How I’ve Been Earning (a pretty small but non-zero amount of) Extra Cash Online

Last summer, I spent a lot of time trying to find decent-paying ways to increase my side income. Babysitting is an evergreen for me, but I was interested in finding ways to branch out: ways that didn’t require basically setting up an entirely new business (I had some thoughts about freelance writing and editing, but in practice I have not wanted to dedicate the time and energy needed to get that off the ground.) After my minor financial disaster in March, I’m newly revved up on making a little extra cash; even a hundred dollars a month goes pretty far, you know?

[These are 100% honest reviews — there are a couple of referral links in here, but I’m not discussing anything I don’t use myself, and I’m pointing out the cons as well as the pros. Also, none of these are coupon sites — I’ve tried Savingstar and a couple of others but I just don’t buy enough packaged stuff to make it worth it. I’ve heard good things about ebates, but again, don’t use it myself.]

1) I got a new credit card that offers cash back. Specifically, it’s a Chase Freedom card. It’s no-annual-fee and offers 1-5% back, depending on what you’re buying (there are rotating categories for the 5%, so sometimes it’s groceries, sometimes it’s gas, and so on.) I’m not a huge user of credit cards, but when I do use one, I like knowing that at least I’ll make a tiny piece of what I’m spending back; I can’t believe I never had a cash-back card before this. I count it as extra income in the months in which I redeem a credit, and I actually can’t find any negatives about this (well, actually, I’d like it if it gave 10% back on everything, hee). If you’re interested in this card, I’d appreciate it if you’d be willing to let me refer you; you get a $100 bonus, and I get $50 for referring you. It does require that you give me a first name and an email address. Email me if you’d like a referral link.

2) Swagbucks. One of the reasons I’ve been hesitating on writing this post for a while is that I wasn’t quite sure what I thought about this site. I’ve been a member since last summer, but for a while I was very frustrated and thought it just wasn’t worth the time. Lately, however, I realized that there’s actually a way to use it that works well for me with almost no effort. Here’s what I’m doing now: 1) I defaulted my browser to use their search function when I search. It’s not quite as smooth as Google, but it’s zero extra effort, I rarely have to go to Google to check further, and every few hours I get 6-24 Swagbucks (each “buck” is a penny) out of it. 2) They also give out codes a few times a day that, if you type them in, give you a few cents — I subscribed to the spoiler site sbcodesez, which emails me whenever a new one is posted. 3) I’ve been using a hack I found on reddit. I installed the SBTV app on my phone. Then I put three very short videos (“10 Second Tips” in the Home and Garden category) in my “Favorites” in the app. When I’m not doing anything else and am on wifi (critical that you be on wifi!) I just let the videos run. They’ll cycle automatically; after about an hour you’ve gotten to the daily limit of 36 bucks (=$.36) for the price of getting the videos started. 4) I do some online shopping through their portal — amazon,, and others have deals with them where if you go to the site via your swagbucks page, you get varying amounts of cash back.

There are other ways you can earn, but they’re all time-consuming and I never felt like the payoff was worth it. However, by defaulting my browser to the search function, subscribing to the email list for codes, running the videos on my phone and ignoring them, and shopping via their home page, I’m making about $25 a month (they send it to paypal when you reach 2500 points or bucks or whatever.) This isn’t much, but it’s not nothing either, and I put maybe 2 or 3 minutes a day into it. Let me know if you give it a try.

3) Usertesting. This has probably been my favorite way to make a little extra online cash. It’s not regular, but it’s quite well-paying: $10 for a 15-minute test. (Probably 20 minutes on average, by the time you get it going, do the test, and upload the file.) They’re really prompt: they mean it when they say they send you the paypal payment a week to the minute after you finish the test. They also have great staff who respond promptly to emails when you have a problem. There are, however, some downsides. The best way to get work is to just leave a tab open with the site up; there’s a little chime when a test comes in. I’ve found that distracting sometimes and have had to close it during the day when I’m at work because the interruption gets to me. Also, it’s a little annoying to me that they have so many “screener” tests, some of which have absurdly specific requirements — you spend a fair amount of time answering questions that then disqualify you for a test which you could probably have given perfectly fine feedback for by imagining that you were the kind of person they want. Nevertheless, I was consistently making $250-350 a month last summer when I just kept the tab open all the time, which ain’t nothing.

4) I’ve been using Santander for some banking purposes lately; they give you $20 a month if you have $1500 direct deposited to them and use their online bill pay twice (I pay my rent and a credit card, usually, since I don’t have any utilities in my name right now.) There doesn’t seem to be a catch; I’ve been using it a little over six months and I literally just pay two bills and immediately transfer my paychecks to my regular bank once they’ve been direct deposited, and every month I get $20. I don’t really see how they can afford this, but whatever, it lasts as long as it lasts, I guess?

