How To Find The Highest Paying Online Surveys – An Honest Look Based On Real-World Experience

Optimize online survey taking earnings
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When it comes to finding the highest paid online surveys, it seems everyone has an opinion, and most of them are just flat-out wrong.

Affiliate marketers tend to promote poor sites and make grandiose claims about earning up to $50 per hour taking surveys. Most of them are just trying to appease their marketing partners, and only promote products that will help them make bank, not you. There are exceptions, but you have to dig for them.

Another group aimlessly spams surveys for a few hours or even a week, earns about $1-2 bucks an hour, and reports that surveys are about as worthless as a losing scratch-off ticket.

Neither group paints an accurate picture of what you can really earn if you just take a little time finding the right online survey sites and optimizing your experience.  Luckily, another group does, and that’s real-life users.

That’s why we scoured dozens of r/beermoney threads, checked out hundreds of user reviews, and watched multiple YouTube videos from legit side hustlers before embarking on our own journey.

After weeks spent getting our hands dirty, we came up with a list of the highest-paid online survey sites along with ways to maximize our earnings on them.

How much did we earn by taking online surveys?

Since we don’t believe in making readers wait until the end of an article to find the info they’re looking for, here’s our bottom line:

$245.34 in 35.3 hours for an average of $6.95.

That’s what we earned over the course of a month taking paid online surveys.

Here’s some proof of payment:

PayPal payment online surveys

Our final two weeks were significantly better than our first two, as we learned so many better ways to optimize our time. Those numbers read:

$125.46 in 15.1 hours for an average of $8.30.

That’s a buck above the current minimum wage, all for taking surveys in our PJs.

Could we learn to be even more efficient? Absolutely, but not by so much that I would reasonably expect to make more than $10 an hour doing online surveys 2 hours per day.

Now, if you’re a demographic darling and only spend an hour a day doing surveys, then the rate will probably be a bit higher ($12-$15). However, if you try to grind out 6-8 hours per day, it’ll be markedly lower, and we’ll explain why in a bit.

What online survey sites did we test, and which are best?

There is an abundance of sites out there that conduct market research for themselves or their partners, and most of them are just awful. Others just scrape the bottom of the mediocrity barrel, offering decent platforms and reliable payouts, but abysmal pay rates.

And yes, there are a few diamonds in the rough…a very few.

All told, we tested 30 survey sites, and on 18 of them, we didn’t cash out a penny. This group, which included some big names like InboxDollars, Toluna, and MyPoints, just wasn’t worth the frustration of trying to earn a payout, either due to high payout thresholds, frequent disqualifications, or endless survey loops. They were trash. If we knew to avoid these sooner, we could have upped our hourly rate a bit.

Inbox Dollars Survey Page
This Get-Paid-To site is heavily marketed, but its surveys should be avoided like the plague.

Then there was a middle group of about 5 sites where we did manage a payout, but we’ll never visit again because the hourly rate was just too low. This group included:

  • TGM Panel
  • Tellwut
  • Survey Junkie
  • Prize Rebel
  • Branded Surveys (best of the worst)

The earnings on these sites ranged from $2-$4.50 an hour. Unfortunately, a lot of affiliates plug Survey Junkie ($2.06 per hour) and Prize Rebel ($2.51 per hour), which have decent interfaces but are very poor sites for online survey taking. Branded Surveys was the best of the lot and would have made our preferred list if the better surveys (sent by email notification) didn’t fill up near instantaneously.

Even most of the online survey sites we ended up sticking with had at least one glaring flaw. Either there were only one or two surveys per week, the pay rate was mediocre, or the DQ rate was 50% or higher. Still, these sites weren’t bad relative to the competition (one was even very good) and paid out in an efficient manner.

Here is a visualization of how those sites performed for us, followed by a word on why each one was a keeper:

Online Survey Earnings Chart

Online survey taking sites that were at least decent: 

#1 – Prolific

As you may have gathered by the chart, Prolific was far and away our favorite online survey site, accounting for a whopping 42.6% of our total earnings for the month.

