ScoreCard Research Carrie Smith - The Penny Hoarder

Rebate sites are a popular way to earn cash, points or credits by simply doing your online shopping. You’re likely going to make these purchases anyway, so why not get a little something back at the same time?

All of these sites are free; they make money by earning a small commission of each purchase you make via their direct link. Then they pass a portion of these earnings on to you.


But with so many sites out there, which one should you use? Should you go with one that offers cash-back, or one that gives points you can redeem for gift cards? What about other special deals and coupons?

To help you determine which site is best for you, here’s a breakdown of how each one works, complete with information on the types of rewards, how often you get paid, and more.

1. Swagbucks

One of our favorite cash-back sites, Swagbucks pays you in points called "SBs” when you make a purchase from your favorite store using its links.

Generally speaking, you’ll earn 1 SB for every dollar you spend at participating stores. Other stores offer a flat number of SBs for any purchase.

For example, right now you can earn up to 7% at Amazon, 4% back at Walmart and 2% at Target.

The best way to utilize Swagbucks is to download the Swagbutton, that way you'll get an alert on your browser reminding you to get cash-back every time you're on a retailer's site.

You’ll see the SBs in your account within two to seven business days, and you can redeem them toward gift cards or coupons.

The closest thing to redeeming for cash is to choose PayPal gift cards. One SB is equal to one cent, so 100 SBs works out to $1.00.

You can choose to redeem your rewards at any time, as soon as you have enough SBs to earn the prize you want. Check out our guide to Swagbucks to learn more.

2. Ibotta

Earn cash-back rewards from Ibotta in several different ways:

  • Download the Ibotta app: This app lets you select product rebates and submit an in-store receipt to redeem them. When you’re shopping at Walmart, seeing a movie or eating at a restaurant, simply scan your receipt with the Ibotta app. The app verifies the purchase, which prompts a cash deposit into your Ibotta account within 48 hours.
  • Link a loyalty card from participating stores: Connecting your points cards from grocery stores, gas stations and local markets will earn you additional cash-back rewards. Before you go shopping, complete a list of simple tasks and then use your loyalty card or phone number at the checkout. You’ll see your rewards in your Ibotta account within two days.
  • Mobile in-app purchases: Before you shop, unlock cash back rewards on apps like Groupon. Right now, you can get between 2% and 10% on certain Groupon offers. Just launch the app from Ibotta, make the purchase and the cash back will pop up in your account within 48 hours.

Once your balance reaches $10 or more, you can transfer it to a PayPal or Venmo account. Or if you’d rather convert the cash rebates into gift cards, you can choose from Best Buy, Amazon or Starbucks.

You can earn Ibotta cash rewards even faster by connecting your Facebook account and asking your friends and family to do the same.

If they join through your link, they’ll automatically be added to your “team.” The bigger your team, the more rewards you’ll earn each month, including Teamwork bonuses for completing certain tasks together.

Click this link and referral code PENNY to get a $10 Welcome Bonus.

3. MyPoints

When you make an online purchase through MyPoints, you’ll earn a certain amount of points per dollar, depending on the store.

For example, buying online from Walmart currently earns you 8 points per dollar,

Your points will usually show up in your account within two to five business days, though it can take up to 30 days.

You can redeem them for a Visa prepaid card, a PayPal deposit, gift cards or frequent flyer points.

If you choose a physical gift card, it will usually arrive within two weeks, while an “e-gift card” will be in your inbox within 30 minutes. You should see frequent flyer points in your account within six to eight weeks.

In addition to earning points for online shopping, once you sign up for MyPoints you can add to your balance by filling out surveys, printing and redeeming coupons, referring friends or family members or playing games.

4. Ebates

Ebates offers up to 25% cash back at more than 1,200 online stores, though the average earnings are usually closer to 5%.

Search the site to find your favorite store, then click the “Shop Now” link to make your purchase. For example, you can get 6% cash back at Macy's and 3% back for certain Amazon categories.

Your cash-back earnings will show up in your account within 48 hours.

