The 16 Best Apps That Help You Earn Money for Doing Almost Nothing

Woman using mobile apps to make money
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We’ve all got smartphones, and almost everything we do with them requires using an app.

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could make extra cash just for using your phone? Well, you can.

You're not going to get rich by downloading mobile apps that pay you, but you can use these to earn a passive income every month.

Considering some of them require you to do almost nothing — just watch videos or participate in paid surveys — it doesn’t seem like a bad deal to make a few extra bucks.

Plus, they're free from the app store for iPhone or Android.

Top Money-Making Apps

To get you started, here are some of our favorite money-making apps:

  1. 1. Earn Cash Every Time You Shop (and a $10 Bonus)

    a man's hands holding a money clip with a $5 bill
    Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

    We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

    Here’s how it works:

    Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

    Bam. Cash back.

    Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

    Some cash-back opportunities we’ve seen include:

    • 25 cents back for any item.
    • 25 cents back on strawberries.
    • 50 cents back on frozen fruit snacks.
    • $1 back on a box of tea.
    • $5 back on a case of Shiner Bock beer.

    Notice a lot of those aren’t tied to a brand — just shop for the staples on your list and earn cash back!

  2. 2. Earn Money While You Watch TV

    monety-making apps Ipsos i-say survey
    Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

    Surveys aren’t the best way to make money fast. But there’s a certain appeal to clicking a few buttons and earning money when you’d otherwise be doing nothing. Here’s our recommendation: Sign up for these legitimate survey sites all at once. Chances are, you’ll qualify for at least one or two surveys on each site a month, and the rewards will add up.

    Here are some of our favorite paid survey sites:

    MyPoints

    MyPoints lets you earn gift cards for taking polls, answering surveys and other things you do online — a great way to cash in on long lines or an endless commute. You’ll earn a $5 bonus when you complete your first five surveys.

    InboxDollars

    InboxDollars offers several short, daily surveys you can take. If you take all of them each day, you could earn an extra $730 a year — not too bad.

  3. 3. Get $50 to Invest in Causes You Care About

    $1 bill in a palm frond
    Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

    Investing can be a great way to grow your money, but have you carefully considered which companies you’re willing to back? Their morals and values? You probably wouldn’t want to invest in a company that's destroying our oceans or cheating the system.

    Impact investing is a simple fix. It adds a new layer of transparency to investing. Take Swell Investing, an SEC-registered investment adviser committed to supporting sustainable companies.

    Its Impact 400 portfolio features companies whose products and services align with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. They consider everything from gender equality to ending poverty to clean energy.

    You can start with just $50 and invest in this or other portfolios committed to clean water, zero waste, renewable energy or disease eradication, to name a few. Plus, you’ll get a $50 bonus with the code PENNY after making your initial investment.

    Swell doesn’t have any trading fees, price tiers or expense ratios. It charges a 0.75% annual fee — that’s about the cost of one coffee ($3.75) per year if you invest $500.

    Disclosure: We have a financial relationship with Swell Investing LLC and will be compensated if consumers apply for an account and/or fund an account with Swell through links in our content. However, the analysis and opinions expressed here are our own.

  4. 4. Stop Deleting Your Emails 

    Cropped shot of a man using a laptop and a cellphone
    PeopleImages/Getty Images

    It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you money. Intrigued?

    One of our secret weapons is called Paribus — a tool that gets you money back for your online purchases. It's free to sign up, and once you do, it will scan your email for any receipts. If it discovers you’ve purchased something from one of its monitored retailers, it will track the item’s price and help you get a refund when there’s a price drop.

    Plus, if your guaranteed shipment shows up late, Paribus will help you get compensated.

  5. 5. Share Your Amazon Purchase History

    college student using smartphone outdoors on campus
    lolostock/Getty Images

    This is such an easy, passive way to rake in an extra $36 a year. ShopTracker, one of the leading public opinion research companies, wants you to share your Amazon purchase history. And you’ll be paid for every month you share!

    When you sign up for ShopTracker, it keeps your private information, well, private. All it wants to see is your order information.

    To earn your first gift card today:

    1. Sign up, and download the ShopTracker app on your Windows computer and Apple or Android phone. It takes about two minutes. You’ll need to answer a few questions about your Amazon use to qualify.
    2. Open the app and log in to your Amazon account to automatically share your purchase history. You’ll receive your Visa e-gift card code for $3 via email within 48 hours.
    3. Take a couple of minutes to share your purchase history to earn another $3 each month.
  6. 6. Grow Your Money 100 Times Faster

    Concept is saving money for future. Jar is open and money is popped out. arrow sign is showing different direction of money.
    crazydiva/Getty Images

    Where you stash your money is almost as important as how much you have.

    In a pillowcase? It’s not earning you any interest in there. In a checking account? Probably not doing much for you there, either. Even if you keep it in a high-interest savings account, you’re probably only earning around 0.05% on your balance.

    It’s frustrating, for sure — so you’ve got to think outside your bank.

    Worthy is a free app that invests your money in bonds and pays out a fixed 5% annual interest rate — around 100 times more than what you’d get from the bank. The bonds act like a savings account — you can deposit or withdraw money at any time.

