Every year on my birthday, I still get a check in the mail from my grandma. A paper check. In the age of digital, well, everything, opening those colorful envelopes always feels like a sweet blast from the past. It makes me a little nostalgic for the parts of my childhood my kids will never know. As silly as it may sound, it almost makes me a little sad they won’t ever stand in line frantically filling out a deposit slip with a pen that’s more than a little dry. That is until I take out my smartphone, go to my banking app, scan in grandma’s check for deposit—and instantly have my birthday cash available in my account. Dang, smartphone apps make life easy. Maybe I should save my nostalgia for Punky Brewster and slap bracelets.

In all seriousness, though, really think about all the ways smartphone apps are the yin to your yang. Apps have changed our lives, from the way we pay bills, get directions when we’re on the go, snap pictures of our friends and families, listen to our favorite music, and even go shopping. You name it, there’s probably an app that makes it easier, faster, or more fun. There are even ones out there that help you earn money, with more and more popping up in the app store every year.

From filling out surveys to taking pictures of new restaurants, scanning barcodes while you shop to evaluating product displays, the number of apps that claim to let you cash in for a little of your time and energy is more robust than my grandma’s yarn stash. With all of that variety, it pays—literally—to know as much about the different styles of these apps as you can. Let’s explore a list of the best free smartphone apps that pay you money in 2018.


The Best Smartphone Apps That Pay You Money to Take Surveys

In college, my job was to call people up and ask them survey questions about their cable TV subscriptions. I used to get around 200 phone numbers a night, but out of that list maybe 10 people would have the time or energy to answer my questions. It can be hard to motivate people to participate in surveys; maybe that’s why there are so many apps these days that are willing to pay you to take them.

One of the fastest and easiest ways to make money through a smartphone app is to take paid surveys. Here are some of the best apps offering them for 2018:

Surveys have gone digital, but they’re still not much more fun than on paper | Image courtesy Pixabay user andibreit

Google Opinion Rewards:

It’s never a surprise when Google tops the list for something in the tech world; including them on the list of the best smartphone apps that pay you to take surveys in 2018 is no exception. Google is, quite simply, everywhere. The way this app works is pretty simple: Google sends a survey once a week asking for your opinion on a wide range of questions, anything from where you shop to what you watch on TV or where you like to eat. Really, anything that marketing companies might be interested in goes. Users get paid anywhere from $.25 to as much as $1.00 per survey in Google Play credits that can be used for downloading books, songs, or movies.

Ipsos Mobile (iSay Mobile):

Ipsos is focused on gauging public opinion, especially when it comes to finding out what the population thinks about advertising, politics, and other topics that are hot sources of debate on the national level. The average user gets about 8 survey invitations a month, which can be accepted or declined. Users earn points for completing each survey that can then be cashed in for prizes. The number of points earned per survey depends on its length, difficulty, and other factors.

Quick Thoughts:

With Quick Thoughts, users fill out up to five surveys a day about a wide variety of topics, often depending on the type of demographic info they give (age, gender, location, etc.). Users get paid between $1.00 and $3.00 for each survey taken and even get paid $.10 every time they try to qualify for a survey. The app doesn’t generate its own surveys but instead searches for paid surveys from more than 1,000 sources and then directs you to them. Once users have accrued $10.00, they receive a $10.00 Amazon gift card.

Apps that pay you to take surveys have some advantages and disadvantages:

The advantages:

Survey apps are easy to use and none of them require very much time. The ones that ask for opinions, like Ipsos, are also nice because instead of arguing with family on Facebook, you can channel your opinions through the surveys—and get paid to do it.

The disadvantages:

Easy isn’t enough to be engaging. Surveys are often dull to muddle through, which makes burnout a major risk with these types of apps. Constantly answering questions gets repetitive—fast. There is also almost always a cap on the number of surveys you can answer, which makes the reward ceiling low for these types of app. The bottom line, though, is to be paid for using smartphone apps over a sustained period of time, you need to be engaged—and survey apps don’t generally accomplish that.


The Best Smartphone Apps That Pay You to Work and Run Errands

I took a trip with some friends to Dallas recently. We stayed at an Airbnb instead of a hotel and used Uber and Lyft to get around all weekend instead of renting a car. Ten or so years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to do any of that. Crazy, right?

Crazy, but true. These types of sharing economy apps have been around for a few years now and they’re such a big deal that they’ve totally changed our options for how to travel. In fact, it sure feels like Airbnb is taking over the hotel industry! So, I would hazard a guess that these apps are only going to increase in popularity in 2018.

For those of us who want to earn a quick buck without renting our home or using our car like a taxi cab, though, there’s a new type of smartphone app that pays you money to do simple tasks and small errands, like checking to see if a road is closed or going out to snap a quick photo of the front of a cool new restaurant.

Here are two popular smartphones apps that pay you to work for them:

Getting paid to check out a new restaurant isn’t a bad gig—as long as you were going there anyway | Image courtesy Pixabay user Pexels

Field Agent:

Field Agent is a retail auditing app. Users get paid to go to stores like Target and Wal-Mart and take photos of displays of anything from batteries to potato chips so that brands know their end caps are being set up correctly and are appealing to shoppers. In exchange, users can make a few quick bucks for each task they complete.

