Unless your parents are rich, we’ve all had times in our lives when we could use some extra cash.
I have. And like many people, I’ve gone online to find money-making ideas.
But wait – everyone knows the internet is a mixed bag. While some great and innovative ideas exist, so do plenty of scams. You know what I mean – people trying to make a fast buck at your expense.
So what can you do? Who can you rely on when searching for ideas online?
Well, I don’t know everything, but after some research and testing, I’ve compiled a decent list of how to get free money.
It wasn’t easy – there was a lot of trial and error involved, believe me. But I reckon a look at the list below will save you time and help you avoid making the mistakes I made.
So without further ado, here are some of the best ideas I found about how to make some easy extra money.
20 Best Methods on How to Get Free Money
1. Install free apps on your phone
Did you know you can make money from downloading free apps on your smartphone?
Neither did I!
But yeah, plenty of companies offer these promotions. What happens is you download the app and earn real money or points, which you can redeem for cash or Amazon (or similar online stores) gift vouchers. You won’t earn much – maybe US$5 each time – but every bit helps, right?
You can also get rebates if you shop at certain stores, and some schemes, like the one offered by Ibotta, allow you to earn more money by referring your friends. When they sign up, you get paid.
And you need not keep the apps on your phone, either. Once you sign up, download the app, and get paid, you can get rid of it.
Unless you like the app, of course. Or, even better, unless the company pays you to keep it on your phone, which some will do for you.
For example, Nielsen pays you $50 per year, just for keeping their app on your phone.
2. Take part in online surveys
Another way to get free money is to take part in online surveys.
Dozens of sites offer people the chance to complete online surveys for money, and more seem to spring up every year.
See more: Best Paid Online Survey Panels
How it works is these survey companies offer respondents cold cash to take part – although some will offer gift cards or vouchers instead.
In my experience, there are good and bad online survey sites.
You might also receive a sign-up bonus up to $10 once you register. After that, they’ll pay you a couple of dollars to complete each survey. Again, you won’t make your fortune doing online surveys, but you could generate a little side income.
A good tip with online surveys is to sign up for several survey sites. You won’t always qualify for every survey, so you’ll want to maximize your income.
3. Earn refunds with Paribus
Have you ever bought anything online only to check the same site later and see the price of your purchase has dropped? How annoying is that?
And then you want to get a refund, which is a major hassle. But if you sign up with Paribus you don’t have to endure any hassle – they do all the work for you.
Once you download their app, Paribus will scan your email for receipts from the big online retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target or Macy’s. If the price of whatever you bought drops, Paribus will help you get a refund.
Paribus also works with hotel and travel sites like Expedia, Booking.com, Hilton, and Marriot.
4. Book restaurant reservations with Seated
Seated is an app that gets you up to 30% off the price of your meal in a restaurant, every time you make a reservation.
All you do is download the app, pick a restaurant from their list, and book online. You’ll then get an up to 30% discount redeemed in the form of gift cards or vouchers for merchants like Amazon or Starbucks.
Right now, Seated is only available in New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. But watch out for them – they have ambitious expansion plans and will roll out to more cities and towns soon.
5. Become a stock photographer
If you have a good eye for a photo, you can make money by becoming a stock photographer.
You need not spend a fortune on an expensive camera, either. Nowadays you can take great pictures with your smartphone!
Whilst some stock photography sites will take everything you send them, others are choosier, and will require you pass an approval process first.
No single photo will earn you a lot of money – between $0.25 and $0.45 per image per month is the going rate.
One tip to remember is to set out who owns the copyright to the pictures before you start. If you can keep your copyright, you can sell the same photo to more than one site.
If you lose your copyright, the company owns your image and you lose your rights to it.
6. Become a dog walker
Dog walking is a great way to make a part-time living, especially if you have free time, love dogs, and enjoy getting out into the fresh air.
Many dog owners lead busy lives, out of the house working all day, and don’t have the time or energy to walk their dogs.
And they’re happy to pay someone else to do this for them!
Experienced dog walkers can earn anything up to $15 for a 30-minute-walk. They get to enjoy fresh air, exercise, and the company of man’s best friend into the bargain.
