoft, VISA, and Johnson & Johnson are options.
This is by far my favorite way of earning free money. By taking advantage of the various sign-up bonuses and cash back offers doled out by banks, my wife and I thousands of dollars in free money and travel over the last few years.
(Please just promise to do this responsibly and don’t spend money you don’t have on crap you don’t need.)
What’s the easiest way to get started? Try a new cash back card on for size.
If you know you’re gonna spend $500 in the next 3 months, that’s #freemoney. This card also gives you one of the highest cash back rates, with unlimited 1.5% back on every dollar you spend.
(If you’re worried about your credit score, don’t be. I’ve opened probably a dozen credit card accounts in the last few years and still have a 750+ credit score.)
The Next Step: Check out my free course, Credit Card Rewards 101: How to Earn Free Cash and Travel by Spending Smarter
Check Rewards Balances
Many programs, including Capital One and Chase, let you redeem your points for gift cards or cash.
The redemption values often aren’t as strong as they would be when exchanged for travel, but can be a great way to offset more pressing expenses.
Get Free Money for Using the Internet: Up to $50/Year
Surprisingly, there are a few companies that will pay you to just to install their apps and run in the background on your devices. These are low-maintenance, low-overhead options to earn from what you’re already doing.
MobileXpression is a market research panel that pays you in exchange for data from your mobile phone.
Download their app and allow it to work in the background recording your browsing habits while on your phone. By participating with MobileXpression, you’ll earn weekly credits redeemable for gift cards to popular retailers.
Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel
From the same company behind NCP below, Nielsen rewards you for sharing Internet usage behaviors. Simply download the app to all of your registered devices. The app isn’t intrusive and won’t slow down your devices.
As they track your usage, you earn points — up to $50 worth per year. Users can redeem points for prizes and sweepstakes entries.
National Consumer Panel (NCP)
Make money with National Consumer Panel by providing data from your purchases as a consumer.
If you are chosen to be a panelist you will receive a handheld scanner. Scan barcodes on purchases and provide other purchase details. NCP rewards you with points you can redeem for various prizes as well as sweepstakes entries for contests.
The SavvyConnect VIP program “uses safe, cutting-edge technology to collect data as you surf the web.” In exchange for sharing this data, they’ll pay you up to $5 a month per device.
Sell Your Excess Bandwidth: Up to $30 a Month
I’ve seen a lot of buzz lately around a new app called Honeygain. According to the site, you can earn up to $30 a month when you share 10 GB a day of “your unused net traffic with data scientists.”
Just install the app (available on Windows, MacOS, and Android), connect it to the Internet, and earn rewards passively. On average, it takes users 48 days to reach $20.
Before you get started though, make sure you’re truly on an unlimited plan as it sounds like this could chew through a lot of bandwidth in hurry!
Earn More Interest: Up to 5%
If you have cash sitting around in traditional checking or savings accounts, you’re losing out on interest (and losing purchasing power to inflation).
Here are a couple options to consider:
- CIT Bank – I find the term “high yield” laughable in this interest rate environment, but CIT probably pays more than your bank.
- Worthy Bonds – Earn a fixed 5% rate on Worthy’s asset-backed small business bonds.
Get Paid to Switch Banks: Up to $500
According to Bankrate, switching banks could pad your account with an extra $50-500!
Why do they give you free money just to move your money around?
Because they know switching banks is a pain! And once you do, you’re likely to be a customer for a while.
Just make sure to check the fine print to make sure you can meet the minimum deposit and monthly balance requirements.
Find Missing Money
Did you know there is over $42 billion in unclaimed funds in the United States, according to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA)?
My searches came up empty, but you never know what treasure awaits you.
Check Gift Card Balances
If you have unused gift cards lying around, those could be another source of free “found money.” It’s always nice to score a free meal from a gift card you forgot you had.
And if you don’t want to redeem it, you can try and sell it through Craigslist, eBay, or a gift card marketplace like Raise.
Down Payment Assistance
Several state and federal programs offer down payment loans — and sometimes even grants — to prospective homebuyers.
If you’re in the market, it definitely makes sense to see what programs might be available in your state.
Refinance Your Debt
Since interest rates are so low, you may be eligible to consolidate or refinance your existing debt.
If you can score a lower interest rate and reduce your payments, that adds cash to your bottom line every month.
