Are These Paid Survey Sites Legit? Yes, but They Suck.

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Why survey sites suck

So I’m a personal finance blogger. Even though I only started a few months ago, I’m already seeing way too many of these types of posts when doing my topic research: “10 Survey Sites To Make Extra Money This Month!”, “How To Make Money Online With Swagbucks: I Made $1,020!”, “21 Awesome Survey Sites To Make Extra Money In Your PJ’s!”. That got me thinking: are these survey sites really legit ways to make money? Or are these just clickbait posts trying to trick you into stealing your data and blasting you with ads?

Here’s what I’ve concluded: technically yes, most of them are legit companies that pay you money. However, these companies never tell you how much time and energy you will have to spend to earn even just a few bucks. I’m going to tell you right now, these sites are probably not worth your time and energy unless you belong to a certain category of people.

From what I’ve read, at best the most people get out of these sites is about $2-3 per hour. On top of that, most of them have minimum payout thresholds you need to meet before you can even get paid. This threshold is usually around $25. That means you will have to commit a minimum of 12 hours of your time to make this worth your while. I’m guessing most people quit before that point.

In the rest of this post I’m going to give you a rundown of all my findings and thoughts on these survey sites. Here’s how you know you can trust what I say here: I have no affiliate links in this post and I’m not sponsored by any of these survey sites mentioned here. 

You Get Paid in Peanuts

So this is the number one reason why these survey sites are not worth your time. The amount of money you actually get paid is so much less than what you think you’ll get paid.

Here’s some data that I collected doing my own research:

  • NerdWallet’s team of 3 earned $1.8 per hour doing surveys after working for a total of 50 hours.
  • This teen Spent 8 hours doing surveys on SurveyJunkie and InboxDollars. He only earned $12.37, about $1.25 per hour
  • This guy spent 2 hours doing surveys on InboxDollars. He earned $5.87, about $2.93 per hour (that’s with the $5 signup bonus).
  • A writer for Vice tried out some survey sites all day and only earned enough for a small discount on “photobooks” or some sweepstakes entries (that probably has about a 0% chance of winning)

Based on this data, you’re only getting paid two or three dollars an hour to do these surveys. Now ask yourself this, is your time really worth $2 or $3 an hour? If someone said they’ll give you $20 to sit in a room all day (10 hours) with nothing to do except watch ads and fill out surveys, would you do it? 

There’s also another thing to consider: payout thresholds. Most sites require you to reach a minimum amount before they will send you your earnings. Usually it’s about a $25 minimum. Most people quit before this point, but not before they fill out a few surveys just to try it out (lucky for the survey sites). If you don’t reach this threshold and quit, all your work was for nothing except to make someone else richer.

If you do the math, each survey takes about 15 minutes to complete (on the shorter end). So you are making about $0.50 per survey. Which is roughly equivalent to about a handful of peanuts per survey.

You Are Literally Giving Away Your Data and Personal Info

person looking at data and personal info

The whole point of these survey sites is to collect your data. Not just any data, they want your juicy personal info. Why do you think they are paying you to take these surveys? It’s obvious they must be making more money from you than you are making from doing these surveys. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are directly using your data to personally target you for advertising and marketing. 

Date of birth, ZIP code, home address, household income, profession, health ailments, ethnicity, living arrangements are just some of the things these survey sites will be asking about you.

This might not be a big deal to you, but just be aware that this info will be used for marketing purposes. I’m guessing some data scientist out there is going to mine your data, analyze the results, and use the findings to entice you and people like you to buy their company’s product. 

One side note: if you are going to try out a paid survey site, make sure to use a separate email account when you sign up. You want to avoid spam and other marketing emails from targeting you and flooding your inbox. Also, never give out your social security number (if you didn’t know that already).

You Have to Endure Hours of Torture to Earn Just a Few Bucks

a man in pain from taking surveys

Taking one or two surveys isn’t too bad. I do them myself to give feedback on classes I’ve taken, teachers, and sometimes on products/services I’ve used if requested. It’s only a few minutes and it helps someone out that I have some personal connection with. I also have the assurance that my response will be read personally by the person/product/service I’m reviewing. I’m actually helping them out with my feedback.

Now, re-read all of that and pick out at all the positive things I said about surveys. Survey sites are the exact opposite.

You have to take dozens of surveys just to make a few bucks. At 15-30 minutes per survey, it takes serious time (hours/days) to get anything substantial. 

You also have no guarantee your response will be useful to someone. Most of the time you won’t even qualify for the survey you’re filling out. So you will have spent 15 minutes filling out a survey no one will read and get nothing in return. 

