Free to Join Survey Sites
Let's get one thing squared away right now. You don't need to pay to take paid surveys!
There's a bunch of different "membership" websites out there that charge people for access to a list of paid survey companies. Because many of them are paying for Google Adwords and other ppc programs, or their website creators have mad SEO (search engine optimization skills), they're often the first sites you come across on the web and not knowing any better, you figure it's a bargain to pay $40 to get access to all these different paid survey sites.
Dig a little deeper into the internet however and you'll find that you can come up with a list of paid survey sites that are completely free to join. You will also find that the best survey companies are usually "invitation only". For example Pinecone Research and E-Rewards are both invite only so you won't find either one of them offered on "membership" websites where you have to pay to find out about paid surveys.
What types of free paid survey sites are there?
There's a couple of different types of models for survey sites. Here's a rundown of the types of survey opportunities that you'll find.
These are the real paid survey sites. They offer a straight-up exchange of your completed survey for their money. If you are looking to maximize your online earnings, you should focus first on the companies that offer a monetary value for each survey you take.
Some of these survey sites base their programs on earning points and then when you accumulate enough points, you cash them out. Ultimately you'll receive a cheque or a paypal payment regardless of which model the survey site uses, so join both types.
The second type of survey sites are the ones that don't offer you a strict cash for time exchange. Instead of earning a couple of dollars for each survey that you complete, you generally get prize entries into their drawings and sweepstakes. This can possibly lead to a much larger pay-off if you're the prize winner, but naturally there is no guarantee that you will win. The more surveys you complete, the higher your chances of winning a prize, but you'll have to decide for yourself whether you want to invest your time in this type of survey site. I offer a couple of options below.
Get Discounts and Free Stuff
Instead of offering you cash directly, these survey sites give you free goodies such as ringtones, software and other online goods. They also often offer actual physical goods. I'm not much interested in "free software" because there's plenty of places to get free software without filling out a bunch of surveys first, but I'll certainly take stuff sent to my house!
Generally working on a point system, once you accumulate enough points, you exchange the points for merchandise.
Some of them actually have giftcards you can exchange your points for and if you shop at any of the places for which they offer giftcards, that is just as good as cash.
Other Things to Consider
Completing Paid Offers
In addition to completing surveys, many survey sites also have opportunities to complete offers and they'll pay you for each offer that they complete. Basically, what they are doing is rebating back to you part of their commission on the completed offer. For some offers you'll need a credit card and for other offers all you need is a valid address with zip code, or a phone number.
I personally stick to the totally free offers because usually if you need a credit card, you also need to remember to CANCEL that offer before an expiration date. However, if you are willing to use a credit card, you can definitely rack up the cash a lot faster. Most of the credit card offers pay out pretty well. I've seen some that pay as much as $20, PLUS you get whatever they are offering for free for a month or so. Of course, you don't need to cancel the offers at all if its for something you actually like.
Do I need to download something?
For most of the paid survey companies, they just email you when they have surveys available or you log into their website and check to see what's available. A couple of companies, though, are primarily interested in gathering data for their clients on how you actually use the internet -- what kinds of websites you surf, how long you spend on them, what kind of things you actually spend money on, etc.
They don't share your personal data. For instance, they won't say "Mary Smith likes to spend a lot of time at thisawesomewebsite.com and this is what she does there." Instead, they aggregate the data and demographics and share that information with their clients, i.e. 27% of female users between the ages of 27-25 spend an average of 20 minutes daily at thisawesomewebsite.com, etc.
You will usually get survey offers from these companies as well, but they don't get into the incentivized "complete offers" as much so there is less time involved. You simply download their tool and keep on surfing.
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