The average person spends about four hours a day on their cell phones—and about 90% of that time is spent using apps. So why not turn your mindless scrolling into cold, hard cash? We rounded up our favorite money-making apps, from apps that help you earn cash back on online purchases, those that pay you for your opinions, to those that will invest your spare change for you, even apps that will pay you to exercise. Yes, really. Read on to see which apps made the list.
The 9 Best Money-Making Apps of 2021
- Best for Bargain Shoppers: Rakuten
- Runner-Up, Best for Bargain Shoppers: Shopkick
- Best for Automatic Payment: ibotta
- Best for Photographers/Videographers: Foap
- Best for Investors: Acorns
- Best for Surveys: Google Opinion Rewards
- Runner-Up, Best Survey App: iPoll
- Best for Passive Earning: Slidejoy
- Best for Fitness Buffs: Sweatcoin
Best for Bargain Shoppers : Rakuten
Over 2,500 stores available
Cash back can apply to in-store purchases
Must have a PayPal account to receive payout electronically
Non-electronic payments sent out via check
Payouts every quarter
Also a great browser extension for those on a desktop computer, Rakuten (formerly Ebates) has a solid money-making app, as well. With this tool, you can use in-store coupons, scan items as you go to compare prices, and perhaps its most well-known feature – earn cash back on certain purchases from certain retailers.
Here’s how it works: Once you download and start using the app, you’ll earn a set percentage of cash back when you shop with Rakuten’s list of 2,500-plus eligible retailers. While cash back is usually between 1 to 2%, we’ve earned as much as 10%. You’ll also get access to in-store coupons and other perks. Rakuten even compares coupons for you, so you can be sure you’re getting the very best deal.
Another plus of this app? Once you sign up and start using it, you’ll automatically get paid every three months, as long as you’ve earned at least $5.01. Rakuten is an industry staple in the world of money-making apps. Founded in 1997, it’s doled out more than $1 billion in cash back to its customers.
Runner-Up, Best for Bargain Shoppers : Shopkick
You can earn rewards by walking into partner stores
Alternative ways to earn points, such as watching videos and scanning select barcodes
Over 250,000 retail locations offering walk-in and barcode scan rewards
Can only redeem rewards via gift cards
Only works on mobile app, no browser capabilities
If you love to shop, and frequently find yourself at your favorite retail destination browsing the aisles, then Shopkick is a great money-making tool. Though to be fair, Shopkick pays solely via gift cards, so keep that in mind.
Making money with Shopkick is easy. You download the app, then engage in one of eight activities: walk into the store, no purchase necessary (yes, it’s just that easy), scan barcodes of select products (again, you don’t have to buy anything), purchase items at an eligible store with your Shopkick-linked card, purchase items and submit your receipt, visit online stores or view online products (no purchase necessary), make an online purchase with a Shopkick partner, or watch in-app videos.
While you aren’t paid in actual cash with this app, you don’t always have to make a purchase to earn, which is a nice perk.
Best for Automatic Payment : ibotta
Actual cash back, no points or coupons
Works on mobile app and via browser extension
Low cash out threshold
Lower cash back than other apps
Eligible retail locations may not include regional and local stores
ibotta is another great cash-back app, and you have three options to make money using it: Upload your receipt to the app when you purchase eligible items; link a store loyalty card before you shop to get access to special offers; or make purchases at eligible stores via the ibotta app.
With ibotta, you’ll have to complete tasks within the app to get access to its money-saving tools, which can be a drawback, depending on how much free time you have. You’ll also have to manually upload receipts, and there are only about 300 eligible retailers. However, you can get cash deposited directly into your ibotta account, which you can then withdraw. No waiting on checks via snail mail or trying to navigate cryptocurrency.
Best for Photographers/Videographers : Foap
Doesn't require a DSLR camera
Only $5 needed to withdraw cash
Payouts are only through PayPal
Payments are sent at least one full month after withdrawal
Great for aspiring photographers and videographers, Foap is a money-making app that makes it simple to sell your photos and videos. Simply download the app, then upload your photos and videos to your online portfolio.
If your work is purchased by an agency, brand, or another user on Foap, then you’ll get paid, but you’ll share the profits with Foap 50/50. So, if Foap sells a photo for $10, you’ll make $5. But one photo can sell more than once, which is a nice plus. You can also submit photos to a specific project (Foap calls them Missions) for the chance to be paid hundreds for your photo.
Best for Investors : Acorns
No minimum deposit needed to begin using the app
No work required to invest
IRA and checking account options
High fees for smaller accounts
You can lose money
If you like to be a bit more invested in your money-making app, try Acorns. Download the robo-investing app and link your bank account. With every purchase, Acorns will round up to the next dollar and automatically invest your spare change into a portfolio of ETFs, which are diversified across 7,000-plus stocks and bonds. You can also sign up for recurring investments with Acorns, so you invest just a few dollars each day and watch your portfolio grow.
Acorns even has a list of Found Money partners—more than 350, in fact—that allow users to invest a percentage of their purchase when they shop with leading brands.
