12 Best Money-Making Apps — Earn for Doing Almost Nothing
We already spend hours on our phones each week. Apple has made us keenly aware of that with its weekly screen time reports.
Why not turn those hours into some money?
There are dozens of money-making apps on the market these days — for both Apple and Android users. You can earn money by taking surveys, playing games, watching videos, investing — even shopping.
The Best Money-Making Apps of 2020
Trust us when we say we’ve tested a ton of apps. We weeded out the duds and compiled a list of our favorite top-rated money-making apps.
1. InboxDollars: Get Paid to Watch Videos
If we told you that you could get paid to watch videos on your phone, you’d probably laugh. It’s too good to be true, right?
But we’re serious. A website called InboxDollars will pay you to watch short video clips online. Topics include cooking, entertainment, news, sports and health shows. All you have to do is choose which videos you want to watch and answer a few quick questions about them afterward.
No, InboxDollars won’t replace your full-time job, but it’s something easy you can do to make extra money while you’re already on the couch tonight. It’s already paid its users more than $56 million.
(Never used InboxDollars before? Here’s our guide for beginners.)
Pros: Unlike other sites, InboxDollars pays you in cold, hard cash — not points or gift cards. It also offers more ways to earn, such as taking surveys, playing scratch-off games and searching the internet.
Cons: You have to earn $30 to cash out, which is a bit high compared to other sites on this list. You’ll also have to pay a $3 transaction fee.
Payment method: Check via mail or cash via PayPal
Pro tip: Earn a $5 bonus just for signing up and watching your first video.
Available on Android (rated 4.1 stars) and iOS (rated 4.5 stars).
2. Fetch Rewards: Get Free Prepaid Visa and Mastercards
What do you usually do with your receipts? You check out, the cashier hands you a mile-long piece of paper, and you frantically stuff it to the bottom of a grocery bag. Pretty worthless.
But a free app called Fetch Rewards will turn them into gift cards. It partners with tons of brands to give you points for every grocery receipt you share. Then you can exchange them for prepaid cards for Visa and Mastercard.
All you have to do is download the app and create an account, then submit photos of your grocery receipts.
Pros: This is perfect for those of us who don’t want to put a ton of work into making money. All you have to do is send Fetch a photo of your receipt, and it does everything for you. No scanning barcodes or searching for offers — and you can use it with any grocery receipt.
Cons: You need a minimum of 3,000 points to cash out, but offers range from 250 to 3,000 points, so it should be easy to hit the minimum quickly. Some examples of offers we’ve seen include 2,000 points for a Suave female hair product and 2,000 points for a 12-pack of Blue Moon beer.
Payment method: When you reach your minimum, you can cash out in the form of prepaid Visa and Mastercards, or for gift cards to participating retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Chipotle.
Pro tip: When you download the app, use the code PENNY to automatically earn 2,000 points when you scan your first receipt. Receipts are valid for up to 20 days after your purchase, so start snapping photos of your recent receipts to see how many points you can earn without a single trip to the store!
Available on Android (rated 4.4 stars) and iOS (rated 4.8 stars).
3. Ibotta: Trade Your Receipts for Cash
We all want to save money on our purchases. What we don’t want to do is put a ton of work into it.
If this sounds like you — someone who just wants to get in and out of the store and save money without doing much thinking — the Ibotta app is a great way to earn cash back on certain purchases.
Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $5 sign-up bonus. Here’s how to get it:
- Download the Ibotta app, and create an account.
- Shop online through the app or in the store and take a photo of your physical receipt.
- Upload your first receipt and you’ll get that $5 bonus.
Every time you scan a receipt that includes a participating brand, you’ll earn cash back.
Pros: Ibotta is a legitimate way to earn cash back on items you already buy, both in the store and online. We talked to Nancy Frost, who earned $432 in cash back in a year.
Cons: Be careful about buying items you don’t really need just because you want to get cash back. It’s tempting!
Pro tip: Sometimes you’ll find “freebies” on the Ibotta app. These are cash-back offers that cover the cost of the item, making it totally free once you redeem the offer through Ibotta.
Payment method: Hit $20, then cash out via PayPal or Venmo, or opt for a gift card to a popular retailer like Amazon, Best Buy, Target or Walmart.
Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars) and iOS (rated 4.8 stars).
4. Nielsen Consumer Panel: Get Rewards for What’s in Your Fridge
Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.
When you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you'll gain access to the NCPMobile app. (If you don't have a smartphone, Nielsen will send you a scanner.) As you unload your groceries after your next shopping trip, simply use the app to scan items' barcodes before you put them in your fridge.
With Nielsen, you’ll earn rewards, including free gift cards, electronics (new TV, anyone?) and household items. The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunities you have to earn rewards.
