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The Best Mystery Shopping Companies to Work For
Mystery Shopping

by - January 31, 2010 - 64 Comments

I love to mystery shop. Well, I love to shop. So the fact that I get paid to shop makes it even better. For those of you who aren’t familiar with mystery shopping it is a job where a company pay you to pose like a regular customer and then provide feedback to the company on things like how clean the store was or how well the employees interacted with you. In exchange for your feedback they pay you a fee and in most cases they will ask you to make a purchase and will reimburse you up to a set dollar amount.

I’ve been mystery shopping since I was 16 and have done many types of shops. I’ve been asked to pretend like I’m shopping for a car – took a test drive and everything plus earned myself a cool $60 for each dealership I went to that day. More commonly I’m asked to shop local grocery stores, fast food establishments, and restaurants. I’m usually paid $8-$15 per location plus reimbursement for my purchases. Usually I can make an extra $400-$500 a month in mystery shopping. You can, of course, make more if you are willing to dedicate the time.

If you have seen articles out there about mystery shopping before you no doubt know that there are a lot of scammers that are trying to take advantage of the growing popularity in mystery shopping as a second job. NEVER pay money to a mystery shopping company to join. NEVER pay money to a company to see their list of jobs. There are real mystery shopping companies that are free to join and I’m going to share a few of my favorites.

I have shopped for all of these companies and I love them! All of these are free to join:

Best Mark
Sinclair Customer Metrics
Market Force
Experience Exchange

After your application is approved, you simply login in to their website and then select the jobs you want to do. They provide you with all of the instructions and then after you have completed the shop you will need to enter your feedback into their website. Some pay via direct deposit, but most will mail you a check at the end of the month. Pretty easy, huh?

I’d love for folks to post in the comments if you have mystery shopped before and if you have any other companies you have worked for successfully.

Good Luck Penny Hoarders!

  • Anonymous

    I've done a couple shops for http://www.beyondhello.com They were clear on what they needed and prompt with their payments. Good luck!

  • HI! I’m Kyle Taylor.

    Thanks for the tip!

    I just checked it out and it looks like a good company. They have the online job board as well which I really like because you just click the jobs you want and it adds it to your assignment list.
    Those are the best companies…

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Kyle for the post… I've heard about this before and was wondering more about it. Your article answered a lot of questions for me about this. I've seen some of these on craigslist as well, but I was worried about scammers and stuff. Have you found that these companies pretty much have the mystery shopping industry nailed down in terms of coverage? Should I even bother with the craigslist listings?

    Thanks for any help!

    Tim D.

  • Kyle Taylor

    @Anonymous – Hmm…I have seen those Craigslist listings as well and in my opinion they are usually a scam. Scammers post those ads to collect email addresses or direct you to a program where you have to pay to get the name of the mystery shopping companies. My advice is always to sign up directly with the companies and never pay to sign up.

  • The Saved Quarter

    I've had really good luck with Jobslinger.com as a mystery shopping aggregater. I've done shops with Kern, Intelli-shop, and Beyond Hello, among others.

  • Moneymakergal

    Great post! I have also tried mystery shopping, but it was a while ago, and now I am eager to get back to it, so this was very helpful, thanks!

  • John

    Wow, thanks for this list. Up until now I though mystery shopping was just that…a mystery! I remember applying at a few companies some years ago and they all turned out with a catch. So good to know there's genuine ones out there, though I wonder how limited the jobs are for a given location….?

  • http://www.dom-mody.pl Dom mody

    I appreciate your work on this info, this is certainly useful – thanks.


    momsoffaith.com has legit lists of MS companies

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  • http://spaindgirl.bravejournal.com Selma Bonneau

    How can I get your images to show on my Blackberry?

    • The Penny Hoarder

      Hi Selma,

      We are working on developing a mobile version of The Penny Hoarder right now. The iPhone version debuted a couple of days ago and I hope to have it ready for Blackberry by the end of the week.