Prolific earnings
Prolific was our biggest earner by far. We still use it daily for some extra cash.

Prolific, which acts as a platform for academic institutions to roll out their studies, is possibly the only survey site that strikes a balance between paying well and offering a decent number of earning opportunities. It also doesn’t hurt that the surveys are pretty interesting, as far as surveys go at least.

Check out our full review.

What we like:

  • High hourly rate of over $12 per hour (p/h) with consistent earning opportunities (on weekdays)
  • Low cashout threshold of 5 GBP (about $6.85), and speedy Paypal payments
  • Interesting studies
  • Few to no disqualifications
  • Relatively quick signup process
  • Direct messaging with researchers

What we don’t like:

  • Studies require full attention
  • Poor email notification system (use the extension for notifications)

From the detective’s desk: The Prolific Assistant extension is great, alerting you to new studies as soon as they arrive. Don’t dawdle when you get an alert, as spots are limited. 

#2 – Pinecone Research

While there’s not a single online survey site that can hold a candle to Prolific, we found about a half-dozen that might be worth your time, and one of them is Pinecone Research.

Pinecone pays $3 per survey and claims that each survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. We actually found that most surveys could be completed even faster, resulting in our highest hourly rate of $14.86. Pinecone also offers a variety of ways to cash out, including virtual prepaid cards (MasterCard) and a bevy of catalog items.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the surveys are extremely infrequent, with 0-3 opportunities per week, on average. New opportunities are sent via email notifications, and you better hop on them quickly if you want a spot.

The software is downright frustrating to use sometimes, with surveys locking up on more than one occasion. Even worse, some Pinecone Research users have reported being banned for no apparent reason. We never experienced this issue.

What we like:

  • Best hourly rate of any survey site
  • Email notifications
  • Cash payments and low payout thresholds

What we don’t like:

  • Disqualification rates aren’t extremely high, but high enough
  • The software is poor. Surveys can lock up, forcing you to lose an opportunity
  • There are lots of reports of accounts being suddenly banned on Survey Police
  • You need a referral link to join, but they’re readily available

From the detective’s desk: Do not lie on your signup form or when taking surveys, as we suspect these are the reasons some users get banned. It’s better to DQ than lose your privileges. 

#3 – Crowdtap

We really didn’t want to like Crowdtap, but the site is so easy to use that we couldn’t help but indulge.

You will not make a good hourly on this site. At best you’re looking at $5 an hour (we clocked in at $4.57). And guess what? Your earnings won’t even be paid in cash, as Crowdtap only offers gift cards. For some people, Amazon is as good as cash, so it’s not a big deal. However, those looking to churn out enough surveys to pay their phone bill are best served elsewhere.

Crowdtap Interface
Crowdtap has a super easy-to-use interface, short surveys, and no DQs.

Turning to the positive, the surveys are extremely short, often just one question. Better yet, there are no disqualifications, and the surveys refresh pretty often.

Use Crowdtap as a sort of time filler while you’re waiting on better opportunities.

What we like:

  • Receive points for completing the signup process
  • Quick surveys, and no disqualifications
  • The cashout threshold is low ($5)
  • Great, simple to use card-based interface
  • The survey queue refills pretty quickly

What we don’t like:

  • The pay rate of 1.5 cents per question answered works out to a lousy hourly rate
  • Points are only worth half a cent, which may confuse new users
  • Survey questions are repetitive and mind-numbingly boring

From the detective’s desk: If you clear your Crowdtap queue, you may be offered to take third-party surveys. These are subject to high DQ rates, poor pay, and should be avoided. 

#4 – American Consumer Opinion

American Consumer Opinion (ACO) shares a lot of parallels with Pinecone Research, in that new survey opportunities are infrequent.

On the plus side, screeners sometimes pay a few cents, or at the very least, put you in the running for an Amazon gift card.