Pros: Applying to become a panel member is straightforward. You'll answer some basic questions about you and your household, then Nielsen reviews your application and will contact you when you're eligible to join.
Cons: You won’t get paid in cash — just gift cards and prizes.
Payment method: Earn points you can redeem for gift cards and other rewards, which could include toys, electronics or household appliances.
Pro tip: If you’d rather not use the app, you can request a handheld scanner.
Available on Android (rated 4.4 stars) and iOS (rated 4.3 stars).
5. Acorns: Invest Your Spare Change (and Get $5)
Take a look at the Forbes Richest People list, and you’ll notice almost all the billionaires have one thing in common: They own another company.
But if you work for a living and don’t happen to have millions of dollars lying around, that can sound totally out of reach.
That’s why a lot of people use the Acorns app. It lets you be a part of something that’s normally exclusive to the richest of the rich — buying pieces of other companies — for as little as $5. And with the recent sell-off in stocks, you might be able to buy them for cheaper than earlier in the year.
Acorns allows you to invest in a bundle of well-known companies, letting you own a little of each of them while spending as little as $5. It takes two minutes to sign up.
Pros: Be as hands-on or hands-off as you’d like with Acorns. Its round-up feature automatically rounds up each transaction and invests your digital change. The app helped Jeremy Kolodziej stack up more than $2,000 in investments in about two years.
Cons: Acorns subscriptions start at $1 a month. So it’s a bummer it isn’t free, but think about it like this: You can get one year of investing for the cost of one month of Netflix.
Payment method: There are no restrictions or fees on withdrawals. Cash out as often as you’d like, though investing works out better if you hang out long term.
Pro tip: When you sign up for Acorns through The Penny Hoarder and make your first investment, you’ll snag a $5 bonus, basically giving you five free months of using the app.
Available on Android (rated 4.5 stars) and iOS (rated 4.7 stars).
6. Rakuten: Shop Online? Use This Website
Chances are you do some of your shopping online. Whether it’s pet food from Walmart, toilet paper on Amazon or even a flight home for Thanksgiving… But here’s the thing. You’re probably leaving money on the table.
A free website called Rakuten has the hookup with just about every online store you shop (more than 2,500 retailers), which means it can give you up to 40% cash back every time you buy.
It takes less than 60 seconds to create a Rakuten account and start shopping. All you need is an email address, then you can immediately start shopping your go-to stores through the site.
Pros: This is a super-easy way to get money back for the things you already buy. And it can be pretty lucrative, too. For instance, since Denver resident Colleen Rice started using Rakuten, it’s sent her checks in the mail totaling $526.44. Rice says she uses Rakuten for things she already has to buy, like rental cars and flights.
Cons: The cash-back offers are always changing, so one week you might be able to get 8% back on your Petsmart order and the next week you may only be able to get 1%.
Payment method: Each quarter, you can get your money through PayPal or opt for a check in the mail.
Pro tip: If you use Rakuten to earn money back within the first 90 days of signing up, it’ll give you an extra $10 on the first check it sends you.
Available on Android (rated 4.2 stars) and iOS (rated 4.3 stars).
7. MyPoints: Get Paid for Taking Surveys
What did you think of the new superhero movie? What’s your favorite beer to buy? Who’s your favorite Real Housewife?
The market research company MyPoints will pay you to take surveys and answer questions about different products and services you use. In return, it’ll give you free gift cards. You can even do this from your phone.
To date, MyPoints has paid people more than $236 million in gift cards.
Pros: You receive points even if you don’t qualify for a survey. Additionally, it’s an easy-to-use portal that offers multiple ways to earn points, including participating in polls and watching videos.
Cons: MyPoints connects you with surveys on third-party consumer marketing sites, so you’ll often navigate away from the site’s portal. Online user reviews report difficulty qualifying for surveys.
Payment method: Gift cards to popular retailers, including Amazon, Old Navy and Starbucks
Pro tip: Get a $5 Amazon gift card when you sign up and complete your first five surveys.
Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars).
8. Swagbucks: Make Extra Money From Your Couch
A free rewards website and app called Swagbucks will pay you to take surveys. Yup. All you have to do is answer some questions about yourself, and you can get paid.
This might sound too good to be true, but we talked to one Swagbucks user in Pennsylvania, 52-year-old Carolinda Hendrickson, who earned $1,200 in a year. Not bad for something you can do from your couch, right?
Pros: There are a ton of ways to earn money through Swagbucks, so you’ll never get bored. Take surveys, go shopping online, clip coupons, watch videos — you name it. It’s a great distraction when you’ve got nothing else to do.