I think those are all my tricks. I’m not getting rich this way, but none of these things require consistent sustained effort (I guess the swagbucks thing does, but again, 2-3 minutes a day now that I have it figured out) so they’re working for me just as a way to increase my spending money a bit. Glad to hear about anything else that’s working for someone!

18 thoughts on “How I’ve Been Earning (a pretty small but non-zero amount of) Extra Cash Online

  1. Kirsten says:

    I’m really impressed by the money you made with Usertesting. It would be frowned upon for me to do that at work, but if I ever am able to stay home, I could definitely leave that up and respond! Thanks for sharing.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, usertesting is a really good source — the problem is, it’s so unreliable! Some weeks you make $100, others you leave the window open all the time and nothing.

  2. I too am amazed you earned that much from Usertesting. Swagbucks is hard to find a balance. Initially, I got sucked into the surveys but goodness is that a waste of time. Now I just use it for occasional swag codes and some online shopping (I do practically none).

    1. thesingledollar says:

      The usertesting thing was literally having the window open whenever I was online (=ALWAYS). This month, I’ve made $95, doing the same thing (plus I got lucky and got two longer tests — one paid $20 and the other $30 — which very rarely happens.) But it’s great when it works; it actually feels like the payout is worth the time involved. The Swagbucks surveys are no bueno, I totally agree.

  3. Kristin says:

    Ooh never hear of Usertesting, I will check it out!

    I just signed up for Google’s Screenwise Trends. It’s an app that can go on your cell, computer and tablet. It pays you a $2 bonus per device when you sign up plus $1 per week per device. It will add up to a little over $100.

    I also signed up with the Place Props app, which is similar (not sure what all cities it’s in – maybe just Seattle?) but it pays $2.50 every 2 weeks, which is $65 a year.

    Right now it’s just sitting in my paypal account and I’ll probably put it towards my holiday fund 🙂

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Huh, I’ll have to check that app out! Interesting idea. Thanks.

  4. Chonce says:

    Thanks for the Swagbucks tips! I stopped using it after the holidays but I’ve been wanting to get back into it if I could find a way to make it less time consuming. I did a bit of shopping on there before and played the videos, but I’ll definitely have to default my browser to utilize their search function.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Yeah, with Swagbucks it’s so little money it’s not worth it unless it’s almost totally passive. Good luck!

  5. ARBM says:

    I have never used any of these types of income sources, but it is interesting… and pretty impressive that you can make so much money for doing things on the internet!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      Hee, it doesn’t feel like that much money to me…but it’s true, it does all add up.

  6. I was such a great read, thanks for sharing! I have not used those myself, but it was good to find out. It doesn’t make one rich, but over a longer period it is definitely useful!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I think that’s exactly it — I won’t be retiring on this, but a little bit at a time can be very helpful.

  7. I use Swagbucks a bit, too. I take the daily poll, and let the videos run in the background a lot while I’m home and near the computer. I just started about six weeks ago, but I’ve probably earned about $24 in Amazon gift cards. Not overwhelming, but worth it for minimal effort.

    My husband brought user testing to my attention a little while ago, and I need to follow up on it. I’m glad to hear that you’ve found it worthwhile.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      “minimal effort” is totally the name of the game with Swagbucks! Usertesting is great when they have work, definitely.

  8. I love my Swagbucks! They’ve gotten us so many things over the years, including a console and a handheld gaming system.

    My browser had to be reinstalled, so I keep meaning to get the toolbar reinstalled. Like you, I found the easiest way to earn points is to do searches I’d be doing anyway. Although I search any site I’m going to visit. Ups the chances of a win.

    1. thesingledollar says:

      I do the same thing — search every site I’m going to anyway 🙂 It definitely helps.

  9. Debt Hater says:

    I use the same exact strategy that you said for Swagbucks, and I used to use it in combination with Bing Rewards (they’ve since increased the cost of Swagbucks so now I just directly get Amazon cards from them). I did not know of that site to get the codes e-mailed to you though, thanks for the tip! I like spending only 5 minutes a day on it, because the surveys and all that aren’t worth it.

    My bank account has always been with Santander, and I recently switched my checking account over to the “extra $20” checking you mentioned as well. It beats any interest rate you can get these days – that’s for sure!

    1. thesingledollar says:

      A swagbucks twin! It is totally not worth more than 5 min a day, but it’s nice to get a low-time-cost $25 or $50 a month. I’d never heard of Santander before I started seeing this promotion linked everywhere, but man, is it ever good, considering the interest rate environment.

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