The 15 Best Apps That Help You Earn Money for Doing Almost Nothing

A young woman uses her phone and walks through the city in New York, NY.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder
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 — and even shopping.

The 15 Best Money-Making Apps of 2018

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

A woman sits on a sidewalk bench and uses her laptop.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch videos? The site hosts a ton of stuff to watch, including cooking, entertainment, news and health shows. Every time you watch one, InboxDollars will credit your account with a little bit of cash.

(Never used InboxDollars before? Here’s our guide for beginners.)

Pros: With InboxDollars, you earn cash, so you don’t have to worry about exchanging points. 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.

Pro tip: Earn a $5 bonus just for signing up and watching your first video.

Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars).

2. Swagbucks: Share Your Opinion

 Swagbucks is a rewards platform that allows its users to earn SB, which you can exchange for gift cards and cash. Download its app or log into its website to get paid to watch videos, take surveys and shop online.

Pros: Swagbucks offers a variety of ways to make money, so when you get bored watching videos, you can take some surveys, for example. Additionally, real people earn real money. For example, we talked to one woman who earned enough to take her grandson to Disney.

Cons: Some users reported surveys not loading through the app, but the company frequently issues updates to fix bugs. The experience through desktop is consistently smooth.

Payment method: Earn SB. Once you earn 300 SB, cash out via PayPal or a gift card to a popular retailer, like Amazon, Starbucks and Walmart. For context, 300 SB equates to $3.

Pro tip: Earn a $5 bonus when you earn 2,500 SB within the first 60 days of signing up.

Available on Android (rated 3.9 stars), iOS (rated 4.1 stars) and desktop.

3. Ibotta: Earn Money While You Shop

Nancy Frost uses the Ibotta App
Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

The Ibotta app allows you to earn cash back on a number of purchases — from groceries to Uber rides to Amazon purchases. Simply take a photo of your receipt or shop through the app.

Pros: Ibotta is a great way to earn cash back on items you already buy, both in store and online. Occasionally, you’ll find freebie offers in the mix, too. 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’ll get cash back. It’s tempting.

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.

Pro tip: Download Ibotta through The Penny Hoarder to pocket a $10 welcome bonus after claiming your first cash-back offer.

Available on Android (rated 4.5 stars) and iOS (rated 4.5 stars).

4. Lucktastic: Win Big With Free Scratch-offs

 If you’re lounging on the couch and scrolling through your phone, download the Lucktastic app, which allows you to play free scratch-off tickets for a chance to instantly win $1 to $10,000.

Pros: Lucktastic is free to download and use. If you have free time, you have nothing to lose.

Cons: Actually winning money might be rare, according to user reviews. However, we interviewed a single dad who won $5,000.

Payment method: Earn at least $2, then cash out for an instant gift card. Hit $10 or more, and you can opt for a check in the mail.

Pro tip: Have a charger on hand to stay powered up.

Available on Android (rated 4.2 stars) and iOS (rated 3.2 stars).

5. Long Game: Build Your Savings While You Play Games

A woman uses her phone as she stands against a doorway.
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

The Long Game Savings app turns saving money into a game. The more money you stash into savings, the more coins you’ll earn to play mini games for a chance to win cash prizes.

Pros: Your savings will earn 0.1% interest. It’s not a ton, but you have the potential to earn cash by playing games (lucky slots, spin-to-win wheels and scratch-offs), which can pay off even better than interest at your bank.

Cons: Cash out at any point, but note the transaction takes three to five business days to process.

Payment method: Withdraw your savings at any point into your connected bank account.

Pro tip: Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 points, so you can start playing games immediately.

Available on Android (rated 3.9 stars) and iOS (rated 4.1 stars).

6. Rover: Get Paid to Play With Pooches

On Rover, 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 $1,000 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. 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 4.2 stars) and iOS (rated 4.9 stars).

7. Nielsen Consumer Panel: Get Rewards for What’s in Your Fridge

Woman looking inside the refrigerator and choosing groceries for a meal.

You’re probably familiar with Nielsen, the market research company. It’s always tracked TV ratings, but now it wants to peek into you fridge. The Nielsen Consumer Panel app rewards you for scanning the barcodes of your grocery items.

Pros: Joining this market research panel is super simple. Download the app, and scan the barcodes of items you’ve purchased. Share your data with Nielsen to earn points.

Cons: You won’t earn cash or gift cards — just prizes.

Payment method: Earn points you can redeem for gifts, 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 3.8 stars) and iOS (rated 4.4 stars).

8. Acorns: Invest Your Spare Change (and Get a Free $5)

Investing is a great way to potentially earn money over time. If you’re looking to get started, try the Acorns app, which will allow you to invest small amounts of money.

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 costs $1 a month for accounts with balances under $1 million. 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, you’ll snag a $5 bonus, basically giving you five free months of using the app.

Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars) and iOS (rated 4.7 stars).

9. MoneyLion: Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills

MoneyLion is a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances. You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.