Ebates sends you a payment each quarter based on your account earnings of at least $5 or more. You have three options for redeeming your earnings: a check in the mail, a PayPal deposit, or a gift to a charity or family member.

You can earn a $5 bonus right off the bat by signing up as a new Ebates user or by referring a friend or family member.

5. TopCashback

TopCashback is a shopping platform that rewards you with cash back whenever you shop at one of its 4,000 partner retailers.

While other sites only give you a percentage of their commission, TopCashBack gives you the entire thing. There’s no minimum to get paid out, and you can request your money in the form of bank transfers, PayPal or gift cards.

For example, right now if you sign up and spend $10 at, TopCashback will reward you with another $10 in cash back.

6. BeFrugal

You can earn up to 30% cash back from more than 4,000 stores making purchases through this rebate site.

You’ll see your earnings in your account within a few days. Once your balance reaches $25 or more, you can request a payment via PayPal, gift card or by check (U.S. only). BeFrugal processes payments on the 15th of each month. PayPal deposits are immediate, while gift cards and checks take seven to 10 days to reach your mailbox.

If you make a purchase through the site and find another site that offers a higher percentage of cash back, it will apply the higher rate to your purchase plus an extra 25% to your account. It’s like price matching, but for cash-back rates!

For extra savings, you can also print off coupons for discounts at stores and restaurants.

"BeFrugal has coupons available for over 40,000 stores, and saves shoppers an average of $27 per order,” explains BeFrugal founder Jon Lal. Using a coupon or promo code doesn’t earn you additional cash back, but it does help you save money on items you planned to purchase anyway.

The site also has several handy calculators for determining whether or not it’s cheaper for you to fly or drive for your next trip. My husband and I use this calculator on a regular basis for saving money while we travel.

7. Coupon Cactus

The Coupon Cactus team offers cash-back rewards for every order that’s made through their site at participating online stores. Cash back earnings range from 1-30% -- some earnings are a flat rate of as much as $63.

Once your purchase is verified, your cash-back earnings are deposited into your Coupon Cactus account. When the balance reaches $10 or more, you can choose a PayPal payment or have a check issued on a quarterly basis.

In addition to earning cash back, you can browse coupons, discounts and sales at more than 4,000 stores and online retailers.

8. Extrabux

When you click through Extrabux to do your online shopping, you’ll earn a commission on your purchases.

The amount you earn per purchase varies from 1% to 30%, depending on the store. For example, right now they’re offering 6% cash back at Walgreens, 8% at Macy's and 8% at Kiehl’s.

You’ll see your earnings in your account within seven days. Once your balance reaches $10 or more, and 90 days after your purchase, you can redeem your account balance. Choose from a PayPal deposit, credit card payment (which will appear on your next statement), a check in the mail or a donation to the charity of your choice.

Two awesome bonuses: Extrabux offers thousands of money-saving coupons and discount codes, and they’ll give you an $8 reward when you join.

9. FatWallet

FatWallet wants you to think of it as your “one-stop shop” for all things online shopping, cash back and savings. When you shop at hundreds of online stores through FatWallet’s links, you’ll earn up to 25% cash back, though some retailers pay a flat amount.

View your FatWallet balance in your account at any time. If your account has reached the $10 minimum at the end of a quarter, you can request your payout as a check, bank transfer or PayPal deposit.

FatWallet also offers coupon codes to more than 1,600 stores, as well as a community forum where you can chat with other online shoppers and deal finders.

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Carrie Smith (@carefulcents) is a writer and business consultant for freelancers and entrepreneurs. In 2013, she quit her accounting job to pursue full-time writing and blogging.

No one likes to waste time, and we all want to make more money. Instead of listening to music the next time you’re jogging on the treadmill or sitting in traffic during a long commute to work, use that time productively to find ways to bring in more cash.

How? By listening to podcasts dedicated to the tools, tips and tricks of making money!

