The boasts of some rappers aside, very few of us can complain about having too much money. Occasionally, cashflow problems get so severe that we find ourselves looking for any solution whatsoever, even if it means paying more in the long run.
There is some good news, though: if you know how, it is actually possible to get money, fast and for free. There isn’t even any real secret to this. All it takes is learning about them and then spending a little effort to get paid.
All of these ways to get free money fast are workable, legal and ethical. Following these suggestions takes no special skill and little effort – nor do you have anything to lose.
Table of Contents
- 1 Make Instant Money Online, Absolutely Free
- 2 From the Community
- 3 From Your Employer
- 4 Easy Ways to Get Free Money from the Government
- 5 From the Bank
- 6 Get Paid for Easy Odd Jobs
- 7 How to Avoid Free Money Scams
- 8 In Summary
Make Instant Money Online, Absolutely Free
Collecting money online sounds like a dream come true: you can do it when you’re stuck at home with an illness or while taking care of the kids, you don’t have to spend on transport and you can generally do it at whatever time of day you like. Understand, however, that there’s a big difference between knowing how to make money online and knowing how to make money online fast and free.
Running an award-winning blog or affiliate marketing business can be profitable, but it’s a long-term project, not the first thing to think about when you need to get free cash now.
Online Surveys and Focus Groups
It’s not much, but if I don’t have anything better to do and I need money now for free and fast, I can always spend a few minutes filling out an online survey. This isn’t a bad way to bolster my bank account.
Plenty of companies and organizations are dying to know what ordinary people think of them, their products and their ideas. They’re willing to shell out hard cash to learn about your opinions, and there are numerous websites out there to connect them to someone like you.
Expect to earn between $1 and $2 for five to ten minutes of work. This rate, as well as how many surveys are available for you to complete, will vary depending on factors like where you live, your age and so forth. You may be required to watch a short video before answering a couple of multiple-choice questions, be asked for your point of view on anything from politics to potato chip flavors, or even have to sit through a one-on-one interview via text or video chat. The more effort and time a survey takes to complete, the more you’re paid for participating.
This will certainly not replace your day job, but it’s an easy way of earning a few bucks instantly. Some survey websites will require a Paypal account, but others (like Global Test Market) have in the past been willing to have my free money mailed to me.
Monetize Your Spending and Browsing Habits
Several marketing research firms are actually willing to pay you for doing what you’re going to do anyway – as long as you let them look over your shoulder.
This is very similar to what Facebook and other websites do automatically; the idea is that they use this information to make their advertising more effective. When you sign up, you trade a little bit of privacy for a little bit of cash. Other than that, you barely have to go to any trouble at all.
- MyPoints will send you gift cards or give you cash back just for shopping at any of hundreds of online retailers. You can also earn points by watching videos, playing games and completing surveys.
- InboxDollars is a very similar program that also rewards you for printing out coupons and surfing the web, and who doesn’t like to do that anyway?
- Another good option is Swagbucks, which focuses on gathering consumer opinions on products and advertisements.
None of these, it should be said, will make you rich. Participating is so easy, though, that you might as well get in on the action and be well reimbursed for the little time you spend on it.
Sell Your Spam
It’s amazing what kinds of information people are willing to pay money for.
If you sign up with Small Business Knowledge Center, for instance, you’ll receive prepaid Visa cards just for sending them your junk mail, including forwarding the contents of your spam folder to them. Don’t expect to earn more than $10 a month, but at least they pay the postage and recycle all the paper you send them. If you want to get free cash now, you might want to look elsewhere, but this is a good way to earn a consistent extra income.
Get Paid for Taking Selfies
Weirdly enough, the website Pay Your Selfie does exactly that, starting with $1 just for snapping a picture of your face. After that, you can get paid (through PayPal) for taking selfies of yourself in various locations. Supposedly, these pictures provide a deeper level of information to market researchers, but you don’t need to worry about the details: just follow the instructions for every “visual survey” and you’ll be paid without a hitch.
From the Community
Although some people are incredibly selfish, many will open their hearts and their wallets when something important is at stake. Engaging the interest of others requires initiative and confidence, but it can be done.
Some people, it turns out, are willing to “invest” their own money not with the expectation of a monetary return, but simply to help create the kind of world they would like to live in. When many of these individuals come together and contribute enough money to start a company, launch an artistic project or fund some kind of research, it is called crowdfunding.
If done for purely selfish reasons – i.e. you just want people to mail you cash while you sit on the sofa – crowdfunding is not a good way to get free money. Not only will you be interfering with more deserving recipients, but donors also aren’t very likely to want to help you. If, however, you want to use that money to launch a business, develop a groundbreaking product or conduct important charity work, you might find that a few thousand modest contributions can add up to a very impressive sum.
