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We tested 5 free money-making apps: are any worth your time?

money-making apps
Nice little earner? Apps can earn you hundreds over the course of a year

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We’ve all seen those suspicious sidebar ads boasting too-good-to-be-true testimonials. “Easy ways to make money”, invariably from the comfort of one’s own home, sets alarm bells ringing and begs the question: Do money-making apps ever really work?

Putting the cynic in me aside, I tested a selection of free apps to find out if it’s possible to earn a quick buck without getting ensnared in endless surveys or contributing to predatory pyramid schemes.

Money-making apps: show me the totals

There’s no doubt that there are far better ways to earn a living, which is why I’ve chosen these five money-making apps. All of them can be incorporated into your existing everyday routine. They’re easy to use, free from invasive ads and, most importantly, provided a legitimate side-income; money that simply didn’t exist before I began (quote me on the next set of hyperbolic testimonials).

Here’s an overview of exactly how much money I made, along with a projected yearly income if I were to continue at the same rate:

AppAvg. Monthly EarningsEst. Yearly Earnings
JobSpotter£13£156
Enlighty£5£60
Shoppix£3.30£40
SnapMyEats£5£60
Podcoin< £1£2

You might think of this as a £318 Christmas bonus on top of your annual income. Not too shabby.

It’s important to remember that the vast majority of money-making apps simply aren’t worth your time, demanding too much for too little reward. By contrast, these apps rarely felt laborious and never took huge chunks of time out of my day.

Here’s a more in-depth look at each of them.

1. JobSpotter

JobSpotter is our top pick when it comes to free money-making apps, offering the highest payouts for minimal effort on your part. 

The employment search engine Indeed has figured out a clever way to crowdsource information on local job vacancies. All you have to do is take pictures of hiring signs on the high street, which Indeed then converts to online job ads and in return awards you with points. Points of course mean prizes, or in this case Amazon gift cards. 

After using the app for just under two months I was able to redeem a £26 voucher. Hardly enough to keep the Student Loans Company off my back, but not bad for keeping an eye on shop windows.

It’s worth mentioning that my job-spotting experience was predominantly confined to the central London area, benefitting from a higher concentration of businesses soliciting staff. However, due to the way JobSpotter determines how many points each ad is worth, this can be a double-edged sword. More points are given if you’re the first to spot a sign. Even better if the business is an independent store opposed to a chain. For example, a generic hiring sign in a Pret window will usually net you a measly 5 points ($0.05), whereas spotting a hand-written plea for help in my local pub paid out 250 ($2.50).  

During one weekend away in Devon I saw significantly fewer hiring signs, though each one I did catch ended up being worth four to five times the amount I was typically earning back in the big smoke. Less competition with the app’s users and more ma-and-pa establishments equals bigger rewards.

I would never go out of my way to spot jobs, but if you happen to pass by a sign on your commute then why not take 10 seconds to snap it? Over a year you could quite easily earn £150 in Amazon vouchers, and who knows – you might even help someone find their dream retail job along the way. 

2. Enlightly

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. You can earn real money from the comfort of your own home simply by answering short surveys. Crazy, right?

I know what you’re thinking, but Enlighty is the best of a bad bunch. It has a clean interface, there are no dodgy links to third-party sites and the questions are short and mostly multiple choice.

The downside is that it takes a while – usually two or three days – for new questions to appear. Still, I found most of the surveys engaging, relevant to my interests and, dare I say, fun. 

Enlighty pays 5p per question answered (you can skip any you don’t like the look of) and awards additional one-time bonuses: £2.50 for hitting 50 questions and £7.50 at 100.

After two months, during which I estimate only 30 minutes were spent answering surveys, Enlighty paid out almost £20. At £40 per hour, it’s hard to feel like this was wasted time.

3. Shoppix

“Would you like a receipt with that?” For years I’ve been politely declining this offer in some absentminded hope that I’m saving the planet (and my pockets) from extraneous paper. But download Shoppix and you’ll be hogging those receipts like you’re on a lifelong, fully expensable business trip.

The app asks you to take pictures of receipts and answer a short survey about your purchase in exchange for redeemable tokens. The amount you spend is irrelevant, though if you upload a receipt on the date of purchase you’ll get a small bonus.  

Slightly more nefarious tactics are used to hook you in, such as scratch card rewards and weekly bonuses designed to gamify your consumer habits. What I do like about Shoppix is that it pays cash directly into a designated PayPal account, provided you hit the following token milestones: 

  • 3,200 = £5 
  • 6,000 = £10
  • 11,500 = £20

You should hit the minimum £5 reward in a month with roughly 100 submitted receipts. I wasn’t quite that diligent, but after three months my token total reached 6,250. Extrapolated over a year, that’s about £40. Whether that’s worth handing over an itemised account of your annual spending habits, only you can decide. 

4. SnapMyEats

SnapMyEats is pretty much identical to Shoppix except it’s limited to food and drink purchases. Whether you’ve ordered a takeaway, bought a coffee or just done the weekly supermarket shop, the process is the same as above: take a picture of your receipt and fill out a quick five-question survey. The app claims your data will be kept anonymous and is aggregated with those of other SnapMyEats members.

Rather than sending money to your bank account, SnapMyEats pays in Amazon eGift codes. There are two reward levels, with your maximum monthly earnings capped at £5:

  • 3 valid receipts = £1
  • 15 valid receipts = £5 

Providing you submit 30, the app pays just over 30p per receipt. That’s £60 a year if you can keep it up. 

5. Podcoin

If you listen to podcasts on a regular basis then this proposition sounds mighty appealing. Set up by the founder of proto-social-network myYearbook, Podcoin pays you to listen to podcasts. Granted, it’s a minimal amount but requires little extra effort. 

One Podcoin is awarded for every ten minutes spent listening. But if you listen for three days in a row you’ll hit a streak and start earning twice that. 

Podcoins can be redeemed for a variety of rewards including Amazon vouchers (1,200 for $2), Google Play credit (4,000 for $10) and an Amazon Kindle (99,000). 

The ratio works out to be 100+ hours per $. I listen to about eight hours of podcasts a week, so it would take around four months just to make a dollar. It’s never going to make you rich, but how much money were you making by listening to Serial before Podcoin? 

Another downside comes from the app’s method for combatting Podcoin miners trying to game the system, often prompting you to confirm you’re still listening when the app is left idle. 

Can you make money from free apps?

In short, yes. Not enough to quit your day job, but maybe enough for an extra holiday once a year. I was surprised, but by being a little savvy you can make some real cash by installing a few free apps on your phone.

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About the author

Robert Harris

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