When I was in the process of paying down $14,000 of debt so I could quit my full-time job to work for myself, I turned to podcasts for motivation and ideas along the way. My commute home each afternoon was actually my favorite time of day because I could catch up on podcast episodes.

Here are some of the podcasts that helped me reach my financial goals. Ready to use them to start earning more money?

1. Side Hustle Nation

Side hustles, or work you do in addition to your regular day job, are a great way to boost your income and indulge in a more creative outlet.

Nick Loper’s Side Hustle Nation podcast features interviews with other go-getters who make money writing Amazon best-sellers, doing $5 gigs on Fiverr, and starting freelance businesses. Some of the more unusual interviews include someone who turned an apartment into a business that earns $60,000 a year; another guest who brings in six figures a year selling custom T-shirts; and someone else who makes money from a podcast.

Loper releases one new episode each week on his blog and on iTunes.

2.The Productivity Show

Don’t think you have enough time to make more money? Think again!

We all know the importance of being more productive and working smarter, not harder. The team at Asian Efficiency created this podcast to explore tips and tricks you can use to make more money in less time.

Every Monday, you’ll see a new episodes on the blog and on iTunes.

3. Smart Passive Income

Think making money online is impossible for anyone but the big names? Pat Flynn, the podcaster behind Smart Passive Income, explores real life case studies and documents his own success to help demonstrate how to bring in money from a blog or other online venture.

Flynn doesn’t lay out his exact revenue and expenses in the podcast like he does on his blog, but he does feature guests who share their best money-making ideas and tips. Get new episodes every week via his blog or on iTunes.

4. The TreeHouse Show

Make more money by learning how to code, do web design, develop apps or create other projects with The TreeHouse Show.

Each episode covers a different topic related to being a developer, designer or coder. Aside from dissecting technical terms, the show also features industry news, as well as the best resources for things like fonts, website themes, plugins and other useful tools for developers. New episodes are released to iTunes (in both video and audio format) every Tuesday.

5. Profit First Podcast

Based on his popular book Profit First, author Mike Michalowicz’s podcast features interviews with other entrepreneurs on topics like maximizing your profits, management tools, taxes and productivity tips so you can learn to increase your bottom line.

Look for new episodes every Monday morning on his website as well as on iTunes.

6. So Money With Farnoosh Torabi

Creating more income is part of getting the most out of life, according to award-winning financial correspondent Farnoosh Torabi.

She shares candid interviews with authors and entrepreneurs like Tim Ferriss, Tony Robbins and Danielle LaPorte on topics like negotiating a higher salary, creating income streams through investments, and launching new freelance ventures. You’ll find new episodes each week on her website and iTunes.

7. Tropical MBA

Ready to quit your job and embrace a location-independent lifestyle? Business partners Dan Andrews and Ian Schoen explain how to market the skills you already have and turn them into money-making businesses.

Topics include making money with blogging, changing your mindset to bring in six figures and how to live in a resort for free for six months. New episodes are released every Thursday morning via iTunes and their website.

8. High-Income Business Writing

Diving into the world of business writing can be a lucrative venture. Ed Gandia shares his story of working in the corporate sales space and starting his own writing business on the side. After a lot of success, he quit his full-time job and now makes a living from writing, including co-authoring the book The Wealthy Freelancer, which is a top-50 Amazon bestseller.

Gandia’s podcast features case studies from his own experiences as well as stories from other people who are making a living as writers and landing well-paying client work. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or check the website for a new episode every other Thursday.

9. Etsy Conversations

Although Etsy doesn’t have an official podcast, they do recommend Etsy Conversations as one of the top podcasts for crafty business owners.

Host Ijeoma Eleazu highlights successful store owners and explores the logistics of being an ecommerce seller. She covers topics like selling at wholesale, working with distributors, drop-shipping and running an online store that sells hand-crafted items.

New episodes are available every Wednesday on her site as well as on iTunes.

10. Unmistakable Creative

Featuring interviews with artists, entrepreneurs and business owners, Srinivas Rao’s Unmistakable Creative podcast will give you loads of ideas for making a living from your craft. These “candid conversations with creatives” include interviews with Steal Like an Artist author Austin Kleon and artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon.

