Let’s get this out of the way: Swagbucks is not a gateway to riches. It’s not even as lucrative as other online side gigs with a low bar of entry, like taking online surveys on Prolific, or testing websites on UserTesting. Yet, as much as we wanted to give up on the site and file it in the “Fail” column, we kept coming back.
The reason is simple: Opportunity. Swagbucks is what’s known as a “Get Paid To” or GPT site, offering users about a dozen ways to earn money, including taking surveys, offer walls, watching videos, and surfing the web. If you randomly click on stuff hoping for the best, your hourly rate will be atrocious. But take a little time to learn what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll do all right. Just all right.
In this review, we’ll retell our own experiences on Swagbucks, which will include information on how much we earned during our many hours on the site, along with some useful tips on how to stack bonuses and find positive expectation opportunities.
Ease of Use/Software
$6 – $8 per hour ($12+ with upfront investments)
Skill Level Required:
Gumshoe (Level 1.5)
- Variety of legit ways to earn
- Stacking bonus structure rewards regular users
- Multiple means of redeeming Swagbucks, including gift cards and PayPal
- Slick, responsive software
- Solid referral system
- Free to join, but some earning power is derived from making upfront investments
- Online survey taking experience can be horrible
- Steeper learning curve than what you’d expect
- Only available in 11 countries (including U.S.)
- Too many supplementary apps
How much can you earn on Swagbucks?
We initially made the horrific mistake of treating Swagbucks like an online survey site. Don’t be like us. This resulted in us generating a whopping $13.58 over the course of our first 3 hours and change, for an hourly of $4.48.
Our rate has since climbed to $13.61 an hour, across 20.5 hours. So what changed?
The tides turned when we began reading Swagbucks tutorials on reddit (this is a good one). We learned about which tasks generated the highest returns, and how to stack bonuses to maximize our earnings. However, this only upped our hourly to about $8 per hour.
It’s when we discovered how to take advantage of offer walls that things really took off. See, Swagbucks partners with a bunch of third-parties, many of which provide offers on a variety of services and goods. Some offers are free to take advantage of, merely requiring that you click on a link or complete the registration process. These usually don’t earn much, but occasionally do.
Others ask that you try a paid service or download a game that has real-money transactions. Initially, we steered clear, as our purpose was to make money, not spend it. However, there are times when Swagbucks will refund more than your investment. For instance, you might have to subscribe to a service for $25, but Swagbucks will pay you 4,000 SB ($40) to complete the offer, resulting in a net gain of $15. Recognizing these is a key component of success.
From the detective’s desk: Sometimes you can earn Swagbucks by opening financial accounts. In that case, you technically don’t spend anything, because the funds are still yours. Just be sure to research the company, and always read the fine print for hidden fees.
In total, we have now earned $304.07 on Swagbucks. $25 was spent on services, so the net is $279.07. Full disclosure, we did deposit $120 into two investment accounts, but that money is safe. Here’s a breakdown:
Notice that more than half of our earnings originated from Discovering Deals (offers), and barely 1/10th from surveys.
Is Swagbucks legit?
In three months on the site, we never experienced a major issue. There were a few times when we completed an offer and payment wasn’t awarded or delayed, but we contacted support and reached a suitable resolution.
Swagbucks has been around since 2008, and its parent company Prodege, LLC. has a Better Business Bureau rating of A-. The site has also earned the trust of its users, earning an excellent 4.3 score on Trustpilot. It has paid out more than $533 million since its inception.
As we said, the pay may not always be the greatest, but you don’t have to worry about Swagbucks not honoring its agreement to pay you for what you earn.
Ways to earn money on Swagbucks
Beginners might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of ways to earn on Swagbucks, but with a little effort they’ll learn which juices are worth the squeeze. Here’s a little overview to get you started.
Completing simple tasks
- Answer questions: These are your standard online surveys. Swagbucks has a slew of survey partners, so there’s always a wealth of opportunities. Unfortunately, most of them pay pretty poorly. Compounded with the sky-high disqualification rate, you’ll find it’s best to complete at most, one survey per day. Survey rewards range from about 25 – 300 Swagbucks (1 SB = $0.01), sometimes more.
- Play free games: One of the worst ways to earn on Swagbucks. Choose from a few web-based games, and earn 2 SB every few minutes. Your performance does not reflect payment.
- Take the daily poll: Answer a simple multiple-choice question and receive 1 SB.