Cons: You’re not going to necessarily get rich using Swagbucks, but you can earn some extra cash.
Payment method: You can collect your money through PayPal or in the form of gift cards.
Pro tip: Penny Hoarders can get a $5 bonus when they sign up and start making money.
Available on Android (rated 4.1 stars) and iOS (rated 4.4 stars).
9. Make Money When You Hang out With Dogs
If you’re a fan of pets, on the Rover app, you can choose to offer a variety of services, including dog walking, overnight boarding (at your home or theirs) and daycare. Rover says sitters can earn as much as $450 a month.
Pros: Is there anything better than hanging out with dogs? But seriously. With Rover, you set your own hours and your own rates. You’ll also choose which services you’d like to provide.
Cons: In order to establish a positive reputation on Rover, you might need to initially set your hourly rates lower until you break into your city’s market and garner some positive reviews.
Payment method: You set your own rates. (Rover keeps a small percentage as a service fee.) You can receive payment directly to your bank account. It’ll take up to 72 hours for funds to transfer.
Pro tip: Boarding is the app’s most popular service, so offering it can get you more gigs.
Available on Android (rated 3.9 stars) and iOS (rated 4.9 stars).
10. Stash: Launch Your Investing Portfolio With $5
It’s no secret the market has had its fair shares of ups and downs, but you shouldn’t panic. Markets are unpredictable, and they will always be volatile, which means sometimes they’ll go up, and sometimes they’ll go down — but over time, they tend to go up.
If you haven’t started investing and have some money to spare, you can start small. Investing doesn’t require you to throw thousands of dollars at full shares of stocks. In fact, you can get started with as little as $1.*
We like the Stash app, because it lets you choose from hundreds of stocks and funds to build your own investment portfolio. But it makes it simple by breaking them down into categories based on your personal goals. Want to invest conservatively right now? Totally get it! Want to dip in with moderate or aggressive risk? Do what you feel.
Pros: With Stash, you’re able to invest in fractions of shares, which means you can invest in funds you wouldn’t normally be able to afford.
Cons: Subscription plans start at $1 a month.**
Payment method: You can withdraw your money at any time.
Pro tip: If you sign up now (it takes two minutes), Stash will give you $5 after you add $5 to your investment account.
Available on Android (rated 3.9 stars) and iOS (rated 4.7 stars).
11. Foap: Cash in on Your iPhone Camera Skills
Take decent photos on your smartphone? Sell those photos through Foap.
List your photos on the app’s marketplace, then when someone purchases the license to the photo, you’ll typically earn 50%. If it sells for, say, $10, you’ll earn $5 every time.
Pros: Phones these days have awesome cameras, so it’s easier to take high-quality photos. Once you snap the perfect shot and upload it to Foap, the work’s done. You just wait for a sale.
Cons: There’s no guarantee your photos will sell. Additionally, don’t expect to make hundreds of dollars; this is just a fun way to potentially make extra cash.
Payment method: You’ll cash out via PayPal.
Pro tip: Be sure to add relevant tags to your photos. Just like on Twitter or Instagram, it’ll help users find your photos.
Available on Android (rated 3.4 stars) and iOS (rated 4.5 stars).
12. Letgo: Declutter and Earn Money
If you have old stuff you haven’t even looked at in the last year, why hang onto it?
Try selling these items (clothing, electronics, decor) to folks in your area through a marketplace app like Letgo. It removes a lot of the hassle of selling things online, and it’s 100% free to use.
Pros: You can sell virtually anything on Letgo. This app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds. Another major plus? Letgo doesn’t take any percentage of the sale, so everything you earn is all yours.
Cons: There’s no guarantee that you’ll sell your goods. Your items might sell like hotcakes in record time… or they continue to collect dust in your closet for a little while. But that’s a risk on many apps like this, so buckle up and be patient.
Payment method: Letgo is just the app you use to advertise your items for sell — not to complete the sale. Its recommendation for handling money? Meet in person in a public place and transfer money only after the buyer inspects the item.
Pro tip: You can accept cash, or use a secure payment platform like PayPal. Don’t accept a “certified check” — Letgo says this is a common scam. Shipping items is discouraged, as well.
Available on Android (rated 4.5 stars) and iOS (rated 4.4 stars).
Carson Kohler is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves testing out new money-making apps.
App ratings are accurate as of May 2020.
* For Securities priced over $1,000, purchase of fractional shares starts at $0.05.
** You’ll also bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the ETFs in your account, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash and the custodian.
The Penny Hoarder is a Paid Affiliate/partner of Stash. Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC-registered investment adviser. This material has been distributed for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended as investment, legal, accounting, or tax advice. Investing involves risk.