The donors/investors are usually rewarded in some non-monetary way. They may receive a certificate stating their involvement in some worthy project, or be first in line to buy one of the tech toys their dollars helped to create.
Aside from some personal catastrophe, one of the most common reasons people need money quickly is to take advantage of some business idea that’s too hot to ignore, yet too unusual for a bank to finance. If you find yourself in such a situation, crowdfunding may be the way to go. Be warned, though: reputable crowdfunding platforms are always on their guard against impractical and fraudulent applicants, so you will need to have things like a business plan and financial documents ready before you even get started.
Holding a Raffle
Sometimes, you need money fast, but not necessarily for yourself. A good way to get free cash here and now for some kind of charitable cause – a local family whose home burned down, tuition for a bright but poor student, even a small public works project – is to hold a small, one-time lottery.
When it’s for a good cause, people are even willing to sit through bingo, the most boring game on the planet. What you’ll need to watch out for, though, is getting on the wrong side of gambling laws, whatever these may be where you live. Generally, if you’re truly raising money for a good cause, you enlist a local school or church as a sponsor, and the goal is clearly to let people have some fun while helping out (rather than opening a casino), you shouldn’t have any problems.
From Your Employer
Assuming you have a regular job (and not everyone is that lucky), you might as well maximize your earning potential. Human resources departments are notoriously bad at telling you how to get free cash now, but they will help you if you’re smart enough to ask.
You won’t be able to access this money for a while, but it’s definitely free and the process is so easy we might as well call it fast, too. I definitely don’t recommend cashing out your 401(K) early without a very good reason as it’s really an investment, not a savings account.
Still, it’s an easy way to get money for nothing, for two reasons:
- You don’t pay income tax on your contributions right now. Payouts are taxed later, but almost certainly at a much lower rate.
- Many employers will match your contributions, for example at 100% up to 10% of your salary. Your company might literally pay you 10% extra just for filling out a form. As mentioned, you won’t actually be able to touch this money for years, but that’s the only catch. Of all the strategies on this page, an employer-matched 401(K) is one of the closest things to truly free money.
Moonlight as a Salesman
Many companies pay you for referring customers to them, either at a flat rate or in commission. Now, you presumably already know everything about your employer’s products, procedures, and special offers. Why aren’t you taking advantage of this?
If they don’t have a formal program like this in place, talk to your boss about instituting one, even if it’s only for you. You could, for instance, ask for an online discount coupon code that indicates that a customer is someone you recruited.
The best part of this is that you don’t actually have to behave like a vendor: you won’t need to prepare pitches, chase leads or pressure anyone into buying. Just talk about your company with people you run into; you may just end up scoring hundreds of extra dollars per month.
Ask for a Raise
Managers love to tell their employees that (a) they’re an integral part of a successful team, and (b) everybody’s replaceable and they can outsource your job to Bangladesh at the drop of a hat.
Both of those things can’t be true, can they? Here’s something you can believe, though: it almost always costs a company more to hire and train a new employee than to stick with their existing workers. Sometimes, all you need to do to earn more for what you’re already doing is ask.
The key to doing this successfully and without ruffling any feathers is to be respectful and assemble all the facts which may count in your favor: the number of years you’ve spent with the company, your accomplishments, average wages in your area of expertise and so on.
Even if you’re normally a shy person, this is worth trying. It’s not as if you’re asking to earn free money, after all: you’re only asking to be compensated fairly for the work you do. As it happens, bosses say “yes” to reasonable requests more often than not.
Easy Ways to Get Free Money from the Government
Assuming that you’re a decent citizen who pays their taxes and doesn’t break the law, you’ve fulfilled some of your obligations to society. Society, in the form of Uncle Sam, now owes you certain things in return, including helping you out when times are tough. Government assistance programs in the United States aren’t nearly as comprehensive as in some other countries, but they do exist, and sometimes all you need to benefit from them is knowing what they are.
Understandably, the government isn’t too keen on handing out cash when they don’t have to (though they’re remarkably motivated when it comes to taking it). However, dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s isn’t all that difficult. Here are the options for you to consider:
If unfortunately, you happen to get laid off, one of the first things you need to do is apply for unemployment insurance. Although the requirements and benefits vary from state to state, you will generally not be eligible if you quit your job or are fired for cause.
The amounts you’ll receive aren’t huge, but they can be a lifesaver if you don’t have any savings to fall back on. Unemployment generally runs out after 6 months, and you may be required to prove that you are actively looking for work during this period. While you’re at it, you might as well also ask about assistance with training or becoming self-employed while you’re jobless – many states have programs that will help you get back on your feet.