- Watch videos: Watch a series of videos either on desktop or via the Watch mobile app. Earnings are minimal (1-4 SB per batch), but you can mostly set it and forget it while doing other things.
- Search the web: Browse the web via Swagbucks, and potentially win SwagCodes that are worth between 3 – 30 SB. Just know that it might take multiple tries to generate a code. Some folks claim that certain search terms have a higher probability of triggering a SwagCode than others, but our tests suggest that it’s completely random.
- Upload receipts: Pays 2 SB for a regular receipt, but if you happen to purchase an item on the In-Store Deals list, you could earn a lot more.
- Free discover offers: Printing coupons, registering with sites, and clicking on links are other ways to earn a few Swagbucks. We found printing daily grocery coupons (tip: just hit cancel when you get to the actual print page) can generate a fair number of Swagbucks (up to 50 SB per day) for just a few seconds of work.
- Swagbucks Live: These are daily trivia shows where you can earn a decent number of Swagbucks. Answer all 10 questions correctly (you usually get at least one free pass) and split the pot. Usually worth about 10-30 SB for a few minutes of your time, sometimes more.
- Refer friends: Solid way to earn passive income. You and your friend will earn a 300 SB bonus ($3) in so long as your friend earns 300 SB within 30 days of opening their account. You’ll also get 10% of your friend’s earnings for life. If you’d like, here is our referral link.
As you probably have noticed, none of these methods net a whole lot of Swagbucks. This is why it’s imperative to stack as many bonus opportunities as you can.
Swagbucks utilizes a robust and needlessly complicated bonus system. Understanding how it works is the key to bumping up your hourly rate.
Daily To Do List
Swagbucks offers a small bonus for completing your Daily To Do List, which is a series of eight simple tasks consisting of:
- Completing a daily poll
- Adding an in-store deal
- Conducting a daily search
- Clicking on a deal
- Watching a few videos
- Completing a discover offer
- Attempting a Gold Survey
- Completing a Gold Survey
From the detective’s desk: Occasionally, one of these tasks will be substituted for uploading a receipt, so save them for when this occurs.
Most of these tasks only take a few seconds to complete. The exception is the dreaded Gold Survey. These featured surveys are really no different than any other surveys on the site, in that the pay isn’t great and the disqualification rates are high. But hey, at least you get 1 SB consolation prize if you disqualify…
Users earn 2-3 bonus SB for completing 6 out of 8 tasks on their to do list and another 7-8 SB for checking off all the boxes. Our typical routine was to complete everything but the two survey items, and then filter for the shortest Gold Surveys. If we DQ’d from three in a row, we gave up and resigned ourselves to the smaller bonus.
On it’s own, the Daily To Do list bonus is nothing special, but it feeds into two other bonuses.
This one is simple. If you earn a certain number of Swagbucks in a calendar day, you’ll earn a small bonus. The Daily Goal usually ranges from about 80-120 SB, which is approximately what you’ll earn from completing the Daily To Do List, as even the shorter Gold Surveys tend to pay 50-100 SB.
From the detective’s desk: If you claim a discover offer it might not award Swagbucks right away. Instead, they may be held in a pending state for 1,3, 7, or even 32 days. It’s not until they’re released into your account that they’ll be counted toward your Daily Goal. You can check which offers are still pending, and when they’ll release, from the Activity menu.
Meet your goal, and earn a 5-10% bonus. There’s also a second goal that awards a substantially larger bonus (~100 SB), but it’s difficult to achieve — requiring you to earn upwards of 1,500 SB in a day. This is generally only achievable if you redeem an offer or a cashback deal, or do A LOT of surveys.
Daily goal streaks
If you complete your Daily Goals for a certain number of days in a row, you’ll earn even more bonuses:
- 7 Day Streak: 25 SB
- 14 Day Streak: 100 SB
- 21 Day Streak: 200 SB
- The entire month: 300 SB
These bonuses are not cumulative, and reset from month to month.
At this point you can start to see the value of stacking bonuses. If you’re earning 10 SBs for completing your Daily To-Do List, another 10 or so for reaching your Daily Goal, and 300 SB for keeping your streak up the entire month — that’s a 900 SB bonus. If you’re just barely reaching your Daily Goal each day, that’s about a 25% earnings boost.
