The economist Milton Friedman famously said, “There are no free lunches.” Clearly the poor guy didn’t have access to the internet.
Today, there are more than a few ways to get free money — you just have to know where to look.
By “free,” we don’t mean that you push a button and money magically rains down from above.
For the purpose of this article, we’re defining “free” as involving minimal time (a few minutes or so), minimal effort and minimal skill — although there are a few honorable mentions that take a little more elbow grease at the end of the post.
If you’re looking for some ideas to quickly and legitimately pad your wallet or make some extra cash for a specific goal (like paying off debt), this article will equip you with a host of options to choose from.
Top Five Free Money Offers Right Now
Not all money-making endeavors are worth it. Some websites take a long time to pay you, while other offers simply take too much time for the reward they provide.
We’ve compiled a list of the top five current ways to get free money. These are all legit sites or apps that we have vetted, and the amount of work and time involved is reasonable for the compensation provided.
#1. Swagbucks Money Makers
Swagbucks gives you many ways to make a quick buck — everything from paid surveys to cash-back shopping to watching videos. Powered by a legitimate marketing and research company, it’s the ultimate get-paid-to-do-stuff site.
But the absolute best way to make money on the platform — and the fastest way to get free money in general — is by taking advantage of the site’s “money makers.” These are offers, like product trials and new account bonuses, where you pay a certain amount of money up-front and earn more in rewards than you paid.
Our article on the best Swagbucks hacks goes into more detail about what money makers are, why they exist and how they work. But here’s a quick rundown of a few of the offers that we completed when testing the site for that article.
- North One Bank: Earned $150 by opening a business checking account and depositing $50.
- Aspiration Bank: Earned $35 by opening a checking account and depositing $25.
- Stash: Earned $30 by opening a micro-investing account and depositing $5.
- Truebill: Earned $15 by linking a bank account and signing up for the seven-day free trial.
In all of the cases above, we were able to transfer our initial deposit out of the new account after a few days, meaning we earned $220 in 100% free money for about one hour of work.
For more info on all the money-making opportunities Swagbucks offers, check out our full Swagbucks review.
#2. Free Stock Shares
Numerous stock trading apps have sprung up in recent years. You’ve probably heard of Webull and Robinhood, but there are literally dozens of stock trading apps and websites, and many of them reward you with free stock shares, or even free bitcoin, just for signing up.
Most of the shares you’ll receive are worth less than $20, but there’s a chance you can snag a high-value stock (worth up to $3,000 in some cases). Even if you don’t hit the jackpot, signing up is usually fast, easy and free, making this a solid way to get some free money in your bank or PayPal account.
As a general rule, you only need to hold your shares for a few days before selling them and cashing out.
#3. Website Signup Bonuses
There are a number of websites that will pay you for signing up.
These are usually cash-back apps and portals, and paid survey sites, with new account bonuses ranging from $5 to $25.
You can see all the latest and best offers in our list of sites that offer a signup bonus.
One thing to keep in mind is that these sites often have a minimum withdrawal amount, so you may need to earn more money on the platform before you’re able to cash-out your bonus.
#4. Coupon and Rebate Apps
A few minutes spent using coupon and rebate apps will put money in your bank account for very little effort. Plus, you can stack many apps and coupons, instantly increasing your rewards.
For instance, you can sign up with both Ibotta and Fetch, two apps that pay you cash for scanning your grocery receipts. You can upload the same receipts for both apps, getting paid twice for roughly the same amount of work.
Certain stores will allow you to use in-store coupons or sales and stack them with manufacturer’s coupons as well. While many stores use coupons and rebate apps, you’re most likely to get great savings at grocery stores or big-box stores.
#5. Price-Drop Refunds
Have you ever bought something online, only to find it cheaper the next week? It’s easier than ever to get money back on price drops with Capital One Shopping.
Capital One Shopping monitors your confirmation and shipping emails for your online purchases. If the price on something you just bought drops, the service petitions the vendor for a refund of the difference — all for free and usually with no effort required from you.
Capital One Shopping tracks purchases from more than 25 major retailers. The money goes back to the credit card or payment method you used to make your purchase.
The service also has a suite of other great money-saving tools, like the ability to earn rewards for shopping and apply coupon codes at checkout with a click of a button. And you don’t have to be a Capital One account holder to join. Check out our Capital One Shopping review to learn more.
The Best Ways to Get Free Money
The offers listed above are the easiest and fastest ways to get free money right now, but the options below can be even more lucrative if you have a little more time and are willing to put in a little bit of effort.