There are three ways to make money this way:
First, you can work for an established dog walking company (yes, these exist!). They already have their own client lists of dog owners, and will give you steady work for a percentage of your income.
The third way is to build up your own clientele. There are two downsides with this. First, building up your client list takes time. The other problem is that many dog owners will want to ensure you’re licensed and insured before they trust you with their dog.
7. Get paid for searching the web
Imagine getting paid for doing something you spend hours doing, anyway.
Getting paid for searching online is one of the easiest ways to earn free money. It requires you to change virtually nothing about your behavior or your habits.
Companies like Qmee.com allow you to earn cash rewards every time you search in Google, Yahoo, or Bing. All you do is install a simple browser add-on, and then you’ll find a few sponsored ads alongside your normal search results.
Every link clicked can earn a cash reward, with no minimum cash out. Even if you only earn a dollar, they’ll still send this to your PayPal account. Or you can donate it to charity if you prefer – they offer you that option, too.
8. Save Money with Trim
You can download an app from a service called Trim, which helps you save money on everything, from utility bills to subscriptions.
The app tracks your spending and helps you cut down on bills and cancel services you no longer need.
Trim also helps you manage your budget and cut down on your debt.
I used Trim to cut my monthly bill from my internet service provider.
I downloaded their app, signed-up for the service, and after uploading a copy of my last monthly bill, gave Trim a link to my internet service provider. They negotiated with the service provider and got me a big reduction in my monthly bill. They take 30% of the annual savings as their fee, but, in my case, that still left me well ahead.
It also saved me the time I would have spent trying to negotiate with the service provider myself.
9. Use coupon apps to get refunds
Using coupons to get discounts at your local grocery store has always been a good way to save money.
But most people don’t have the time to scour local newspapers or the internet. They forget to clip or print out coupons, or to take them with them when they go shopping.
Nowadays, several apps exist to take a lot of this effort out for you.
You can upload, clip and scan coupons onto your smartphone. These apps let you select coupons for the items you buy. You take a picture of the receipt, upload it to the app, and it’ll find the right coupon for you.
Or, if you’re a Walmart customer, the Savings Catcher app will search competitor pricing in your area for a few days after you shopped with them.
If they find you could have bought the same item cheaper somewhere else, they’ll give you a rebate in the form of a Walmart gift card.
10. Get paid for taking selfies
It sounds crazy, but some companies will pay you for taking selfies.
If you have a decent camera on your smartphone, you take photos of yourself and submit them to companies who offer these services. They will then pay you for the right to use your picture.
So what’s the angle of these companies?
Well, the info they collect helps their marketing activities around the United States, based on demographics like gender, race, and age.
Not every photo is worth money, but if they use your picture, you can make a dollar or two each time. And the more you sell, the more you earn.
11. Get paid to receive junk mail
While most of us hate junk mail, you might feel better if you knew you were getting paid every time you received it.
This is not a scam, but a legitimate business idea.
If you become a mail decoy for a company offering this service, they’ll pay you for every bit of junk mail that ends up in your mailbox. That’s newsletters, catalogs, and magazines.
These companies will pay you because they want to understand how junk mail finds prospective clients – or if they ever receive it at all.
When you get junk mail, you report it online or call a toll-free number and enter a code from the mailing.
Some companies will pay you in cash for this service. The going rate is around $10 per month plus $0.25 for each piece of mail you receive.
Others, like World Mail Panel, will reward you with points you can redeem for PayPal, gift cards, or other prizes.
12. Make money with Swagbucks
Swagbucks is a website that pays you to shop online, watch videos, surf the net, or answer online surveys.
It’s one of the best and most reputable of the GPT (Get Paid To) websites and has been around a long time – since 2008.
If you sign-up, you earn swag bucks every time you complete an online activity like watching a video, playing a game, or answering a daily poll. One swag buck (SB) is worth US$0.01 and, when you have collected enough, you can redeem them for gift cards, or PayPal.
For a few minutes work a day you can earn $100-$200 per month.
13. Sell your plasma
Giving blood is a popular way of giving back to the community, but selling plasma is a way of making money. Oh – and you’re doing a good deed at the same time!