Pros: If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend. The app also offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

Cons: To access the full benefits of MoneyLion, sign up for MoneyLion Plus.  The fee is $29 per month, but it’s free if you log onto the app every day.

Payment method: Once you earn 2,500 points, cash out for a $25 gift card to Starbucks, Target or thousands of other retailers or restaurants.

Pro tip: Try the free version first, and see what you think.

Available on Android (rated 4.2 stars) and iOS (rated 4.6 stars).

10. Decluttr: Cash in on Your CD Collection

a stack of CDs on a shelf.
alexat25/Getty Images

If you’ve got stacks of old CDs, DVDs, video games or even an old phone, send them to Decluttr for extra cash. Simply scan the items’ barcodes through the app, and get an instant trade-in price estimate.

Pros: Once you get your trade-in estimate, grab a box, and use the free Decluttr shipping label to ship your items. You get paid the day after Decluttr receives the goods.

Cons: Cleaning out your DVD shelf won’t make you rich, so don’t be disappointed if Decluttr doesn’t offer you a purse-full of cash.

Payment method: Get paid via direct deposit, PayPal or check within 24 hours of the Decluttr team receiving your order.

Pro tip: Use our exclusive code, FREE5, at checkout to get an extra $5 for your order.

Available on Android (rated 3.9 stars) and iOS (rated 4.1 stars).

11. Lucky Day: Play the Lotto — Without the Risk

Feelin’ lucky? The Lucky Day app allows you to play digital scratch-off tickets and enter daily lotteries — for free. You can win cash and tokens to exchange for prizes, gift cards and raffle entries.

Pros: The app is totally free, it’s smooth to use, and the money-making opportunities vary, so you won’t get bored. Plus, Lucky Day issues new scratch-off cards each day.

Cons: The app pays for prizes through ads, so you’ll watch a few short videos here and there between scratch-offs. However, compared to other apps, it’s pretty minimal and won’t totally disrupt your playing experience.

Payment method: Once you win $10 or more, cash out via PayPal. Or, once you accumulate 3 million tokens (which is easier than it sounds), claim prizes, such as gift cards, a Disney car decal or headphones.

Pro tip: To maximize your chances of winning, log in daily to enter the lotto and daily raffles. Jackpots have reached $100,000.

Available on Android (4.6 stars) and iOS (4.9 stars).

12. Achievement: Get the Props You Deserve for Being Active

A woman holds a stretch pose on a city street.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

If you live an active lifestyle (or need an incentive to become more active), the Achievement app will reward you for making healthy moves, including upping your step count and logging your sleep.

Pros: Achievement connects to your phone’s health apps and runs in the background, so it works passively. Many users report being happily surprised when logging on and checking their progress.

Cons: It can take a while to stack up enough points to cash out.

Payment method: Once you earn 10,000 points, you’ll score $10, which you can deposit directly into your bank account.

Pro tip: Achievement connects to more than 30 Android and iOS health-related apps, including MyFitnessPal and Garmin. The more apps you connect, the more earning opportunities.

Available on Android (rated 4.5 stars) and iOS (rated 4.7 stars).

13. SlideJoy: Earn Every Time You Look at Your Phone

If you don’t mind advertisements popping up on your phone’s lock screen, install Slidejoy. You’ll earn “carats” (or points), which are exchangeable for cash or gift cards.

Pros: This is a passive way to earn some extra money; just use your phone like you normally do. You don’t even have to engage with the ads.

Cons: You won’t get to set a pretty background photo on your phone. Instead, you’ll see an ad. The app is only available for Android users.

Payment method: After you’ve used Slidejoy for more than a month and have accumulated more than 2,000 carats, you can cash out via PayPal or for a gift card.

Pro tip: If you’re feeling charitable, donate your earnings to a charity through the app. You’ll earn an immediate 20% carats back.

Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars).

14. Foap: Cash in on Your iPhone Camera Skills

A person using their smartphone to capture a beautiful landscape.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

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 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 side gig.

Payment method: You’ll earn 50% of the sale and 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 3.8 stars) and iOS (rated 4.5 stars).

15. Job Spotter: Help Job Searchers (This Is So Easy!)

If you walk around your town, Indeed’s Job Spotter app could be a great way to make some extra money. When you spot a “help wanted” sign, take a photo, and upload it to the app to earn points.

Pros: “Help Wanted” signs are everywhere these days, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to find. All you have to do is snap some quick photos and enter the business’s information.

Cons: If you live in a small town or don’t get out a lot, it could be difficult to find qualifying signs.

Payment method: Exchange points for Amazon gift cards. You’ll earn up to 150 points per submission.

Pro tip: Earn more points if the sign is for a small business and mentions a specific job title, if the business accepts in-person applications and if the photo is in focus.

Available on Android (rated 4.3 stars) and IOS (rated 4.3 stars).

* App ratings are accurate as of October 2018.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s all about making some side money.

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