Some of Rao’s recent episodes even dive into topics like the history of money and how to turn obstacles into opportunities. There’s a new episode each week on the website and iTunes.

11. The Career Catalyst

Want to increase your salary and land your dream job? This is the podcast for you.

Hosted by executive coach E. Scott Aronow, each episode features an industry expert, author or executive who shares insider tips on getting a high-paying salary. Aronow’s goal is to provide strategies and tips for entrepreneurs to create fulfilling businesses and careers. Most recent episodes include topics like how to land the perfect job, how to conduct a winning job search, and even how to survive a layoff.

You can listen to the show live each Tuesday evening at 9 p.m. EST or browse through the archives on the website.

12. The Fizzle Show

Starting a business is smart way to express your creativity and have more freedom in your life. The Fizzle Show caters to creative entrepreneurs and business owners who want to make a living doing something they enjoy.

With episodes based around self-employment and interviews with successful entrepreneurs, you’ll have no problem finding money-making strategies and business ideas. You’ll see new episodes several times a month on the website or on iTunes.

13. Create My Independence

Making more money means having more freedom and independence to do what you like. Kraig dives into topics like how to pay off all your debt, how to build multiple income streams, how to grow your net worth to over $100,000 (based on his own success of reaching $100,000 net worth and quitting his full-time job), and whether owning a business is right for you.

Several times a month, you’ll find new episodes on his blog and on iTunes.

14. LeadPages Podcast

Although LeadPages is a website landing page tool, their weekly show features interviews with experts about increasing sales, making money from digital products and turning leads into full-time opportunities.

LeadPages conversion educator Tim Paige hosts the podcast as well as many of the company’s free monthly webinars. Every Monday, you’ll see a new episode available in iTunes and on the company’s website.

15. Harvard Business Ideacast

Professors, experts and CEOs share industry news, tips for building a solid business and ideas for increasing your bottom line with host Sarah Green. Some of the most popular episodes include an interview with Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, a discussion of negotiation skills and a conversation about being proactive versus reactive with your career.

Find new episodes on iTunes every Thursday.

Your Turn: What’s your favorite money-making podcast? How have you applied its lessons to your own life and career?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Carrie Smith (@carefulcents) is a writer and business consultant for freelancers and entrepreneurs. In 2013, she quit her accounting job to pursue full-time writing and blogging.

For many of us, cable TV is no longer a necessary expense with its own line in our budgets. With new streaming TV services and programs that allow you to watch your favorite show for peanuts, cutting the cord looks like an appealing way for many people to save money.

This was the case for my husband Ryan and me. As we noticed we spent more time traveling than we did at home, we looked for ways to cut our personal expenses without sacrificing our quality of life. Cutting out cable TV made the most sense, since we’re away from home so much and would prefer to watch our favorite programs on the go, via our tablets and laptop.

We went on a hunt to figure out if canceling our cable TV subscription was a smart choice. What hidden expenses should we consider? And if we did cut out cable TV, which streaming TV service would give us access to all the channels we want to watch?

If you’re considering cutting the cable cord, here’s how to measure the potential savings.

1. Make a List of Shows You Watch

What shows do you consistently want to watch? What TV programs are your family’s absolute favorites? While we might all wish we could watch all of the entertaining options, we just don’t have the time.

Be realistic and make a list of shows and channels you actually watch each week. In addition to any prime time slots, don’t forget late-night shows, weekly sitcoms and sports channels, as well as shows that only air during certain seasons (like Big Brother, which airs every summer).

Are there shows or channels that you kind of enjoy but don’t mind missing? For example, maybe you used to be obsessed with home-renovation reality shows, but have moved on. Put these options on the chopping block as “maybes” -- you may not need to pay for HGTV anymore.

Take Action

Write down all of the shows you and your family watch over the next week, as well as your favorite channels. This will give you an accurate look at what you actually watch.