Swago is another way to earn bonuses for tasks that you’re already completing on Swagbucks. This mini-game resembles Bingo, in that each player starts off with a 5×5 card. Except instead of numbers, each box has an activity listed. Complete the activity, and the box is highlighted.
Once you match a pattern, like a line or a column, you can claim it, and Swagbucks will award you a bonus corresponding to that pattern. Just know that you can only select one pattern, so make sure you’re absolutely certain it’s the one you want.
Some patterns award smaller bonuses but are easier to earn. Others require more involved tasks, but the rewards are better. Completing all 25 tasks results in a “Blackout” and generates a pretty hefty reward.
Swago appears to run every other week, and you’ll need to opt-in to participate.
Membership Recognition Program
If all this weren’t enough, Swagbucks also supports a 10-tier loyalty program, wtih your tier determined by the number of lifetime Swagbucks earned. Each time you climb a rank, Swagbucks will gift you some pretty substantial rewards.
Entry into the program tasks users with earning 250 SB lifetime, which is a pretty low bar. At this tier, they’ll earn double SBs on their next completed survey and a 50 SB rebate on their next gift card redemption.
From the detective’s desk: Remember when we said aim to do surveys that take the shortest amount of time? Well, the one exception is when you have a double SB incentive. Then it makes sense to do surveys that award a lot of SB, even if they’re significantly longer.
Ok that’s pretty underwhelming, but we promise that the rewards get much better as you climb. However, the benchmarks to achieve the higher tiers are absurd. Case in point: For Level 8, you need to earn 500,000 SB lifetime, and entry into the exclusive Diamond Club (Level 10) requires that you earn a whopping 2 million Swagbucks. That’s 20 grand worth of Swagbucks — good luck!
Anyone who’s done well Swagbucks probably has taken advantage of multiplier days. These take on a few different forms:
- Swagbucks may offer 50% more value on surveys for a limited time
- It may double (or triple) the SBs earned from completing offers from one of its partners
- Or it may host sitewide events, like its anniversary specials that take place in February
Whatever the occasion, be on the lookout for these, as they can supply a big boost to your earnings.
Offer walls and cash back
Swagbucks has a ton of retail partners, and if you access a partner from their platform you’ll earn a percentage cash back on purchases. Best Buy, Walmart, Home Depot, Gap — they’re all partnered with Swagbucks, along with many more.
Of course, these days there are a ton of cash back apps, so we recommend you check in with Cashback Monitor to ensure you’re getting the best deal. We will say this: Swagbucks holds up pretty well compared to some of the biggest names in the cashback industry, like Rakuten.
Swagbucks is also linked up with providers that specialize in offer walls, like Revenue Universe and AdGate Media. Offers take a few different forms:
- Partner surveys and questionnaires
- Register with a site or get a free quote
- Click on a link and spend a few minutes on the page
- Trial a product
Only the trial offers will require you to make a purchase. They also tend to award the most SBs, and on days when Swagbucks offers double or triple SBs for a particular partner, the amount you get back can easily exceed your investment. This is one of the best ways to quickly generate value on Swagbucks.
From the detective’s desk: Our favorite Swagbucks partner is Revenue Universe. They have the best offers, and you’ll rarely run into payment issues.
Swagbucks supports a welcome bonus to new registrants that sort of functions like an offer. New signups receive a $10 bonus, but it’s only unlocked when you spend at least $25 at a store featured in the Swagbucks Shop, within 30 days of opening your account.
Honestly, that’s pretty weak, but if you’re going to use Swagbucks as one of your cash back apps anyway, it’s worth it.
Signing up for Swagbucks
You only have to be 13 to sign up for Swagbucks, making it a viable money-making alternative for teenagers looking to do something other than bagging groceries, or any other job we had to suffer through in high school. Jealous.
The signup process is swift, only requiring that you punch in a few details and verify your email. We earned about 20 SB for signing up and then another 100 SB for downloading and installing the site’s SwagButton.
The SwagButton is an extension that allows you to quickly access Swagbucks’ retail partners and enter SwagCodes. Also, if you enter a retail store through its home page, the SwagButton will alert you about any cash back opportunities.
Unfortunately, Swagbucks isn’t available everywhere. In fact, the list of countries where it is available is quite thin:
- The United States (and its territories)
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Adapting to the Swagbucks interface
Not gonna lie, when we first started with Swagbucks we were pretty intimidated by the desktop interface. It’s not that the site isn’t cleverly designed, it’s just that there is so much going on that until you understand what means what, you’ll feel like you’re running through an endless maze.
