12 Easy, Proven Ways To Get Free Money

woman checking her smartphone
GaudiLab / Getty Images/iStockphoto

When you need extra money, you often don’t have to look very far. Whether you need to pay the rent, a student loan or another bill — or you just like free money — these 12 simple ways to earn money can boost your bank account balance.

How Can I Get Free Money Now?

In most cases, to get free money, you provide something of value and exchange something in return. It might be opening an account or downloading an app, or it might be your time and effort in filling out an application.

Some opportunities are even in the form of phone, internet or utility discounts. If you think about it, that’s kind of like free money because it’s money you would’ve had to spend otherwise.

Now that you know that these and other opportunities to earn free money are out there, all that’s left is to know where to look.

Earn Rewards or Stock Investments

Free money offers can boost your savings or checking account balance. The only thing you need to do is move your funds, and many banks can handle that electronically. Here are some ways to take advantage of rewards or stock investments.

1. Take Advantage of Bank Promotions

One of the ways banks attract new business is by offering promotions. All you have to do is open an account and meet the promotion requirements to earn a bonus from one of these bank offers.

  • How much you can earn: Most bonus offers are $200 to $500, but you may find higher offers if you carry a high balance.
  • What you need to do: Look for promotions at online banks and banks near you. Here’s a starting point for finding the best bank account promotions.
  • What you need to watch out for: You typically have to maintain a minimum balance or receive direct deposits to qualify.
  • How you’re paid: Money is typically deposited into the account you opened.

2. Get Free Stock Investments

When it comes to free money apps that work, stock apps are some of the best. You can earn money by investing in funds, and some even offer free stock.

More From Your Money
Sponsors of
  • How much you can earn: It varies by stock and whether the app is offering full stocks or fractional shares of stock. Stocks can be hundreds of dollars or more.
  • What you need to do: Look for an investing app that offers free stock. For example:
    • Robinhood: This investing platform offers a free stock if you sign up through a referral link.
    • Stash: Stash’s debit card allows you to earn a percentage back as stock in the companies you make purchases from. For example, if you buy from Walmart, you earn Walmart stock.
  • What you need to watch out for: For some offers, you either need to refer someone or be referred by someone else.
  • How you’re paid: Stocks or fractional stocks are added to your portfolio.

3. Earn Credit Card Bonuses

Much like how banks offer bonuses to entice people to switch, credit cards offer sign-up bonuses. In most cases, you just need to purchase a specific amount to earn the bonus.

  • How much you can earn: It varies by card, but often $200 to $500 in cash or points.
  • What you need to do: Look for credit cards with sign-up bonuses that you’re likely to get approved for.
  • What you need to watch out for: You need to have good credit, or you’ll be declined for offers.
  • How you’re paid: It varies by card; you could be credited points or a statement credit once you meet the requirements.

Look For Discounts

Another way to get free money is to look for discounts for essential services. Here are some options to consider.

4. Get Help With Utility Bills

Utility bills can make a significant dent in your budget. These government programs can provide free money assistance.

  • How much you can save:
    • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is administered by states, so your savings can vary.
    • Lifeline assists with phone or internet and contributes $9.25 toward your bill.
  • What you need to do:
    • For LIHEAP: Visit the Office of Community Services website to find out who to contact in your state.
    • For Lifeline: Visit the Lifeline website to find a company that accepts it. If your current phone or internet provider accepts Lifeline, it can help you complete the application process.
  • What you need to watch out for: Both programs have income eligibility limits.
  • How you’re paid: Assistance is typically paid directly to the service provider.

Government Initiated

Various federal, state and local programs allow you to get free money from the government.

5. Take Advantage of Your Employer’s 401(k) Match

401(k)s are retirement funds, so you won’t see the money until later. Taking advantage of a 401(k) saves you money now, though, because it lowers your taxable income.

Even better, federal laws encourage employers to contribute funds. For example, your employer might match 100% of your contributions up to 5% of your salary, which means for every $1 you contribute, your employer will also contribute $1 up to that limit. That’s even more free money.

  • How much you can earn: Over time, employers could contribute thousands to your 401(k), and you’ll likely save hundreds or more on your taxes.
  • What you need to do: Sign up and contribute to your employer’s 401(k) plan. If you’re not sure where to start or what your employer matches, ask your human resources contact.
  • What you need to watch out for: You can contribute a maximum of $19,500 to a 401(k) in 2020 ($26,000 if you’re age 50 or older).
  • How you’re paid: The money grows in your account, and you can withdraw it without a penalty starting at age 59 ½ or if you experience hardship.