#1. Max Out Your Retirement Account Match
Many employers offer a company match to your retirement account contributions. This means that for every dollar you invest in your 401(K) (or similar account), your employer puts in a dollar — up to a certain percentage of your salary.
Most people know this, but not everyone has thought about the math.
When you contribute up to the maximum employer match, you are literally doubling your money with zero downside risk. No investment product offers that level of certainty.
In other words: this is the most free money you’ll ever get, short of winning the lottery or inheriting a lump sum of cash.
Sadly, many people pass up this amazing opportunity. A 2015 study found that Americans miss out on well over $20 billion dollars every year by not signing up for their 401(K) match.
That averages out to $1,300 per person per year.
To snag this extra money, talk to your HR department to see if your employer offers retirement account matching. If you’re in the market for a job, ask about 401(K) or retirement matching during salary negotiations.
#2. Find Unclaimed Money
What happened to that last paycheck you forgot to collect from your summer job in high school, or the leftover funds in that checking account you closed years ago?
Good news: that money is not lost to the sock gnomes. You can get it back by searching websites designed to track unclaimed property and return it to its rightful owner.
Having unclaimed money is surprisingly common. One of the team members here at The Ways To Wealth tried this strategy and found unclaimed money for himself, his wife, his parents and several relatives — everything from old paychecks to reimbursements for health insurance overpayments.
You only need a name (and preferably a city) to search for money, but you’ll need documentation (like an ID) to claim it.
Most claims are for less than $50, but there are many that amount to $100 or more — particularly if you find an old bank account or a pension from an old job that you never transferred. In our own experiment, we found a refund from an insurance company for $150.
The three websites below are all government (or government-affiliated) portals:
- National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators: Start your search for unclaimed funds here. This site has a link to each official website of all 50 states. You might find old insurance premium refunds, membership refunds, bank accounts you’ve forgotten about and more.
- Department of Labor: If your employer owes you wages as a result of a labor dispute, you may not find it on the website above, but it will show up on the U.S. Department of Labor website. Funds are held for three years before being sent to the U.S. Treasury.
- Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation: The PBGC insures pension plans in the event that the company issuing them fails. Check this website to track down any missing payments you might be entitled to from a former employer.
Note: There’s no point to use third-party sites or services to get unclaimed money, whether they’re free or fee-based. The easiest and safest way to find money is the government-sponsored websites listed above.
#3. Get Credit Card and Bank Account Bonuses
This involves a little more work than some other options, but getting credit card or bank account bonuses is a fairly quick way to get a solid chunk of cash.
Many credit cards and checking accounts offer $100 to $500 for signing up.
Typically you have to meet certain criteria to qualify for a bonus, such as link a direct deposit, fund the account with a minimum amount of money, spend a certain amount within a given timeframe, and/or keep the account open for a certain amount of time. So be sure to check the fine print.
Also note that opening a new bank account can show up as a hard pull on your credit, so if you’re looking to make a large purchase soon (such as a home), it’s best to wait until after to go for account bonuses.
For the most comprehensive, up-to-date collection of bank and credit card bonuses, check the Doctor of Credit website.
But before you go after account bonuses, check the Swagbucks portal. As we highlighted in the earlier section on money makers, financial account offers often have the best payouts, and you may be able to as much as double your return by opening the account through Swagbucks.
#4. Get Cash-Back From Shopping
A few quick clicks from a cashback app or web extension can snag you 2-10% in free money. If you regularly shop online, using a cashback portal is a no-brainer, since it rewards you for purchases you’re making anyway.
Here are a few of our favorite cashback apps and why we love them:
- Rakuten: It’s easy to use, transparent and reliable. Plus, they have consistently excellent bonus rates at a huge variety of online vendors.
- Cash App: The P2P payment app’s “Boosts” are some of the best cashback deals you’ll find — recent examples include 10% back at Whole Foods and DoorDash, 15% back at Shake Shack and more. Swipe your Cash App debit card (or use it to pay online) to snag these deals.
How much you make will depend on how much you spend, as well as where and when. Vendors can offer up to 40% cashback, though 2% to 10% is most common.
Related: How To Get Free Walmart Gift Cards.
#5. Take Online Surveys
You won’t make a mint taking online surveys, but if you’re waiting at the doctor’s office or standing in line, you can turn that dead time into a little bit of extra cash. Once you load a survey app on your phone, you can complete surveys and offers whenever and wherever you like.