Even if you do qualify, your response will probably just be a data point for some data scientist or computer algorithm to analyze for some company you’ve never heard about. Your individual response will probably not get read and might not even significantly influence the end result of a data analysis (if that’s something you care about). Trust me I know how data analysis works, I do it myself all the time as an engineer.

Worst of all, some of the surveys are only used to bring you to an ad, where you are the exact target audience for someone’s product. It’s as if survey sites attract the grimiest advertisers to send out these surveys to people. These sites really make you feel like you are being grabbed by the throat and pressured to click on clickbait, buy sometimes questionable products, and sign up for raffles that probably don’t actually give out prizes (but there’s no way you can prove that).

Remember, you have to endure this mental torture for hours on end to get anything reasonable.

So Why Am I Hearing So Much About These Survey Sites?

guys marketing survey sites

Two words: affiliate marketing.

These survey sites pay really nicely for affiliate marketers. Just google “[survey site] affiliate program” and most of the time you will find their affiliate program. Usually they pay one or two dollars for everyone who signs up through the affiliate’s link. This earns really good commission for the affiliate (the promoter) because unlike other affiliate programs, no one has to make a purchase to get paid. This earns much higher conversion rates and hence more profit.

For example, Swagbucks (the most popular site people promote) gives affiliates $2.20 per email verification of new user registrations. With an offer like that, no wonder people are selling it so hard. To be honest, I’m tempted myself to promote them with an offer like that (but I won’t).

What About People Earning $300+ a month?

It’s true, there are people earning $300 a month from this. But here’s the thing, they never tell you how much time they put in to earn that much. I guarantee you they are someone with too much time on their hands treating survey sites like a full-time job to earn that much. There is no way anyone is making that much putting in just a few hours per week.

This is another trick those survey sites like to play on people. All these survey sites and promoters entice you with stories of people earning $1000+ from doing surveys. But, the dollar amount is kind of arbitrary because you can earn any dollar amount you want, given enough time. Want to know how to make an easy $100,000 dollars with this one simple trick? Work a minimum wage job making $8/hr full time for the next 6 years. That’s $100,000 right there. 

Another way they try to trick you into thinking you’re earning more than you are is with virtual currency. Virtual currency does two things: 1. It’s a substitute for money so they don’t actually have to pay you until you redeem them. 2. It’s inflated relative to an actual dollar amount, making you think you’re earning a lot more than you are. Earning 1000 “points” sounds a lot better than earning 10 cents, doesn’t it? This is called abstraction of money, if you were curious.

If you want to know what the distribution curve looks like for user activity on a given survey site over time, I imagine it would look something like this:

There always be people who are kind of interested who sign up in the beginning, lured in with dreams of making $500+ a month. But very few of them will actually stick it out long term to earn a lot of money.

People are always interested in new things in the beginning but gradually lose interest over time. At some point it just becomes work. No one likes doing work. Especially if you’re getting paid $2 per hour. That’s why they quit.

Here’s another way to look at it:

Everyone always wants to believe that they’re going to the top of the pyramid. But in reality they probably end up somewhere towards the bottom. The bottom is where I’m guessing these companies make the most money.

It’s essentially slave labor. These people fill out a few surveys, but then realize it’s a lot more work than they thought to reach the payout threshold (usually about $20-25). So they quit without earning anything (lucky for the survey site).

It Could Feasibly be an Option for Certain People

Survey sites could be right for a certain set of people:

  • Teens with time on their hands and have nothing better to do (13 year old minimum). Survey sites could be an option for people like young teens who can’t even get a minimum wage job somewhere. 
  • College students who want to do something else in a boring lecture. If you’re someone with a lot of idle time in your work/studies, this might be an option to earn a little extra during those times.
  • Someone with a lot of time on their hands like a stay at home mom or someone who is unable to work. If you’re someone who doesn’t have a job or has a lot of time to spare outside of work, this could be an option. 
  • Someone living in a third world country where two dollars an hour is a lot of money. This would be a great option for someone who only earns $1 or $2 a day working full time in their country (assuming these survey sites are even offered in their country). I’m 99% sure this isn’t you.

If you aren’t one of these people, I highly don’t recommend trying it out. Your time is better spent elsewhere. 


These survey sites are technically legit, but your time is better spent elsewhere. It just depends if you think your time is worth $2 an hour or not and you’re willing to commit a minimum of 12 hours or more to this.

Are you the type of person who would wait in line for 4 hours to get free sandwich? I’m guessing that this probably isn’t you. There are so many better ways you can be spending your time. If this is you, then feel free to try it out. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. 

If you want a solid plan to reach financial stability, feel free to check out my other post on personal finance tips to build wealth.

Joe Wong

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