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How much time would you say you spend using your smartphone? Be honest. If you’re like most people, it’s probably a lot – perhaps more than you’d care to admit.
In fact, the average American spends around 86 hours a month on their smartphone, according to a recent report by comScore. That’s right, 86 hours of your life every single month.
What a waste of time, you might be thinking. Why spend all that time browsing your phone when you could have been working and getting paid instead? But wait – let’s imagine for a moment that you could have been being paid for all that time…
Imagine you were to earn just $5 an hour for the time you spend browsing your phone. If you did, you’d end each month $430 richer. All of a sudden, it wouldn’t seem like such a waste of time after all.
Now here comes the interesting part: what if I told you that you could?
Alright, maybe not quite $5 an hour, but it is possible to monetize your phone browsing habits and earn a little extra for almost no effort on your part. You could literally be getting paid to browse the internet, shop online, watch ads, play games, and do all sorts of other things using your smartphone.
There are dozens of reward apps that you could download to your smartphone today and start earning money – but not all of them are made equal. Some are good; others aren’t worth your time.
To help you to sort the good from the bad, we’ve put together this list of the 20 best reward apps to earn money from your smartphone.
Let’s get started!
Ibotta is one of the most popular reward apps on the market – and for good reason. It’s simple, easy-to-use, and a great way to make savings on everyday purchases.
Ibotta is primarily a cashback app, which means you get real, genuine cash for simply making purchases from participating retailers. You can also earn rewards instead, like gift cards and coupons, if you prefer.
Participating retailers include big-names like:
Plus many more!
The way it works is simple: before you make any purchase, you check Ibotta on your smartphone to see if the product you’re interested in buying is listed in the current offers.
If it is, you can earn cash back on it. You just need to complete a short task first, then you can purchase the product and provide proof of purchase to redeem your cash back.
The tasks can be are short and sweet; you usually just need to watch a video or complete a short poll.
Just like Ibotta, Shopkick rewards shoppers for making purchases, but that’s not all. They actually offer eight different ways for shoppers to earn ‘kicks’ – Shopkick’s version of points. You can earn kicks by:
- Scanning barcodes of certain products
- Making purchases with linked credit cards
- Submitting your receipts
- Walking into stores
- Viewing online products
- Watching videos
- Visiting online stores
- Making online purchases
The fact that you can earn points without spending a dime makes Shopkick a personal favorite of mine. Earning points for walking into partner stores is also a fun feature that you’ll enjoy if you’re an avid shopper who loves getting out of the house and just browsing stores.
ShopTracker is an app that asks you to share your Amazon purchase history and fill out a quick survey once a month. ShopTracker pays you for your time and then sells that data on to companies looking to do market research and learn more about customer spending habits.
You’re not going to get rich using ShopTracker (your earnings are capped at $36 per year) but it is one of the easiest ways to get a few extra dollars per month – and those dollars add up eventually.
You don’t need to be worried about being scammed either – ShopTracker is run by the Harris Poll Online Panel and is one of the most legitimate survey apps on the market.
It works like this:
Step 1: Download and install the ShopTracker App to your smartphone
Step 2: Login and sync it to your Amazon account
Step 3: Fill out a 5-minute survey on the app once a month.
Each time you complete step 3, you’ll receive a $3 visa code.
To qualify to register for ShopTracker, you’ll need an Amazon account which has at least one month’s purchase history.
Trunow is a must-have app for any motorist out there. It doesn’t just help you to earn money and rewards on purchases – it helps you to save money too by using the location data on your phone to inform you where the lowest gas prices are near you.
The main reason to use Trunow is to get cash back every time you buy gas. You’ll get either 1% or 2% cash back depending on if the gas station is partnered with Trunow or not. This means that the amount you can earn depends on how much you spend on gas.
If you spend $200 a month on gas, you’ll earn between $2-4 per month in cash back, and probably much more in savings by finding the best deal. Again, it might not make you rich, but why not save a little extra where you can?