As someone who’s paid over $2000 a month for childcare, I know firsthand kids are expensive!
Thankfully, the government has a number of income-based assistance programs to help offset the cost of childcare. Drill down to your city and state to see what may be available.
Get Free Money from a Robot: Up to $300 a Year
Trim is a unique program that will help you save money. Sign up, download the app, and connect your accounts to Trim.
They will analyze your spending and find ways to save you money. This includes negotiating to lower your bills, like cable and internet. Trim also can help you cancel forgotten subscriptions and recurring charges costing you money every month.
I was a little skeptical but Trim negotiated more than $300 in annual savings off my Comcast bill!
(The company will charge you 30% of their negotiated savings as a success fee. Still a win, though.)
Shopping and Cash Back Apps: $150+ Per Year
Pei is my favorite new cash back app. With it, you’ll automatically earn an extra 1-10% cash back at over 50,000 many stores and restaurants.
Also, at press time, Pei is dishing out $5 sign-up bonuses after you link your card and make your first purchase. I’m not sure how long that will last, but I’ll take it!
Pei uses bank-level 256-bit encryption to keep your information secure, and uses 2-factor authentication when linking your cards.
Once you earn $25, you can cash out via PayPal, a gift card, or–if you’re a crypto enthusiast–Bitcoin.
So far I’ve earned Pei points from Target, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, 7-Eleven, In-N-Out, Papa Murphy’s, and more. Here’s my full Pei review if you want to learn more.
Want to make money off your grocery purchases without all of the limitations most programs have?
Fetch Rewards works differently. Just snap a photo of your grocery receipt and earn points for every item you purchase from the 250+ popular brands in the app.
It’s also kind of a cool tool to track your spending across time and across different stores:
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.)
Plus, you’ll get 2000 free points ($2) when you install through our referral link.
Download the free Ibotta grocery savings app and start earning cash back on the shopping you’re already doing. Use the app to find offers and claim them by snapping a picture of your receipt.
Inside my actual account:
You can cash out your savings once you hit the $20 minimum. You can get paid through PayPal or Venmo or load the money onto gift cards.
Ibotta Savers who use the app every month earn over $130 a year! I’ll take it. (You can cash out via gift cards or PayPal.)
Capital One Shopping (formerly Wikibuy)
The free Capital One Shopping browser extension automatically scours thousands of shopping bargains, offers, and coupons from retailers while you’re shopping online. If there’s a better price out there, this free tool can help you find it.
(Affiliate disclosure: Capital One compensates me when you sign up for Capital One Shopping using my link. Thanks!)
I’ve earned $6.01 in credit in just a couple months, plus have saved over $100 more using their recommendations and offers.
Once you add it, you’ll notice it working automatically whenever you’re shopping online.
Rakuten (formerly Ebates)
If you shop online, you need to sign up for Rakuten.
Sign up for an account and then go through their online shopping portal to get to online retailers like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Kohls.
They even offer cash back for travel booked through their portal with sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Booking.com.
The average cashback offer is roughly 5% so it’s not a huge saving, but it adds up, especially if you are shopping online anyway. Why not take advantage of something you are doing already. Payouts are made through PayPal or check.
I used the site to get $165 back on my new laptop! I love getting my “Big Fat Checks” every few months.
Dosh is a cool app that allows you to earn extra cash back for purchases you make at many retailers and restaurants. For example, here are the offers I found nearby:
How this one works is you just download the app and connect your card. Then, shop as you normally would and then earn money by shopping at stores you may already frequent. You will find that many local restaurants are connected to Dosh, not just large chain restaurants.
Transfer your earnings to a bank account, PayPal or donate it to a charity.
The average cashback rate with Dosh is 2.5%, but some are as high as 10%.
Other Interesting Cash Back Apps
- NCP ReCap – Earn gift cards when you snap pictures of your receipts with this popular app from National Consumer Panel.
- Paribus – Paribus is a free price protection tool owned and operated by Capital One. In one case, Amazon was late in delivering an order of ours, and Paribus automatically detected that and negotiated a $10 Amazon gift card as compensation.
- Seated – Seated is a cash back app for dining out, where you can earn up to 30% cash back on your meal. When I looked, it was mostly fancier, higher-end restaurants in select cities.