      Thanks for being a reader!

  • Shannon

    I can tell you that Mystery shopping does pay! I use Bestmark right now and have expanded to Intell-ishop and looking for more. Mystery shopping is a great way to make some extra money, so give it try. Just a word of caution, only use companies that are BBB certified.

  • Mary

    Hi, I work for Market Force and Best Mark, and also a really wonderful company called Corporate Research International which I love! I have been doing mystery shopping for about 6 months and it really helps out every month. There are some legit companies out there! The first few you do makes you a little nervous but they are mostly easy to do and fun!

  • http://www.tomfit247.com/2013/09/weight-and-fat-loss-supplements.html Tommy@Getting Fit

    Thanks for the information I have considered doing mystery shopping before but was worried about getting scammed.

  • Jodi

    How do they deal with W-2 or taxes?

    • Kyle Taylor

      Hi Jodi -

      Most of them send you a 1099 at the end of the year. In fact, if you earn more than $600 a year with them, they are required to send you one…


  • charity

    I am a young widow with two little kids and would love to make extra money. I am currently going to school. If these companies are legit I will be so happy. Thanks for your blog.

  • Aimee

    I LOVE MYSTERY SHOPPING. I started May 2013 and I really like the freedom I have choosing where to shop and the type of shops available. One of my favorite companies is Maritzmysteryshopping.com. Last month I made just $500 from them alone plus I work for several other companies. I am an INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR so what I do is what I WANT to do. :)

    • Raudel Perez

      So you made 500 ontop of the money reimbursed from any of your purchases? Or how does that work?

  • Tiffany Vanick

    I joined Benchmark and it says because I clicked audit as well, that I may not be contacted for some time. Do you do both? Are they referring to contacting me for audit’s only or for mystery shopping as well? Thanks.

  • dw

    I have never mystery shopped. I have never found a legitimate company. But after reading your blog I will. I just stumbled across your blog and I am so glad I found it. As a wife and mom I am always looking for ways to stretch a dollar or make a few more lol. This is an awesome blog!

  • EKKW

    What are you thoughts on companies that are requiring you to provide your SSN when signing up? Also, do they require it, in order to be paid out?

  • http://www.marketforce.com/become-a-mystery-shopper/ Jessica

    Do all the applications require SSN#?

    • Kyle Taylor

      Usually. They need to be able to send you a 1099 at the end of the year for tax purposes.

  • http://BestMark Jenny

    I have mystery shopped for Best Mark before. It is a very good company to work for and you get paid within a couple of weeks. No minimum for a check, either.

  • http://www.tysfreebies.weebly.com Tyrone Bush

    I have done a couple of mystery shops for strategicreflections.com and really like them. I have no complaints with them. It does take about a month and a half to get your money though.

  • jeff maloy

    I have seen somewhere that in Nevada or at least Las Vegas in order to be a mystery shopper you have to have a private detective liciense.Does anyone know more about this??

    • Donna

      Hi Jeff,
      I lived in Las Vegas and did a lot of jobs for Market Force and had no problems and did not need a private detective license. Good Luck.

  • Steph

    I clicked on the very first company you mentioned (best mark) and then clicked on the Bbb (better business) icon to see if they were legit. The only thing is that when I went to the BBB “page” I couldn’t navigate through their website or click on any of their icons. Is it a fake page? Also, there was an alert about the company sending out fraudulent checks. I sincerely hope this isn’t one big scam that you get paid for to get other people to sign up for things. Just a curiosity if those companies are actually good or just seem that way because you don’t have to pay for them.

