The Beginner’s Guide to Swagbucks: Make the Most of Your Rewards With These Tips
Have you tried Swagbucks? It’s a fantastic destination for online rewards, combining everything we love about making money online. You can earn a huge variety of rewards for your online shopping, searching, watching videos and more.
Reward sites can be hit or miss, with many feeling like scams. Don’t worry -- Swagbucks is legitimate and if you’re willing to put in some time, you can earn great gift cards to retailers like Amazon and Target. In about 30 minutes of actual work over the course of a week, I earned 430 Swag Bucks (SB), the site’s “currency,” which roughly adds up to a $4 Amazon gift card (works out to about $8/hour). I only used a couple of the features, though -- you might be able to do much better.
Ready to get started? Here’s how to use Swagbucks to start earning rewards.
How to Sign Up
Signing up is easy. Just head to Swagbucks and enter your email address or sign in with Facebook to create your account. If you sign up through this link, you’ll even get a $5 bonus when you earn 2,500 SBs within your first 60 days!
After creating an account, earn some quick and easy SBs by filling out your profile, installing the “SwagButton” browser extension and making Swagbucks your default search engine (more on those later). Even if you’re not super tech-savvy, the user-friendly website will walk you through the process.
Earning Rewards on Swagbucks
Once you’re set up, it’s time to start earning money. Different tasks will earn different amounts of SBs, and each SB is worth roughly one cent. Here are the most popular ways to rack up SBs:
Similar to cash back sites like Ebates, Swagbucks gives you rewards for shopping through their links, clicking through Swagbucks before heading to, say, Amazon. Like in any affiliate program, Amazon pays Swagbucks a commission. Unlike with most affiliate programs, Swagbucks shares a piece of that commission to you. Since you pay the same price either way, why not earn a little back from your purchases?
For instance, Amazon pays up to 4 SBs for every dollar you spend on certain item categories. That’s roughly 4% cash back on any purchase you make. And if you’re anything like me (i.e. everything you buy, you buy on Amazon), that adds up to a good chunk of change every year!
Amazon is just the beginning; Swagbucks also partners with major brands like Gap, Target and Walmart. Just add the Swagbucks Shop page to your bookmarks, and use it every time you plan on buying something online. If you’ve installed the SwagButton, this is easy -- it’ll alert you anytime you’re visiting a site where you can earn SBs.
Make Swagbucks your default search engine and you’ll earn between 25 and 50 SBs per day, with the occasional bonus thrown in.
This is my favorite way to earn with Swagbucks as it’s a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Once you set it up, you won’t even realize you’re using it and it takes no time at all -- you’re essentially making money doing something you’d be doing anyway, which is the best way to make money.
If you really want to maximize your rewards, you can start by signing up for Bing Rewards instead of using Swagbucks search. Once you get 500 credits, you can convert them into SBs. Bing requires you to have a Live or Hotmail account (shudder), but is more consistent about giving rewards, while Swagbucks offers them randomly. Personally, the hassle of a second account doesn’t appeal to me, plus you can only do this once per Swagbucks account, but it’s worth looking into if you already have one of the required email accounts.
Note from Kyle: You can earn up to $15/month searching the internet with Swagbucks.
The most lucrative way to earn rewards is through paid surveys, with some paying up to 300 SBs each. While you have to qualify for surveys before you take them, Swagbucks does try to match you so you waste less time. Each survey takes about 20 minutes.
Note from Kyle: You're not going to get rich with the surveys, but I'm usually able to pocket an extra $10-$20/month.
Yup, Swagbucks pays you to watch videos! You won’t earn a lot (up to 150 SBs per day), but the videos are in all sorts of categories -- entertainment, home, travel -- so you’re likely to find something that appeals to you. Or, try my trick: I just turn off the sound on my computer, open up a new tab and keep the videos going in the background while I work.
You can also download the Swagbucks TV app, which plays videos back-to-back on your phone. Again, just plug in your phone, make sure you’re connected to Wifi and set it aside to play videos -- and earn rewards -- while you do something else.
Note from Kyle: It's actually possible to earn up to $90/month using the video channel.
Swagbucks offers coupons to help you save money at the store while also rewarding you with SBs when you use those coupons. Double win! You’ll earn 10SBs for every coupon you use, which translates to an extra 10¢ cash back. I’m sure we don’t need to say this, but just in case: Only use coupons on stuff you would have bought anyway!
How to Earn Even More Rewards
If you really want to get serious about Swagbucks, you can explore entire blogs and forums dedicated to earning and redemption strategies. We’re really just exploring the tip of the iceberg -- and it’s a big iceberg.
But without completely overwhelming you, here are a few tricks to maximize your Swagbucks experience so you can earn more rewards for less work.
The SwagButton is a browser extension for Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Keeping it installed earns you 1 SB a day, but it also helps you earn you extra SBs in a couple of ways. The SwagButton lets you know if the site you’re on offers SBs for online shopping, shows videos in the corner of your screen (so you can multitask) and lets you redeem Swag Codes right from your browser. What are Swag Codes?