Federal Student Aid
Some people spend 20 years or more paying back their student loans. At the same time, it’s pretty tough to get a good job without a college degree, leaving you in a catch-22 situation.
There is a way to lighten this load, though, and surprisingly many young adults don’t even know about it. A Federal Pell Grant for an undergraduate student can run to as much as $6,195 per year, which is nothing to sneeze at. This is in addition to any other student aid or scholarship you receive, so you should definitely take an hour or so to discuss this with your school’s financial aid office.
Change Under the Couch Cushions
Do you remember that apartment security deposit you never claimed back, the final paycheck you forgot to pick up that one time, or your pension fund account from three jobs back that somehow slipped through the cracks? Probably not, or you would have done something about it by now.
This situation is so common that the government has actually set up a website to help you find money (and other assets) you’ve somehow lost or forgotten. Companies, including banks, investment brokers, utilities and employers, are obligated by law to turn over unclaimed funds to the state. If the designated public official can’t locate the owner, it’s used for government purposes until it’s claimed. A search on Unclaimed or its sister website, MissingMoney, takes only seconds and may just end up leading you to a windfall.
Apply for a Personal Grant
It’s not widely known, but federal and state governments do sometimes help out people in need by basically mailing them free money. That’s right: as long as you don’t lie on the application and use the money for its intended purpose, you don’t have to pay back a cent.
Whether or not you’re approved for one of these grants depends heavily on your personal circumstances – not everyone can win. A disabled single mother who’s also a war veteran has a much better chance than somebody in good health with no family responsibilities. Navigating the bureaucracy is also a challenge, but don’t let this put you off.
Reasons for requesting a personal grant can include:
- Natural disasters
- Disability assistance
- Help in paying off a loan
As well as several others. To see whether you might be eligible for this kind of relief, the best first step is to visit Benefits.gov and fill in your personal information. Certainly, not everyone is approved, but it’s worth trying.
From the Bank
The idea of banks giving you money without taking back, even more, sounds weird, but it does happen. They want your business for the long run and are often willing to give a little now to have you as a profitable client in the years to come. In fact, they actively compete for customers. If you’re wondering how to get free money fast, they’re probably the last place you’d think of looking, when they should be one of the first.
Many banks will actually give you money for free just for opening a checking or credit card account. Usually, this deal takes the form of “If you spend Y within 90 days, we’ll give you X”. Assuming that you know you’ll be spending Y dollars anyway, this is a pretty sweet way of getting extra cash, totally free and without any additional obligations (check the fine print, though).
Currently, Chase will give you $300 just for opening a new checking account with them and having your employer pay your salary into it by direct deposit. You have to keep the account open for six months and you probably won’t be eligible for the bonus if you’ve previously had an account with them, but few additional restrictions apply. This is literally a way to earn free money.
Discover, on the other hand, doesn’t have a direct deposit requirement but will fork over $150 if you deposit a minimum of $15,000 within a certain period of time. This may seem like a lot if you’re stretched, but if you’re saving up for a mortgage deposit or trying to build up a nest egg, you might as well take their money. The interest rate offered is only 2.1% (APY), though, so this isn’t an account in which you’ll want to park your money long-term.
Credit Card Rewards
Used responsibly, credit cards can be a very valuable financial tool. Most people, when comparing different providers, look only at interest rates and credit limits. It really pays to check out what kind of rewards they offer, including the above-mentioned signup bonus.
Calculating how much you’ll actually receive in dollar terms can be difficult, so the best idea is to choose a program which aligns with your lifestyle and existing spending patterns. Don’t use credit card rewards as an excuse to buy the stuff you don’t need, though: you will lose.
This card from Wells Fargo, for instance, offers triple rewards on eating out and most travel-related expenses, and 30,000 points free assuming you charge $3,000 to the card in the first 3 months. If you’re not a frequent flyer, you might prefer American Express’s Blue Cash card, which gives you 6% cash back on supermarket purchases up to $6,000 per year and a full $200 if you spend more than $1,000 in the first three months.
Look for a Better Deal
Another way to get free money is by simply shopping around for a better interest rate and lower fees. Unfortunately, digging through each bank’s marketing material can be frustrating and confusing, especially if you don’t understand the terminology.
There is a simple solution, though: online services that do the legwork for you. Whether looking for a high-yield savings account, seeking a new loan or trying to consolidate your existing debt, these make it easy to compare your various options.
Get Paid for Easy Odd Jobs
The idea of taking a side gig may make you think of scrubbing floors or driving for Uber, but you needn’t get discouraged. There are a number of ways to earn a quick buck by doing something that doesn’t feel like work at all.