Gigwalk:

Gigwalk is in the same family as Field Agent, but a bit newer. With Gigwalk, users open up a map of the area around them and see a bunch of pins on it. Each pin represents a task they can get paid for, which can take anywhere from three minutes to an hour to complete. The actual gigs, as the app calls them, are pretty varied in terms of what they entail, but they all have to do with helping brands make sure their products are visible, kind of like Field Agent. So, a user may be asked to go to a store and take pictures of how branded displays look or might verify that certain prices are clear and listed on retail store shelves.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages to these types of apps that pay you:

The advantages:

You go to stores already; with these apps, you just have to take a few extra moments while you’re there to complete some small tasks. They also provide a higher rewards value than survey apps and a little bit more engagement. Some even give you tasks to do based on your geographic location, which is convenient.

The disadvantages:

Similar to survey apps, these apps pay you to do things that are not automatically part of your routine. There’s relatively little money to be made for the inconvenience as well, with individual tasks rarely earning users a significant amount. It also requires you expending more time in stores than you ordinarily would. As with survey apps, all of this can add up to quick burnout, which has the ultimate effect of limiting how much you can earn.


The Best Free Smartphone Apps That Pay You to Shop

So, I’ve been going to Target for years and years and recently found an app that helps me earn free Target gift cards. I absolutely love Target. I didn’t think I could find a way to have more fun in that store, but I recently found out about shopping rewards apps. Basically, they enhance the shopping you already do, either by saving you money or by turning the whole experience into a kind of scavenger hunt that pays you in free gift cards for completing tasks. Sounds like a lot of fun, right?

Let’s take a look at my favorite options for free smartphone apps that pay you to shop:

Get paid to stop and smell the flowers at your favorite grocery store | Image courtesy Pixabay user StockSnap

SavingStar:

SavingStar is a digital coupon app that pays users to shop at grocery and drugstores. More than 60,000 stores are part of SavingStar; they represent more than 100 retail chains. It’s generally free to use, but beware. If an account is inactive for 180 straight days, they will charge a fee of $3.99. To take advantage of SavingStar, users either link their existing store loyalty cards to the app or submit receipts after they make purchases. Their savings add up until they can eventually cash out through PayPal, Upromise, or in the form of Starbucks, iTunes, or AMC Theater gift codes.

SnipSnap:

This is another mobile coupons app, but this one lets users take pictures of printed coupons, which it then transforms into digital, mobile-ready ones. Users can browse online directories and take advantage of coupons their friends have “snipped” as well. This one doesn’t exactly pay, though. Instead, users save money like a traditional coupon. The idea is that coupons can all be easily kept in one digital space, instead of having an overflowing little billfold stuff with paper cut outs.

Shopkick:

Shopkick is my favorite shopping rewards app—and it’s a total blast. The app gives users points, called kicks, for doing shopping they would be doing anyway, things like making purchases, scanning barcodes of items, and even just walking into some favorite stores. How it works is incredibly simple, too. Basically, it turns shopping into an actual game, like a scavenger hunt. And it’s really social. They keep a great community vibe on their social media, and users get awarded kicks when they refer friends to sign up. Users trade in kicks to get paid in gift cards to the stores they love to shop (or to splurge on a quick Starbucks treat). Shopkick is great for both the budget stretchers and savvy master shoppers looking for new ways to spice up the time they spend cruising the aisles—and get paid to do it.

The advantages and disadvantages to apps that pay you to shop are:

The advantages:

Apps that reward you for things you already do are absolutely fantastic, especially ones like Shopkick that let you cash them in for gift cards—what amounts to actual cash at your favorite stores. These apps are also quite a bit more fun than the survey and small tasks apps because they are much less monotonous. This means you’ll continue to use them over and over again, earning an unlimited amount of rewards. And, they tend to be incredibly social. What isn’t more fun when it’s shared with a friend?

The disadvantages:

While there aren’t really any downsides to the shopping rewards apps, the coupon apps are often limited to certain stores and certain time periods—and some can come with a steep price for the occasional user.


These are my favorite free smartphone apps that pay you money in 2018. There’s a pretty wide variety, but apps that actually pay you to shop are clearly a cut above the rest. You don’t even have to go out of your way to start earning—not even a little.

Of all the apps that pay money that I’ve tried, though, the champion is definitely Shopkick. It walks this really cool line of rewarding its users and making shopping way more fun, turning the in-store experience into a scavenger hunt you can do with your friends. It works at countless retailers, grocery stores, pharmacies—you name it. That means you get rewarded for the things you have to do anyway. And, I can use it with my friends, husband, and sometimes even my kids. We’ll all be out roaming the aisles, using our Shopkick app to scan items and scoop up kicks. No more complaining about grocery shopping with mom!

My grandma may still send paper checks, but even she has a smartphone these days—and loves to Shopkick!

Why choose Shopkick?

  • Always free
  • Can do from home
  • Choose how you get paid
  • No cap on earning
  • Can do with friends
  • Is fun/like a game
  • Rewards you for what you already do
  • Keeps you engaged/coming back

Get one of the best free smartphone apps that pay you money in 2018. Download Shopkick’s free app today and join a community of loyal Shopkickers who’ve already discovered the rewards of shopping with a free, smartphone app sidekick.

And, if you love social media as much as you love your smartphone, join Shopkick on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for a little daily shopping inspiration.

Banner Image courtesy Unsplash user Luke Porter