8 Best Money-Making Apps — Earn for Doing Almost Nothing

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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 2024

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 While Watching the News

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

If we told you that you could get paid while watching the news 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 fill out short surveys while you're watching tonight's broadcast.  You just have to answer honestly, and InboxDollars will continue to pay you every month. 

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 bonus just for signing up and completing your survey.

Available on Android (rated 4.1 stars) and iOS (rated 4.5 stars).

2. Get Cash Back Every Time You Shop at Your Favorite Stores (Get $5 Right Now)

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

Finding the best grocery deals online is getting more complicated every day.With thousands of coupon sites and referral codes out there, how do you know you’re getting the best deal?

Leave it to Tada to find you the best cash-back opportunities. When you shop at Walmart, Target, Kroger or any of the other thousands of stores Tada partners with, you’ll see all available coupons and get cash back on your purchase. 

All you have to do is clip deals from your favorite stores and add them to your app’s virtual grocery list before you shop. You can also scan a receipt after shopping in-store. You’ll see your cash rewards in your account in just a few days, then you can redeem them for gift cards or transfer the balance straight into your PayPal account. 

It takes just a few minutes to sign up and get your $5 first shop bonus after your first receipt upload.

3. 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).

4. Acorns: Spend $5 to Own a Piece of Amazon or Google

A man looks through his wallet.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

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, within 10 days of the following month.

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

5. 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).

6. 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?

It takes seconds to make an account with your email address and a password. If you’re new to Swagbucks, check out our complete Swagbucks review.

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).

7. Shutterstock: Cash in on Your iPhone Camera Skills

Take decent photos on your smartphone? Sell those photos through Shutterstock.

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 Shutterstock, 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 an online payment processing service account like PayPal. You must submit an applicable tax form.

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 4.5 stars) and iOS (rated 4.4 stars).

8. Make Money When You Hang out With Dogs

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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).

Carson Kohler is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She loves testing out new money-making apps.

App ratings are accurate as of Jan 2024.

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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.