Sell Stock Photos
Plenty of people enjoy photography as a hobby, never realizing that they can earn free money for doing what they love. Plenty of enterprises need unique, compelling pictures for their websites, brochures, and other publications.
Especially if you already have a library containing thousands of high-quality, artistic photos, you might want to consider simply uploading a couple of your best and seeing what happens. On stock photo websites, you may receive $5 to $10 every time someone downloads your picture, while it’s also possible to get commissions that can earn you as much as $1,000 at a go. You’ll normally have to compete against other photographers for this kind of payout, but at least your hunt for the perfect shot is likely to send you on an adventure.
Become a User Tester
Programmers and users live in very different worlds: whereas a software designer is mainly interested in getting some feature to work, users only care about whether they can actually get some use out of it.
One company that tries to bridge this gap is called the Smart Panel. Although their basic pay rate is only $5 per month, you can jack this up by participating in surveys, and for the most part, you just need to have the app installed on your phone or tablet. This runs in the background and collects information on the ways in which you use websites and other apps, providing useful information to developers who want to make their products easier to use.
UserTesting is another option you can try. This requires you to spend some time using a website or a piece of software, but it’s also much more lucrative: you may earn as much as $20 to $60 for about an hour of your time. Payments are available to be sent to your PayPal wallet after 7 days.
Write Product Reviews
Chances are if you’ve ever bought anything online, you used the user reviews on the same page to decide whether or not it’s worth your money. Online retailers know this, which means they’re always looking for unbiased, practical and useful reviews.
Although the rewards usually don’t cash money, it is possible to earn quite a bit just by giving your opinion on products you already use. Once you’ve developed a reputation as someone whose reviews can be trusted, sellers will almost certainly start to reach out to you, asking for a review in exchange for a sample of their wares, which you can keep afterward or sell when you need to get free cash fast.
This won’t, of course, happen after writing only one or two reviews. On the other hand, if you genuinely enjoy helping other people make good buying decisions, you’re probably well on your way to receiving tons of free stuff already and earn free money. It also helps a lot if you already have a blog, or you’re well-known in some online community. Specialist review sites also exist to accommodate individuals with experience in a certain field, for example, SoftwareJudge for games and applications.
Become a Mystery Shopper
The only way to test a car before buying it is to take it for a drive; something very similar applies to customer service in the retail sector.
If you like the idea of wandering around in a high-end clothing store spending other people’s money or eating out for free, mystery shopping might be for you. This just means that you pretend to be a normal customer, observe closely and spend a few minutes afterward writing up a report on the service, staff and total experience.
You can find one-off jobs of this kind pretty easily, and mystery shoppers who produce insightful information are often contacted for repeat performances. It does not, however, pay well compared to a regular job: you might earn $10 or even less for each store you visit or just be reimbursed for what you bought.
How to Avoid Free Money Scams
In case you’ve never encountered this pearl of wisdom before: “If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. This goes double for anything involving money.
When deciding whether you can trust some company claiming to offer easy ways to get free money, the first question you ask yourself should be about what they’re getting out of it. There are very few genuine charities in the world and only a limited number of ways to make instant money online absolutely free. If you can’t see how someone is turning a profit by giving away cash, it’s better to pass. The benefit to them might be gathering information (as with online surveys or services like Swagbucks), it might be your future business or something else entirely, but if you can’t understand how they’re earning money in some way, it’s probably a scam.
You should also be very, very careful about handing over information like your social security number, previous addresses and anything else a reputable bank might ask for when opening an account. Identity theft is an all-too-real problem – don’t let the temptation of an apparently extraordinary deal cause you to ignore basic safeguards.
Speaking of identity theft, any business conducted solely online should be taken with a serious grain of salt. The trouble is that, if you need to get free cash now, a traditional bank is unlikely to help you. More likely, you’ll turn to a relatively new, innovative service, many of which operate only on the internet.
Most of these, from crowdfunding websites to online lending platforms, is indeed on the level, but a few are not. You’ll have to use your common sense and the principles above to guide you, and in case you are not sure, check to see if it is a known scam. In particular, if a website asks for some kind of registration fee or hasn’t been around for a couple of years, it’s best to go for one of the many alternatives you’ve seen above.
When it comes to taking control of your finances, knowledge is power. Rich people aren’t necessarily geniuses or the hardest workers, they’re often just the people who find out what the right things to do are – and then follow through on these. When you find yourself crying: I need money now for free and fast! – don’t lose your head: just figure out which of our proven ways to earn free money will work best for you.
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