16 Best Apps That Help You Earn Money for Doing Almost Nothing
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We’re letting you know because it’s what Honest Abe would do. After all, he is on our favorite coin.
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. Get Free Virtual Scratch-off Tickets
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.
2. Earn Money While You Watch TV
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 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.
- Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys. Plus, you get $5 just for signing up and taking your first survey.
3. Earn Cash Every Time You Shop (and a $10 Bonus)
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!
4. Let This App Get You Lower Prices
It turns out deleting your emails could be costing you serious 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 archives 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 anytime there’s a price drop.
5. Share Your Amazon Purchase History
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Take a couple of minutes to share your purchase history to earn another $3 each month.
6. Let Your Savings Build Itself
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!
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 100 days, then it’s $2.99 per month afterward.
7. Invest Your Pocket Change — and Get $5
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. Get Paid for the Things You Were Going to Buy Anyway
The best kind of savings are the kind where you don’t have to do a thing. That’s what makes the Drop app so appealing.
As a Drop user, all you have to do is link your credit and debit cards. When you make a Drop-qualified purchase, you’ll automatically earn points, whether you’re shopping at Walmart, hailing an Uber to get to Walmart or ordering a pizza to avoid another trip to Walmart.
The points will add up, and you can exchange them for gift cards to popular retailers like Amazon and Starbucks.
9. Get Paid to Lose Weight
Are you walking around town counting steps on your Fitbit all day?You could be earning cash for that!
Bottom line: HealthyWage will literally pay you for losing weight.
Not only are you getting more healthy, you’re also making some money. How’s that for motivation?
Here’s how it works:
- Read our full HealthyWage review, and sign up.
- Define a goal weight and the amount of time you’ll give yourself to achieve it.
- Place a bet on yourself ranging from $20 to $500 a month.
Depending on how much you have to lose, how long you give yourself to do it and how much money you put on the table, you could win up to $10,000!
Wondering if it can really work? We talked to one woman, Teresa Suarez, who lost 68 pounds — and made over $2,400.
10. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills On Time
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.
11. Find out Where You're Wasting Money
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!
12. Play the Slots — and Earn More Interest Than at Your Bank
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.
13. Sell Your Old Media and Electronics
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.
14. Get Paid Just for Downloading This App
Ever wonder how companies come up with new ideas for their apps and mobile websites? It’s through data! And companies will pay you to share your info just by downloading an app.
Gift cards for $5 are most common, but we've seen users win a $25 Amazon gift card, and other prizes include GoPros and Samsung TVs.
Unlike some apps, MobileXpression users are guaranteed rewards for their participation.
The app records information on what you browse, download and stream, but it doesn’t collect any personal information. So your phone calls, photos contacts, texts, emails and iMessages are totally private.
15. Start Investing — With a $5 Bonus
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.
16. Supercharge Your Bank Account
There’s no law that requires you to bank the old-fashioned way — at a brick-and-mortar bank with a crummy interest rate on your savings.It’s time to move your money into the 21st century.
Varo Money has combined traditional banking tools with modern technology to help its customers become financially healthy. Its big selling points include:
- All-in-one: In addition to a bank account, you can open a Varo Savings Account, earning 1.35% Annual Percentage Yield.
- No fees: With Varo, as long as you use one of its 55,000 ATMs across the world, you’ll never pay fees. Additionally, you’ll pay no monthly service fees, no minimum balance fees, no foreign transaction fees and no cash replacement fees. You’ll just pay out-of-network ATM fees and cash deposit fees if you deposit cash in-store through Green Dot.
- Early access to your paycheck: Get paid up to two days before your check is typically posted when you set up direct deposit with Varo.
- Varo Forecast: Varo keeps tabs on how much you spend across all your accounts so you can better analyze and project your cash flow. It also allows you to set spending caps.
To sign up for Varo, you’ll have to download its free iOS app. (Sorry Android users and desktop traditionalists!)