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Paid Surveys: Extra Money or a Scam?

Liz has spent the last year on a journey of doing more with less.

Here are some of my recommendations for paid survey apps and websites.

Here are some of my recommendations for paid survey apps and websites.

Can I Ask You a Question?

Market research and survey groups are key pieces of society, doing everything from collecting feedback about politics to product development and measuring advertising effectiveness. In return for market research companies receiving valuable feedback for their clients, they will often reward participants with money, gift cards, or prizes. What was once done by telemarketing and guys with clipboards hassling shoppers in malls has evolved to slick apps and websites that people flock to for money and prizes.

I have used several of these programs and will give you the skinny here.

Pay Day or Scam?

There are many survey groups out there that use shady practices to avoid paying participants. Things to look out for include:

  • Cash-out minimums that are often unreachable
  • Tasks that sign users up for unwanted products and services
  • An abundance of survey opportunities that result in "not qualified" messages
  • Surveys that pay incredibly low, especially when they take over five minutes
  • Requiring fees to participate


  • Start a separate email address for surveys to avoid receiving spam in your main email and help avoid identity theft.
  • Read user reviews and pay attention to comments about how easy the cash-out process is.
  • Don't pay anything to get started.
  • Avoid sharing your social security number, and if you ever feel uncomfortable answering a question, don't. Some surveys openly warn that they are asking about sensitive topics like medical problems and offer an option like "I don't want to share."
  • Look at what their surveys are worth. Some companies pay a couple of dollars for a single survey, but they are long and in-depth. Some surveys are less than a dollar, but they don't ask for much information or take much time.
  • Be diligent. Some survey groups only offer surveys to small groups or for a limited time, so surveys can expire before you get to them. Also, for some survey groups, payments increase the more you participate or the longer you are with the group.

The Good and the Bad

The Good:

  • Pinecone Research—I have used Pinecone Research for almost twenty years and can say that they are the best survey group I have ever used. They use a points program, with most surveys worth 300 points. Those points can then be redeemed for gift cards, prizes, or straight to PayPal with 300 points equaling three dollars. I haven't redeemed for prizes, but their cashout to PayPal option receives payment within a couple of days of redemption. Surveys are usually geared toward upcoming products like a new fast food restaurant item or snack food product and take around fifteen minutes. After taking surveys, participants may be sent products and receive follow-up surveys for even more points. In my years of using the program, I have received cereal, corn chips, bacon, paper towels, and air freshener. There's nothing like getting a surprise in the mail that is a product that no one else has yet because it isn't on the market and then giving your feedback to determine if and how the product will be sold. They usually offer two or three surveys per month. Pinecone Research doesn't accept referrals or even have an active signup link on its website. They do occasionally run banner ads or send links out to their participants to recruit.
  • Streetbees—Streetbees is an app that has short surveys that they call stories. Stories are laid out almost like a text message conversation, starting by asking how your day is going and moving on to a series of questions that may be multiple choice or may be open and require typing. Many of the surveys are short and only worth about thirty to fifty cents. Some surveys are a little longer and ask users to take a picture (such as showing what products they are currently using), and they may be worth between a dollar and five dollars. Survey topics range from how participants feel about Covid-19 to what products they are using to clean or for personal care to what they are eating. After completing a story, it is submitted for review, and this process usually happens in about a day (sometimes within a couple of hours). If approved, funds are sent straight to PayPal - no minimums or need to request payment! Surveys are occasionally declined, and reasons are not given unless the Streetbees help team is emailed. In the last eleven months of participating, I have made almost a hundred dollars.
  • National Consumer Panel (NCP)—NCP is a market research panel that is a joint venture between Nielsen (the people known for the television ratings) and IRi. They are a little more than just a survey group; they also ask participants to scan their purchases either using a phone app or a scanner that they provide. They use this data to analyze prices, what promotions people are using (sales, coupons, etc.), and purchase trends. NCP also sends out brief surveys (usually around five to fifteen minutes long) to get users' opinions about products they may be buying and seasonal activities. Participation is rewarded with points that accumulate and can be redeemed for gift cards in the NCP Prize Catalog, which contains home goods or can be used in monthly raffles for even bigger prizes. NCP is generous with its points. Points are given weekly (as long as the user scans purchases), and the number of points given rises based on tenure and consistency. Surveys are usually worth 150 points or 50 points, plus a raffle entry. There are occasionally extra opportunities to earn compensation with things like snack diaries, anniversaries, birthdays, and seasonal contests. I have redeemed my points a few times over the years and haven't run into any issues. Prizes may take a couple of weeks to receive, but the gift card option only takes about a day.
  •— is a survey group that emails several survey opportunities per week. Surveys usually take between five and twenty minutes, and users are still compensated ten cents if they don't qualify for the full survey. Users also build a TraitScore through consistently participating and getting higher payouts for completed surveys. The payout threshold is $15, which is tougher to reach at first as users build their TraitScore, but with consistency, TraitScore bonuses make payouts possible within a month or two. Payments are made via PayPal.

The Bad:

  • InboxDollars—InboxDollars is a program with multiple ways to earn—taking surveys, clicking on links in emails, watching videos, and even playing in-app mini-games. The reviews in the Google Play Store are mixed, although the average rating is four-stars. My impression is less than favorable. There are paid offers such as sign up for this free sample club, or click here and get a reloadable gift card! Many of the offers were spammy or possible scams that I wasn't interested in. I did try signing up for one of the free samples, and it launched me into an endless loop of needing to sign up for some other program to get free samples which resulted in multiple spammers getting my email address, and I never got my free sample. The points from playing games are minimal and have a limited number of plays per day. The video links took me to outdated Yahoo News articles and would sometimes freeze. The surveys had small values and often said I wasn't qualified after a few questions. I spent hours of time over the course of a couple of months, and I never got to the point to cash out due to there being a minimum.
  • MindField Online—I've attempted to use MindField Online several times in the last eleven years, and despite having my demographic profile filled out, I have been bombarded with emails inviting me to take surveys that I would start and never qualify for. My history shows a list of over 50 surveys taken, with zero surveys qualified for payment.
You won't make a fortune, but paid surveys can be a legitimate source of side income.

You won't make a fortune, but paid surveys can be a legitimate source of side income.

Happy Earning!

While you won't become a millionaire with these programs or even make enough to quit your job, these surveys can be fun, get you the inside scoop on new products that sometimes include free trials, and get you some extra cash and prizes for participating. Find the programs that work for you (I recommend using more than one to maximize your earnings), and have fun!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Liz Woodward