- GetUpside – Use the free Upside app to get up 25¢/gallon cash back on gas at 5,000+ gas stations..
Cut Your Insurance Cost: $961 Per Year
Want to know the dirty secret of the car insurance industry?
Here it is: your cars are worth less every year due to depreciation, but you keep paying the same amount!
Check out Gabi for a quick and painless quote process and compare the best rates in the business on car and home insurance. It’ll take just a few minutes (you can even do it on your phone) and users save an average of $961 per year!
Get Paid to Get in Shape: Up to $10,000
Interestingly enough, there are companies that will pay you to lose weight and get in shape. If this is a goal of yours anyway, these options might make sense!
HealthyWage is an interesting concept that allows you to win money (up to $10,000!) by betting on your own weight loss goals.
The downside is you have to put up the money first, and then win it back plus your prize when you reach your goal weight.
Achievement is an app that pays you to track your steps. You can earn money by taking steps to become healthier, such as tracking steps, sleeping, logging meals, opting into challenges, completing surveys, tweeting, and more.
Achievement connects with apps like Apple Health, Samsung Health, Fitbit, Strava, MyFitnessPal, and Garmin. Earn $10 cash for every 10,000 points. Cash is paid through PayPal or directly to a bank account.
The free Sweatcoin app is another interesting concept that pays you for walking. Technically, you get paid in the app’s “coin” currency, but those points can be redeemed for goods and experiences. If you’re already doing a lot of walking, this is a cool way to passively earn some rewards.
Get Free Money for Walking Into Stores: Up to $50 a Year
A few friends have told me about Shopkick, which allows you to earn rewards in multiple ways, which include simply walking into a qualifying store.
Other ways to earn points (called “kicks”) include shopping with a linked card, scanning barcodes on selected products, viewing online products, watching videos, and visiting online stores. Kicks can be redeemed for gift cards at stores like Starbucks, Amazon, and Target.
If you find a mall or strip mall with several Shopkick retailers, you can several dollars just by walking around. Shopkick users can earn $50 gift cards with minimal time and effort.
Put Ads on Your Phone: Up to $36/Year
Download the S’more app (Android only) to “rent out” your cell phone lock screen to advertisers.
That sounds obnoxious to me, but the app pays $0.10 per day for every day you unlock your phone at least once. You can swipe to unlock your phone normally and ignore the offer.
That adds up to around $3 a month for not a lot of effort. Just make sure to cash out your points before they expire.
Be sure to check the requirements before applying. The money you can earn depends on the type of trials available.
Get Free Stuff: $20+
Free stuff isn’t quite as good as free money, but if you were gonna have to buy it anyway, it’s pretty close!
When I first heard about RebateKey from a Side Hustle Show guest, I was pretty skeptical.
How it works is companies offer to refund a portion of your purchase on certain products — up to 100% — when you buy through RebateKey.
What’s in it for them, I wondered?
Well, they’re building sales proof on platforms like Amazon, gathering user feedback, and collecting emails. I tested it out and sure enough, a month later, I had a check for the full amount of my $21.95 purchase.
Pretty crazy, but definitely worth checking out to see if they have any products you’re in the market for.
If you’ve ever looked at the “Free” section on Craigslist you know that sometimes people give away valuable items. I completely understand because there are times when we are trying to get rid of our old junk and I just don’t have the energy to try and sell it.
The Next Level: Check out this free training a couple friends of mine put together on how to multiply money quickly.
My sons and I have made a habit of collecting aluminum cans while we’re out on our bike rides and walks around the neighborhood. This had the added bonuses of cleaning up the environment and feeling a bit like a treasure hunt.
After a couple months of very sporadic effort, we took our loot to the local recycling center and earned $5.45. The kids were thrilled!
I imagine you could set up an arrangement with your neighbors to come by on garbage night and grab their cans, or hit up the local sports fields to see what you could find left behind. Another gentleman waiting in line at the recycling center had two giant garbage cans filled!
Get Money for Your Junk Mail? $20+ Per Year
The Small Business Knowledge Center pays people to send them their junk mail. What they do with it, I’m not entirely sure, but participants earn as much as $20 (in a gift card) every couple months.
The company provides postage-paid envelopes and it sounds like an interesting way to get rid of your junk mail instead of just tossing it in the trash!
