People love getting things for free. Consider National Doughnut Day, for example — people wait obscene amounts of time in line at doughnut shops just to get a free doughnut, despite the fact that the average doughnut costs less than $1 on a normal day.

Free samples and other sorts of freebies are fun, but imagine ways of getting fresh cash now. Wait, you don’t have to imagine. If you need free money (or just want it), you do have options. Even a few extra dollars in your pocket can help once in a while, though many of our methods for getting money for free will give you hundreds of dollars. With minimal effort, you can get free money doing things you already do on a regular basis.

In This Article

Get Free Money from Banks, Credit Cards, and the Government

1. Get a Cash Bonus for Opening a New Bank Account

  • How much you can make: Typically $100-$300
  • How to make it: Sign up for a new checking account with a bank that’s offering a special promotion.

Banks are always looking for ways to compete with each other, and one common way to get new customers in the door is to offer upfront cash payments, simply for opening an account. There are some catches, though.

  • In order to qualify for the cash, you’re usually required to sign up for services that save the bank money, such as direct deposit, online bill pay, or e-statements. Since these services reduce the number of employees the bank needs to hire, the bank saves money and can afford to pay you these bonuses.
  • Your account usually needs to be open for a specific amount of time and with a minimum balance. For example, you may have to maintain a balance of $1,000 for one year before receiving all of the bonus.
  • You may get the bonus in the form of a prepaid card instead of cash, but it is still money.

To find banks near you that are offering cash bonuses, pay attention to commercials and online advertisements, or do a simple internet search. Offers are typically temporary, so don’t panic if you miss one — there’s a good chance that it will roll back around within a year. Some companies run these types of promotions quite often, including the following:

  • Chase offers a $200 bonus when you open a Total Checking account and another $150 when you open a savings account with qualifying activities.
  • TD Bank offers $150 for opening a TD Convenience Checking account and $300 for a TD Premier Checking account.
  • BMO Harris offers a $200 cash bonus when you open a checking account
  • Santander Bank sometimes offers up to $150 signup bonuses for several of its checking account options

2. Choose a Credit Card that Offers a Sign-Up Bonus

  • How much you can make: Typically $100-$200
  • How to make it: Sign up for a new credit card with a bank that’s offering a special promotion.

Some credit cards offer sign-up bonuses for making purchases during the first few months of opening the account. You don’t necessarily need to purchase anything new since you can usually use your card to pay cell phone, cable or utility bills. Offers are constantly changing, but the following credit cards are offering sign-up bonuses (we’ll do our best to keep this list up to date):

3. Do Simple Credit Card Balance Transfers

  • How much you can make: Depends on how much debt you already have
  • How to make it: Move your balance on a high-interest credit card to a low- or no-interest card.

While a high amount of debt isn’t ideal, if you do have outstanding credit card debt, it’s a good idea to get the lowest interest rate possible for that debt. With an introductory interest-free offer for balance transfers, you could save a lot of money by transferring your balance from a high-interest card to a new interest-free card. You’ll still owe money, but you’ll owe less in interest payments over time. Here’s how to get free money today:

  • Check out CompareCards.com — it’s a site that allows you to compare current credit card offers, and find one that’s right for you.
  • Be selective, and read the fine print. Always know what you’re getting into before you make a major financial decision.
  • There may be fees associated with the balance transfer, but those fees can be minimal compared to the amount you would be paying on interest.
  • Once you apply for the new card and transfer the balance to the new card, that attractive $0 balance on the old card may look tempting. Don’t go racking up extra debt, or it will completely defeat the purpose.

4. Credit Card Arbitrage

  • How much you can make: Varies widely depending on how much debt you’re willing to incur.
  • How to make it: Get a cash advance from a credit card. Invest the cash into a high-yield account. Pay the outstanding balance back to the credit card company before the no-interest grace period ends. Pocket the interest from your investment.

Did you know that you could take a cash advance from a credit card company and put it into an account where it will earn interest? It’s called credit card arbitrage. You just have to make sure you repay the money to the credit card company during the grace period, before it starts to accrue interest.

To do this, you’ll need two things: a credit card that allows cash advances and has a 0% interest offer, and a place to put that cash where it can earn money. For the second part, go to your bank and ask about the rates for high-yield savings accounts. You can also ask if the bank has any CDs with the same maturity as the grace period of the credit card where you got the cash advance.

Once you’ve decided where to invest your money, just let it sit and accrue interest until the grace period on the cash advance ends and it’s time to pay back the credit card company. Don’t get us wrong: although simple in theory, this method is risky, and we do not recommend it for casual investors. But it is perfectly legal (if not generally advisable), so we’ve included it here so that you know your options.

5. Get Free Government Money

  • How much you can make: Grants range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  • How to make it: Fit the criteria of a government grant for individuals or organizations. Fill out a lengthy application and wait to see if you were approved.

Sometimes you can get free government money to pay bills if you meet particular criteria. Grants are offered by both the state and federal governments, as well as non-profit organizations, and they can greatly help your business if you’re self-employed or looking to start a business. Government grants are also available to individuals who want to go college. If you qualify, you’ll be able to get the money without any strings attached. This is the most viable way to get free government money. Take a look at grants.gov to see if you qualify for a government grant.

Get Free Money Online

6. Instead of Posting Free Rants on Facebook, Get Paid to Share Your Opinions

  • How much you can make: Varies widely based on how much time you have. Each survey can pay anywhere from just a few cents up to $5 or so. (Note that many sites have minimum payouts.)
  • How to make it: Sign up with any of our recommended sites and settle in for a lot of question-answering.

There are several sites pay you in some form or another to take surveys. For example, the Mills Advisory Panel will give you points to trade for products that you may need, but they don’t pay you cash. There are a few sites that will pay you cash for taking their surveys.