There are plenty of websites that will pay you for surveys, but here are a few of the best ones we’ve reviewed:
- Survey Junkie: This is our top pick for best dedicated survey site. Survey Junkie is an aggregator, so there’s always a good number of surveys to complete.
- Google Opinion Rewards: This app has a limited number of surveys but one of the best user interfaces and solid pay.
- Prolific: Pays the best by far, but the surveys aren’t as prolific as the name suggests, and it takes a while to get paid.
The returns for your time depend on how dedicated you are, but $10 to $50 each month isn’t impossible if you take surveys for a few minutes per day.
#6. Use Online Rewards Sites
Tired of taking surveys for cash? In addition to surveys, online rewards sites offer multiple ways to make extra money — think tasks like watching videos, playing games and completing offers.
Some of these activities pay handsomely, like opening a new bank account or downloading a free trial of an app. Others pay mere pennies and simply aren’t worth your time. Focus on the big money-makers to optimize your use of online rewards sites.
Here are some of the best ones we’ve reviewed:
- Swagbucks: Boasts the most ways to earn money, an easy-to-use interface and the fastest payout of any online rewards site.
- InboxDollars: Features many of the same offers as Swagbucks, but is simpler and more straightforward to use.
- MyPoints: Offers a good cashback shopping portal, plus it pays you for printing and using paper coupons.
Check out our Swagbucks Hacks article for tips on getting the most out of the platform.
#7. Get Paid to Play Games
If you’ve ever wanted to get paid to play games, Mistplay is for you.
Developers want to get their games in front of new players, but competition among mobile games is fierce and plentiful. Mistplay is a platform that pays users to discover new games. The longer you play and the better you do on a given game, the more points you collect.
Points can be redeemed for a free Amazon gift card, Steam credit, prepaid Visa, free Google Play codes and more. Unfortunately, Mistplay is only available for Android at the moment. (Sorry, iPhone users.)
You’re not going to rake in the dough playing games on your phone (the most you can make in a month is around $50), but since you’re already doing it, you might as well monetize it.
Related: How to get paid to play games.
#7. Get Refunds for Internet Service Outages
It’s always a bummer when the Wi-Fi goes out, but did you know that internet companies will sometimes compensate you for the downtime?
The problem is, if you don’t happen to be surfing the web when the outage occurs, you likely won’t know there was any downtime at all.
That’s where Trim can help.
Trim is designed to lower your bill on services like internet, cable, cell phone and utilities. One of their most successful methods of doing this is by detecting outages on your linked accounts like cable and internet.
Here’s an example of a refund I received:
And if you hate haggling about rate increases on the phone as much as I do, Trim can take care of that as well. Trim negotiates your rate on all your bills to try to get them reduced for you, which means more savings for you without the cheesy hold music.
Check out our Trim review to learn more about how the service works.
#8. Scan Your Grocery Receipts
By using a market research app and scanning your receipts, you can make money for something you have to do anyway — shopping for groceries. These companies will pay you to scan your receipts to gather info about your shopping habits.
You won’t make oodles of cash scanning grocery receipts, but this literally only takes a few seconds of your time. The real secret here is to stack payments by scanning the same receipt into multiple apps, getting paid more than once for the same receipt.
You can easily make $3 a month in each app. Multiply that by 12 months and three apps and you’ve got over $100. Not bad money for a minute or two each week.
- Ibotta: Add the offers on the items you want, purchase the items, then scan the receipt when you’re done. Ibotta has some of the best cashback offers on everyday grocery items like milk, bread, cereal and produce.
- Fetch Rewards: There’s no need to activate offers before buying items with Fetch Rewards, and the app works at any store. Earn points whenever you buy items from a participating brand.
- National Consumer Panel: This mobile app will give you up to 500 points weekly for scanning your receipts (grocery, hardware store, pet store and more), which you can redeem for free gift cards.
#9. Do Research While Grocery Shopping
Want to make even more money while shopping? Using the Shopkick app, you can earn rewards to redeem for gift cards — sometimes just by walking into the store.
Shopkick is designed to merge the online and retail shopping experience and incentivizes you to actually go into the physical store.
Here’s a list of some of the things you can earn points for in the app:
- Entering a store (detected via GPS).
- Scanning the barcodes of promoted products.
- Purchasing specific items and scanning your receipts.
- Buying things with a linked credit or debit card.
