You can’t go online for long — especially in the PF blogosphere — without hearing something about reward programs. They sound alluring, but are they any good? Here is some information on the programs that I think are worthwhile.

 

Swagbucks

This is the program I have tried for the shortest period of time, but it’s also my favorite! It’s easy and addictive. Soon, you want to win Swagbucks just because it’s a fun to see on the screen.
It’s strange, but it’s also immediate, positive feedback. Tim and I both got stuck in the habit of saying, “Yay! Swagbucks!” when we get one. Silly, but fun!

How it works:

Perform searches through Swagbucks (or the search engine toolbar) and be randomly awarded swagbucks. The denominations vary, but generally you’ll get 10. In addition, there are near-daily “swagcodes” given out on the blog or elsewhere. Check the Swagbucks widget on the front page to see if there are any current codes.

As your account total builds, you can cash your SB in for various goods. Really, the best bang for your buck is the Amazon $5 gift card. It costs only 450 SB. You can make this quickly, and there’s always something to buy on that site.

My results: Beyond belief. I saved enough Amazon GCs to buy Tim a PSP for Christmas. The next big purchase is an iPod Touch. Of course, I reach these high goals with the help of referrals from readers like you. So if you can get one or two people to join, you will earn faster.

Even if you don’t have referrals, though, you’ll get rewards pretty quickly. Just doing searches and swagcodes, I get 3-5 swagbucks a day. On really bad days, I still get 2-3.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like much, but 2 SB a day means an Amazon GC every 22 days. That’s over $80 in gift cards per year, even assuming the worst!

Tips:

  • The best tip I can give you is to download the toolbar and search for every website you go to. Even if you know the URL, take the extra 3-5 seconds and look it up first.
  • If you don’t want to endlessly check the widget about swagcodes, become a fan of Swagbucks on Facebook. If you see a lot of people saying, “Thanks TSG [The Swag Guy]” you’ll know there’s probably a code floating around.
  • Once you start doing well, mention it to friends, family or your own blog readers and see if you can accrue some referrals. It will boost your earnings!
  • There are other ways to earn swagbucks — shop & earn, special offers, etc — but I wouldn’t recommend them. Other programs offer much better incentives.
  • The only exception, perhaps, is the cell phone recycling program. If you have ones sitting around anyway, you might as well mail them in for some swagbucks.

 

MyPoints:

I have officially been using this program for 10 years. Kind of startling to realize, I admit, but it’s been a great decade! I’ve used the gift cards in so many ways. One Christmas, my aunt and uncle (who love gardening) got a $25 Home Depot gift card. Amazon GCs financed several Marvel-themed T-shirts that Tim wanted for Christmas. My mom and I hoarded points for over a year, then cashed them in for about $200 in Wal-Mart cards. We took these to Sam’s Club and bought all the food for my wedding.

The sheer number and diversity of merchants on this site is simply astounding: restaurants, Visa gift cards, salons, department stores, e-tailers, and plenty of others. There’s something for everyone!

How it works:

The basic premise is pretty simple: Earn points, redeem for gift cards. Just by filling out a profile, you’ll earn 250 points.

Probably my favorite part of this program is that there are just so many ways to earn points: reading email, using coupons, shop & earn, special offers, searches, referrals and more.

In my opinion, the best points come from reading emails. I say “best” because they’re free and easy to get. I receive at least 2-3 emails a day. One is usually an announcement, but the others will net me 5 points. If you open the Surveymail, you’ll get at least 10 points. (If you qualify, you’ll get 50.) In all, I get over 100 points a week (usually closer to 150) just from reading my emails. Since $10 gift cards cost 1500-1800 points, you’re looking at quick and easy rewards!

My second favorite route is using coupons. It seems almost too good to be true. You get points for being frugal. But the program works. Go to Coupons.com through MyPoints, print out coupons. Each one will get you 10 points. If you redeem 10 or more each month, you get a bonus 25 points.

 

Tips:

  • While you can earn points by shopping, I would recommend against it. The cash-back sites (discussed later) tend to offer a much better return.
  • I’m not a big fan of the special offers. They are alluring because they offer a lot of points. But most of them are trial offers, so if you’re not organized, you’ll get dinged.
  • If you are hell-bent on doing the special offers, mark the deadline for cancellation on your calendar.
  • There is one time when the special offers are worthwhile. That’s when you’re signing up for services you actually want. When Tim and I moved, we signed up for DirecTV and got 5,000 points. That’s nearly enough for a $50 gift card.
  • If you decide to do the search program, be sure to click through on one of the links. You won’t get credit for the search, otherwise.

Inbox Dollars

Okay, I admit it: I play favorites. Inbox Dollars is lower on my list than the other two. But, in some ways, it’s actually superior.

How it works:

First of all, Inbox Dollars pays cash. That’s always a plus. There is a payment threshold: $30. You can’t request a check before then. But the site also starts you off with $5, just for signing up. That’s a lot more than Swagbucks or MyPoints offer new members.

Like MyPoints, Inbox Dollars gives you rewards for reading emails. You get 2 cents per email, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But most frugal people know: Pennies add up. (Of my first check, which was $41.54, $18.58 came from emails.)

You can also get paid for shopping and trial offers. If you refer anyone, you will receive money based on the rewards they complete. (It does not take away from the amount your referrals receive. It’s only based on how much they get.)

Probably the best deal, though, are the surveys. Inbox Dollar’s surveys will net you 50 cents each. That means that you only have to qualify for one a day, and you can get $30 every two months!

Tips:

  • The same caveats exist for this as for the others. Don’t get too frisky with the special offers unless you’re very organized. Also, be sure to keep up on your emails. They will expire.
  • If you don’t qualify for one survey, you can keep trying on a few more. So don’t give up too easily.
  • Once you get your first check, you’re officially a Gold Member. I’ve only recently gotten around to requesting my check, so I can’t say much about it yet. I’ll report back if I notice an uptick in referral rewards — which is one of the main, hyped benefits.

Surveyhead

This is a cool little site that you need to visit daily. It’s easy to understand, concise and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Some days, you won’t qualify for anything. But most days that I sign on, I can get at least one survey done. That’s $1 a day, minimum. I recently qualified for three in a row and got $4.50. And I was filling out the surveys in and around other tasks!

How it works:

Go and sign up. You get $5 for signing up, plus a little money for filling out your profile in various areas of interest.

Once that’s done, it’s just a matter of signing in daily and checking what surveys are available. The payout ranges, usually, between $1-3. Most surveys take 20 minutes or less.

It’s easy to get going. Sign in to the site, then you’ll be taken to the dashboard. There, you’ll see a list of surveys, the odds that you’ll qualify, the time each survey takes and the payout. You can choose which ones you want to try first.

You probably won’t qualify for a survey every day. But at $1 (or more) a shot, you can get to a payout pretty quickly. That said, the main drawback of this site is the actual time til payout. My request was pending for what seemed to be an inordinately long time. I know it was over a month. So don’t wait until the last minute to try and get your money out of this program.

Tips:

  • It can be tempting to go for the highest payouts first. But remember that other surveys may disappear while you’re trying for these. So there’s not a lot of point in trying for the $5 one you have a 10% chance of getting, if there’s a $1-2 you have 90% chance of getting.
  • I start with the surveys I have the best chance of qualifying for. If the odds are the sameĀ  (or very close) on two or more surveys, I choose the one that pays more.


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