    Say you have $300 in your Worthy account. You just passively banked $15 this year.

    You can start investing with as little as $10. And hey, that’s still an extra 50 cents this year. We’ll take it.

  7. 7. Invest Your Pocket Change — and Get $5

    man shopping online from his laptop

    If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

    You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

    Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

    The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

    At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

    The app is $1 a month for balances under $5,000, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

  8. 8. Get Paid for the Things You Were Going to Buy Anyway

    person putting a credit card into a credit card reader.

    skynesher/Getty Images

    Let's say you've got a shopping trip planned already. If you have the Shopkick app downloaded, it will pay you in “kicks” just for walking into certain stores (including Walmart, Target, TJMaxx and more). You can redeem them for gift cards to a number of retailers, including Amazon, Target, Walmart, Starbucks, Sephora and Best Buy.

    It pays you even more “kicks” for photos of receipts that include qualifying items you purchased in-store with a connected credit or debit card. You can also earn kicks for online purchases. You don’t have to do anything; your linked cards will automatically apply your kicks.

    But don’t make the mistake of buying things you don’t need just for “kicks,” you know better than that.

  9. 9. Build Your Savings Without Trying 

    Man lying in bed looking at his phone.
    amenic181/Getty Images

    Saving money is tough. So what if you could do it in a way where you wouldn't even notice?

    Digit makes that possible.

    This innovative app automates saving for you. Simply link it to your checking account, and its algorithms will determine small (and safe!) amounts of money to withdraw into a separate, FDIC-insured savings account.

    Bonus: Penny Hoarders will get an extra $5 just for signing up! Additionally, savers will receive a 1% bonus every three months.

    Using this set-it-and-forget-it strategy, one Penny Hoarder saved $4,300 without noticing — read his Digit review.

    If you need that money sooner than expected, you’ll always have access to it within one business day.

    Digit is free to use for the first 30 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.

  10. 10. Get Free Virtual Scratch-off Tickets

    A young couple buying lottery tickets at a kiosk.
    urbancow/Getty Images

    There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

    Instead, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens, enter contests and play games.

    The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free.

  11. 11. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills On Time

    money-making apps MoneyLion
    GaudiLab/Getty Images

    Your parents probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.

    As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.

    This invention kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

    MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.

    You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.

    You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.

    If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.

    The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

  12. 12. Find out Where You're Wasting Money

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    We all sign up for stuff. Sometimes it’s easier to put subscriptions on a recurring payment and forget about it — looking at you, Netflix.

    If you can’t keep track of them all, check out an app called Trim. Once you sign up and connect your bank account and phone number, it analyzes your transaction history for recurring payments.

    When it finds one, the app sends you a text and cancels any subscriptions you don’t want to keep. That’s money back in your pocket every month!

  13. 13. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank

    A woman smiling and looking at her phone outside in Florida.
    Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

    Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

    The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

    As you save and accomplish missions you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes! We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

    Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

    In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

    Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

  14. 14. Sell Your Old Media and Electronics

    The decluttr app helps you make money from selling electronics
    sestovic/Getty Images

    Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Decluttr will pay you for them!

    Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware, such as cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods.

    You scan each product’s barcode with your phone, and Decluttr makes an offer.

    Prices vary — usually about 50 cents to $3 per item — but you can unload your media in bulk to make an extra $50 to $100 this week. And you'll never have to look at them again.

    Bonus: Enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-ins!

    With Decluttr, you can sell stuff online without having to deal with individual listings and buyers.

    And shipping is free. The company emails you shipping labels to cover the cost. Just print the label, pack your items in any box and ship it.

  15. 15. Play Virtual Pinball

    College student relaxes in a hammock and looks at her phone.
    Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

    We found an app that makes saving actually fun. It’s called WinWin Saving. Let us explain…

    First, download the app (for iOS only). WinWin will walk you through how it all works, but here’s the gist: You’ll connect your bank account and set up an automatic amount to stick into your WinWin Savings account.

    Plus you can play games (think: classics like pinball and breakout) for chances to win more money to boost your savings.

    The more money you’ve saved, the bigger the prizes you play for. Have $25 saved? Play to win up to $25 every day. Have $50 saved? Play to win up to $50. And so on…

    So you’re saving money without thinking about it — and playing for a chance to win even more. Fun, right?

    The app is free to download. You can use it for 60 days free, then it costs $2 per month after that. Note: You can withdraw your money or cancel your account at any time.

    Pro tip: If you’re having trouble getting the pinball into the right hole, tap the pause button at the top-left side of your screen. Turn on easy mode.

  16. 16. Start Investing — With a $5 Bonus

    a close up shot of dollar bills

    Gordan1/Getty Images

    It’s no brilliant secret that investing can be a smart way to make money.

    Sometimes, though, it feels restricted to a few wealthy elite.

    But Stash is different. This app lets you start investing with as little as $5 and for just a $1 monthly fee for balances under $5,000. Plus you’ll get a $5 bonus for funding your first investment!

    Stash curates investments from professional fund managers and investors and lets you choose where to put your money — but it leaves the complicated investment terms out of it.

    You just choose from a set of simple portfolios reflecting your beliefs, interests and goals.


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