As long as you’re over 18 and in good health, you can make $200-$300 a month.
Be aware they base this figure on donating two or three times a week, making US$20-$50 each time.
Each company has its own set of donation requirements, so check these out before signing up. There can also be side effects, so check with your doctor first, before you do anything.
14. Rent a room out with Airbnb
If you’re comfortable with strangers sleeping in your house, you can make good money renting out a spare room with Airbnb.
Or, if you have a rental property, or are planning to take an extended vacation, you can rent out your whole place.
Airbnb is a company that offers cheaper, more personal accommodations to travelers than expensive hotel rooms. They offer rooms, houses, and condominiums to rent on a daily or weekly basis to travelers through their website and app.
If you live in a desirable location – near a major tourist destination, for example – you can earn good money with Airbnb.
Before signing up for the service, check with your local municipality. Some city ordinances now place restrictions on the short-term rental market.
15. Sell your old clothes
Most of us have more clothes than we ever will wear. Our closets are full of items we haven’t worn for years, if ever.
While you can give them away to charity, an alternative is to sell them. Not only do you get to earn money, but you get to declutter your house at the same time. A win-win situation!
Make sure the clothes are clean and well-aired and not torn or full of holes. Nobody will buy your cast-offs if they are not in decent condition.
16. Get money from the government
Any list of how to get free money would not be complete if it did not include the US government.
While you may think money only flows one way – away from you – with Uncle Sam, sometimes the opposite holds true.
Unclaimed.org, for example, is a website connecting US residents with money they may have forgotten about over the years. We’re talking unclaimed account credits, uncollected insurance reimbursements, and old utility and apartment security deposits.
Also, check out MissingMoney. They work along similar lines, checking for missing money, property, and assets that participating states might owe you.
17. Sell your old electronic devices
Almost everyone has old electronic devices lying around. Whenever I get a new cell phone, for example, once I swap the SIM card over, I put the old one away to gather dust in a drawer.
But you can earn money from these old gadgets by selling them to companies like Gazelle, OCBuyBack, or GadgetSale. They’re all willing to pay cash for old smartphones, computers, iPads, and DVD players. Some will even pay for broken devices.
One of the most popular sites is Decluttr, and their method is simple.
If your old device has a barcode, you can scan it with your smartphone camera and send it to them. They’ll make you an immediate offer. If you accept their offer, they’ll send you a prepaid envelope to ship the device back to them. Once they’ve received you old device, they’ll pay you the next day.
18. Loyalty programs and rewards
A great way to get free money, or free stuff – which is the same thing – is to take advantage of the loyalty programs and reward schemes offered by various companies.
You already spend money with them anyway, so why not take advantage of what they offer and sign up for their membership schemes?
Here are my favorites:
I love Starbucks, and by signing up to their rewards program, I get a discount every time I order one of their specialty drinks.
I also shop a lot with Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, and Lowes. The reason for this is simple.
Using Ebates, I can get free cashback when I shop with them. And I can take advantage of their discounts and store promotions.
Thousands of loyalty and reward programs are available. Have a look around, and what’s out there on offer will surprise you.
19. Open a new bank account
Most banks in the US will offer you a bonus if you open a new account with them, sign-up for direct deposit, or keep a certain amount of funds with them.
They may stipulate a minimum fixed amount to keep with them, and a minimum amount of time, but these requirements are fairly limited for the most part.
Follow their “rules”, earn your bonus, and then, if you don’t need the account, close it.
Chase, for example, will offer up to $300 if you keep $1,500 with them for 90 days or more.
Always read the small print to check for any hidden restrictions. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask the bank before you open the account.
20. Celebrate your birthday with a freebie
Many retailers and merchants will give you a discount or some freebie on your birthday.
Check with your favorite stores or restaurants to see if they’re offering any deals. You might first need to sign-up for their loyalty programs or newsletters to be eligible.
I can vouch that all the methods listed here are legitimate. Not of them will earn you very much, but they could be enough to give you a decent side income.
But be careful! There are lots of scams offering advice on how to get free money. If someone asks you to pay any fees upfront, then stay well away from them. Also, be very careful with whom you are sharing your personal information.
See also: How to Earn Money Online