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If you use the Internet, everything you do is being tracked and sold, and you’re not making a penny from it. I’m not here to encourage you to install some plugins to block it all though – far from it. I want you to do as I’ve done and embrace the idea of selling your personal information and feedback, but actually get something in return. Don’t be one of those suckers that sells their information for nothing!

Am I crazy? Maybe, but the $2000 worth of cash, coupons and free products I receive every year from using all these tactics suggests otherwise.

Speaking of free stuff – don’t forget we review and give away loads of gadgets every week.

Sell Your Shopping Habits

Each week when my wife and I unpack our shopping, we scan the barcodes using a quick and simple little device; we then hop onto a website, upload a picture of the receipt and plug in the scanner. For this simple act that takes no more than 10 minutes a week, we get about $3 worth of points (which can then be swapped for things like Amazon or iTunes vouchers).

barcode-scanning

This might not sound like much, but it adds up to a tidy $150 a year. You can sign up at ShopAndScan.com, but be aware that you might not be accepted into the program. ShopAndScan is UK only, but the Nielsen panel is similar and operates worldwide (UK users, register here), and though they pay out in competition form rather than regular points, the average return for your efforts will be much the same.

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Cost: 10-20 minutes a week
Reward: About $150/year, or prizes.

You can also sell your shopping info right back to the supermarket you bought from, which brings me onto the next point…

Loyalty Cards and Store Credit Cards

You need to do your own research here, but savvy shoppers can get remarkably good rewards from store loyalty and credit cards. Hear me out!

If the word “credit card” makes you run, then you’re thinking about them wrong and probably suffer from a lack of self control. Here’s the secret that credit card companies hate: pay your bill in full at the end of every month by direct debit, never withdraw cash (it incurs an immediate accrual of interest, unlike regular spending which only accrues interest if you don’t pay it off), and never spend more than you can easily afford to pay off immediately. It’s really not that hard: don’t use your credit card for credit. The exorbitant APRs don’t matter, because you’ve never going to owe money on them. Their profits are all made on those who spend beyond their means, and you’re not that foolish.

clubcard

I personally use a Tesco combined loyalty and credit card with no fees – to buy and pay literally everything, including household bills. As well as rewarding me with loyalty points for purchases at any store (not just Tesco), it also means they know how to keep me shopping at their supermarket by sending me coupons I can actually use. The exact rate of return is 0.5% on Tesco purchases and 0.25% everywhere else. Again – it might not sound like much, but that’s a small trickle of points on everything I buy (and return rates can be far more generous than that in some countries).

Cost: Zero, because you won’t be overspending.
Benefit: Cashback, or reward points – anywhere from 0.5% to 5%.

There are certainly better “reward” rates out there, but most have a monthly fee or minimum spend which you’ll need to do the math for.

Broadband Speed Tests

A recent UK survey showed that cable internet speed (by which they mean the only national cable service provider, Virgin Media) on average outperformed similar fibre services from the national provider, BT. The reason they know this is because hundreds of people just like you or I have volunteered to plug a box into their router which continually monitors the uptime and quality of connection. At no point is your internet traffic “captured” or slowdown experienced, but your contribution will ensure that accurate speeds can be measured and providers kept honest.

samknows

SamKnows is the biggest such monitoring group in the UK and USA, covering all the major providers. They recently announced that instead of quarterly draws, all participants would receive a 6 month subscription to Netflix from next year. That’s right – plug in another router, and get free Netflix. (Note: we couldn’t find any information about rewards in the USA, it seems like there are none).

Sign up to join the waiting list for the USA or UK and Europe. No other effort is required once accepted: just plug the unit into an outlet and your modem, and let it run. You’ll have full access to speed data it collects via an online dashboard or mobile app.

