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For those looking to make money in an easily accessible way, apps provide plenty of avenues to consider. You can use your smartphone to take surveys, pick up a side gig, sell your unwanted stuff and more.
Here’s the scoop on seven free money-making apps. NerdWallet considered apps with at least four stars and 25,000 reviews in both Google Play and the iOS App Store.
The best money-making apps
How it works: Ibotta lets you earn cash back on in-store and online purchases at over 1,500 brands and retail chains. Originally for groceries, it has expanded to include clothing, entertainment, pet supplies and other categories. Offers can be product or retailer-specific — and some will automatically be applied. For others, you’ll need to complete an additional task such as watching a video or taking a poll.
There are three possible ways to earn cash back in stores: Add offers and submit your receipt in the app after your shopping trip, link your retailer loyalty accounts or purchase a retailer gift card through the Ibotta app. For online purchases, you shop through the app or website.
Payment: PayPal, gift card or direct to a bank account.
Pros: You’ll receive cash back on in-store purchases quickly — typically within 24 hours. Ibotta also offers up to a $20 welcome bonus, referral bonuses and variety of payment methods.
Cons: Making money can be a slow process. You must have at least $20 in cash back to redeem your earnings (or $25 for certain gift cards). For online shopping, the pending period for earning cash back varies by retailer. But for some, it can take several months to get credit for your purchase. For example, at the time of this writing, the pending period for Macys.com is up to 90 days.
How it works: Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) rewards shoppers with up to 40% cash back on purchases from well-known retailers, restaurants and food delivery services. Users can also earn cash back on travel, gift cards and more. It’s straightforward: Create an account, tap on the deal you want in the app, then make the transaction through the portal. You can also link a credit or debit card to your Rakuten account to earn cash back in-store — as long as you activate the deal through the app first. Rakuten credits the cash back to your account after it confirms the purchase with the retailer, which it says can take a few hours to several days.
Payment: PayPal or check.
Pros: Thousands of stores and purchases are eligible for cash back, so you’ll likely find deals where you already shop. You can also earn sign-up and referral bonuses.
Cons: As with most cash-back services, you have to spend money to earn money. You won’t see your earnings right away, either; Rakuten sends out payments every three months, and you need at least a $5 cash-back balance to get paid.
How it works: Swagbucks is a cash-back and rewards app. You earn points, called "SB," by shopping, taking polls, watching videos, playing games or fulfilling other tasks through Swagbucks. You can redeem those points for gift cards or get cash back to your PayPal account. The total points awarded can vary by task. For example, surveys are typically worth about 40 to 200 SB points each. The minimum balance required to redeem depends on the payout option you choose, but some gift cards are available for as low as 140 SB.
Payment: Gift card or PayPal.
Pros: Swagbucks offers many easy ways to earn rewards, and there’s no waiting period to cash in. Payments usually arrive within 10 business days after redemption. You can also get a $10 bonus with a qualifying $25 purchase when you join.
Cons: It doesn’t pay much; one SB is worth about a cent. With many tasks valued at pennies, it can take a fair amount of time and effort to make substantial money. Additionally, you won’t qualify for every survey or task. Users often report getting kicked out of surveys in the middle of taking them. This can be due to demographics or dishonest or inconsistent answers, according to Swagbucks.
How it works: Fiverr is a freelancing marketplace that features gigs in over 200 categories, such as programming and video and animation. You create a profile as a "seller" highlighting your expertise. Then, post the gig you’re offering, which will include pricing and a description of your services. Clients, known as "buyers," can click through and place orders. You’ll get paid once you complete the job. Fiverr assigns seller levels based on performance. As you move up each tier, you’ll be able to sell more “extras,” such as a faster delivery time.
Payment: PayPal, direct to a bank account or credit to a Fiverr Revenue Card (a prepaid card). Minimum withdrawal amounts vary and you may be charged a withdrawal fee, depending on which option you choose.
Pros: You don’t have to worry about tracking down buyers because they come to you. You can also earn tips.
Cons: Fiverr takes 20% of your earnings for every gig, including tips, and there’s a standard 14-day waiting period to withdraw money after completing an order.
How it works: Upwork connects freelancers to gigs in writing, design, marketing and other categories on the marketplace. First, you’ll create a profile. It should include information such as the field you’re interested in plus your qualifications, availability and desired rate. Then, you can submit proposals. Clients will review them and offer projects if you seem like a good fit. You’ll pay a small sum for each submission, but you won’t be charged when clients contact you. You can get paid on an hourly or per-project basis.
Payment: Directly to your bank account, wire transfer, Instant Pay, PayPal and Payoneer. Charges apply to some payment options, so be sure to check Upwork for details.
Pros: Upwork helps take the work out of seeking out clients, establishing relationships and getting paid. The service also gives you the flexibility to set your preferred rate and schedule.
Cons: The app is free to download, but initiating contact with clients costs money. Users also get charged a service fee. Upwork takes a 5% to 20% cut of your earnings based on how much you’ve billed a client. The more you earn, the more you get to keep. However, you won’t get paid until 10 days after the billing period ends. Remember, too, that you’re competing with other freelancers on the platform. That means clients may choose those who’ve set lower rates.
How it works: OfferUp, which recently combined with competitor Letgo, functions as a local marketplace you can use to sell your stuff. If you want to reach a broader audience, OfferUp also allows shipping within the continental United States. Create an account and snap a picture of your smartphone, car, sofa or whatever it is you’re selling. Once you add a title, description and price, you can post your listing and chat with buyers directly through the app. Then, you'll ship to or arrange a meeting with the buyer. [Note: If you decide to pursue this during the pandemic, follow proper cleaning and hygiene guidelines.]
Payment: Cash or deposit to debit card or bank account.
Pros: Creating a listing is simple and fast, and you’ll get paid instantly when you make a cash sale. You can also view a prospective buyer’s reviews and ratings to get an idea of how trustworthy they are beforehand. If you ship your item, the buyer pays the cost, and OfferUp provides the label.
Cons: You’re responsible for meeting local buyers in person and handling transactions. Sellers must pay a 12.9% service fee, or a minimum of $1.99, for shipments.
How it works: The Poshmark app is tailor-made for selling clothes and accessories. After signing up, you take or upload photos of your item, fill out a description, price it and share the listing. You can also feature items in the app’s "Posh Parties," which are virtual shopping events centered around particular brands, categories and themes. Poshmark emails you a prepaid shipping label once a purchase is made. Then, you send the package.
Payment: Check or direct deposit to a bank account.
Pros: Poshmark facilitates the entire process, from selling to shipping. Plus, you don’t have to meet with strangers to make a sale. The company will cover lost packages and handle issues between you and the buyer. Getting paid is relatively quick, too; Poshmark issues the money within three days of the buyer receiving the order.
Cons: You’ll pay a fee for selling through Poshmark. The company takes a $2.95 commission for sales under $15 and a 20% commission for sales of $15 or above.