Stuck on jury duty waiting for your number to be called? Flight delayed and you’ve finished your book? Watching your significant other’s favorite show and it’s making you rethink your entire relationship? These are perfect times to pull out your phone and make a little money while killing time.
The operative word here, however, is “little” money. These side hustles are diversions, not jobs. Most will pay a few bucks an hour, if you’re lucky. But they’re a breeze to sign up for, easy to do, and can be a pleasant diversion when you’re bored but can’t concentrate. Consider them an alternative to playing Sudoku or Solitaire.
Make money while killing time
There are dozens of companies that enlist consumers to answer survey questions, watch short videos or download smartphone apps for pay. Be aware, however, that taking surveys at these sites can open your data to a wealth of marketing agencies that are interested in far more than what you say. They want your location, your device identification numbers, and to look at everywhere you go on the web and in the physical world. And that’s in addition to the questions they ask you. These include your annual income, marital status, household makeup and favorite products.
Survey companies use your information — and the information of millions of other people — to provide market research for companies designing and selling products.
You can limit sharing of some information, such as your location and browsing history, with some sites. But others demand access to play. So, if your online privacy is a concern, go back to Sudoku.
These sites are best for those who are resigned to the fact that marketers are going to spy on them anyway so they might as well get paid a few bucks in the process. We’ve listed the options from best to worst, based on how much they pay and how transparently they operate.
Prolific is a British research company that pays participants to take surveys. The surveys are largely research studies being conducted by major universities. Each study has a different rate of pay, most of which are initially expressed in British pounds. But when you register and put in your location, the pay converts to your local currency.
What makes this site attractive is that it has you fill out a detailed profile with your personal information upfront. The site then contacts you when it has a survey that you qualify to take. (Most other survey sites have you answer a bank of “qualifying” questions every time you start a new survey.) When Prolific says you’re a match for any given survey, you’re also given a fairly accurate estimate of how long the survey will take and an estimated hourly pay. Prolific’s surveys also pay more than most, between $4 and $16 per hour.
Payments are made through PayPal and can be cashed out once you’ve earned $5. In testing the site, we found it fairly easy to earn $10 in a few days of intermittent survey-taking.
There are a couple of reasons why we like Survey Junkie a little more than most of the other survey sites. It has occasional product review opportunities that can get you free stuff and sponsors some online focus groups that pay well — between $25 and $150 for a few hours of work. And it will sometimes enlist you for telephone product interviews that pay $5 to $100. Those options, when they come up, pay vastly more than the site’s compensation for taking surveys. But the survey options are far more plentiful.
Survey Junkie also is unusually transparent. It provides your chances of getting selected for paid surveys — about 1 in 5. And it gives you the ability to determine how much privacy you’re willing to sacrifice. If you let the site track your web browsing, for instance, it will pay you more and you’ll qualify to take more surveys. If you choose to keep your browsing to yourself, your surveys will pay between one penny and 50 cents a pop for 10 or 20 minutes of your time.
In testing the site, we were able to earn $1.10 in a few minutes. Most of that amount was for signing up. However, we also declined a wide array of better-paying surveys that would have required allowing the surveyors to tap our browsing history. If we had been less picky about privacy, it appears it would have been easy to quickly hit the $5 cash-out threshold.
Qmee’s main advantage is that it will pay cash to your PayPal account, without requiring that you hit a minimum cash-out amount. Most other sites won’t let you cash out until you accumulate $5 to $15. It also sometimes provides small payments — 25 to 75 cents — when you’re disqualified for surveys after answering screening questions. The site also offers cash-back programs and shopping discounts.
The downside of this site is that many of its surveys require you to answer 10 minutes of screening questions before you’re disqualified from taking the paid survey. That feels a lot like taking a survey and just not getting paid for it.
Swagbucks and MyPoints
Swagbucks and MyPoints are owned by the same parent company — Prodege — which also owns UPromise, InBoxDollars and several other companies. Although each of these sites has a survey arm, much of what they do is provide cash-back incentives for shopping.
Cash-back apps can be useful in scoring sometimes noteworthy discounts — 5% to 20%. But they’re worthwhile only when you’re planning to buy that product anyway. Otherwise, you’re certain to spend more on the product than you get back in points.
So, these sites might be worth checking out if you know you’re on the cusp of making a purchase. They’re otherwise less likely to provide a diverting activity while you’re killing time in the jury room or at the airport.
Kristof is the editor of SideHusl.com, an independent website that reviews moneymaking opportunities in the gig economy.