2. Find the Perfect Mix of Streaming Services

Armed with the list of shows you actually watch, compare online streaming services to see which ones provide access to regular episodes of your favorite shows and movies.

Netflix focuses on classic and recently released movies, as well as collections of older shows you can binge watch. Cost: $7.99 a month.

Hulu Plus offers access to shows and episodes currently airing on network television, although you usually have to wait until the next day before viewing the latest episode. You can also watch movie trailers and daily news. Cost: $7.99 a month.

An Amazon Prime membership gives you access to Instant Video, which offers unlimited streaming of more than 40,000 movies and TV shows. In addition, the membership gives you free two-day shipping on everything you buy, photo storage, streaming music and more. Cost: $99 a year.

Finally, Dish Network recently announced Sling TV, a service that includes access to ESPN, Food Network, Disney Channel, HGTV and more. Cost: $20 a month. You can also upgrade to the Sports Extra, Kids Extra or News Extra packages for an additional $5 a month each.

Take Action

Compare the options to see which services will be the best fit for your budget and interests. Check your list of TV shows and movies to verify that the service you choose allows you to watch everything your family enjoys.

3. Consider Additional Costs

Before making a hasty decision to cut your cable, you need to look at any additional costs. While on the surface paying $7.99 for Netflix seems so much cheaper than your $90 monthly cable bill, consider all the factors that affect your bottom line.

For example, you may need to buy a separate device to watch TV shows and movies using your chosen streaming service. The most popular options are the Amazon FireTV, the Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. Prices vary, but this is a one-time purchase with no recurring fee.

Next, consider whether your Internet connection can handle the extra load of streaming. If you’re still working with dial-up or you have a low usage limit (bit cap), you likely won’t be able to properly stream all the movies and TV shows you’d like to watch.

Finally, check whether your cable bill is part of a bundle package with other services like Internet or a landline. If you cancel your cable, will you lose the savings that come with buying the package?

Take Action

Verify what kind of streaming device you’ll need for your chosen streaming service. Can you use a more budget-friendly Google Chromecast? Or do you prefer the heavier-duty Roku?

Then check out your Internet service and your monthly bill to see whether your connection is up to par for streaming, and whether you pay for a package.

4. Calculate the True Savings of Cutting the Cord

By switching to online streaming services, people can save an average of $600 each year, according to this savings calculator from Slate. That’s a lot of money you could use toward other spending priorities!

Based on this statistic, when my husband and I were looking into canceling our cable TV service, we thought we’d be saving quite a bit of money. However, I’m glad we used the calculator to figure out the true cost: Accessing all our favorite shows and upgrading our Internet service, it would cost us $159.60 more than our cable bill over the course of the year.

Why? We would no longer be eligible for the bundle savings of combining our Internet and cable service, and we needed a higher usage limit to accommodate the streaming we planned to do.

However, the extra costs made sense for us when we considered other factors. We were already paying for Amazon Prime for the convenience of online shopping and free shipping, and we were already pushing our Internet plan’s usage limits. Overall, we exchanged a bit of extra money for the convenience of streaming our shows on our mobile devices as well as our TV.

Take Action

Use the cable TV savings calculator to find the true costs of cutting the cord. Input your monthly cable payment, and then check off each streaming service you plan on subscribing to. Don’t forget to add the cost of the streaming device you need to buy, too.

Your Turn: Were you surprised at the costs or savings you could find by cutting the cord? Do you plan to cancel your cable service?

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. We would have shared them with you anyway, but a true "penny hoarder" would be a fool not to take the company's money. :)

Carrie Smith (@carefulcents) is a financial artist and founder of the blog Careful Cents. She's on a mission to help other creatives design a business that fits into their better-than-average lifestyle.

Keen to try a new investment option -- one with the potential for decent returns that helps other people get out of debt at the same time?

Social lending, or peer-to-peer lending, is a growing sector that connects borrowers and lenders. Companies like Lending Club offer investors another way to diversify their portfolios and earn monthly interest, while helping borrowers access better interest rates and smaller loans.