    • Kyle Taylor

      Hey Steph -

      Yes, unfortunately, this is becoming common with the mystery shopping companies. Scammers set up a fake website/company with a similar name and use the real businesses’ good reputation to scam people. Just navigate directly to Bestmark’s site and you’ll be fine – BestMark.com


  • wifeandmom

    Hi, I stumbled across this article when I was reading the artical about saving money when youlive paycheck to paycheck. I’m not currently workinwhile I’m expexpecting. I always thought being a mistery shopper would be cool but could never find some thing that was real so yhis article really helped. Which company would you recommend to start with as a first time shopper. I also wanted to share info about a company I will be doing work for as an independant contractor soon. My mother did it and its a great way to earn extra cash. Its called leapforce. I believe it is owned by google. It pays about 13/hr. To evaluate websites and youtube post for various different companies. Now there are many many tasks that are really short. You can do it in your spare time or you can make it a full time job. You do have to take and pass a test to do so. And you can only take it once so you must read all of the material first. The only down fall is they pay once a month but hey if ypu work 40 hrs getting 2000 in your acct once a month is awesome. It really does pay. My mother did it when she was between jobs. Even if you do the bare minimum you can still get some good extra cash doing it.worth checking out.

    • Kyle Taylor

      Hey Megan -

      Any of the ones I listed above are good to try your first shop. There are over 100 mystery shopping companies, but the ones listed above are some of the biggest, so you’ll have more shops to choose from.


  • Gloria G.

    I am living on SSI and don’t have money for groceries, toilet paper, etc for a large chunk of the time. Thus I just can’t put out the money for restaurant meals or store purchases, even if I’ll be reimbursed later. Do you have any suggestions for ways someone could earn money without having to put any out?I find most survey sites ask you to sign up for “offers” that entail spending money. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

  • Desiree

    Hi ! Great article. I want to start mystery shopping a.d if i could eventually do it full time and quit my job, that would be great! I have two questions: first, you said they send you 1099 tax forms at the end of the year, this worries me because I don’t want to get stuck owing a bunch to the IRS. Did you find yourself paying a ton at tax time when you were doing this full time? Second, I currently work in retail at a major retail store. Does this cause a conflict of interest and prevent me from getting accepted through these companies ?

  • Simon

    Thanks for the article Kyle, and thanks for the list! I have been a mystery shopper for 2 years now, and I love it. For the past year, I’ve been doing assignments I found via a mystery shopping company called SQM ( http://goo.gl/CwLkck ). Did mystery shopping for several pizza restaurants. I absolutely love pizza, and it’s great to get it for free or get reimbursed, especially as a starving student! :P I also did many other restaurants; some of them were fancy. The actual evaluation is online, so you can do it quickly. I find places close to school or work to evaluate so I don’t have to travel; works out really well. I have even done dates in a restaurant and didn’t pay anything! It’s actually amazing that you are getting paid for this, but I guess this kinda market research is important for companies, so you are doing a service to them by evaluating their actual customer service. Another good thing about signing up for a mystery shopping company is that they sometimes give you calls, asking if you are interested in an assignment or not, so you don’t have to hunt for deals yourself.

  • Dawn

    Would love to start right away but I don’t have a clue where to begin is it certain stores and then how do they know you really done it .

  • Barbi T

    Hi Kyle,

    This article is very informative. I will definitely check out the MS sites you listed. Do you know of any companies that pay you to shop apartment communities? That’s the industry I’m in and something I’ve often thought would be fun to MS.

    Thanks again for the info.

  • SWJenn

    Desiree – yes, you will owe taxes on the money. It’s best to put about a third aside for that purpose. I mystery shopped for several years for Verizon, and made between $400-$600/month. That adds up over a year, and can tip you into another tax bracket. You are required by law to either have enough withheld to cover what you will owe, or to make quarterly payments so that you don’t end up owing huge at the end of the year. We just adjusted the withholding from hubby’s paycheck to cover what we expected to owe, and used the money I was making to make up the difference. So it’s a good idea to keep a running total on what you’ve earned, and to look ahead to what that will do to your taxes and adjust withholding from another job or make quarterly payments to the IRS so you don’t find yourself in a tight place.