Swag Codes are short combinations of words and numbers that earn you instant SBs (usually between one and five) and expire after a few hours or days. You’ll find them “hidden” around the site and social media, and if you’re using the SwagButton or the Android or iOS apps, you’ll be notified every time there’s a new code.
Or, if you’re lazy, my favorite way to do this is by visiting a site like sbcodez.com, which collects all these codes in one place. Check a few times every day for the latest offers.
To enter the code, just click on the little safe icon at the top of the page when you’re in your Swagbucks account. Enter the code, and voila! You can also enter your codes through the SwagButton if you prefer.
I already use LastPass to keep my passwords secure, but this system also does an amazing job of filling out forms. If you’re going to be doing a lot of surveys on Swagbucks (or anywhere, really), LastPass is the way you’re going to stay sane answering the same address/birthday/race questions over and over.
Use LastPass to save all your information, and you’ll be able to fill out those surveys much more quickly -- helping you earn those rewards more quickly.
Want to share Swagbucks with your friends? Referrals are fantastic way to make a lot of SBs as once. Whether you share a link on Facebook, email your friends or put a banner on your blog, once a friend signs up for Swagbucks through your link, you earn 10% of the SBs your referral earns -- for life.
How to Cash Out on Swagbucks
Swagbucks pays in gift cards to retailers like Amazon (most popular), Target, Walmart and iTunes. My favorite option is to get PayPal gift cards -- it’s basically like earning cash, because I can spend it anywhere.
You can usually expect to get roughly $1 on a gift card for every 100 SBs you redeem, and the redemption rate is the same across the board, so 500 SBs will get you a $5 Amazon gift card or $5 on PayPal. Keep an eye on their Rewards page, as sometimes certain gift cards go “on sale” and you can get larger denominations for fewer SBs.
Redeeming your SBs for gift cards is easy, but please, please, please cash out early and often. I’ve read horror stories on forums about Swagbucks randomly deactivating accounts (the site is super sensitive, as it should be, to folks gaming the system) and it can hurt like hell to lose thousands of SBs at once. Plus, there’s no reason to wait as there aren’t any discounts for saving more SBs and there’s no minimum redemption amount. Once you’ve earned enough SBs for the reward you want, redeem them!
You can redeem two rewards each day. Unless you’re super keen to earn a ton of SBs, you’re probably going to be well within this limit.
When you redeem your SBs for a reward, you don’t actually get your gift card right away. It can take up to 10 days before you get an email from the site notifying you that your card is ready. Just click on the link in that email and log into your account, and you’ll see your gift card. Depending on the type of card, either print it out or use the code to add it to your account with that retailer, just in case your account gets deactivated. If you’re redeeming for PayPal rewards, make sure you’ve used the same email address for both accounts and verified your PayPal account. The transfer can take 10 to 14 days.
Don’t fall into the trap of “gambling” your SBs. Swagbucks offers sweepstakes for higher value gift cards (i.e. $100 on Amazon) and the entry fee is only a couple of SBs. But these contests are hard to win, and since the SBs are pretty hard to accumulate as it is, you’ll probably want to hold onto them for guaranteed rewards.
Make the Most of Your Rewards
If you’re going to put in the effort to earn those rewards, you’re going to want to get the biggest bang for your buck.
While it’s not super impressive to think about a $3 gift card here, a $10 PayPal transfer there, thinking strategically about how you can use your rewards helps make those benefits more exciting.
Earn Toward a Specific Purpose
The Swagbucks Rewards Store has an insane number of options with gift cards to places like Amazon, Lowes, even many gas stations. You’re definitely going to find something you like, but why not focus on a specific goal?
For example, you might start now and plan to use your rewards for your Christmas shopping. By the time the holiday season rolls around, you might have a couple hundred dollars on Amazon! Or if you’re planning a summer road trip, focus on earning gift cards to cover some of your gas for the trip.
Don’t have a lot of wiggle room in your monthly budget? Use your rewards to pay for a small treat for yourself or your family, maybe a dinner out or a movie night.
You don’t need a ton of money to start investing. Set up an investment account through a tool like Acorns or Betterment. Link that account to your PayPal account, then transfer your rewards straight through to your new investment account. It might start out small, but it’ll grow!
Should You Sell Your Gift Cards?
You might want to consider selling your gift cards online, but seeing as you won’t get the full face value, this is probably not your best option. Plus, with so many rewards to choose from, you’ll be able to find a card you actually want to use.
All in all, here at The Penny Hoarder we love Swagbucks. It’s perfect for earning a little extra cash for stuff you’re already doing. Should you sit in front of your computer all day answering surveys? Probably not.
But if you can set up Swagbucks to be automatic (playing videos in the background, using it as search, doing a few surveys every day when you’re bored), your rewards will add up and help you earn extra cash to put toward your goals.
Your Turn: Have you used Swagbucks? How much have you earned?
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!
Marian Schembari is a writer, traveler and community manager based in San Francisco.