Make money taking surveys online?

Is it true or is it scam?



What I’ve learned in trying the online survey for money opportunities, and what I’d wish I’d known beforehand. There is lots of advice available but much of it is disguised advertising and the rest is incomplete at best.

Summary of experience so far

As of Dec. 27, 2008 I’ve earned enough to redeem about $40 ($25, then $15) all from LightSpeed and directly into my PayPal account within a day or so of request. I haven’t been working the surveys since about September. This represents about 5 weeks of effort. Total earnings (if I could cash them all in) are about $70. The best survey firms (of those that I’ve tried) are Lightspeed, Opinion Outpost (about to redeem $10) and Global Test Market ($4 away from redeeming $10).

If you don’t waste time on the other providers, and learn from what I describe below, you won’t risk the burnout that I’m struggling with. The bad stuff: endless presentation of the same tired surveys about cars, cell phone services, etc. Not qualifying for survery after survey. Low paying surveys (like 10 cents for a half hour survey, or only an entry into a sweepstakes. (Average surveys pay between $0 and $2.00.) The good stuff: I got four free bottles of Propel, I got a free DVD of a really good episode of a Discovery channel nature program. I’ve seen some new menu items for a popluar restaurant. Previewed some TV ads and drinking water bottle designs. And I have $40 in my PayPal account that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

I have to say that I haven’t noticed an appreciable increase in junk mail, which I had feared. I have no idea any of my personal info was sold to database firms.


Caveats (beware of these things)

At least 90% of the online survey websites (called “panels”) seem to exist to obtain your email address in order to send spam. I also suspect that they sell your other data (name, address, phone number, birth date, income, etc) to national databases, which can then resell that data to anyone with $19.99.

That said, there are many articles out there suppposedly written by those who have made a little extra money. The more money is promised, the more distrust you should have. Assuming that they aren’t all written by scammers, here’s some recommendations that I have after almost a month of investigation.

Have three discard-ble points of contact:

  • email address
  • street address
  • phone number

Also, I don’t recommend providing your real birth date, and the almost universal insistance on providing it makes me strongly suspect that they are selling your info to national databases. A few will only ask your birth year or just the month and year. Name, address and rough birth year are enough to match you to your other records in national databases.

The email address is understandable, and it’s easy enough to get one that you can later abandon. Use a free GMail or Yahoo address for example. Better yet, get two. Use the first one to try out new sites using all false data. Then if you trust the site, reregister with the second email address and use your real name. Choose an email address that has only characters and/or numbers. Some sites won’t take an email address with things like dashes, for example.

They claim they need your street address for sending payments. While this may be true, I’ll bet the amount of junk mail goes way up for those businesses that are willing to risk the dimes on postage. Email spam is almost free for them. It’s probably naive to image that your address isn’t already in every database. Probably your phone numbers too, but maybe not if you changed recently.

They claim they need your phone number to contact you about certain surveys, usually ______test panels____.
We’ll see. I’ve already received one solicitation from Phoenix University as a result. If you haven’t already, make sure you’ve registered with the DO NOT CALL database.

All the online articles recommend that you register with as many online survey places as you can. If it is possible to make a little extra money, then this will be true, but it also exposes you to thousands of extra spams and other noise.

Registering with one place, brings up offers to register with other places, they’re all in on it together.

Once you’ve registered with a few places, your inbox will fill with spam. Most of it will be “participation offers”. Avoid anything with the word “offer” or “participation” . These all require you to buy something, often with free trials that you have to remember to cancel. Also, don’t waste your with “paid email”, where you get a penny or two to click on a link and read an advertisement.

Be careful before clicking the submit button, many will piggyback your agreement to receive spams, phone calls from solicitors, etc. Many will subject you to pages and pages of offers to decline after you hit the “Submit button”.

Finally, use a password that you’ve never used anywhere else, just to be safe. Some sites assign you a password. Login and change it to your standard survey site password right away. Before you start signing up, choose a standard password, at least 8 characters long, with a mixture of letters and numbers. Maybe even make one of the lettters upper case, just in case one of the sites requires that. If your standard pwd is rejected by one or more sites, write down the one it does accept and then consider changing all the others to the newest one.