Keep in mind that Acorns charges a $1/monthly fee, so factor that into your earnings. But with that, you’ll get a diversified portfolio, automatic rebalancing, investment support from Acorns’ support team, and mobile access to all your accounts.
And if you really become a fan of Acorns, you may also try the company’s other offerings: Acorns Later, an IRA, and Acorns Spend, a checking account, and debit card.
Best for Surveys : Google Opinion Rewards
Only a $2 threshold needed for withdrawals
Users will automatically be notified when a survey is available
No purchases required to earn money
Payouts only sent through PayPal
The availability of surveys vary
Opinionated readers, this one’s for you. Backed by the world’s most popular search engine, Google Opinion Rewards is a definite must-download for those looking to profit from their smartphone addiction—and get paid for being opinionated.
Here’s how it works: Download the survey app and complete short surveys on everything from hotels to TV shows to merchants whenever you have a free moment. Think in line at the bank, waiting for the bus, or even in the bathroom. You’ll be paid with Google Play credits or via Paypal for each survey you complete. Pay ranges from $0.10 to $1 per survey.
Runner-Up, Best Survey App : iPoll
Competitive pay for surveys
Can be paid in cash or gift cards
No purchases required to earn rewards
Higher threshold for payouts than other survey apps
Can take up to six weeks to receive gift cards
Another paid survey, money-making app, iPoll is a bit less technologically savvy than its Google counterpart. Download the app and provide some personal information to get started. Then complete missions, such as visiting a store and snapping a photo or testing a product. Or, be alerted of new surveys the moment they hit the airwaves.
Once you complete your missions or surveys, visit iPoll.com to cash out. Though, to be fair, you don’t actually earn cash. Rather, you earn rewards like gift cards, airline miles, and the like. But if you’re a big shopper or frequent flier, it just might be worth it.
Best for Passive Earning : Slidejoy
You can receive cash, gift cards, or donate earnings to charity
$2 threshold for payouts
Free to use
Only available on Android devices
Low daily earnings for users
Advertisements are everywhere. Why not your cell phone, too? Slidejoy pays for the prime real estate that is your phone’s lock screen. (Did you know the average iPhone user unlocks his or her phone 80 times a day?)
Here’s how it works. Once you sign up and install Slidejoy, you’ll start seeing ads on your lock screen. You then can swipe left to get more info on the ads, swipe right to go to your home screen, or swipe up to see more ads. For every swipe, you’ll earn ‘Carats,’ which will be credited to your account the next day. Earn 1,000 ‘Carats’ and get $1.
Slidejoy pays via Paypal or with gift cards to various retailers. Think: Amazon, Google Play, and Walmart. Another plus? You can also donate your earnings to your favorite charity. Slidejoy calls these app users Heros, which we have to say, is a nice pat on the back.
And you’re wondering if this app drains your battery, the company’s answer is a very resounding no.
Best for Fitness Buffs : Sweatcoin
Free to use
You can redeem your rewards with more than 300 companies
It encourages a healthier lifestyle
There is no commitment
You can't redeem rewards as cash
Low earnings for most users
Getting outside for a workout can be tough. But download the Sweatcoin app, and watch your motivation skyrocket. After all, the app pays you for the steps you take. But full disclosure: You’re paid in cryptocurrency, a digital currency. (Think: Bitcoin.)
Here’s how it works. Download the Sweatcoin app, and keep it running on your phone in the background at all times. Then, get moving. You’ll earn 0.95 Sweatcoins for every 1,000 steps you take. Once you earn a certain amount of Sweatcoins, you can redeem them for goods like anti-gravity yoga classes (yep, that’s a thing), an Apple Watch, an iPhone, even vacations.
But here’s the rub: Most items will cost you around 20,000 Sweatcoins. If you walk 10,000 steps/day, you’ll earn 9.5 Sweatcoins. Walk 10,000 steps daily and it will still take you almost six years to earn 20,000 Sweatcoin. So this app is really for the serious movers and shakers, not casual fitness enthusiasts.
What Is a Money-making App?
A money-making app is an application you can download on your phone, tablet, or sometimes even your computer, that helps you make money in a variety of different ways. Some apps pay you a small fee to leave the app running in the background, to shop certain places, and get cash back. Others pay you to take surveys or participate in activities such as exercise. The goal is to offer a small reward or cash back from your phone and because we spend so much time on our phones, it can be a convenient way to get paid.
How Much Does a Money-making App Cost?
Money-making apps vary in terms of function, how they help you make money, and also in their prices. Some apps have a small one-time fee to download and others charge a nominal monthly fee like $1. However, most money-making apps are free. Some apps do, however, require purchases be made to save or make you money. Make sure to read the fine print when signing up so you know what to expect, and be realistic: a money-making app isn’t going to replace your income, but can sometimes be a small supplement for using your phone as you normally do.
How We Chose the Best Money-making Apps
The top nine money-making apps were chosen based on the features and tools they offer, how they help you make money, the background and reputation of the company, and when and how you get paid—whether it’s in cash or gift cards, etc.