6. Search for Unclaimed Money

Unclaimed money includes dormant accounts, trust distributions, refunds and more that haven’t been claimed. It doesn’t hurt to see if you have any unclaimed funds. Finding out that you do could be almost like winning free money.

  • How much you can earn: Hundreds to thousands of dollars
  • What you need to do: Start your search online at the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators website. If you find unclaimed funds, it will guide you to the appropriate site to file a claim.
  • What you need to watch out for: Ignore texts offering unclaimed money or letters that ask you to send funds in exchange for funds. These are scams.
  • How you’re paid: Payment varies by type of unclaimed property.

Products and Services

You likely own items or can perform services that bring in extra money. Here are a few to consider.

7. Make Money From Your Old Devices

You may have old cellphones, computers or other tech devices that you no longer use. You can sell them and put some money in your pocket.

  • How much you can earn: Earnings vary depending on the device, its condition and where you’re selling it.
  • What you need to do:
    • Find your devices and remove your personal information.
    • Disable any anti-theft or device protection features.
    • Decide where to sell. You can sell on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Craiglist or a site like Decluttr.
  • What you need to watch out for: If you’re selling it directly, make sure to get cash or use a reputable platform with seller protections to avoid falling victim to fraud.
  • How you’re paid: Payment is via cash, Venmo or PayPal. Decluttr offers direct deposit.

8. Sell Your Old Clothes

If your clothes are in good condition and you gravitate toward name brands, you could make money by selling your old clothes online.

  • How much you can earn: Earnings vary by site, and most take a cut of your earnings.
  • What you need to do: Sign up with a site like Poshmark or ThredUp.
    • ThredUp: The company photographs and lists your items.
    • Poshmark: The seller is required to photograph and list items.
  • What you need to watch out for: These services only accept certain brands and items in good condition.
  • How you’re paid: Payment is often by PayPal or direct deposit.

9. Sell Your Photos

If you have an eye for photography, you can make money by selling your photos online.

  • How much you can earn: You earn a percentage each time your photo is downloaded for use.
  • What you need to do: Sign up with a site like Shutterstock or iStock by Getty Images.
    • Shutterstock: You can start uploading photos right away.
    • iStock by Getty Images: You have to apply to submit photos.
  • What you need to watch out for: Follow the instructions for image size and whether model and property releases are needed.
  • How you’re paid: Online payments via PayPal, Payoneer or Skrill

Via Apps and Survey Sites

You’ve likely heard at least once in your life, “There’s an app for that.” And that statement holds true for getting free money, too. Here’s more.

10. Earn Money While You Shop

Many apps and browser extensions make it simple to earn money while you buy the things you need.

  • How much you can earn: The earnings might seem small, but can add up to $100 or more over the course of a year.
  • What you need to do: Download an app or browser extension. Popular options include:
    • Rakuten: Rakuten offers both a mobile app and a browser extension for Chrome. You can get up to 40% cash back, shop special deals and earn $10 just for signing up.
    • Ibotta: Like Rakuten, Ibotta offers both a mobile app and a browser extension.
      • You can earn cash back by shopping using the Ibotta app on your phone.
      • If you shop in person, you can link loyalty cards and upload receipts.
  • What you need to watch out for: Not every shopping site offers cash back, so review your app for the best places to shop.
  • How you’re paid: PayPal or Venmo

11. Take Surveys

Marketing companies want to know what you think, and you can turn that into free money.

  • How much you can earn: Surveys typically don’t pay much, but your earnings can add up over the course of a year.
  • What you need to do: Sign up with a survey site. Some sites are currently offering sign-up bonuses. Options include:
  • What you need to watch out for: Not everyone will qualify for every survey, and some can take a long time to complete.
  • How you’re paid: Payments are made via PayPal or check. 

12. Watch TV and Use the Internet

Advertisers also want to know what you watch and your internet surfing habits.

  • How much you can earn: Like with surveys, you don’t earn a lot, but it’s for doing things you enjoy, like watching TV or listening to music.
  • What you need to do: Sign up with a site. Options include:
    • Slidejoy: Earn money by viewing ads on your lock screen each time you check your phone.
    • iRazoo: Earn cash by watching videos or searching the web.
  • What you need to watch out for: Slidejoy only works on Android phones. iRazoo requires you to reach 3,000 points before you can receive payment.
  • How you’re paid: Both sites offer payment via PayPal.

This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Barb Nefer has been writing professionally for nearly 30 years, cutting her teeth as a news writer for the Daily Southtown in Chicago. She’s a doctor of psychology, and her eclectic expertise includes personal finance, psychology, travel and the pet industry. Her work reflects that diversity, with pieces appearing in places like About.com, CBS Local, Yahoo.com, WebPsychology, and Animal Wellness magazine.