Ok, the basics. The home page is a mish-mosh of categorical groupings, like latest trends, featured offers, and so on. It’s basically what Swagbucks thinks you want to see, and once you start getting familiar with the site, you’ll probably ignore it.
The top bar is where the action is. From here, you can easily access the main and sub-categories of your liking. These subpages are still divided up into a bunch of categories, but at least there’s a consistent theme.
Another key component of the site is the drop down pane that shows your progress. To access it, click on the text that says “Earn X SB & Get Y SB”. This window will display your daily bonus goals, and grant you access to more bonus info.
Your current SBs are displayed in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. Click on them to reveal the main menu, from where you can access your profile, your recent activities, and other account info.
In other words, just ignore all the noise, and stick with the stuff on the top menu: You’ll be fine.
For all the information packed on to the site, it responds wonderfully, with minimal lag and server hang-ups. The same can be said about the mobile apps, we just wish there weren’t so many of them.
Swagbucks supports four, yes four, mobile apps. We get what they were trying to do here, as each app is designed to serve one primary purpose, and for what it’s worth, that does cut down on the clutter. But having to load up our phones with four apps feels completely unnecessary.
Luckily, you can get by with just downloading the main Swagbucks mobile app for most things. But you won’t be able to access the trivia game without the Swagbucks Live app, and the Watch and Answer apps do make watching videos and completing surveys more convenient.
Remember how we said that generating decent and regular income on Swagbucks is possible, but perhaps not worth the trouble? This is one of the reasons why.
Swagbucks offers a wide variety of ways to withdraw, including PayPal cash and dozens of gift card redemption options. Amazon, Visa, Apple, Walmart are just a sampling of the gift cards available.
Swagbucks typically redeem at face value. However the site often runs sales on select gift cards, including Visa cards, which are just as good as cash. Discounts run from 2% to about 15%, depending on the card. Unfortunately, we’ve never seen PayPal on sale.
In our experience, it took about two to three business days from the time we requested a PayPal cash out for the funds to land in our account. This is a more than respectable turnaround time, especially when one considers that some of Swagbucks’ competitors take seven days or more to fork over funds.
From the detective’s desk: Unless there’s an awesome sale, avoid redeeming your Swagbucks for $1 Amazon gift cards, as the redemption rate is poor.
The one issue we have is that you can only cash out via PayPal in increments of $5 or more. It’s kind of annoying to leave $0.46 in your account, but I guess that’s how Swagbucks gets you to stay active.
And whatever you do, do not redeem Swagbucks for entries into so-called Swagstakes. Sure, you might only have to pay 10 SB for a chance at a $10 gift card, but you’ll be competing against 134 other tickets, meaning Swagbucks is collecting $13.50 in exchange for a $10 prize. Not a good deal!
Tips on how to maximize Swagbucks earnings
We could write an entire post on how to maximize your time on Swagbucks (and we probably will), but for now, let’s sum up some of our favorite tips:
- Stay away from surveys (for the most part): Unless you really need to finish your To-Do List or hit a Daily Goal, it’s best to steer clear of surveys. You just disqualify far too often to make them worth it. The only exception is when Swagbucks will award you a 50% or 100% bonus on your next completed survey.
- Print grocery coupons: One of the easiest ways to make consistent coin is to go to Shop -> Grocery Coupon, clip all the coupons, and hit “Print Coupons”. You’ll earn 1 SB per coupon up to 50. Just be sure to actually cancel the print job, or you’ll be out a whole lot of paper.
- Take advantage of double days: Nary a day goes by that Swagbucks doesn’t offer some sort of bonus opportunity. Especially lucrative are ones where a third-party partner pays double SB.
- Watch videos on your phone: It’s far better to watch videos from the Watch app then desktop. Why? Because on mobile, the videos will keep playing without you having to do anything. On desktop, you have to manually advance to the next one.
- Use outside resources: The Swagbucks community on reddit is awesome. Always check for posts labeled “Money Maker” as these are typically opportunities with a positive expected value. There are also some great tips on how to complete gaming offers, and you’ll even find valuable SwagCodes and the answers to Live trivia questions (but that feels like cheating).
- Track your pending offers: If you’re all about keeping daily streaks alive, then you’ll want to track when your pending offers clear. If you know that you’ll be getting 200 SB a week from now, then that means even if you don’t log in that day, your streak will remain active.