  • Lori

    Dear Kyle,
    This article was very informative and very helpful. Thank you so much! If you had to pick your favorite company to work for who would it be? I just signed up with Best Mark.

    Thank you again so much for the info!!!

  • Lisa

    Hello Kyle,

    I just signed up for Best Mark and Marketforce and almost a day later I was approved, signed up, and browsing for shops in my area (some are fast food places right up the street from my house!). I’m so excited! I was surprised because I thought someone was going to call me and interview. I had a question about the other companies you listed. Are they as simple to sign up and/or do they require some type of formal training?

    • Kyle Taylor

      Hi Lisa -

      Awesome! Let me know if you run into any questions along the way. :)

      Yes, most are that easy. However, some mystery shopping companies require you to read the instructions and then take a quiz assuring you understand what you’re supposed to do. I know Mysteryshops.org makes you do a pretty tough quiz before each shop.


  • J

    When can we expect an update to this article, and do you still mystery shop?

  • sara

    What type of ms pays the most? Apartments? Restaurant? Does it make a difference? Thanks!

  • Victoria

    I have done jobs for Best Mark for oil changes for our vehicle. we get reimbursed for the oil change and / or tire rotation plus $20.00 extra for our time (that is for a local dealership) if you travel farther you can get more so if you are on vacation and you need an oil change you can set it up and you get $45.00 or more plus your expenses up to a set amount.

    • Lisa


      Do you find that BestMark only offers vehicle shops? That’s all I’ve seen so far in my area. I own a Toyota so I have not been able to do a shop for them yet.

  • Chau

    Are you required to have a job to apply for mystery shopping?

    • Kyle Taylor

      Nope. :)


  • Joanne

    I am a waitress we are mystery shopped a few times a year and than some. If you are going to do this please be honest with your answers, we have about 10% of mystery shoppers that are doing this to support a habit and they put down crappy and dishonest answers because they don’t care!! But your answers definitely do affect us employees!!! We have families too! So please just be honest with your answers. Thanks Joanne

  • Danielle

    Dear Joanne,

    I’m so sorry to hear that there is a small percentage of mystery shoppers doing deliberate evil. I am just getting started since my divorce due to the fact that my ex husband lied in court, stole our family business, money, cheated, let 2 pets die and constantly threatens to not pay the very small support the court ordered him to pay. My point is that I’ve learned that there is about 6%-10% of the population that has very serious mental disorders and sadistically enjoy tormenting others. I am hopeful that you will have kind and compassionate individuals evaluate you in the future, so that it will be evident that your effort and hard work has been gravely misrepresented.

  • Danielle

    PS~ Joanne… A few of the serious disorders I mentioned in my last post would include Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths. Possibly you can bring this fact to your manager’s attention and the 90% positive reviews will make your point clear. My ex tampers with my cars and stalks me too. Unfortunately, these evil people bring chaos into the lives of everyone they encounter… I wish you the best.

  • Rosi

    I apllied for shadow shopper but they want to charge nme to upgrade the membership. Anybody knows anything about them?

    • Kyle Taylor

      Don’t do it! You should never have to pay a mystery shopping company. There are a ton of legitimate ones and that isn’t one of them.


  • Robin

    I have mystery shopped for almost 2 years now. Love it. Only had 1 issue with a company that I worked for for over year and a half and that was totally unexpected, not getting paid and not anwering my emails on when to expect payment. I had to buy specified items and then get re-imbursed and paid on top of it. So I reported them to the government board that takes care of unpaid wages. I suddenly got a payment for just over half of what I was owed and told the rest was coming. I am staying on top of it as I need the money. I have had no problems with anyone else. These are legit jobs but you have to do what they ask you to do.

  • cara

    For those leery about giving a SSN, get yourself an EIN.

  • MAY

    i just signed up at Best mark and I have to say, I’m a little nervous when it comes to performing my first shop. any tips?

