The 14 Best Apps That Help You Earn Money for Doing Almost Nothing

Portrait of senior man runner setting up the app for the sport exercises.
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We already spend hours on our phones each week. Apple has made us keenly aware of that with its weekly screen time reports.

Why not turn those hours into some money?

There are dozens of money-making apps on the market these days — for both Apple and Android users. You can earn money by taking surveys, playing games, watching videos, investing — and even shopping.

The 14 Best Money-Making Apps of 2018

Trust us when we say we’ve tested a ton of apps. We weeded out the duds and compiled a list of our favorite top-rated money-making apps.

1. Get Paid to Watch TV Online

Woman on a laptop on a bench in the city.
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

Most of you already know about InboxDollars, but did you know that it will pay you to watch movie previews, celebrity videos, the latest news and dozens of other videos? Plus, you’ll get a bonus $5 just for signing up.

You need to watch all of the shows in a specific playlist to earn your bucks, so be prepared. InboxDollars lets you know how long the playlist runs before you start watching, and playlists range from a few minutes to about a half hour.

The availability is subject to change, but it’s possible to earn up to $225 a month watching these videos!

2. Share Your Opinion

Swagbucks is definitely a reader favorite, probably because of the wide variety of ways to make money beyond taking surveys.

It’s also famous for handing out free rewards points (they’re called SBs) at random just for being a member.

Pro tip: Earn a 500 SB (or $5) bonus when you sign up and earn 2,500 SB within your first 60 days.

You’ll get SBs for each survey you qualify for and complete that you can redeem for cash via Paypal or gift cards to a number of popular retailers, including Amazon.

3. Take a Picture of Your Receipt

Woman with her smartphone on a deck
Matt Roth for The Penny Hoarder

We know it sounds strange, but Ibotta will pay you cash for taking pictures of your grocery store receipts.

Here’s how it works:

Before heading to the store, search for items on your shopping list within the Ibotta app. When you get home, snap a photo of your receipt and scan the items’ barcodes.

Bam. Cash back.

Ibotta is free to download. Plus, you’ll get a $10 sign-up bonus after uploading your first receipt.

4. Play Free Scratch-off Tickets

There’s something so satisfying about those gas station scratch-off tickets, but it’s better to avoid them because, well, that’s not Penny Hoarding.

Instead, try scratching for free using an app called Lucktastic. Each day, it releases a new assortment of digital scratch-off tickets. Lucktastic says instant wins range from $1 to $10,000. You can also earn tokens that you can exchange for free gift cards to retailers including Amazon, Walmart, Kohl’s, Sephora and more.

The app is supported by advertising, which allows it to keep the payouts high and the games free. For more info, check out our full review.

5. Play the Slots — and Save Money

Woman with orange hair looking at her smartphone
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Are you more of the “sit at home and play video games” type of person but you’re making yourself read this because you’re determined to get this adulting thing down?

The folks who created Long Game have you covered with a game that’s fun and helps you achieve your financial goals.  

As you save and accomplish missions, you’ll earn coins to play mini games for cash prizes. We’re talking the classics, like slot machines, scratch-offs and spin-to-win wheels.

Penny Hoarder Carson Kohler uses Long Game to save money. Every two weeks, it sneaks $5 out of her bank account and rewards her with coins.

In two months, she’s saved $35.70, just by playing games on her phone. Plus, her winnings amount to a gain of about 2% — way higher than interest on any other savings account she has.

Once you link your bank account, you’ll earn 300 coins, so you can start playing while you wait for payday.

6. Tell This Company What’s in Your Fridge

Woman looking at a pie in her fridge
EXTREME-PHOTOGRAPHER/Getty Images

Remember the Nielsen company? The one that’s always tracked TV ratings? Well, now it wants to know what’s in your fridge.

Once you sign up to be on the Nielsen Consumer Panel, you can either use your smartphone, or the company will send you a free barcode scanner. Every time you go shopping, you simply scan the UPC codes on the back of each product and send your data to Nielsen.

Nielsen will reward you with gift points, which you can redeem for free electronics, jewelry, household items or even toys for the kids.

The longer you stay on the panel, the more opportunity you have to earn points toward prizes. You’ll also receive entries for the panel’s many sweepstakes. Prizes include vacations and brand new vehicles.

7. Invest Your Digital Change (and Get a $5 Bonus)

If you’re like most of us and wish your money would just take care of itself, consider starting an investment account through Acorns.

You can start small and stack up change over time with its “round-up” feature. That means if you spend $10.23 at the grocery store, 77 cents gets dropped into your Acorns account.

Then, the app does the whole investing thing for you.