Curious about trying this investment option? Here’s what you need to know to make a profit with Lending Club.

What is Peer-to-Peer Lending?

Before we get into the details, let’s define social lending a bit more.

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) connects individual lenders and borrowers through online marketplaces. It effectively cuts out the middle man of the traditional lending process, in which financial institutions manage the transfer of money from lenders to borrowers.

The process is more streamlined and efficient, and it reduces costs and hassle for both parties. It provides individual lenders a higher rate of return on their investment, and gives borrowers better access to the funds they need at a lower interest rate. It’s a win-win for all parties.

Why Choose Lending Club?

With so many different P2P lending sites available, why should you choose Lending Club?

For three years in a row, Lending Club has been number five on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies. It’s the world’s largest peer-to-peer online lending marketplace for investors, and The Economist held up its success and growth -- even through the recent recession -- as an example of P2P lending’s potential.

Kyle Taylor, founder of The Penny Hoarder, says that although there are other solid P2P options, he prefers Lending Club because, “I can sort through the loans and pick the ones I want to invest in. I feel like I have more control over the outcome rather than just picking a stock.”

Since its launch in 2007, Lending Club has paid out more than $300 million dollars to investors. Its mission, the company says, is to

Create a more efficient, transparent and customer-friendly alternative to the traditional banking system that offers creditworthy borrowers lower interest rates and investors better returns.

How Does Lending Club Work?

The main appeal for borrowers is the much lower interest rate on loans compared to credit card interest rates. They can apply for a loan of $1,000 up to a maximum of $35,000 to cover their personal debts. Borrowers who obtain a personal loan with Lending Club save an average of 31% over their current debt or credit card interest rates. This makes Lending Club a fantastic option for debt consolidation, or as part of a debt repayment strategy, for people hoping to save money and gain financial freedom.

Here’s how the process works:

  • An interested borrower completes a simple loan application.
  • Lending Club experts evaluate the information provided by the applicant, set an interest rate and present a variety of loan offers to choose from.
  • The borrower picks a loan option and activates it on the site.
  • An investor selects a loan for his portfolio and choose how much of it he’d like to fund (as little as $25); this fraction is called a Note.
  • Once the loan is fully funded (whether by one investor or several), Lending Club transfers the money directly into the borrower's bank account.
  • Each month, as the borrower pays back the funds, Lending Club deposits the returns plus interest into the investor’s account.
  • The investors can choose to withdraw his funds or reinvest.

What’s in it for the lender? Consider it an investment in both the financial sense as well as the human sense: your loan earns you money while helping someone dig themselves out of debt.

Can You Make Money Investing With Lending Club?

While Lending Club shouldn’t be your only investment, it can be a solid, diversifying addition to your portfolio. Like with all investments, you should enter into the P2P lending sphere with a long-term wealth building mindset. If you employ a day-trader-type strategy -- buying and selling stocks frequently -- then a service like Lending Club might not be for you.

For example, Taylor is focused on longer-term investing. He initially deposited $5,000 in a Roth IRA with Lending Club, and is “earning a crazy good 14% interest rate on my deposit.”

Image: LC Account Screenshot

An Lending Club account offers low volatility and a monthly cash flow, compared to investing in the stock market. And even though it’s not easy to turn a quick profit, you are allowed to withdraw, or reinvest, funds at any time.

“While there is a way to resell the notes you own with Lending Club (on a secondary market), it's not easy,” warns Taylor. “You have to find another buyer for every note you own. I only invest $25 in each loan, so if I wanted to liquidate my account, I'd have to individually sell more than 200 notes.”

Since June 2007, investors have earned an average of 10 to 15% interest, which more than offsets any risk or defaults loans that might occur in their portfolios.

[caption id="attachment_8299" align="aligncenter" width="850"]LC average interest rate Source: Lending Club[/caption]

“Don't let defaults discourage you,” explains Taylor. “Some notes are going to earn [nearly] 25% in interest, so they will outweigh those losses.”

