And so, let's start with the good, the bad, and the ugly of get-paid-to programs.
The good: Pay to Search
In 2008, I called pay-to-search programs potentially good; this not-so-optimistic assessment was based on programs that fizzled out about a decade ago. I then recommended a program that I thought would be the best bet. Sure enough, it never paid out and has since disappeared. (Obviously, any new program offers a substantial amount of risk that you might waste a whole lot of time for nothing.)
But now, I have found several programs that I know to be better than my previous recommendation:
- Swagbucks: As with most of the current search programs, this program allows you to build up points (called, appropriately enough, "swagbucks") that can be used in one of two ways. You can redeem for prizes such as Amazon gift cards, cash paid via Paypal, music, or many other items, or you can use your swagbucks to enter into drawings for larger prizes. As for me, I generally choose the Paypal option, and so far (and I can prove this if you're skeptical), I have been paid $110 just for using this site instead of Google to do most of my searching. Now, you won't get swagbucks for every search, but you can win them occasionally for searching, in some cases up to three or four times a day, depending on how much you search. The site also gives out codes (or hides them and gives out clues) which can be entered for extra free swagbucks. This site is highly recommended.
- Bing Rewards: This has become my alternate search site. It is in a preview until the end of the year. I think it only runs on Internet Explorer, which is another reason why I don't use it too much, but you can build up credits which you can use for prizes. Occasionally the Bing Bar (which I know only runs on IE) will show you easy clicks for extra credits. There aren't any cash rewards available here, but there are many gift cards (including, among others, Amazon, Starbucks, iTunes, etc.) available for the taking. (So far I have not redeemed for anything.)
- Irazoo: This was my alternate site, but it's kinda weird. Like Swagbucks, you can occasionally earn points via searching. Also, you can earn a small amount of points simply by recommending the search results. Again, no cash withdrawals are available, but you can earn Amazon gift cards or other items (like, for example, a Wii, if you want to save up your points for a very, very long time). I hear that occasionally the Amazon cards take a while to be delivered, but as I have not redeemed yet, I cannot verify this. (I do have enough points for $35 in Amazon cards, if I decide to go that route.)
- Zoombucks: Not as highly recommended because zoombuck wins occur much less often, in my experience, than in, for example, Swagbucks. But if you've just had a win in the other programs and maxed out your Bing Rewards for the day, you may as well use this. What else will you use, Google? They won't give you anything.
Well, maybe that's an overstatement. Paid surveys, depending on the program, can be good, but there are some programs that can only be described as terrible. Some survey programs will give you surveys that are incredibly long, tedious, and repetitive, only to tell you at the end that you did not qualify. (I believe SurveySpot falls into that category.) Worse yet, some programs will promise some incentive for finishing the survey but won't deliver, instead giving you a sweepstakes entry. (Toluna has done that to me more than once, but they will give you the actual incentive if you hold on to all documentation and harass them about it. Toluna has, in fact, paid me $40...after I harassed them about an incentive I was supposed to get.)
But here are the programs that are...if not good, than better than the ones I just mentioned:
- SurveySavvy: This is the only program I can think of right now that not only pays cash but doesn't have a minimum required before cashout. (With that said, it probably isn't going to help anyone to continally request $1.00 checks.) Their surveys are pretty quick, and they are pretty good about disqualifying users early on, so you don't waste a lot of time with a survey that won't pay out.
- DollarSurveys: As might be expected from the name, most of their surveys pay out $1.00. They pay directly to PayPal. But be aware: some of their "surveys" are actually activities such as signing up for other programs that may cost money.
- MySurvey: They acquired Lightstream, where I was a member, in the last year or two. Their survey opportunities, at least in my opinion, have gotten better since this acquisition. (I was previously a member of this site long ago, but my membership at that time lapsed.) You have to earn a fair amount of points to cash out, though.
- E-Poll: Another program in which you need to earn a fair amount of points to cash out. As I recall, though, you will not be disqualified from any surveys you receive with this program. However, some of their surveys are very tedious and take quite a while.
- Surveyhead: A large selection of surveys are available, but don't expect to qualify for most of them.
- Pinecone Research: I believe you have to find a difficult-to-locate banner to get to their registration process. However, once you do, you will receive an opportunity every so often to give your opinions on upcoming products. They pay very quickly via PayPal. If you can find a banner, get yourself into this program (assuming you're into this kind of thing to make money, and if not, why are you reading this?).
All of these survey programs have paid me at one time or another, so that's something.
The ugly: Everything else
There are a lot of other programs that promise to pay or otherwise reward you for your loyalty. Some of the newer ones are not as easily categorized as the old ones. For example, I don't know if I would place any of the newer programs into a "paid to read e-mail" category, though sometimes programs like SimpleGPT and Gifts4Points do still occasionally pay users to read e-mails (so long as you jump through the hoops). Of course, older programs like MyPoints and InboxDollars still do the traditional paid-to-read-email thing.
I put paid-to-read programs into the "ugly" category, though, because some of these programs, especially the newer ones, can be flaky. I will say that all the programs in the previous paragraph have paid me as well, but not quickly.
And what else? Well, there's Sponsored Tweets for those tweeps who want to tweet (clearly marked) ads and get paid for it, or there's YouData, which is hoping to pay you for personalized advertising (as opposed to the large companies who just harvest your info and foist personalized ads on you in a rather creepy manner). There's also BeRuby, which...well, I don't know what it does anymore, but I think they still pay if you click certain links (or shop through their site).
Suffice it to say that there are many programs competing for your attention, all of which promise to make it worth your while if you play along with them. Some of them are worth it. Others...well, do your research if you choose to try to make a little extra this way.
And if you choose to try to make a little extra through these sites or others, best of luck to you.
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