Plasma Donation: Sell Your Blood for Cash

Make Money with Plasma Donation

Fewer plasma donations are happening now that the economy is getting better. But if you need to make a little extra cash, donating plasma is still a great way to do it.

I think donating plasma is an amazingly great thing to do. It’s a safe and easy way for people to help others while making some extra cash. I’ve known poor college students that might have been homeless college students without this option. One time at the plasma center I met a single dad who told me he’d been giving plasma so he could put gifts for his daughter under the Christmas tree.

Without plasma donors, hemophiliacs, burn victims, people with immunodeficiencies and autoimmune diseases, those undergoing translplants or other major surgeries, and countless other people in need could die waiting for essential transfusions. This is a great example of a win-win situation, but I’m sure you have questions about the process before you roll up your sleeve and let a phlebotomist take your precious plasma away.

Let's take some time to talk about how to make money selling plasma!

Question: Are there any rules about who can donate plasma?

Answer: Donors must be 18 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds (50kg). All individuals must first pass a medical examination, a medical history screening, and tests for transmissible viruses.

What is plasma?

Plasma makes up about 55% of your total blood volume. It is a yellowish liquid composed mostly of water (about 90%) that carries things such as vitamins and hormones through your body. Platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells circulate through your body while suspended in plasma.

Question: Does my blood type affect my ability to donate plasma?

Answer: People with all blood types (A, B, AB, and O) can donate plasma. Since these are blood types and not plasma types, they don't affect who can give or receive plasma.

Is donating plasma safe?

Absolutely. Most complications from plasma donation are very minor. One common complication is the development of a hematoma (which is just fancy doctor-speak for “bruise”) at the needle entry site. I personally had a vein infiltrated once which is when the needle goes through the vein twice. That left a real big bruise, but it didn’t hurt very much at all, and there’s no medical danger to it.

Are plasma donation centers clean?

Some people have images of druggies lined up out the door looking to sell plasma in dingy clinics. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve donated plasma at three different locations, and each was impeccably clean. Remember that there’s nobody forcing you to donate, and you can always walk out if you feel uncomfortable.

Is it ethical to make money selling plasma?

I can only speak for my own conscience here, and this is how I think of it: Plasma treatments save lives. The payment system was adopted because a very large amount of plasma is needed for treatments. In order to encourage the maximum number of donations, the system was incentivized. For those who are on the fence morally about this, I suggest you ask your physician what they think. My doctor said the vital need for plasma far outweighs any of his moral concerns.

Does the procedure hurt?

The technical term for the process is plasmapheresis, and if you don’t like needles, plasma donation probably isn’t for you. A relatively large needle is used. After the stick, the most you should feel is a slight discomfort in your arm. I typically don’t feel anything after the needle is inserted.

How long does it take?

The process itself takes about 45 minutes to an hour. You aren’t allowed to sleep or eat, but I usually take my laptop and either watch a movie or do homework.

Question: Are there risks involved in donating too often?

Answer: Long-term plasma donation can lead to habitual dehydration, lowered levels of antibodies, and deficient levels of iron or hemoglobin. You need your plasma, too. This is why there are limits placed on the frequency of donations.

How often can I donate plasma?

Two times every seven days. Don’t try to work the system and go to multiple donation centers. On top of being stupid (you need to keep enough plasma in your system so your blood doesn’t turn to sludge), there is a national database that all centers check.

How much money can I make selling plasma?

Every center has its own compensation plan. Generally, you are paid $20 to $25 for the first visit and $30 to $45 for the second. I go to BioLife Services and they pay $20 plus $45, for a total of $65 a week (and $260 a month). On top of this, many centers have additional cash prizes or gift certificate programs to keep things fun and interesting.

Question: Can I make more money if I have a rare blood type?

Answer: Although AB donors have a blood type compatible with only 3% of the population, this doesn't mean they make any more money. Rare and common blood types make the same amount.

How do I get paid for my plasma?

Some places pay in cold, hard cash. BioLife gives you a debit card that they deposit money into every time you donate.

How to Get Paid for Plasma Donation

The video below is one a donor shot while he was giving plasma. This is a must-watch if you’re nervous about what the procedure actually looks like.

The Plasmapharesis Procedure

Before you donate plasma, follow these tips:

  • Drink lots of water. This can speed up the process by pumping up your veins.
  • Avoid greasy and fatty food, which can give plasma a milky appearance and disqualify you for donation.
  • No coffee or booze. These drinks dehydrate you.
  • Eat something healthy. Protein and complex carbohydrates like bread, cereal, and fruit are best.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the likelihood you’ll feel lightheaded after donating. Not a fun way to drive home.

This is the kind of machine your center may use to take your plasma.
This is the kind of machine your center may use to take your plasma.

First-Time Plasma Donors

it’s a little bit different for the uninitiated. If it’s your first time, be sure to bring a valid form of government-issued identification (passport, driver's license, or state ID), proof of residence (utility bill, car insurance, etc.), and your social security card. You will undergo a more exhaustive medical history and physical examination your first time: Including the plasma donation itself, this visit should take about 2 to 2.5 hours. You’ll also be asked to stick around for 15 minutes so they can make sure you’re not the type that gets lightheaded after this sort of thing.

Step 1: Pre-Screening:

  • Check in at the front desk
  • Answer screening questions (at BioLife, these are done on a touchscreen computer)
  • Wait for your turn

Step 2: Screening:

  • Your name will be called to begin the screening
  • Get your weight checked (you must weigh at least 110 pounds to donate)
  • Blood pressure check
  • Pulse check
  • Temperature check
  • Finger prick (a small sample of blood from your finger is checked to measure protein and hematocrit)

Step 3: Plasmapheresis (the actual plasma donation part):

  • You will be directed to lie down and get comfortable.
  • They'll do an iodine cleansing at the needle entry site (you choose which arm).
  • The needle is placed in your vein.
  • Sit back and relax for 45 minutes to an hour. As blood is taken out, plasma removed, and the rest is pumped back in, you can watch your plasma bag slowly fill up. The amount taken is dependent on your weight and how quickly the bag fills depends in part on how hydrated you are.
  • Once full, the plasma bag is removed.
  • Saline is pumped into your system. This water and salt solution fills in for the loss of blood volume and makes your body feel cold for a few minutes (since it’s room temperature and your body should be around 98.6 degrees). This is why many donors bring blankets.
  • The needle is removed and you’re bandaged up.

Step 4: Getting paid:

  • Some places pay cash. BioLife puts deposits money onto the debit card they give you.

Step 5: Schedule your next appointment.


Finding Plasma Donation Centers

There are many plasma donation sites you can visit to donate. The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association search engine lists many of the donation centers in the United States, and I go to BioLife Plasma Services. Contact one in your area to set up your screening appointment (where you will also make your first donation if you pass the screening). If you can’t find a center here, try Googling plasma donation in your area, looking in the yellow pages, or asking at a local hospital.

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