The process is roughly the same for all paid survey sites. You sign up with one or more of the survey sites, which will then refer you to other companies or research firms. You’ll fill out some initial information to see if you qualify for a particular survey, and if you do, you can take the survey. A typical survey can last anywhere from 5-40 minutes to complete and pay varies depending on the company.

  • Mintvine.com pays either cash or gift cards. You also get 200 points upon registering, which can be cashed in for $2 in the United States and Canada.
  • PineCone Research pays $3 per survey.
  • Toluna.com allows you to earn rewards points that can be traded for cash or gift cards.

There are a large number of survey sites available, so if you don’t find one here you like, try a Google search for “earn money with surveys” and you’ll turn up plenty of results. Another great resource is SurveyPolice.com, which will help you figure out which of these myriad survey sites are legit, and which may not be worth your time. If you have a teenager who wants to make money this way, check out our article on websites that offer paid survey opportunities for teenagers.

7. Get Paid for Photos You’ve Already Taken

  • How much you can make: $5 per picture
  • How to make it: Install the Foap app and upload your pictures right from your phone.

Are you a connoisseur of smartphone photography? Foap.com will pay you for the photos on your phone. To become a “Foaper,” all you need to do is download the free Foap app, upload your photos, and make them available for purchase on the Foap Market. Use the tags to make your photos easy to find, and then let your artistic skills do the selling. The photos that do the best tend to be authentic, un-staged, and free of logos or trademarks. Keep in mind that you’ll need a model release for photos with a person in it (even selfies).

Companies that use Foap include Purina, Hyatt, Volvo, and many more. For each photo you sell, you’ll earn $5, and you can sell the same photo an unlimited number of times. Not a bad deal for photos that would otherwise just be earning Likes on Facebook.

8. Make Money Doing Online Searches You’d Be Doing Anyway

  • How much you can make: Casual users can expect to make $5-$10 per month; dedicated users (with a lot of time on their hands) can make more.
  • How to make it: Sign up with Swagbucks and start watching videos, searching the Internet, taking surveys, shopping online, playing games, and more.

Swagbucks.com will reward you with free gift cards for things that you do online: taking surveys, watching videos, shopping, doing internet searches, and even playing games. Every 100 points you earn equals $1 in Swagbucks that you can save to exchange for gift cards. Participating gift card vendors include Amazon, Walmart, and many others. As a special bonus, you’ll receive a 500 Swagbucks bonus ($5 gift card) if you earn a minimum of 2,500 points within 60 days of registration. 

Other Ways to Get Free Money

9. Be Honest About Poor Service

  • How much you can make: Depends on the cost of your meal.
  • How to make it: If your experience at a restaurant, hotel, or elsewhere fell short of your expectations, tell someone who can make it right.

This isn’t exactly a way to win free money instantly. But if you’re reading this at a restaurant and need free money now, it’s worth knowing.

If you spend your hard-earned money on a service or a meal, remember that you’re entitled to get what you paid for. If your service is subpar, there are ways to mention it without being rude or looking like someone who simply wants to avoid paying. Many people are uncomfortable making a complaint, but it doesn’t need to be a big scene.

When your server comes around and asks how you’re doing, you can just politely ask for a manager and explain what went wrong. Managers typically want you to enjoy your experience, so most will be accommodating and helpful. So if you aren’t happy with something, speak up. Most reputable places will be glad for the chance to redeem themselves, instead of having you write a terrible review online and then never coming back.

Chances are good that you’ll either get a discount off your bill or a gift card that encourages you to come back to try the restaurant or service again. Remember not to view this as a way to win free money instantly but rather as being justly compensated for something you should have received.

10. Download an App and Do Nothing Else

  • How much you can make: $15 after the first week and $5 every month after ($75 per year)
  • How to make it: Just install the Smart App on your phone and go about your day.

A company called Smart Panel will pay you to simply download their free app. The app’s purpose is to collect anonymous statistics from your phone to help your favorite web sites, apps, and mobile carriers give you better services and features. They want to know how long you’re spending on Facebook each week, what YouTube videos you like, and how often you check your email. Smart Panel is run by Verto Analytics, which is a trusted analytics firm.

Visit the Smart Panel website to see if you qualify. If you do, download Smart App from the App Store on your iPhone or from Google Play on your Android device. Once you’ve qualified and downloaded the app, you will receive $15 after the first week of the app installation. After that, you’ll get $5 per month. That’s $75 after 12 months. You can redeem your rewards via PayPal or an Amazon gift card. You can also take surveys to earn more rewards.

11. Win Free Cash by Tracking Your Work Out with Your Smartphone

  • How much you can make: Typically around $10-$30 per month
  • How to make it: Download the Pact app, set workout goals, and stick to your word.

Pact is an app that is connected to your PayPal account and uses cash stakes to help you achieve your health goals on a weekly basis. You set up a weekly pact to exercise a certain amount of days, and if you don’t fulfill your pact, you’ll be charged whatever amount you initially agreed upon as a penalty.

If you do meet your pact, you’ll get paid an amount that varies per week, depending on how many people are signed up at a given time. Typically, awards are around $0.20 per workout. While that may seem small, the rewards increase the higher your stakes are for not meeting your pact. And, even $15 per month can get you a few cups of coffee or help fill your gas tank. If you don’t need free money now and have time to squeeze in a workout first, this is for you.

In Summary

Short of robbing an ATM, you can get free money by any of the above methods. While knowing how to get money for free won’t turn you into a millionaire, an extra few (or few hundred) bucks here and there is always nice. Free money is out there — you just have to look for it, and maybe put in a few minutes of organizational effort. Good luck, and enjoy your extra cash!