    • MAY

      also, some of the other sites you mentioned ask for your SSN. is that procedure and is it safe?

      • Shawn

        i’ve recently started with intelli-shop. it seems like they mostly deal with car dealerships but they pay between $25-$30. i normally pick those b/c they pay well if you do 4/week. they pay on time as well. just got my first payment a couple days ago. my advice is to start with the companies mentioned in the article.. there’s a lot of spam places but these are legit.

  • Rob Lacey; Irish Wolf

    y pay. The survey itself took nearly I’ve done mystery shopping for several years with Bestmark and some others not listed and I’ve never seen shops on the job boards offering the kind of money you’re talking about. Auto shopping jobs pay only $20, which to me is not worth the time because the end-of-shop surveys have several specific information input requirements that require prolonged interaction with a sales person to get the information that the companies for which the shops are presented. One of the most important aspects of this type of shop is that you have to talk to the sales people as if you are in the market for buying…trying to end the interactions without raising suspicions is rather difficult…I’ve got spine injuries that cause me severe pain after sitting up for a certain length of time and even though I told the salesman this as an excuse to end the interaction without going through the entire negotiation process and he STILL used every delay tactic he could think of to get me to stay and close the deal. Even when I finally had to become insistent that I could no longer endure Tue pain caused by sitting upright, stood up and started walking out, he was still trying his hardest to get me to stay! I had to become a bit rude to stop his pressuring tactics! By the time I left my back was killing me and I had a headache because of my neck injury…then when I got home I had to fill out the survey before midnight or lose the money for the shop, which took nearly an hour. needless to say, I was in a boatload of pain when I completed the entire process and decided that $20 is NOT worth that kind of pain and aggravation!

    Additionally, not one single restaurant mystery shop that I’ve seen pays shoppers anything other than reimbursement for the meal up to a certain point. @ May, most reputable mystery shopping companies require a social security number and most will not pay people for shops until the supply the info. I’ve never encountered a problem from giving to the info.

    • Cyd

      I just got paid 40 for a dealership shop…I was there maybe 30 minutes and the survey after wasn’t but may another 30 minutes on top of that. And for the two restaraunts I just done I was paid $12 and reimbursement for my meal. Not being rude and I sympathize with your pain. But maybe you shouldn’t put yourself in those situations if they bother so much. I mean the man said that it’s not a fortune made. But because you had a bad experience doesn’t mean that you should rant about it and ruin it for others. You know what the job is before you do it. If it’s not worth it to you…then simply don’t do it :)

      • Rob Lacey; Irish Wolf

        I am pleased for you that secret shopping seems to pay double in your area than it does in mine, as no auto dealer shops here ever pay more than $20 and restaurant shops never pay a fee…they only reimburse for one’s order up to specified limits. My ‘rant’ as you call it is nothing more than an alternative viewpoint on mystery shopping from the one supplied by the article. If the shops here paid as much as you claim to earn, or were as frequent as yours seem to be, I would have a much different opinion as to the value of my time spent collecting the required information! In the mean time, I have just as much right as you or anyone else to voice my opinion here. I mean, nothing stopped you from touting off in criticism of my opining regarding the state of mystery shopping in my area. The aspect that you appear to have missed is the actual point of my statement…no, my words are not meant to ‘ruin it for others’ of you, they are nothing more than food for thought for others in apparently undervalued areas. If my stated opinion reaches other secret shoppers in parts of the country where mystery shopping pays so much less than in other areas, then perhaps like-minded individuals will play a parts in effecting change in that shops here will be valued as they are elsewhere.

  • Monica Radice Elwood

    I’ve done work for Market Force for almost ten years, and it’s fun. In general, a good shopper can only expect to make $10 per hour, which won’t make you rich, but is a lot better than nothing! And with MF, get on their good side and they’ll offer you bonuses to fill last minute assignments. I’ve done that several times.

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