The idea is you won’t miss the digital pocket change, and the automatic savings stack up faster than you’d think. For example, we reviewed how Penny Hoarder Dana Sitar was able to save at a rate of $420 a year!

At that rate, you could set aside $1,000 in about two and a half years — without trying.

The app is $1 a month for balances under $1 million, and you’ll get a $5 bonus when you sign up.

8. Get Rewarded for Paying Your Bills on Time

Your mom probably gave you an allowance for washing the dishes and sweeping the floor when you were a kid. Now all you get for doing it is a kitchen that’s clean for, like, 15 minutes.

As an adult, you don’t typically get rewards for doing things that are expected of you… until now.

This app kind of rules them all: MoneyLion, a free all-in-one app for managing your personal finances.

MoneyLion offers rewards to help you develop healthy financial habits and will literally pay you for logging onto the app.

You can earn points in the rewards program by paying bills on time, connecting your bank account or downloading the mobile app.

You can redeem those points for gift cards to retailers like Amazon, Apple and Walmart.

If credit cards aren’t your thing, MoneyLion is like having a rewards credit card without the temptation to overspend.

The app also connects with all your bank, credit card, student loan and other financial accounts. Based on your income and spending patterns, it offers personalized advice to help you save money, reduce your debt and improve your credit.

9. Cash in on Your Old Music and Movies

Stack of CDs on a bookshelf
alexat25/Getty Images

Have a bunch of movies or CDs collecting dust on a shelf? Decluttr will pay you for them!

Decluttr buys your old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, plus hardware like cell phones, tablets, game consoles and iPods.

We talked to one user, Gil Flores, who sold about 100 DVDs and 75 CDs and made $275 — an average of $1.57 each.

Just download the app and start scanning the barcodes on your media to get immediate quotes. It’s completely free to use, you won’t pay listing or seller fees, payment is super fast and even shipping is free.

Plus, enter FREE5 at checkout to get an extra $5 for your trade-in order!

10. Play the Lotto for Free — and Win Real Money

You know that feeling when you find a $20 bill hiding in the pocket of those jeans you wore last week? Yeah, that’s the feeling of a lucky day. The Lucky Day app is just like that. Have fun on your phone, just like you do anyway, and you might just pocket some extra dough.

Lucky, indeed.

You could win up to $10,000 playing digital scratch-off tickets or even a whopping $100,000 in the daily lotto. You’ll also have a lot of chances to win gift cards to cool places like Amazon, Walmart, Dunkin and Target.

It’s all free to play, with no in-app purchases. The company has already awarded more than $3 million in prizes to winners since 2014.

Seriously, you could have that “I just found money in my pocket” feeling today just for playing games and having fun on your phone.

11. Get the Props You Deserve for Being Active

Woman stretching near a bus stop
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

If you live an active lifestyle (or need an incentive to become more active), the Achievement app will reward you for making healthy moves, including upping your step count and logging your sleep.

Achievement connects to your phone’s health apps and runs in the background, so it works passively. Many users report being happily surprised when logging on and checking their progress.

Once you earn 10,000 points, you’ll score $10, which you can deposit directly into your bank account.

Pro tip: Achievement connects to more than 30 Android and iOS health-related apps, including MyFitnessPal and Garmin. The more apps you connect, the more earning opportunities.

12. Look at Ads on Your Smartphone

Don’t mind seeing advertisements every time you pick up your phone? Install Slidejoy on your Android phone and you can earn money every month — up to $60 per year!

This app is only available to U.S.-based Android users. When it’s time to get paid, you can choose to receive cash or gift cards to retailers like CVS, Target, Sephora and more.

13. Cash in on Your Smartphone Photo Skills

Smartphone taking a photo of a bridge
Carmen Mandato/The Penny Hoarder

If you have a smartphone and a photographic eye, making money may have just gotten a lot easier. Oh – you’ll also need access to marketable scenery.

An app called Foap lets you turn your smartphone photos into cash.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Download the free app and create an account.
  2. Take a quality photo and upload it to Foap’s marketplace.
  3. Someone buys the license to your photo for $10. You make $5.

If your photo sells 20 times, you make $5 each time and end up with $100 in your pocket — all for about five minutes of work. Pretty cool, right?

14. Help Job Searchers (This Is So Easy!)

If you walk around your town, Indeed’s Job Spotter app could be a great way to make some extra money. When you spot a “help wanted” sign, take a photo, and upload it to the app to earn points you can exchange for Amazon gift cards.

“Help Wanted” signs are everywhere these days, so they shouldn’t be too difficult to find. All you have to do is snap some quick photos and enter the business’s information.