If you make purchases through the Shopkick online portal (which works similarly to Rakuten) or watch in-app video ads, you can earn points at home, too.
If you’re curious about whether using Shopkick is worth the effort, check out this article for more details.
#10. Sell Your Data
The Economist says that data is now a more valuable commodity than oil, and companies are willing to pay handsomely for it.
Data like your shopping habits, which TV programs you like and how long you stay on a website before clicking away is gold to companies that spend millions on advertising, because it gives them clues as to what their customers like (and what they don’t).
The good news is that everyone has personal data to sell. These data collection apps will run in the background, earning you money with no effort on your part.
These apps won’t pay your mortgage, but they will make you some extra spending money. Most of them have earnings caps at $50 to $180 per year.
- Nielsen Consumer and Mobile Panel: This data collection app gathers less information than most and will pay you up to $50 per year for running in the background. It takes notes on what websites you use, how long you stay on each one, etc.
- Savvy Connect: Connected to the well-known site Survey Savvy, this app pays you $5 per device per month for your web browsing data. Earnings cap at $180 per year and a paper check is your only payment option. Some users complain of Savvy Connect slowing down their device’s speed.
- MobileXpression: This app is very similar to the other two, but offers a $5 Amazon gift card as a signup bonus, along with an entry into their monthly sweepstakes for $150. They pay the equivalent of $1.36 per week (in gift cards) to run their data collection app on your phone. Download the iOS version here, and the Android version here.
Selling your data sounds about as close to free money as you can get, but proceed with caution. Be aware of what you’re passing along and how secure the information is kept before signing up with a market research app.
Note that many of these apps collect information on your income, race, age, number of children and more. While this data is anonymized and disassociated with identifying info like your name and phone number, if you’re uncomfortable sharing this info, keep scrolling for more ideas on getting free money.
#11. Monetize Your Phone’s Lock Screen
People stare at their phones much more than billboards these days, so it’s no surprise that companies are paying to advertise in that space too. Monetizing your lock screen is a great way to earn passive income with no extra effort from you.
Simply download one of the apps below to get started.
- S’more: You can earn $36 per year just by allowing S’more to run ads on your lock screen, assuming you unlock your phone once per day. Referring other users and special bonuses will earn you more.
- Current: This app pays you to listen to music. You can choose from thousands of stations. You can even download tunes to listen offline and still get points for doing so. Ads appear on your lock screen while the music plays.
Admittedly, a few cents per day isn’t a lot. But if you’re like most people, you unlock your phone and listen to music already, so collecting money for doing things you already do truly is free.
#12. Put Advertisements On Your Car
This is another great way to monetize something you’re already doing. If you commute to work every day or put plenty of miles on your car shuttling kids around, you can monetize that drive time by allowing an advertising company to place a vinyl ad (called a wrap) on your vehicle.
As long as there’s no damage to the body or paint, the vinyl comes off clean at the end of the advertising campaign. Log your miles in a mobile app and get paid for them.
Depending on how extensive the wrap is (full, partial or lite), you can make anywhere from $150 to $400 a month.
Sadly, scammers abound in this industry. Here are a couple of legitimate companies that pay you for car wrapping advertisements.
- Wrapify: has advertising campaigns nationwide. They require a 2010 vehicle or newer and you must drive at least 50 miles per day to be an eligible driver.
- Carvertize: This company works primarily in Chicago, LA, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Dallas and Wilmington (Delaware). To participate with Carvertize, you must have a 2008 vehicle or newer and drive 30 miles or more per day.
Easy Ways to Get Extra Money That Take a Little More Elbow Grease
The strategies listed below don’t quite meet our criteria for “free” money because they require more of a time commitment, but they’re good options for boosting your finance with relatively little effort.
- Optimize your finances: Often, the best way to snag more money is to look in your own budget. Easy tasks like switching banks or investment accounts to minimize senseless fees, or shopping around for insurance each year, can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars.
- Join a focus group: Focus groups are like an in-person, deep-dive version of online surveys. Market research companies gather a diverse group of people who share their opinions on products or brands. These usually last 60 to 90 minutes, but the payout is worth it: anywhere from $50 to $150.
- Join a clinical trial: If you meet the criteria, clinical trials can pay very well. These can range from testing new drugs to exercise routines to behavioral interventions.
- Participate in mock trials: eJury gives attorneys the opportunity to take a practice run on their cases before they go to trial. Participants make $5 to $10 for each verdict given. Cases take around 35 minutes to complete.
