When you need extra cash, 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 want free money now — there are plenty of simple ways to earn. Keep reading to learn about 12 of the best options that can help you boost your bank account balance.
How To Get Free Money
No one is giving out free money just for the asking, but you can bring in extra cash for very little effort — and in many cases, for things you’re already doing, like driving a car or surfing the web.
Now that you know that opportunities to earn free money are out there, it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
1. Open a New Bank Account
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 a bank offer.
- How much you can earn: Most bonus offers are $200 to $500, but you may find higher offers if you carry a high balance. Here are a couple of examples of promotions that are currently available:
- M&T Bank: Earn up to $250 for opening a checking account.
- Citi: Earn $300 to $1,500 for opening a checking account in an eligible account package.
- What you need to do: Look for promotions at online banks and banks near you.
- What you need to watch out for: You typically have to deposit funds that are new to the bank and maintain a minimum balance or receive direct deposits to qualify.
- How you’re paid: Money is typically deposited into the account you opened.
2. Earn Cash-Back Rewards on Your Credit or Debit Card
Some debit and credit cards pay cash back on purchases you make using the card.
- How much you can earn: Cash-back rewards generally range from 1% to 6%.
- What you need to do: Open a checking or credit card account that offers cash back, and then use your card to make qualifying purchases.
- What you need to watch out for: Some accounts have fees that can eat into your rewards.
- How you’re paid: Cash-back rewards are credited on your bank or credit card statement.
3. Earn Credit Card Sign-Up 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.
4. Invest in the Stock Market
Several investment platforms give you bonus money to purchase stocks when you open an account.
- How much you can earn: Bonus amounts vary by platform but generally range from $10 to $30.
- What you need to do: Sign up for an account, and then fund the account with the minimum required to qualify for the free money.
- What you need to watch out for: If the stocks you purchase decline in value, you could lose your investment in addition to the free money awarded by the platform.
- How you’re paid: You’re paid by funds added to your account that you can use toward purchasing additional stock.
5. Take Advantage of Your Employer’s 401(k) Match
A 401(k) is a retirement fund, so you won’t see the money until later. But if your employer matches your contributions, you’ll have free money growing in value alongside your own contributions.
- How much you can earn: Over time, employers could contribute thousands to your 401(k).
- 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 2021 ($26,000 if you’re age 50 or older). The overall contribution limit, including matching contributions from your employer, is $58,000 for 2021.
- 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 a qualifying hardship.
6. Search for Unclaimed Money
Unclaimed money includes dormant accounts, uncashed paychecks and traveler’s checks, utility company security deposit returns, insurance refunds and other funds that have been turned over to state governments and treasuries. The states won’t come looking for you if you have unclaimed funds, but you can search their databases for free.
- 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 money in exchange for funds. These are scams.
- How you’re paid: Payment varies by type of unclaimed property.
7. Trade In Your Old Devices
You may have old mobile devices, computers, gaming consoles or other tech 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:
- 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 gift card, check, 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 such as:
- 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 via PayPal, check or direct deposit.
9. Wrap Your Car With Advertising
If you live in a highly populated area, you can make free money driving your personal vehicle wrapped in commercial advertising.
- How much you can earn: Depending on the campaign and how many qualifying miles you drive, you can make anywhere from $100 to $450 per month.
- What you need to do: Sign up with a company like Carvertise or Wrapify and agree to its terms and conditions. Then, accept a campaign offer and bring your car to a shop to be wrapped at the company’s expense.
- What you need to watch out for: A shrink-wrap vendor that asks you for money or that promises exorbitant payments is likely a scam.
- How you’re paid: Payments are via weekly or monthly direct deposits.
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 they 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:
- InboxDollars: Earn $5 for signing up.
- Vindale Research: Earn $1 for signing up.
- Pinecone Research: This company doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus.
- What you need to watch out for: Not everyone will qualify for every survey, and some can take a long time to complete. Also be aware that some companies award points rather than cash. It can be difficult to accumulate enough points to meet redemption requirements before the points expire.
- How you’re paid: Payments are made via PayPal or check.
12. 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 already do online, like shop, search the web and watch videos.
- What you need to do: Sign up with a site like Swagbucks or Qmee and install the app on your browser and mobile devices.
- What you need to watch out for: You can be disqualified for gaming the system, such as with excessive searching or link clicks.
- How you’re paid: Via gift cards or PayPal
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.
Data is accurate as of Sept. 30, 2021, and subject to change.
This article has been updated with additional reporting since its original publication.