One interesting way that some people earn a little extra money is taking surveys online.  It may not be for everybody, but if you have spare time that you might otherwise spend vegetating on Facebook or watching cat videos, you might consider it.  It may not pay much for your time, but, if you make the right choices in how you go about it, you can bring in some extra money for very little effort.

So what, exactly, does it mean to make money from surveys?  Different websites have different methods and other particulars you should be aware of.  In general, sites that pay you money for filling out surveys want to gather information about you, your personal opinions and how you make purchasing decisions so they can sell that information to marketers.  It’s called market research and it’s a really big business.  They pay attention to every box you check and every comment you make, then they aggregate your data with a bunch of other people’s data to find trends.  Since they are business people, they know that most people won’t spend time filling out surveys for nothing.

For every online survey you complete you get a small sum of money (or reward points) credited to your account which you may use once it builds to a minimum level (each site has its own minimum before you can collect on your earnings).

So how much money can you make by doing online surveys?  Most surveys you complete will pay you between fifty cents and about $5.00.  There are some that pay significantly more, but you need to qualify for them (meaning you are part of the demographics they are looking for and/or you are willing to take a few more steps in the process).  For most surveys, you get paid more if it takes longer to complete, but that’s not always the case.  Needless to say, if you want to make much money from this task, you need to pick your surveys carefully, focus on completing them and be willing to put in a fair amount of time doing so.  If you go about the job with some diligence, you could wind up earning a couple hundred dollars or more per month.

If you search online for paid survey sites you will find a plethora of opportunities. You will definitely find some scams, and even the legitimate sites can be traps for the unwary.  In order to avoid being scammed or otherwise having a negative experience, make sure you read all of the fine print before you sign up for a survey site and never pay for a “membership” to be able to join, or fees to access the surveys.  Legitimate sites are free for you to sign up.  Check out the privacy statement to see who might get access to your information; you don’t really want it sold to marketers who will do who knows what with it.  Make sure you find the contact information for who at the company you should contact if you have problems with surveys or payment.  Watch out for sites that offer sweepstakes or chances to win a prize if you complete surveys: sometimes those can be worth it, but often they are not.

You can also look up the site online to see what sort of reviews they get from people who have used their service.  Most survey sites gather a few irate comments from dissatisfied people, but a bad one will have a lot of bad reviews.  Check out the survey site aggregators like to see which ones get the best reviews.  Another way you can check on the legitimacy of a survey site is to see if they are a member of CASRO (Council of American Survey Research Organizations), an industry group that sets a code of standard for its members.  Not every legitimate site is a member, but if they are, you know they have to meet those standards.  CASRO has a useful list of what you should know about taking online surveys, including how to tell if it is a legitimate site, how to read important details like the terms and conditions and the privacy statement, and how to report complaints.

Once you check out a few survey sites, how do you make the process work for you?  Join multiple reliable survey sites to optimize your chances of getting good surveys to complete and to diversify your funding stream.   Because they choose surveys for you based on your demographics, you might only get a few offers per week from each site; having survey offers coming from multiple sites increases your potential for earning income.  The more demographic information you give them about yourself, the easier it is for them to find surveys for you, so make sure you complete the screening surveys they ask for.

When a good offer for a higher-paying survey comes through, be ready to act on it quickly, so you beat the other survey takers to the prize.  Check your email frequently.  If you can set your email account to flag new surveys coming in, do that so you notice them.  You may want to get a separate email account to keep track of all of the traffic.  You can also check out the Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest sites of your favorite survey sites in order to get first news of interesting contests and exclusive surveys they may offer.

Keep track of all of the surveys you complete, how much you should get paid and when you get credited for the survey: this can save you big headaches.  Each site has a different policy about the minimum amount you need to accrue before you can cash out, so be sure to keep track of that, too.  And when you do sit down to take a survey, make sure you can focus without too many distractions and that you allocate a specific amount of time to complete each survey.   Starting surveys gets you nothing; only completing them counts.

A few specific sites that have been recommended by various sources include the following.

One of the big survey sites is Vindale Research.  It has been around for longer than many other sites, so it is not likely to disappear with your earnings.  It has a wide range of surveys available, including a fair selection of higher-paying surveys.  They also pay in cash, not reward points.  One fairly unique aspect of Vindale Research is that they sign you up for product trials, which can be interesting and profitable but requires you to keep close track of what you are getting yourself into if you don’t want to pay ongoing costs for the product.  You are not charged anything for the product during the trial period (except sometimes for shipping) but when the trial period ends you will be charged if you haven’t canceled or returned the product.  If you like the products they offer, this can be a great way to get stuff you want without paying much for it.  You can also take more traditional surveys without paying fees or giving your credit card information.  The surveys tend to pay between $1.00 and $5.00, depending on how long and how specialized they are.  Other ways to make a little money include watching videos, taking their “daily studies,” referring people to the site and getting special deals for coupons and discounts.  Vindale tells you exactly how much money you are earning (a simpler system to track than the “reward points” other sites offer).  They have a high minimum for cashing out, at $50.00, so you need to show some dedication to actually get your cash.  Various people have complained about this and about the complexity of the site’s terms and conditions.  Make sure you read all the way through it and understand it before you jump into a relationship with Vindale Research, although that is good advice for any of these survey sites.

Opinion Outpost pays in cash and also offers rewards and a quarterly prize drawing.  You can cash out your earnings when you reach just $10.00 through Paypal or $5.00 through Amazon and they process it immediately.  It can take up to a month before you start receiving surveys from them, so it is not a quick deal.  You need to take a survey at least once every three months to stay active.

Ipsos I-Say is a big company that sends out a lot of survey offers.  They pay based on points earned, and also offer prizes.  The points don’t tend to add up to much in cash (usually not more than $5.00).  They will pay out at a minimum of $15.00 (or $10.00 for a gift card) but rewards can take several weeks to arrive.

SurveySpot can be fun for people who like the excitement of sweepstakes and the chance to will big prizes.  They also offer reward points for taking surveys, which you can convert to cash or gift cards when you reach 1,000 points.  They have a reputation for having a lot of surveys and a nice selection of rewards.

SurveySavvy has a reputation for sending a lot of survey invitations, which increases your chances of completing surveys.  The cheaper surveys tend to be quick to complete and they offer some for as much as $20.00.  They are willing to cash you out for as low as $1.00 but, since they send you a check, it can take a few weeks to receive your money.  They accept teens as young as 14, so that provides opportunities for the younger folks who are looking for some spending cash.

MySurvey has been around a long time and has a solid reputation for consistently paying out for surveys completed.  They track your productivity through a reward point system.  1,000 points can be turned into $10 cash, but it does take a week or two for it to show up in your Paypal account.  They don’t make you fill out a long profile to get started: instead, they have you complete short screening surveys to see if you are eligible for the full survey.  You earn points even for completing the screening tools.  They have a mobile app that works well for taking surveys on the go, like when you are sitting in a waiting room or on the bus.

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