Cost: Zero.
Benefit: Free Netflix (in the UK)

Product Testing

If you follow me on Twitter (you really shouldn’t), you’ll know I’m a sucker for free stuff Yay, Free Stuff: How to Get a Freebie Every Day for a Week Yay, Free Stuff: How to Get a Freebie Every Day for a Week The internet is loaded with free stuff, from trial software to sites that offer free samples and coupons. Unfortunately, the good stuff is drowned in a sea of scams and dubious survey sites. And even... Read More . Here’s how these programs work: I click a button to say “count me in!”, and a few weeks later $10-20 worth of coupons arrive in the mail to get a certain product completely free. After trying the product, I jump online and post my thoughts, with supermarket loyalty points bonuses for publishing something to Twitter or Facebook. There’s no minimum follower count required, so even if you’re a relative social media nobody you can still take part.

These programs serve to offer feedback to the manufacturer and help the viral reach of a new product launch. In the UK, BzzAgent and Tesco Orchard are the largest panels. For US residents, Dealicious Mom has a long list of programs you can join, though I can’t vouch for any of them personally.

Cost: Your Twitter followers might start to hate you. Do you care? I don’t!
Benefit: Free stuff. 

Become a Mystery Shopper

Finally, there’s the elusive world of mystery shopping, in which you’ll visit a retail location and make some observations about things like the service quality and queue length. You’ll need a good memory, a sharp eye, and a knack for cloak-and-dagger approaches!

Depending on the assignment, you’ll be rewarded with cold hard cash, a free meal, or a certain amount to spend on anything you like in the shop. It’s hardly get-rich-quick scheme (though some people have made a job of it) – as well as spending your time actually visiting the shop, you’ll also need to fill in a short survey afterwards and upload a receipt – but if you take assignments you’d otherwise be doing anyway (like buying gasoline from a local station or visiting KFC), you can’t really go wrong.

Gapbuster is open to anyone worldwide – you’ll need to complete some basic training on top of assignment specific training before starting though. Marketforce pays more, but the assignments are more complex. UK readers: be sure to read this detailed MoneySavingExpert thread before getting started.

Cost: Varies – usually 20 minutes of online questionnaire on top of any time spent doing the assignment.
Benefit: Varies – typically up to about $25 per assignment, in cash or free products.

Your Opinion Counts, So Stop Giving It Away For Free

You can’t really give up your day job, but know that your opinions, survey input, feedback and shopping habits is actually worth money to companies – and if you’re not getting something in return, it’s about time you started.

Are you getting anything in return for your personal information and opinions? Are you making money online 200 Ways To Make Money Online 200 Ways To Make Money Online If you've decided you have what it takes to be a freelancer, and are willing to take the plunge, this infograph is for you. Read More ? Let us know about any other ways to do this in the comments!

[Image credits: Shutterstock – Barcode Scanning]

  1. Tim Driscoll
    October 23, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Those survey sites are a pain in the ass. Sometimes you have to fill out a questionnaire lasting at least 10 minutes before they even tell you if you'll be accepted for the survey. If you're not accepted, you've just wasted your time. And even if you are accepted, these surveys are often very long, repetitive and tedious and the compensation only averages out to about 20 cents an hour. And as far as those "points" are concerned, well, after you've earned a million of 'em you might have enough to purchase a coffee pot.

    • James Bruce
      October 24, 2014 at 6:59 am

      Are you referring to any sites in particular? It's that my article specifically doesn't mention survey sites, which I agree are a waste of time.

  2. Cardano
    October 23, 2014 at 10:38 pm

    Could you please advise the name of the barcode scanner in your article

    • James Bruce
      October 24, 2014 at 7:00 am

      It's an Opticon model OPN-2001, but is provided by the research company in special batch mode, so you can't use for other purposes.

  3. Shev Smith
    October 23, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    I just clicked on the link to the SamKnows Uk & Europe Broadband speed monitoring site and there's no mention on there about free Netflix.

    • James Bruce
      October 24, 2014 at 7:01 am

      You're right - this might be a perk offered in conjunction with my ISP. Perhaps email yours and ask when they're next recruiting.

  4. Ron Ablang
    October 23, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Most of the article (and the comments) seem to benefit those living outside the U.S.

