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Funny Money: How Much Can You Really Earn from Earn-as-you-surf Sites?

Apps and sites like Swagbucks and MyPoints promise to pay you cash just for searching the Web, watching ads, or buying stuff you already need. Too good to be true? Or can you really pick up some spending money with these “earn-as-you-surf” sites? You can, and I did!

Earn as you surf sites like Swagbucks promise cash for just browsing the Web. How much can you earn?Ever since I received my first business proposal via email from a Nigerian prince, I’ve sat around fantasizing about making money on the internet by doing nothing.

(Go ahead: crack a joke about how I do just that by writing this column. Have you had your fun now? Good.)

Now as I was saying, although the prince’s offer didn’t work out so well — I’m still waiting for the billions in expected returns on the $10,000 I wired over as a goodwill gesture — I have found other ways to scrounge up cash with minimal effort. Here are some marketing-based sites and apps I’ve tried and the returns I’ve gotten:


Swagbucks is a portal that pays you to shop, watch videos, do web searches and sign up for pointless subscription services that are so desperate for members that they pay Swagbucks to promote them. I steer away from the extraneous stuff and stick with web searches and occasional videos.

Whatever algorithm the site uses ensures that you get your Swagbucks within the first few searches, then none for hours thereafter. So I start each day by searching on Swagbucks until it pays off, then I ignore it until the next day. You can redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards from Amazon and a number of other retailers, or even cash out via PayPal, but Amazon gives you the most return on your investment. My minimal effort results in about $5 in Amazon money every month.

Learn more or sign up for Swagbucks here.


This one tries to work the shopping angle harder than Swagbucks, spamming you with daily deals and coupons that will pay off in points if you use them.

You don’t need to go quite that far, though. If you click on the links in each email you get points you can eventually redeem for gift cards. MyPoints, you’ll find, does not hold back on the spam: Expect to be bombarded with 10 or more messages a day.

If you stay up on things, and fill out the occasional surveys, which pay better, you’ll get enough points for a gift card every three or four months.


I was excited when this Android-based app burst out onto the scene a couple months ago, promising to pay you for something so simple as unlocking your phone. The app slapped ads on your lock screen, swipe right and you are at your home screen.  Swipe left and you learn more about the advertisement. You get paid the same either way.

You have to wait three months until  you can cash out for the first time, after that it looks like you can cash out monthly.


Shocker: This one is all about surveys. The usual suspects, including Amazon, Paypal and the others, line up to pay you off once you’ve completed enough of them.

In addition to online surveys, you can also get them via mail. These are particularly lucrative, often sending you cash right in the envelope as though you’re an Oklahoma State football player. Sometimes the surveys come with single dollar bills and sometimes fivers. If you stick with the online surveys, expect it to take two or three months to garner enough points for a gift card.

Bing Rewards

My personal favorite of the moment, this one is all about Microsoft being so desperate for people to use its search engine that it bribes people to do so.

For every 30 web searches you do per day, you earn 15 points. Once you amount 350, you are in the money and can get one of those Amazon gift cards I adore so much. If you stay religious with the searches, you can easily nab a gift card every month, or save up your points for a couple months for better value.

You feel sorta bad for Microsoft, unless you realize that you are overpaying them for Xbox 360 games, Windows 8 computers and Microsoft Office. Then you get over the guilt pretty quickly. Just like with the Nigerian prince, who I’m starting to think may have not been on the level with me.

Published or updated on October 8, 2013

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About Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal writes Funny Money weekly for Money Under 30. He lives in Tucson and works for the Arizona Daily Star. He's also an author, blogger and Twitterer.


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  1. Clara says:

    I use eRewards as well, they have a couple of gift card rewards like American Eagle too. Another easy website is Recyclebank, where you just click through some lessons on recycling and energy conservation and earn points. You can also earn points if you recycle at a sponsored location, but even if you just do the lessons on their website you will rack up plenty of points. Most of the rewards here are free magazine subscriptions, but if you are ever vacationing in the Florida Keys there are a lot of coupons for there too for some reason. Between the two I never pay for magazine subscriptions. I’ll have to try out Swagbucks and Bing rewards though it sounds like!

  2. Alex says:

    I’ve used eRewards for some time now. I’ve taken probably hundreds of surveys and I spend a bit of time every week using it, but it seems to pay off. Over the past couple years I’ve cashed in on multiple magazine subscriptions and around $125 worth of Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards. Most surveys can be done by phone so I’ll do them while riding the bus to and from work.

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