Need Pocket Change?

Posted on 26. Apr, 2009 by in Income & Expenses

I don’t know if it’s just me, but lately I think I see far more get-rich-quick schemes on TV. Dean Graziosi just came out with a special real estate book for a down market (you can only buy it off TV) and I’m starting to see more of Donald Trump selling his seminar.  These programs offer a lot of promises, but they can’t guarantee much.  I don’t have a get-rich-quick scheme, but I do know of some ways to get some extra money without exerting much effort.  These won’t make you wealthy by any means, but it may take the edge off a little bit; maybe reward yourself with some ice cream or something.  What follows are a few ways to make some extra pocket change.  All you need is a computer and a little time.

Online Surveys: There are a myriad of companies that reward people for completing surveys.  Most surveys take from 10 to 30 minutes to complete; the time varies based on the number of questions and how quickly you can navigate through the questionnaire.  All you have to do is join a panel for one or more of the companies and you’ll start receiving surveys.  Most companies will have you fill out a profile questionnaire so they can send you specifically targeted surveys.  Each company rewards users differently from points to drawings to cash, and sometimes a mix of all three.  One thing to remember is that you should never pay to join a panel.  If a survey company is going to pay you money, there is no reason they should require money from you to join.

Because I used to work in the market research industry, finding this method of earning extra cash was pretty easy for me.  The key is finding the good companies.  Here are a few of the ones that I trust and that provide reasonable rewards:

Greenfield is the first panel I ever joined.  My first experience was negative.  I earned points for magazine subscriptions, the choices were lame, the magazines never came, and I kept getting charged for the subscription because of some auto-subscription deal.  I’ve given Greenfield another chance and they are much better now.  They’ve moved to giving cash for many surveys, plus entries into drawings for a larger cash prize.  So far I’ve had no issues.

Survey Spot is the second panel I ever joined.  Survey Spot has been the most consistent company in my experience.  Like Greenfield they offer cash on some surveys and entries into drawings on all surveys (you can qualify for the drawings even if you are disqualified from the survey).  I don’t have much hope for winning a drawing, so I tend to only do surveys if they specify a cash amount (usually between $2 and $5).  I’ve never had any issues with this company.

E-Rewards is yet another company I use pretty regularly.  I was introduced to them by somebody I knew who worked in market research and my experience has been pretty good.  To join the panel you do need to have a membership with one of their sponsor companies; for example I was able to join because I have a Borders Rewards card.  The rewards are essentially points, they call them dollars but you can only buy from their ‘catalog’ of goods.  Most of the rewards are magazine subscriptions.  Unlike my first experience, I actually get the magazines and they do not auto-renew.  The selection changes, but for the most part it’s a good selection.  There are various other  rewards, like airline miles for a number of different airlines or borders bucks.

MyPoints: MyPoints is a glorified advertising company.  You sign up and get points for reading email advertisements; all you have to do is click on a link to earn the points.  I get about 5 emails a day and I just click on the link and build up points.  You can also earn points by purchasing from a member site via the MyPoints website. The companies are reputable, like LL Bean, Barnes and Noble, and Old Navy to name a few.  I don’t buy much online and it takes me about 6 months of checking my email to earn a $25 gift card.  It’s not a big money maker, but the gift cards are easy presents for B-days and Christmas (nobody will ever know).

Mystery Shopping: I haven’t done any mystery shopping, but it is a legitimate business.  The basic premise is a company pays you to patronize their business and evaluate the experience.  You could be asked to visit a local McDonald’s and rate the service and food.  You will paid enough to cover costs if you are required to make a purchase, and often something extra for your inconvenience ($10-$15).  Mystery shopping has the potential of scams.  Recently a scam was exposed where folks were being asked to wire money using Western Union.  Any mystery shopping deal that promises high returns is a scam.  Mystery shopping is not lucrative!  It just takes the edge off a little.

Cha Cha: I was recently made aware of a company named Cha Cha.  It’s basically a search service for folks looking for quick answers to questions, but they don’t have convenient internet access (usually somebody with a cell phone that can text).  Cha Cha offers positions called Cha Cha Guides to look up the answers to the questions that come in.  The pay isn’t a huge money maker ($.10 – .15 per response), but it’s consistent and is likely more interesting than a number of other options.  Cha Cha provides an estimate that most people will make in the $5-9 per hour range.

You won’t be rolling in the dough or hangin’ with Donald Trump if you use these sources, but it will provide a little extra cash.  With any simple task, the returns won’t be huge, but they’ll be legit.  When high returns are promised, that should be a major red flag.  Most of this work is low skill with many willing people; i.e. low demand (relatively speaking) – high supply.  Smart Money has a nice little article on “work-from-home” scams that’s worth reading.  While I use some of the companies above and have found success with them, it’s still important to do your own research to make sure that you are comfortable with the requirements.  This is not an advertisement for any of the companies, just a starting point on where some extra cash can be made and legitimate sources.

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