Full surveys can pay anywhere from a couple of dollars to about $10, and you can occasionally land a well-paid bonus survey. However, we disqualified much more often compared to Pinecone Research, which is frustrating when you only have a few opportunities per week. ACO says that surveys are chosen to fit your demographics, which supposedly cuts down on DQs, but it didn’t feel that way.

Payouts were handled via PayPal, and the minimum cashout amount is $10. It can take a really long time to reach the threshold (a month or more), but the surveys pay enough that we kept it on the rotation.

What we like:

  • Users are often compensated for completing screeners
  • Surveys pay a strong hourly rate ($10.75 for us)
  • Bonus survey possibilities
  • PayPal or check payouts, and you can cash out exact amounts of at least $10
  • Email notifications

What we don’t like:

  • Surveys are infrequent
  • DQ rates are higher than expected (50%+)
  • The website can be pretty slow, sometimes really slow

From the detective’s desk: Don’t bother with the polls, as they don’t pay anything. Also, avoid spending points on the monthly Amazon Gift Card Sweepstakes — it’s a poor use of your currency. 

#5 – PaidViewpoint

Paidviewpoint is a bit of an oddball. The majority of the surveys are just a series of random prescreening questions and attention checks. You’ll be asked the same questions over and over, and just when you think there’s no way you’ll be asked about your age and income again, yup, you will.

Complete a short set of these questions and you’ll be awarded $0.10 and some points that go toward your TraitScore. A TraitScore is basically an honesty score and is raised by answering the endless profiling questions consistently. Reach over 9,000 (insert Dragon Ball Z meme here) and you’ll supposedly receive enhanced payouts for completing surveys (we’re still skeptical). It takes a long time to reach this plateau, a month or more, depending on how often you check-in.

PaidViewpoint TraitScore
Did we really earn more?

When you do qualify for an actual survey, the site doesn’t really inform you that you’ve qualified, you sort of just gravitate from the random questions to looking at an ad for dishwashing pods. These pay more and tend to take about 5-10 minutes.

In either case, the site is highly rated, and sure enough, it proved to be really easy to use and a somewhat consistent earner. Our hourly was only $6.57, but it did climb a bit when we finally hit a 9,000+ TraitScore That could have been a friendly coincidence. Who knows?

What we like:

  • Super simple, easy-to-use interface
  • Surveys are more frequent than on Pinecone Research and American Consumer Opinion
  • Get paid to answer questions that raise your TraitScore
  • Technically there are no DQs; the survey just won’t be offered
  • OK pay rate that increases over time
  • Payment through PayPal, Amazon, Walmart or other gift cards

What we don’t like:

  • Frequent attention checks
  • Tons of repetitive questions
  • The email notification system is hit-or-miss
  • Minimum payout of $15, and an annoying cashout verification system where you have to supply a code via phone or SMS

From the detective’s desk: The tab icon for Paidviewpoint will display a small red dot in the bottom left-hand corner when there is a survey available. Keep a lookout. 

#6 – Qmee

Qmee has a lot working for it, and a lot working against it.

The site, which also supports cashback deals and a modest offer wall, offers an abundance of surveys, up to 30 at any given time.

But what really makes Qmee stand out is how transparent is with its users. Surveys display all kinds of useful info like the topic, how long it takes the average person to complete, and the pay rate in dollars and cents, and not some convoluted point system.

Qmee interface
Why can’t all user interfaces look like this?

Frequent users will benefit slightly from using Qmee, as it awards those who complete any task, (survey, daily poll, or pop quiz) for five days running with a 10% pay boost, which can be maintained simply by continuing to perform a successful action each day.

There are no minimum withdrawal requirements and PayPal payments generally hit your account within one business day.

So what’s the issue? Well, despite Qmee’s effort to match surveys to your user profile, the DQ rates are sky-high (75%+), and of the few surveys that pay well, most are snatched up within minutes.

Together, this crushes your hourly rate, and we only managed a measly $5.45 an hour.