Wondering about defaults? Lending Club evaluates each borrower’s credit quality and risk and assigns them a grade. If you’d like to stick to “less risky” loans, only choose those graded A or B -- though understand you’ll earn less interest on those loans.

[caption id="attachment_8300" align="aligncenter" width="476"]Image: Lending Club's Loan Grades Source: Lending Club[/caption]

What About Fees?

The company has relatively low operating costs compared to traditional investment accounts, and it passes these savings along to investors in the form of solid profit margins and low fees.

For example, Edward Jones (a full-service brokerage firm I’ve invested with) charges an annual $40 account fee, plus a 2% commission fee on all invested funds, no matter whether your portfolio has a loss or gain.

Lending Club, however, only charges a 1% annual fee and charges fees if they were able to collect payment from the borrower.

Here’s what you’ll pay:

  • Service fee: This fee covers costs of operating and maintaining investor accounts, ensuring money is distributed to borrowers and paid back to investors. This annual fee is 1% of the payments received within a 15-day period of the note’s due date.
  • Collection fee: If a borrower misses a payment on their loan, Lending Club says they employ the same type of practices a traditional bank or financial institution would. The company charges investors 18% of the amount recovered (if no litigation is required), or 30% of the litigation costs are incurred.

Other than this summary, Lending Club doesn’t share much information about the collections process or how it affects investors. In fact, this is one element Taylor would like to see upgraded.

“I would love for there to be more transparency around the collections process,” he notes. “It's unavoidable that some of your loans are going to default -- that's just part of it. Lending Club does send these notes to collections and recovers some of your money, but as the owner of the note, you have very little information on that process.”

What’s Your Lending Club Investment Strategy?

When starting out, an investment strategy will help you leverage your money for optimal returns. Create a quick set of rules or must-haves before determining which notes you will choose.

For example, Taylor’s personal strategy includes a quick checklist of criteria that all borrowers must meet:

  • They own a home
  • They have had the same job for at least two years
  • They have had fewer than three inquiries on their credit report in the last six months (typically, many recent inquiries means someone is applying for a lot of new credit)
  • They’re looking for a credit card refinancing loan
  • It’s been at least 12 months since their last delinquency (failure to pay back a loan)
  • Their current credit card interest rates must be higher than 20%

In other words, if a friend was going to ask you for money, what would you check to ensure you not only helped them, but were able to reclaim your funds plus interest? Base your investment strategy on these criteria.

Ready to Open a P2P Lending Account

If you’re ready to get started with peer-to-peer lending, the first step is to check your eligibility. Every state regulates this type of investment differently, and not all states allow you to use Lending Club.

To invest with Lending Club, you must earn at least $70,000 in annual gross income and have a net worth of $70,000, though some states require a higher net worth. If your total net worth is more than $250,000, you don’t have to worry about the annual income requirement.

Next, simply choose your account. Here are the most popular options:

  • Individual account: This is the simplest account for your personal use.
  • Joint account: If you plan on having an account with joint interest for two or more people, then this is the account you’ll want.
  • IRA account. Get tax-advantaged savings and growth with an Individual Retirement Account. You can roll over funds from a 401(k) or IRA transfer. If you’re eligible, you can open a Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA or Simple IRA. (Here’s a good guide to IRA eligibility.)

Sign up here -- and good luck with your investments!

Your Turn: Have you invested with Lending Club? Tell us about your experience!

Carrie Smith (@carefulcents) is a money maverick, writer, and founder of the blog Careful Cents. In May 2013 she quit her small business accounting job to pursue full-time entrepreneurship and blogging.

You know those people who say social media is a waste of time? They’re doing it wrong -- and missing out on extra cash.

Tools like Twitter and Facebook offer lots of ways to make money, just by being creative and open to new ideas. I’ve won fabulous prizes and earned extra money simply by spending my social media time wisely.

If you want to go really crazy, try putting your talents to work as a social media wedding concierge, live-tweeting and Instagramming weddings. For those who just want to get their feet wet, here’s how to get started making extra money through social media.