You can also get cash back and reward points for other gas-station purchases too, such as confectionary.
Drop is a rewards app with a specific target demographic in mind – millennials. They have created an app that understands where millennials tend to spend their money and allows them to earn points for it.
It also understands what modern consumers want out of their smartphone apps – convenience. Scanning receipts is all well and good, but wouldn’t it be better if the app could just track your purchases and distribute points automatically? Well, that’s exactly what Drop does.
Users can download the app, link up their cards, select their favorite 5 retailers listed on Drop, then start making purchases. Each time they do, they’ll earn points, which can be redeemed later for gift cards.
Here are some of the retailers and brands that Drop links up with:
Investing is one of the smartest money moves you can do. It protects you from inflation, accounts for the time value of money, and helps you to grow your savings passively.
The problem is that investment is inaccessible for most people as they just don’t have the spare time or money to invest.
That’s where Acorns comes in.
Acorns invest your spare change and handle all the difficult investment decisions for you. All you need to do is link up your credit cards (Acorns will automatically round-up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the extra) and answer a few questions to determine what kind of investment strategy you’d feel most comfortable with, i.e aggressively or conservative.
Your little acorns will then (fingers crossed) grow into huge money trees.
The Ipsos i-say app is first and foremost a survey app. Unlike many other rewards apps on this list, they don’t encourage you to make purchases or give cash back, they focus exclusively on getting users to fill in surveys and distributing reward points.
Filling out the surveys doesn’t typically take long, and it can be a great way to kill some time whilst you’re commuting to work on a bus or train. Instead of playing games, why not fill out some surveys and earn enough to pay for your lunch that day instead?
Once you’ve found a survey you’re interested in filling out, you first need to check that you qualify by filling in some basic information about yourself. If you don’t qualify, you walk away with 5 points anyway – just for trying.
Points can be redeemed against prizes like:
- A $5 Starbucks Card for 500 points
- A $10 Amazon Gift Card for 1,000 points
- $15 Paypal funds for 1,530 points
- A $15 Target Gift Card for 1,500 points.
8. Zap Surveys
Zap Surveys is, as you’d expect given the name, another survey app. Like Ipsos i-Say, you can use it to earn you a few extra dollars a day while you commute by answering some survey questions – but wait, there’s more.
Zap Surveys also donate a certain amount of money to charity for every survey you complete, which means that you’re not just helping to fatten your wallet, you’re helping other, less-fortunate people around the world too.
If you’re not the survey-type, it might be worth downloading Zap Surveys just for their ‘location rewards’ anyway.
If you allow the app to access your location, you’ll occasionally get a notification letting you know that you’re near a store that’s running a promotion. If you open this notification, you’ll be awarded anything up to $0.25.
As long as you don’t mind sharing your location data, there’s nothing to lose from downloading it, even if you’d prefer not to participate in surveys.
Pinecone Research is a survey app that pays considerably more than both Zap Surveys and Ipsos. For each and every survey that you fill out, you’ll earn around $3. Even better, these surveys only take around 15-30 minutes each, meaning, if you could line these up back to back, you could potentially earn $6-12 per hour.
The only problem is that you almost certainly won’t be able to line up surveys back to back. As you might have guessed considering the high pay rate, Pinecone Research is very selective about survey participants and you’ll have to wait for them to notify you that you’re eligible. You can probably hope to be eligible for 1-4 surveys a month, at best.
Once you’ve earned your rewards, you can redeem them and cash out at any time via PayPal or, alternatively, by check to your postal address.
Makeena is a shopping rewards app that will help to thin out your waistline and fatten your wallet.
If you’re a healthy-eating enthusiast, it’s the perfect smartphone rewards app to download. You earn cash back and reward points on healthy and eco-friendly products by scanning barcodes and submitting proof of purchase.
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Download the app and search for the kind of items you’re interested in (e.g organic) to see what’s available
Step 2: Add the items to your shopping list and go shopping for them.
