Swagbucks is often promoted as an income opportunity. In reality, it’s much more than a way to make a few bucks. In fact, it might be more accurate to say that it is a site where you can earn rewards for doing what you already do on the web. It also offers discounts and cash back when you shop online (similar to Ebates).

How effective the site is mostly depends on what your expectations are going in. In this review I’m going to approach it from the standpoint that it may be a good site to earn rewards, including cash back.

About Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an online rewards destination based in El Segundo, California. Joining is free. And once you’re a member, you can earn “Swagbucks” in numerous ways (more about that below). You can then redeem your Swagbucks for either gift cards or to purchase specific merchandise.

Some of the activities that enable you to earn Swagbucks are relatively passive in nature, such as surfing the web or watching videos. Others are more specific, such as participating in online surveys, voting in polls, or playing online games.

Love it or hate it, Swagbucks has become one of the most active websites on the web. It has more than 10 million members. It operates in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK. And to date it is paid out over $91 million in rewards.

As is often my habit when reviewing products, services, and sites, I did a general web search on Swagbucks. Regrettably, the word scam is often attached to the name.

To be fair, there is considerable difference of opinion here. Some people swear by the site and its rewards. Others complain about being kicked out of surveys, not getting rewards, or finding their rewards to be limited. That being said, it is free, has paid out a lot in rewards, and has an A+ Rating with the BBB.

How You Earn Swagbucks

Swagbucks is free to join and you can use the site as often or as little as you like. The primary reason for signing up with Swagbucks is to earn rewards. Here are the ways you can do that:

  • Searching the Web
  • Watching Videos
  • Taking Surveys
  • Inviting Your Friends to Join
  • Shopping in the Shop & Earn Mall (You earn Swagbucks for shopping through major retailers and service providers)
  • Completing Special Offers
  • Voting in the Daily Polls
  • Finding Swag Codes (finding messages or specific strings of text throughout Swagbucks.com that can be redeemed for Swag Buck rewards).
  • Playing Games (Earn Swagbucks for gaming online)

Earning Swagbuck Through Surveys

Surveys are the heart of Swagbucks. To get access to the best surveys, fill out your profile. This lets Swagbucks send you targeted surveys worth a certain number of Swagbucks. Longer and more highly-targeted surveys will be worth more points

Gold Surveys are worth the most points. Each survey will tell you about how long it takes and the number of points you’ll get for completing the survey.

If you click into a survey, it’ll first collect some demographic information. Not that you won’t qualify for all surveys. They’re given on a first-come-first-served basis. And if too many people fitting your demographic markers have taken the survey, you may not be able to take it.

Some of the surveys will also have tricky questions designed to ensure you’re actually reading the questions.

The demographic and “are you paying attention” questions can take a couple of minutes of your time. Usually you’ll get at least one Swagbuck for trying, but you’ll only get the higher rewards levels if you actually qualify to take the third-party survey.

If you can get a few targeted surveys that you qualify for, you could pretty easily earn some side money with Swagbucks in your spare time. But it can be a bit hit or miss, so don’t assume you’ll make a certain amount on the time you spend on Swagbucks surveys.

Answering Polls

Swagbucks offers a daily poll you can answer for 1 point per day.

Watching Videos

You can also earn points by watching videos on Swagbucks. Some of these are news-related videos on certain topics. Others are advertising videos. You’ll earn about 2 Swagbucks per 20-ish minutes of watching, for the most part.

If you often take a break from harder work by watching videos, this could be a good way to earn something for that time.

Shopping Through Swagbucks

When you go to the Swagbucks shop tab, you’ll find deals from places like Groupon, and you’ll find featured stores. You can get cash back at these stores when you shop through the Swagbucks interface.

For instance, if you shop on Amazon through Swagbucks, you’ll get up to three percent cash back on your purchases–or three Swagbucks for every $1 you spend.

The catch? Your purchases have to be within certain Amazon categories. Still, if you already shop on Amazon or are planning to try their recent home services options, shopping through Swagbucks makes sense. Check out your other favorite online stores before you go buy things you were planning to purchase, anyway!

Search Through Swagbucks

Swagbucks offers its own search engine. Just click the “Search” tab. Then search through the engine, and you can earn points. You’ll need to install an extension on your browser to earn points for searching through Swagbucks. But this is an easy way to earn points doing what you were already going to do. Swagbucks’ search engine is powered by Yahoo!

Discover Offers

Swagbucks earns a lot of its money–some of which it gives to members–by giving people particular offers. They’ll try to tailor your offers to your needs and profile. If you purchase one of the offers through Swagbucks, you’ll get points.

Play Games to Earn

If you already waste time playing games on your phone, why not earn something for that time? With Swagbucks, you can. You can earn points for playing or making purchases in games you already enjoy, so you can get at least some of that cash back in your pocket.

Related: Best Game Apps That Pay Real Money

The Bottom Line on Swagbucks

The bottom line here is that messing around on Swagbucks is never going to be a part-time job. You can earn a bit here and there, and possibly pay for your kids’ Christmas gifts with Amazon gift cards.

But if you have time to kill while you’re waiting for an appointment, you can take some surveys. Or if you’re one of those people who can’t just watch TV, do some surveys and other points-earning activities while you’re watching TV.

And, of course, you can always try to fold Swagbucks into the activities you’re going to do anyway–like buying a new Kindle on Amazon or a new local Groupon. Or searching the web. These options will slowly earn you rewards. But free money is free money, right?

How and Where to Redeem Your Swagbucks

Redeem your Swagbucks for hundreds of gift cards, entertainment coupons, or Swagstakes Entries.

You can redeem your Swagbucks for gift cards at popular vendors, such as Amazon, iTunes, Visa, WalMart, Target, and PayPal. You get $1 on each gift card for every 100 Swagbucks you earn. And you can even donate your Swagbucks to charitable causes, such as the American Red Cross, Unicef or Doctors Without Borders.

With the Swagstakes option, you can enter with a small number of Swagbucks. Then, you may get drawn to win a gift card that would be worth much more than if you bought it directly. For instance, you can enter a $1,000 Fall Giveaway Swagstakes with 20 Swagbucks. You may not win. But if you do, you just got to redeem your Swagbucks for a much higher rate than normal.

Is Swagbucks Worth Your Time?

So should you sign up for Swagbucks? My thought is that you should give it a try. It won’t cost you anything to join, so any rewards that you do receive will be a bonus. Perhaps more importantly, the rewards will come as a result of doing what you do every day anyway, like performing searches on the web.

Where this probably won’t work is if you join the service with the assumption that you’re going to turn it into an additional income source. It seems like it will be a lot of effort for very limited benefit. And there are better and more productive ways to increase your income.

But give Swagbucks a try, have some fun, and see where it goes.

Oh, if you sign up through the link above Swagbucks will give you a $5 bonus – you just have to earn 2,500 Swagbucks within the first 60 days. You won’t get rich off of it, but it’s a start!


  • Kevin Mercadante

    Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed slash worker accountant/blogger/freelance blog writer. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides Alt-retirement strategies for the vast majority who won't retire to the beach as millionaires. Kevin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance, and worked in accounting and the mortgage industry before becoming a writer.

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