Get Paid to Spend an Hour on Twitter

Tweet chats are a fun way to interact on Twitter while enjoying good conversation and earning a few prizes. Companies want to spread the word about their brands, and social media helps them build online buzz.

To join a tweet chat, simply log into Twitter and search through one of the many hashtag conversations happening. No matter the industry, you’ll find tons of conversations happening at any given time. Check out this Twitter chat schedule for a complete list of industry hashtags, days and times.

Tweet chats often include cash prizes, gift cards and other valuable items like clothing, software, or even jewelry. The prize depends on the industry and what kind of service or product the company is promoting.

Just by attending a Tweet chat for an hour, I’ve won over $200 worth of Amazon gift cards and several VISA gift cards. Chats and giveaways are especially popular around holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Mother’s Day.

Make Money by Tweeting

PaidPerTweet is a company that allows users to monetize social accounts by connecting advertisers with influencers on Twitter. Brands approach the company with a new product or promotion campaign, and PaidPerTweet reaches out to users who are interested in creating buzz. Basically, you set your price for tweeting out links to websites, promotions, press releases and other content aimed at helping companies gain exposure.

Depending on how often you accept an assignment, the sky’s the limit on what you can charge per tweet -- and the more often you participate, the better paying assignments you’ll get.

An alternative service called Sponsored Tweets, which is no longer accepting applications, helped me earn $25 for a single tweet about Dove’s new beauty campaign. That’s pretty good for only a minute of time spent tweeting!

Win and Resell Prizes from Twitter Giveaways

Leverage your Twitter account to win freebies and resell them for extra cash. I’ve won everything from lotion gift sets, jeans, books and jewelry to makeup and other small items.

Start by searching the #giveaway hashtag and entering the contests that sound most appealing. You’ll find the most giveaway opportunities right before a big holiday. For reselling, I’ve had the most success using eBay and Etsy.

“Like” Facebook Fan Pages to Enter Contests

Just like Twitter, Facebook is perfect for entering giveaways and contests. On any given day there are companies hosting competitions and contests for fans of their pages.

The majority of the time all you have to do is “Like” a company’s fan page and fill in your information to enter the contest. Facebook makes this easy, since most of the time you can just click “Sign in with Facebook” and your information will be automatically populated.

Finding the kind of giveaways you want to enter takes a little bit of effort, since contests on Facebook aren’t heavily advertised. One of the best places to start is with the Wildfire Sweepstakes page. This app runs most of the Facebook giveaways, contests and coupons, and it gives a complete list of giveaways at any given time. Quickly scan contest by category, most popular or even ending time.

Another great place to find both Twitter and Facebook giveaways is the Sweetstakes forum. Depending on what kind of prize you’re looking for, you could enter to win anything from cash, to cars, to other big prizes. In addition to contests, keep an eye out for coupons and other special discounts.

Launch a Blog Dedicated to Giveaways

Most brands or companies set aside a large portion of their marketing budget for freebies and giveaways. It’s kind of like a grocery store that gives away free samples: once a customer tries the product, the brand hopes they’ll come back for more.

Start your own website that deals exclusively in giveaways. Shannyn Allan of Frugal Beautiful launched Beautiful Giveaways last year with a team of four other bloggers. In the process, she learned how to reach out to brands that wanted to send her free items and pay her to give extras to her audience.

Starting your blog takes time and reaching out to big companies isn’t easy. But even if you start out small, you could quickly receive free clothing, household goods, books, beauty products and more to enjoy yourself or give away to your awesome readers. What could be better than that?

Your Turn: How have you turned social media into a money-maker? What ways have you used your Twitter, Facebook or other accounts to earn cash or win prizes?

Carrie Smith is a financial writer, solopreneur and founder of the blog Careful Cents. In May 2013 she quit her small business accounting job of 10 years to pursue full-time entrepreneurship and blogging. You can connect with her on Twitter @carefulcents.