Now and then a site may use an ID other than your email address. Choose one that is as close to your email address as possible and write it down.

Points vs. cash

Most places award you points for completing surveys, which you have to build up to quite high levels before you can redeem them for consumer items, or they have you use your points to enter sweepstakes. If they award you money, it will normally be less than a dollar per survey and you have to build it up to (typically) $10.00 before they give it to you.

Portals vs. Panels

Portals don’t provide you with surveys. They only link into the ones that do, as well as link you to all the other portals. Some are free, some aren’t. They won’t tell you upfront if they are a portal, unless they charge. You don’t need portals, here are the sites that I’ve proven to be worth your time (in order of preference):

Panels (OK to try)

  • LightSpeed
  • Opinion Outpost
  • Zoom
  • Creation Rewards (OpnSrvys & OTX)
  • Global Opionion Panels
  • Global Test Market
  • Your2Cents
  • Survey Exchange (OTX)
  • I-Say
  • MindField

Known portals: (waste of time)

  • Best Survey Panel
  • Consumer aid pages
  • Paid Surveys At Home
  • Survey Adventure
  • Survey Club
  • Survey Directory
  • Survey Lot
  • Survey Pro
  • Survey Explosion

These should be avoided, they pop up windows that are hard to close (and are certainly all the same company):

  • Get Cash For Surveys
  • Net Panel
  • Paid Surveys Etc
  • Survey Team

Stay away from:

  • Panda Research
  • Inbox Dollars
  • NPD Panel (offers only?)
  • Survey Spot
  • Winning Surveys

Not yet Evaluated:

  • AC Nielson Panel
  • Amp Surveys
  • Cash 4 Offers
  • ECN Research                            
  • Fusion Cash
  • Global Survey Group
  • Join Surveys                            
  • NFO MySurveys                            
  • Nielsen Net Ratings                            
  • Paid Marketing Panel                            
  • Paid Surveys Unlimited                            
  • Send Earnings                            
  • ShadowShopper                            
  • Survey Depot                            
  • Survey Princess                            
  • Survey4Profit                            
  • SurveyMountain<>
  • Vindale Research                            
  • Vindale Research Panel                            

Non-surveys to avoid:

  • EverSave (coupons)
  • (offers)
  • ECN_____?____ (offers, coupons, etc)

The Fun Factor

When you actually do get to fill out a legitimate survey, there an be some non-monitary benefits. For me, this is to learn about new products and get a glimpse of the marketing machine. For example, one restaurant was considering adding some new menu items.

Prequalifying for surveys

When you sign up with a survey provider, you’ll probably answer some questions to create a profile. When you start taking most surveys, you’ll also answer some preliminary questions to see if you are the type of consumer they want to survey. These are called “screeners”.

If you lie and claim to have more kids, luxury items, a different lifestyle, etc., you’ll probably have more surveys available to you. But I’ve found that it isn’t worth it. You’ll get asked questions that you just don’t know the answers to. It’s better to just stick with the truth, you’ll probably get as many survey invites as you can handle and it will be easier.

Do the providers know what answers you give on each survey? I don’t think so, most surveys seem to be conducted on the client’s servers and I doubt they take the time to feed the answers back to the providers. I could be wrong, and the providers would be stupid not to do some monitoring (as with the screener answers) to provide their marketing clients with some proof of truthfulness. Some panel’s screener steps present info from previous presentations, so at least some of them store a certain amount.

How much can I make?

After 3 weeks, I have enough built up in the top two panels to cash out $10 each. Most panels pay about one to two pennies an minute, on average, which is less than 1$/hr.. If it doesn’t lead to more profitable surveys, I doubt I would continue except if I get bored and have nothing better to do with my time.

Keep Notes

Start a journal and keep track of everything you do. With online sites, it’s easy to keep clicking and have no idea later what you did. Record every survey, including the ones for which you don’t pass the screeners. Record the survey ID, the type of product and the points promised. Keep track of the sites. You’ll figure out what info is important as you go, but write everything down the first few weeks.


In addition to this article check out some other online resources.
Here are some websites that review paid online survey panels