What we like:

  • Super clean, fast interface
  • Displays the average time it takes users to complete a survey
  • No point system
  • Extremely quick PayPal payments

What we don’t like:

  • No real notification system
  • High paying surveys fill up fast
  • Disqualification rate is through the roof

From the detective’s desk: If you’re comfortable doing webcam surveys, they tend to have much lower disqualification rates. 

#7 – Swagbucks

Swagbucks is what’s known as a Get-Paid-To (GPT) site, which basically means you can earn money in a multitude of ways, with surveys being just one of them.

That’s one reason why we were hesitant to include it on the list. The other is that the survey-taking experience is rather dreadful. Swagbucks offers surveys (among other things) through its many partners, and most of their surveys are trash. Be prepared to DQ often, or worse yet, spiral down a seemingly endless survey loop. Even the starred Gold Surveys weren’t very rewarding.

Focusing more than 80% of your time on surveys, as we did, will result in about $3-$4 an hour, if that (we managed $4.48 but that was a little bit lucky).

The only reason Swagbucks was barely included in our list is that it’s by far the best GPT site on the web. A true Swagbucks guru can net hundreds of dollars per month by cleverly stacking bonuses and knowing where to find the best deals. Taking surveys is a minuscule, but necessary, part of the equation, and we simply can’t ignore that.

Check out our full guide to Swagbucks.

What we like:

  • Swagbucks offers way more than just surveys
  • There are a variety of ways to get paid, including PayPal
  • Best GPT site we’ve tested, by far

What we don’t like:

  • Some partner surveys are worse than others, but overall, they’re awful
  • Frequent disqualifications, endless survey loops
  • Poor pay rates (for surveys)

From the detective’s desk: You’ll need to complete one Gold survey per day to finish your To-Do List. We suggest filtering surveys by time to complete and going for a short one. 

How to make the most money taking online surveys

  1. Use a variety of sites: The best online survey sites don’t offer that many earning opportunities, so you’ll want a variety to choose from. We recommend at least 4-6 sites if you’re just starting out, and make sure at least one of them is Prolific.
  2. Choose sites carefully: In our experiment, nearly 80% of online survey sites weren’t worth the time. Do a little homework beforehand, and you’ll save tons of precious time. The list we put together is a good start, but also look at where other users are reporting success (this is a good resource), and check out user reviews on Survey Police. We’re also happy to answer any questions.
  3. Look to improve: Part of finding the highest paying online survey sites is going to be trial-and-error. The other part is subscribing to subreddits, quality bloggers, and YouTubers that have gone through the trenches and are willing to share their advice. Always look to learn more. Just ignore the affiliate spam — if a site is promoting InboxDollars or Survey Junkie as the “best site ever,” close the page.
  4. Use notifications: Some survey sites, like Prolific use extensions to notify users about new surveys. Others rely on emails or annoying bells. Whatever the case, find out the best way to get notified, as good opportunities don’t last long.
  5. Use a separate email address: The last thing you need is for your primary email account to be inundated with notifications. Use a dedicated email address just for surveys. Not only will this help keep your other inboxes clean, but it’ll make it easier to see new survey notifications.
  6. Pay attention: It sucks to be disqualified from an online survey because you failed an attention check halfway through. It’s even worse if the site bans you for life. We’re not saying you can’t listen to music or watch videos while taking surveys, but don’t get so distracted that you’re just randomly clicking buttons.
  7. Be honest with yourself: Sometimes you’ll find that no matter how much research you do, your earnings are still really poor. This might mean that your demographic group isn’t very desirable to market researchers. If that’s true, online surveys aren’t for you. Sadly, tech junkies, business owners, employees at large firms, parents, and heads of the household tend to fare better than students.
  8. Never give out ultra-sensitive info: If an online survey asks for your SSN or home address, report it. We’ve actually gotten compensation for reporting shady dealings, so it can be worth it.

The reality is, that even after finding the best sites and optimizing our strategy, taking online surveys proved to a pretty meager source of income. Yet, for people who desperately need to pay a bill, or who want to stash a few bucks away without expending much energy, it’s not the worst route to take.

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