Declutter Your House: $500 or More
Again, these aren’t really “free” since you’re getting rid of some items around the house, but if the stuff is just sitting around collecting dust, it can be an easy win.
Do you have books lying around your house gathering dust? If so, you can sell them using Bookscouter.
Find out how much your old books are worth and use the free app to search buyback vendors to get the best deal. The best part is that you can ship your books for free!
One Side Hustle Show guest took this to the next level, and reported earning up to $4000 a month flipping books.
The free Flyp app helps you source “risk-free inventory” to resell, by connecting you with people who have products (clothing, shoes, and accessories) they want to get rid of.
How it works is you bid on “lots” from members with the commission percentage you’re willing to accept — generally 30-50%.
For example, you might win the right to sell 5 brand-name clothing items. The seller will send you the inventory and you’ll post it on your favorite marketplaces. If those items end up selling for a total of $300 and you bid 50%, you’d pass along $150 to the seller and keep the rest (minus any marketplace fees).
It’s a lot faster than sourcing products yourself!
If you have old Apple devices collecting dust at home, why not sell through Backflip? They pay “50% more” than competing services for used smartphones and other electronics.
When you register and sell through the link above, you’ll also get a 10% bonus. That means, if you sell an old iPhone for $100, you’ll get $110.
If you’re like me, you probably have some items to sell on eBay, but hate how long it takes to list them all individually.
With Decluttr, you simply scan items you are selling, let Decluttr give you a price, and then ship everything in one box. Not only is this convenient, but Decluttr also pays for shipping.
(The convenience comes at a price; you’d get way more selling the stuff directly yourself.)
Then Get Paid to Re-Clutter: Up to $10,000 a Year
The Neighbor self-storage platform connects people with storage needs with those who have extra space. If you’ve got some excess storage capacity in your garage or elsewhere, list your space here to fill it and get paid.
According to the site, hosts are earning up to $10,000 a year running their own mini self-storage operations.
Get Free Money with Your Car: $100+ Per Week
Your car is probably a giant depreciating purchase. Between car notes, insurance, and gas, vehicles are expensive.
Here are a couple innovative ways to offset those costs.
Wrapify: Turn your ride into a mobile billboard
If you don’t care what your car looks like, sign up to have your car covered with a wrapped advertisement with Wrapify.
The money you earn with Wrapify is based on how far you drive so commuters in popular areas can earn $100 a week.
Download the app and as you drive, Wrapify tracks your mileage.
Lyft’s Destination Mode
Now shuttling your neighbors around as a Lyft driver is anything but free money, but one cool “hack” you should know about is a little-known feature called “Destination Mode.” A Side Hustle Nation community member pointed this out to me at a meetup, saying it basically makes his regular commute free.
Destination mode lets you specify where you are headed and Lyft will only match you with ride requests along your route.
Do you like to review products? If so, check out Slicethepie, the largest paid review site on the internet. Get paid to review music, clothing, apps, and more before they are released to the public.
(I just made my first $0.16 for watching a trailer for a new TV show.)
Payouts are made through PayPal with a $10 minimum.
If you spend a lot of time online or on your phone, UserTesting gives you an opportunity to get paid for doing just that. UserTesting pays people to test websites and apps.
You can make as much as $60 per test if you qualify, though the standard payout is $10 via PayPal for every 20-minute video you complete.
Become a tester through WhatUsersDo and make money reviewing websites and products from various companies. Sign up and you’ll receive an email any time there is a test available.
WhatUsersDo pays via PayPal on the 25th of every month, paying out $5 per test.
Make Money Today
With all of the ways to make some “free” or “almost free” money listed above, I’m positive there are a few ways that stuck out as possibilities for you.
Check them out and see if they work for you! Some of them are more labor intensive than others, but for the most part, you won’t have to do too much to start earning money today!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there such a thing as free money?
It depends on what you consider “free.” Money is almost always an exchange for value. But over the past few years, I’ve discovered a bunch of ways to make extra money with very little effort.
How can I get free money now?
Some of the more interesting ways to earn free money include installing certain apps, advertising on your car, finding unclaimed money, reviewing websites, and even getting free stock.
How can I make money right now?
The fastest ways to make money are to sell something you already own, or offer some freelance service. In either case, you have no upfront expenses and can get paid today.
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Stock photo by Malochka Mikalai via Shutterstock
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