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.
Use the links below to jump to whichever section sounds most interesting:
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.
For instance, the Chase Freedom card offers up to 30% cash back — $150 after you spend $500 — with no annual fee.
Compare this card to other cash back cards here.
If you know you’re gonna spend $500 in the next 3 months, that’s #freemoney.
(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
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.
Click here to get sign up and get a $10 welcome bonus.
If you are looking for a more passive way of making extra money, check out Drop.
How Drop works is you pick the top 5 brands you spend at the most, and you’ll earn Drop points every time you shop there.
I’m talking stocking up on groceries at Trader Joe’s or Safeway, taking an Uber to your next meeting, or filling up on gas at 7/11 – the brands available on Drop were chosen to suit your unique lifestyle, so you can get rewarded just about anywhere you decide to spend your hard earned dollars.
It essentially adds up to around an extra 1%-ish cash back, but it’s super passive.
Once your account’s all set up, you’ll begin to earn points automatically, which you can cash in for gift cards directly in the app to brands like Starbucks, Amazon, UberEats, StubHub and MANY more. It took a few months, but I’ve already earned my first $10 Amazon gift card – totally free!
Pro Tip: Use code ‘SideHustle’ to receive 5,000 Drop points ($5) when you link your first card on Drop. Promotion ends March 14th.
Click here to get the app and link your card.
If you shop online, you need to sign up for Ebates.
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.
Sign up through my referral link for a $10 bonus.
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%.
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.
You can then redeem points for gift cards to retailers like Best Buy, Sephora, Staples, Gap, and more.
Get 2000 free points ($2) when you enter my referral code BG5MP!
Owned by Capital One, Paribus works on your behalf to get money back on purchases made.
Paribus scans your inbox for online shopping receipts to see if prices have dropped since you made your purchases. If they find anything, they work hard to get you a refund.
Another perk from Paribus is that they deal with Amazon if you have a shipment delivered late. They scored me a $10 Amazon gift card for a late delivery, all without me having to do anything.
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.
Respondent – This is by far the best paying online survey outfit I’ve found. Usually the surveys are one-on-one interviews either in-person or over the phone / video chat, and they pay an average of $140 an hour.
Springboard America – Higher payouts than many other survey sites, but requires a $50 minimum to cash out.
Ipsos i-Say – The survey arm of one of the nation’s largest research firms.
Swagbucks – Earn up to $35 a survey and get a $10 bonus just for signing up!
InboxDollars – This company has paid out over $50 million to members. Get a $5 bonus just for signing up!
Prize Rebel – Earn $10-12 an hour doing surveys or completing other tasks. Just avoid the low-paying ones.
Survey Junkie – Earn up to $50 a survey via gift cards or cash out with PayPal.
Related: 10 Consumer Research Companies that Pay Up to $100 an Hour for Your Opinion in Online Focus Groups
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!
Like Trim, Billshark works to negotiate lower bills on things like Cable, Internet, Cell Phones, Home Security and more. Only they do it with real-life human negotiators. (I’m guessing Trim does too… until our robot overlords truly take over.)
If they find you savings, they take 40% of the savings as their fee (compared to 25% with Trim), but you continue to save on your bills every month. There is no fee if they don’t find any savings, and Billshark claims to have an 85% success rate.
Use their Savings Calculator to check for savings you could be missing out on right now.
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.
Check out their little betting tool to see how much you could win, and read our full HealthyWage review to learn more.
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.
The free Sweatcoin app is an interesting concept that pays you for walking outside. 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.
Achievement is another 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.
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.
Download the app on iOS or Android to test it out for yourself.
Also not exactly free money, but you can use websites like CenterWatch.com and ClinicalTrials.gov to find paid clinical trials in your area.
Be sure to check the requirements before applying. The money you can earn depends on the type of trials available.
Free stuff isn’t quite as good as free money, but if you were gonna have to buy it anyway, it’s pretty close!
I first heard about RebateKey from Side Hustle Show guest Amit Desai, and 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.
One way to make some major money is to pick up free items and then flip them for a profit. Popular items include electronics, small appliances, bikes, furniture, and more.
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!
Download the Slidejoy app (Android only) to “rent out” your cell phone lock screen to advertisers.
That sounds obnoxious to me, but some users report earning around $10 a month. You can swipe right to unlock your phone normally and ignore the offer.
Cash out your earning with PayPal, on gift cards or even donate them to charity.
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.
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 up over $100 a week.
Download the app and as you drive, Wrapify tracks your mileage.
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.
(Lyft also currently has a $1000 first-month guarantee for new drivers.)
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!
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.)
If you have smartphones collecting dust at home, why not sell them for a profit with Gazelle. They pay “top dollar” (debateable, in my opinion) for used smartphones and other electronics.
They have paid out over $200 million for used phones. You can also score a $20 bonus for referring friends to buy or sell through Gazelle too!
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)?
Search databases at sites like Unclaimed.org and MissingMoney.com to see if you are owed any unclaimed money.
My searches came up empty, but you never know what treasure awaits you.
Get paid to take selfies with PayYourSelfie. All you have to do is download the app, sign up for an account and complete quick selfie-related tasks. Most tasks only pay out between $0.20 and $0.40, but branded tasks can net you $1 just for taking a selfie.
Once you reach $20 in your account, you can get paid out via check through the mail.
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, 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.
We give so much of our data away every day for free to companies like Facebook, so it’s probably not that far a stretch to actually get paid for what you share. Here are some options to do just that.
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.
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 $5 a month per device.
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.
From the same company behind NCP, Nielsen rewards you for sharing internet usage behaviors. Simply download the app to all of your registered devices. The app is not intrusive and won’t slow down your devices.
As they track your usage, you earn points. Users can redeem points for prizes and sweepstakes entries.
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!
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Stock photo by Malochka Mikalai via Shutterstock