Here’s How to Get Paid to Go on a Scavenger Hunt Around Town

Khiem Nguyen earns gift cards through Shopkick by simply running his weekly errands
Khiem Nguyen earns gift cards through Shopkick by simply running his weekly errands. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

If it’s a Sunday, you might catch Khiem Nguyen in his bedroom, lacing up his sneakers.

No, he’s not going on a run or heading off to his swing-dance lessons — though he does that, too.

He’s getting ready to tackle some errands.

His plan of attack: Start at the mall, head to the shopping plaza — you know, the one with Best Buy and Target — then round out the day by picking up groceries at Publix.

You might be wondering why Nguyen, 31, has so perfectly planned his errands. Well, it’s because he’s an avid Shopkick user and has earned 112,485 kicks in the past five years, which translates to more than $450 in gift cards.

Let me explain…

What is Shopkick?

a hand holding a phone showing the shopkick app
Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

Shopkick isn’t just another rewards app.

Just ask Nguyen. He’s tried a number of these things, even before he joined The Penny Hoarder as a social media video strategist.

But Shopkick is the only rewards app he’s stuck with — for five years now.

Here’s how it works: You download the app. (It’s free.) Create an account and share your location. Then bam. You’ll see all the ways you can earn kicks, which translate to gift cards.

For example, 6,250 kicks will get you a $25 Amazon gift card.

You can also snag T.J. Maxx, Best Buy, Walmart, Target and Starbucks gifts cards — among others.

Um, so, how can I start earning some kicks?

How to Earn Kicks (and Gift Cards) Using Shopkick

You can earn kicks at physical stores or online, if you’d rather not leave the couch.

Earning In-Store Kicks

There are four ways to earn kicks at nearby stores. Sometimes retailers offer all four options; other times you might only have one.

Either way, here are the four methods — two of which don’t require you to buy anything. (Nguyen’s favorite tactics!)

1. Walk-Ins

This is a super easy way to earn kicks. You simply open the app and walk into an affiliated store.

2. Scans

Earn kicks by scanning barcodes.

Shopkick will present you with a list of items. It’s your job to find these around the store. Think of it like a scavenger hunt.

This is one of Nguyen’s favorite ways to earn points. For him, it feels like a game — a challenge. Sometimes he even wanders the aisles of Target with a friend and scans items along the way.

He’s also noticed a budding Shopkick community since he’s started using the app. Some users will leave items’ barcodes turned toward the aisle, making it easy for other users to scan.

And then there’s the occasional weird instance when two Shopkick users meet in an aisle.

Nguyen once ran into an elderly couple when he was scanning a bag of dog food. The separate parties looked at each other then smiled when they realized they were both in the aisle for the same reason.

3. Receipts

If you do decide to buy something from a Shopkick-affiliated retailer, see if that item is eligible for kicks.

For example, buy some vitamins from CVS and earn up to 400 kicks. Or snag coffee from Publix and earn 100 kicks.

Just take a photo of the receipt. You know, just for kicks.

4. Linked Cards

You can also link your credit and/or debit card. It’s free (and secure). Then, when you use your card, you can earn kicks.

For example, you can earn one kick per dollar spent at T.J. Maxx.

Earning Online Kicks

Now, let’s get to the online part — the part where you don’t have to leave your house.

This works similarly to the linked cards method. When you shop through Shopkick’s portal at a participating retailer, you can earn kicks per dollar spent.

Here are a few offers available now:

  • Two kicks per $1 spent at Apple 
  • 10 kicks per $1 spent at 
  • Eight kicks per $1 spent at Groupon 
  • Three kicks per $1 spent at

When you complete your online purchase, you’ll get your kicks.

Pro Tips From a Shopkick Fanatic

To date, Khiem Nguyen has earned more than $400 in gift cards through Shopkick. Heather Comparetto/The Penny Hoarder

After I downloaded the app, I had asked Nguyen to spill his Shopkick secrets. Because I want $450.

Here’s what he had to offer:

  • Take advantage of the “Discover” portion of the app. This is one of Nguyen’s favorite before-bed routines. Here, you’ll watch short ads and scroll through lookbooks. For example, watch a short Aleve commercial and earn 10 kicks. “This, to me, is easy,” Nguyen says as he scrolls through ads. “It’s instant gratification. You watch some ads, and then [Shopkick] makes a nice chime noise, and it says here’s five points! I get addicted to it.”
  • Keep an eye on special promotions. A couple of years ago, Shopkick had a Black Friday special, and Nguyen hit up an outlet mall. He basically bounced from store to store and ended up collecting 4,000 kicks.
  • Don’t forget to deal-stack. If Nguyen is earning kicks by buying something, he’ll use his rewards credit card. He’ll also claim gift cards to his most-frequented Shopkick stops, like Best Buy. Then, when he earns a gift card, he’ll use it — and pay the remainder with his linked card.
  • Hit up the shopping centers. One of Nguyen’s favorite parts of Shopkick is that it’s paired with stores that are typically within the same shopping center — or close by. So he can earn tons of kicks if he goes to the center that contains Target, Marshall’s and Best Buy. Malls are also a hub for kicks.
  • Treat it like exercise. Challenge yourself. Nguyen loves turning Shopkick into a game. Hence the sneakers.
  • Aim for the $20 or $25 gift cards. Nguyen has found that the $10 cards aren’t enough, and it might just lead you to buying a crappy item you don’t really want. Rather, the $20 and $25 cards can cover a decent purchase.

Nguyen says he mostly spends his gift cards at Best Buy. He uses them toward items he’d otherwise feel guilty purchasing.

Right now, he’s saving up for a new video game.

Last year, he built up a smart home, and one of his best purchases with a Shopkick gift card, thus far, has been a Philips smart lighting — lights that come on or dim when Nguyen uses a voice command.

“When I have a gift card I’ve earned through Shopkick, I feel justified to buy things like that,” he says.

Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.