  5. Michael
    October 22, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Sell Your Shopping Habits...
    Cost: 10-20 minutes a week
    Reward: About $150/year, or prizes.
    OK Here's the maths:
    20 minutes x 52 weeks = 104 minutes
    =17.3 hrs
    =$150 / 17.3hrs returns $8.65.
    That's not actually dollars, that's "prizes"
    Sorry, I don't work for prizes "worth" $8.65 an hour.

    • James Bruce
      October 23, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Cash for me, but you're right, it doesn't sound as great in the US. That is however minimum wage, and time you would be spending unpacking anyway (i.e., not available to actually work). Meh, each to their own - I like the idea of monetising parts of my life that would otherwise be dead time.

    • kuzu luku
      October 24, 2015 at 5:37 am

      Very good
      U just kill the cat
      Sorry James I don’t work for prizes “worth” $8.65 an hour

  6. Maarten
    October 21, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    You all should check Roamler. A little app you installed on your smartphone andere you do some tasks in your local supermarket. Already got 100 euros from it! (Via PayPal)

    • James Bruce
      October 22, 2014 at 7:03 am

      Sweet tip Smartie! Is this owned by Lidl or something? I see tons of Lidl assignments, but can't claim yet as I'm waiting for my tutorial ones to be accepted. Since we shop at Lidl all the time anyway, this is a super way to earn some money in the process. Thanks - let's hope it doesn't get too popular!!

    • Maarten
      October 22, 2014 at 10:53 am

      It doesn't. Roamler is an independant company. Companies like Lidl ask Roamler to check how their products are placed and marked in their shops.
      But it isn't only Lidl, there's much more if you go higher in ranking.
      Good luck with it James!

      Greets, S_martie1

  7. Tiffani Poyser
    October 21, 2014 at 11:13 am

    All of these websites are legitimate right? They won't use your personal information against you correct?:)

    • James Bruce
      October 21, 2014 at 2:11 pm

      They are all well-known consumer research panels, yes. It depends how you define "use against you" though - they'll certainly use your opinions and information to help sell products more effectively to everyone ;)

    • Tiffani Poyser
      October 22, 2014 at 12:56 am

      I understand now. Thank you James!:)

  8. Hildy J
    October 21, 2014 at 12:40 am

    One thing to watch out for with credit cards - while on time payment helps your credit score, having a multitude of cards can be a strike against you when it comes to big (e.g. mortgage) loans.

    • James Bruce
      October 21, 2014 at 8:05 am

      Great point, Hildy. I think I actually have about 3 credit cards, but only one of which I use. Perhaps it's time to cancel the other ones.

    • Hildy J
      October 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I don't think three would be a problem. When I got married, one of us (and I'm not naming names) had about 15 store credit cards. That was a problem.

    • sam cook
      October 23, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      After taking on a credit card (secured card) my score went up 24 points. 3 months later charged a trip on the card and rating dropped 12 points because the balance owed was more than 30%.

  9. Sakshar
    October 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    There's an app called Snap by Groupon, it rewards on some items, you've to take pic of your receipt and put it in the app and after you get $20 rewards, you can get check or you can use that amount on Groupon.

    Another suggestion for app is : Google Opinion Rewards, they give Google Play Credit for answering some surveys.

    • James Bruce
      October 21, 2014 at 8:04 am

      Excellent tips, Sakshar, thanks!

  10. Sem
    October 20, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I wanted to become a mystery shopper, but not living in the US or the UK is a problem for me. I thought Gapbuster would help me out, but they don't have Bosnia listed, but they do have Croatia, which is my neighbor country.
    I feel really sad, because Bosnia is left out (or banned) from some well known sites which I wanted to join. Even Click Bank doesn't have Bosnia listed.

  11. David Busto
    October 20, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    (some folks live outside uk and the us)

    • Si Hammer
      October 25, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      To those moaning about these life changing opportunities only being available in the UK and the US, I suggest that you move to either one of the fore -mentioned nations and in so doing you kill 2 birds with one stone - no more bitter disappointment and a potential 2 large just for popping down the shops. Even so, to get me back to any one of those hell-holes would take more than 2K, and shopping's for girls!!!!!!!

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