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What to Expect When Donating Plasma

Jennifer is a single mom who makes a living selling on eBay. She enjoys sharing her tips on how to earn extra cash.


How Much Money Can You Make Donating Plasma?

Earning $50 to $75 for the first two donations, regardless of weight, is common. Earning up to $400 before bonus incentives is very possible. How much they pay varies by location. Most centers will give bonuses to first-time donors for the first two or three visits. If the rates aren’t easy to find, be assertive and ask. Everyone should understand that money is your main reason for being there.

The pay rates are often based on your weight.

The more you weigh, the more plasma they can get, and the more you earn. There is a minimum weight of 110 pounds to avoid health risks for the donor.

One-time vs. recurring donors:

Plasma centers need regular (recurring) donors, so they often offer extra bonuses to them. Because they have to pool two to three donations from the same donor before they can use the plasma, donation centers try to attract repeat donors as much as possible.

Donors who return twice a week for a month can receive up to $300 or more extra in bonuses.

How often can you donate plasma?

Donors can return every two days as long as no health concerns come up.

These rates are the average for my area. Check with your center for details on their current payouts for donating and bonuses.

Basic Requirements for Donating Plasma

You must...

  • be in good health.
  • be at least 18 years old.
  • weight at least 110 pounds.
  • have identification.
  • have no new tattoos or piercings in the last 12 months.
  • have a permanent address (some—but not all—centers require this).

What if you don't have a permanent address?

Sometimes, like during financial emergencies, people have to live in hotels or with a friend or family member. The donation center does need a way to keep track of you, so discuss with them what options are available if you’re in this situation.

The permanent address requirement is also for the protection of homeless persons. Donating plasma can place undue stress on your body if you are sleeping exposed to the elements. Sleeping outdoors has health risks on its own. The health risk of donating plasma for homeless individuals is very high. Death is even possible. Please don’t try to donate until you have secured a place to sleep indoors. I really want to see you stay alive. Please.


How to Prepare for Your First Visit

1. Drink lots of water and non-caffeinated beverages.

2. Eat before you go in. Eat well, including something with protein. Some people say they feel better after if they eat well and drink a lot for 24 hours before donating.

3. Have a list of any medications you take. Taking medications doesn’t automatically exclude you from donating. Take the list with you and they’ll help you decide if anything is a problem. The donation process removes only plasma from your blood, and your medication most times will not affect it.

4. Wear comfortable clothes. You'll be in a recliner-style bed and not able to move once the donation starts.

5. Take something to read or do—something you can do without using the donating arm. They do often have free WiFi, so phones and tablets are ideal. Remember that you can’t sleep there. The attendants need to see your eyes open in order to know you’re okay.

When You Arrive at the Donation Center

There should be a check-in when you first arrive. Tell the receptionist it’s your first time and let them guide you. Usually, there is a health questionnaire to fill out.

Often there’s a short informational video to watch or a book to read about donating and what the plasma is used for.

You will be examined by a doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to donate.

This process can take some time, especially if they’re busy. Allow up to three or four hours for your very first donation. After the first donation, things go much faster.

How to Speed up the Plasma Donation Process

All things being equal, the donation process is generally shorter for those who weigh less.

But there are things you can do to speed up the completion of your donation.

  1. Being well-hydrated makes a huge difference.
  2. Pump the fist of your donation arm. A stress ball or some other small toy that you can squeeze over and over as the machine is pumping blood out helps speed the process. Just make sure to keep your arm still as you do it.
  3. Keep your donation arm still. If you move and the needle moves, it has to be adjusted. This adds time to your donation.

Health Issues That Prohibit Donating Plasma

There are a few health issues that can keep you from donating.

  • Top of the list is hepatitis and AIDS. The agents that cause these diseases can't be removed from the blood, so potential donors with these conditions get banned. There is a database so other plasma centers will be aware of the problems as well.
  • A new tattoo or piercing within the last 12 months will keep you from donating. Be honest about it, because if they find out about it somehow, it can lead to a lifetime ban from donating to that company or any other.

What Is a Temporary Deferral?

A temporary deferral can happen if it looks like you’re not healthy enough to donate. Plasma centers do care about their donors’ health. If donating will cause severe risks, you can be deferred for a day or two.

Having high blood pressure right before trying to donate is one example. You may be nervous or have just exerted yourself, making your blood pressure too high to donate. You should be given a chance to relax for a few minutes so that it will come down.

But if your blood pressure is still too high, you will be asked to come back on another day to try again because it puts you at risk for a stroke. That’s an outcome no one wants. So a temporary deferral of one to two days is likely.

Having an elevated temperature or other signs of illness will also cause a temporary deferment.

After Your Donation

After a successful donation, money will be put on a cash card that you can use like a credit or debit card. You may prefer to take cash off the card. Many grocery chains will allow you to convert it to cash at customer service. If in doubt, ask the person you fill out paperwork with.

Your arm may be tender after you donate, so take care not to do anything strenuous for a couple of hours. They put a bandage on your arm to help with clotting after the needle is removed. Leave it on for a few minutes at least to be safe.

Drink water and eat, especially if you feel light-headed or nauseous. The paperwork and donation process takes some time, so it will likely be time for at least a snack when you get out.

Good luck with your donation.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.