Step 3: Scan the barcode to register the offer on Makeena
Step 4: Submit a photo of your receipt
Step 5: Wait for verification and cash out your rewards using PayPal once you have at least $20
TopCashBack claims to be the UK’s highest paying cashback rewards app. The reason they claim they’re able to pay out so much is that they pay 100% of the commission they receive from retail purchases out as cash back, without taking a cut.
This has earned them over 8 million users and, last year alone, they paid out over £40 million in cash back.
It works the same way as many other rewards apps: you browse the offers, choose your favorites, make your purchase, then snap a photo of your receipt.
Ebates is another cashback rewards app which rewards you points with a cash value each time you make a purchase at any of their 1,600 affiliated stores. These stores include:
- Best Buy
The other great thing about Ebates is that you get $5 just for signing up, and another $10 gift card once you’ve spent at least $25 through the app.
You can read our complete review of Ebates here.
Swagbucks is a smartphone app which offers a huge number of ways to earn points (called SB) which can be redeemed against gift cards. Most of the activities you can do to earn are things that you’d probably be doing on your smartphone anyway.
Their primary focus is on surveys, but you can also earn points by:
- Playing games on the app
- Watching videos through Swagbucks Watch (their version of YouTube)
- Making purchases at selected retailers
- Searching through the app’s search engine
It’s what’s known as a ‘lock-screen app’; an app which changes your lock screen so that you have to view an ad each time you unlock your phone. Each time, you’ll earn a small number of points which, over a lifetime of using your phone, will soon add up.
You can then redeem your points for cash which you can withdraw via PayPal. While you won’t earn a lot of money, there’s essentially no time commitment or effort required on your part, which makes this one of the easiest ways to make money passively.
For more apps that pay you just to unlock your phone, check out our blog post here.
MyPoints is another comprehensive smartphone rewards app which lets you earn points for doing all sorts of easy, and sometimes fun, activities on your phone.
You can get points for:
- Shopping online
- Reading your emails
- Watching video playlists
- Searching the web
- Printing coupons and using them in stores
- Playing games
- Referring friends
- Completing surveys
Once you’ve accumulated at least 700 points, you can choose to redeem them for travel miles, gift cards, or cash deposits to your PayPal account.
No prizes for guessing what MySurvey rewards points for.
That’s right – completing surveys. They actually claim to be the world’s number 1 paid survey website. But do they deliver on that promise?
Well, they might not pay as much as PineCone Research, but they are much less restrictive about which users can take which surveys. You’ll usually be eligible for a lot of different surveys, and disqualification rates are lower than some of the other apps out there.
Based on my own experience with MySurvey, you can probably earn around $1-2 per hour if you complete several surveys back to back. Most surveys don’t require a lot of thought or effort though, so if you’re sat around listening to music on your phone or watching TV, you can earn a little extra for minimal effort.
BeFrugal is very similar – almost identical, in fact – to Ebates. They pay you to shop at participating stores by giving you cash back on the commission they receive. Like Ebates, they claim to give out 100% of this commission to their users.
They’ve partnered with over 5,000 stores, so you’ve got plenty of options, and the minimum withdrawal amount is $25. You can choose to cash out your points via PayPal deposit, Check, or trade them in for Amazon Gift Cards.
Dosh is another cashback rewards app that allows you to earn cash back on common purchases like gas, hotel bookings, and more.
Like the smartphone app ‘Drop’, they put convenience first. You don’t need to dig around and find those receipts to validate your purchases, you just link up your card and the whole process is automatic.
If you’re a shopaholic, it’s definitely worth downloading it and linking up your card. It won’t take you more than a few minutes but it will allow you to save money on a lot of your purchases.
Which is Your Favorite?
Have you tried any of these apps already? If so, what did you make of them? Let us know in the comments!
If none of these are cutting it for you, check out our make money section for more ideas on ways to earn money in your spare time. Good luck and happy frugaling!