- Test apps and websites: Sites like UserTesting.com pay you to answer questions and give interviews about products and websites. Each test pays $10 or more and only takes 20 minutes or so to complete. However, some users complain that the interface is glitchy.
- Negotiate lower bills: Apps like Trim and Truebill can lower your monthly bills. Trim negotiates lower rates from providers like cable, internet or even your doctor. Truebill helps you find and eliminate recurring subscriptions you may have forgotten to cancel.
- Get cheaper car insurance: Don’t pay more than you have to — use Gabi to compare quotes on car insurance. A whopping 70% of Gabi users found a cheaper policy with the exact same coverage.
How to Get Free Money from the Government
The government loves to take your money via taxes, but there are many ways to get free cash from the government as well. Here are just a few examples.
- Students can unlock financial aid for school, including scholarships and federal Pell grants, by filling out the FAFSA. Additionally, certain state governments also provide financial aid (on top of the scholarships offered by the federal government). Maximizing these opportunities is usually a better use of your time than applying for highly-competitive private scholarships and grant money.
- Federal and state financial support can help you if your income is low, or when you’re going through a difficult financial period. Depending on the state you live in, you may have access to free money for food, housing, transportation, child care, health care and utilities, and you may even be able to get free internet.
- Tax refunds can be a surprisingly under-utilized source of free money from the government. For example, in 2016, the IRS had $1.5 billion in unclaimed refunds. Remember that you may be entitled to a refund even if you weren’t required to file, as the result of refundable tax credits.
- Lowering your taxes owed is the same as getting free money. The government allows tax credits for things like adopting a child, saving for retirement and attending college; make sure you’re reducing your taxable income by every penny possible.
How to Get Free Money FAQ
It’s cliche, but if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. No one will pay you hundreds of dollars for fogging a mirror.
To spot a free money scam, look for these things:
(1) A payout that is disproportionate to the work involved.
(2) Someone you don’t know asking you to wire/send money.
(3) A request to pay a shipping/handling/processing fee to get your money.
This list is far from comprehensive, and fraudsters are getting smarter and more creative in their cons every day. Trust your instincts. If you have doubts that a site or opportunity is legitimate, don’t use it.
Most of the ways we’ve suggested above will get you money quickly, but the fastest way to get cash in your pocket is completing money maker offers on Swagbucks or a similar site. You can typically find offers that pay from $10 to $100, and the funds can sometimes be in your bank account (or delivered via gift card) in as little as a week.
Many of the free cash ideas on this list allow you to withdraw funds to your PayPal account. For a full list of options, check out our dedicated article: How to Get Free Money on Paypal.
There are many different ways, and some of them are similar to the options found on this list — like using crypto-back shopping portals and playing games. Check out our guide on how to get free Bitcoin to learn more.
It makes sense to think that refinancing your student loan to lower interest rate will save you money, which is essentially the same as getting money for free.
But whether that’s the right move depends on your particular situation. If you have a high or variable interest rate on your student loan, refinancing could be your ticket to more cash in your pocket each month. Depending on your original loan and your credit score, you may be able to get a lower payment, better interest rate, and/or shorter loan term, potentially saving you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your loan.
However, keep in mind that refinancing your student loans from public to private makes them ineligible for government programs like deferment, forbearance, income-based repayment and debt forgiveness.
For example, let’s say you spend 20 years making payments on a federal student loan under an income-based repayment plan. At the end of that 20 year period, you can apply to have any remaining debt forgiven. Depending on the size of your loan, your interest rate and the rate at which you’ve been paying the loan off, this debt forgiveness could result in far greater savings than refinancing.
Similarly, if you work in public service — such as for a city or as a teacher — you can apply to have your loan forgiven after 10 years. Refinancing would most likely make you ineligible for this.
You can learn more about the pros and cons in our guide to student loan refinancing.
How to Get Free Money: Final Thoughts
Because each of these methods involves some time and effort (even if it is a very little bit), the biggest payoff will be in stacking as many of these money makers as possible.
For instance, if you download a data collection app to run in the background while you perform Shopkick tasks at the store, then scan your receipts into Fetch and Ibotta, you’ve only spent a few minutes but you’ve made money in four different ways.
Most of these ways to get free money won’t make you enough to be considered a full-time income. However, with a little time and effort, they can be a fun side hustle that can help you make significant strides in your financial goals.
What to read next: The best ways to make money from home.
*Capital One Shopping compensates us when you sign up for the service using the links we provided in this article.