Last year, looking for a way to make a little extra money online (emphasis on "little": I would have been content with $20 or $30 per month), I took various survey websites for test drives. The process – signing up with a panel, trying to gauge whether they're reputable, learning their rules, and answering endless questions about my educational background, the foods we purchase, how we shop for car insurance, whether I like scented shampoo, whether I've ever been a competitive yodeler – was tedious and sometimes for naught. Now and then a panel would have no use for my demographic, or they'd send me links to surveys that were marred by technical errors and I'd waste 10 minutes answering questions only to get an "Oops! Something's broken!" message and no remuneration for my time. Other times, success: I received $150 for participating in a two-week study about pancakes at one site and, months later, was invited to join a year-long study about breakfast cereal at another.
You won't get rich with any of these sites (and some will drive you so crazy you'll start ignoring their e-mails altogether), but the good ones will help you earn a bit of spending money or even ease your budget by sending you free products to try. So far this year I've had great success in using survey sites to earn gift cards that will come in handy at birthdays and holidays, but a lot of patience is involved since it can take weeks – sometimes months – to reach the earnings thresholds at various sites, and even longer to get paid. And that brings us to the subject of this post: How we earned $150 in grocery money by answering (seemingly) silly questions.
For several months now I've belonged to a site called MyView that is, in many ways, superior to other survey sites. In my experience they have a user-friendly interface with fewer technical problems than most of their rivals, which is always nice, and the surveys are generally more cohesive. Their rewards catalog is limited to a handful of stores (including the Gap, Old Navy, Marshalls, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kohl's and Auto Zone) and restaurants (like Applebee's) and what's in stock can vary. The two most versatile rewards, Amazon gift cards and Visa gift cards, are frequently unavailable. I'd been waiting since September for the return of the Visa gift card, optimistically continuing to amass points and check the prize page daily, and finally, last night, my patience was rewarded.
The Visa card, which has since sold out, had reappeared, and we had enough points to request six $25 gift cards that we'll use to buy six $25 grocery store gift cards. All those questions about shampoo scents and TV ads about popcorn or what cover photo would most motivate me to buy the next issue of People don't seem so trivial when they pay for a couple months' worth of groceries, do they?
* MyView is a closed-registration website. If you're interested in joining and would like me to send you an invitation, leave a comment below with your e-mail address. The comment won't be published, it's just an easy way for me to see your address.