Last weekend I was filling my car up with gas. To kill some time, I looked around the station. To my surprise, I spotted a 20-dollar on the ground. In the scheme of things, this was a minimal amount of Money — and it wasn’t really mine to keep.
While finding cash laying on the ground at a gas station is abnormal, there are plenty of ways to get free Money. In fact, there’s a treasure cove out there if you know where to search.
Before we go any further though, I should clarify what exactly constitutes as free Money. In most cases, it’s earning cash bonuses or rewards without having to pay anything upfront. Other times it’s cashing in on an activity that you were going to do anyway. And, in different situations, it’s signing up for the advantage of programs that provide some sort of assistance.
Hopefully, that better explains what “free” Money is. Let’s explore the 25 legitimate ways to get your hands on some of that paper.
1. Search for Unclaimed Money.
Technically, this isn’t “free” Money. It’s actually helping you find and obtain any missing funds that are owed to you. The most common examples would be uncashed paychecks, forgotten savings bonds, customer overpayments, or apartment deposits. Some other forms of unclaimed property include stocks, unredeemed money orders/gift certificates, royalties, annuities, or CODs.
To discover if you have any unclaimed money waiting for you to grab, just visit unclaimed.org. Once there, securely enter your information, and the site will let you know if you’re owed anything.
2. Take advantage of your employer’s 401(K) match at work.
If you work for a fantastic company, one of the best perks that may offer is matching your 401(K) contributions. While you may not be able to access this today, it’s yours when you retire.
“Typically, the company’s contribution level is tiered,” explains Chizoba Morah for Investopedia. “A generous match might include a dollar-for-dollar match on the first 3% of the employee’s deposit,” adds Morah. “Then 50 cents on each dollar of the next 3%, up to 6% of employee contributions in total, for example.”
3. Get assistance with utility bills.
Are you’re struggling to keep up with your heating or phone bills? If so, then you may qualify for programs like:
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program that covers the heating and cooling costs for low-income families.
- The Lifeline program is an income-based program that provides discounted phone and internet services.
4. Lower your mortgage.
For anyone experiencing financial problems, an obvious way to alleviate this hardship is to lower your mortgage. As a result, your payments won’t be as considerable each month, leaving you with more Money in your wallet. The downside is that you’ll be paying more in interest.
Out good friend Choncé Maddox, in a piece for Money Under 30, suggests that you can lower your mortgage by extending your repayment term or refinancing your mortgage. Other recommendations would be making a larger down payment, ditching your PMI, reassessing your home’s tax, and searching for a federal loan modification program.
5. Refinance your student loans.
“Student loan refinancing helps you to consolidate your existing federal or private student loans, or both, into a new, single student loan with a lower interest rate,” explains Zack Friedman for Forbes. “When you refinance student loans, you can get a lower interest rate, lower monthly payment, and pay off your student loans faster.”
While not exactly free, this will save you Money in the long-run. Just be aware that you will have to go through a private lender since this is something that the government doesn’t do.
6. Appy for educational grants.
Whether you’ve just graduated high school, want to advance your career, or spend your downtime productively, you don’t have to spend a fortune on taking classes. In fact, there are plenty of Pell Grants available that will make it financially easier to attend school.
7. Get help with down payments.
Have you ever dreamed of owning a home, but don’t have the cash for a down payment? If so, you’re in luck.
Most states and counties offer grants and no-interest loans to first-time homeowners. These funds can then be used for expenses like down payments and closing costs.
8. Find tax credits for healthcare.
Because I don’t possess a crystal ball, I can’t predict the future of the Affordable Care Act for you. Until then, however, you can still obtain coverage from the government’s marketplace at Healthcare.gov. If qualified, you may be eligible for a credit towards your premiums, which is then paid directly to your provider.
9. Look for childcare assistance.
For most households, childcare puts a significant dent in their expenses. Depending on where you reside, this can vary. But, it can range anywhere from $200 to $600 per week!
And, it’s anticipated that affordable childcare will become a more significant issue following the COVID-10 pandemic. Data from the Care.com COVID-19 Child Care Survey shows that “More than half (52%) of the parents surveyed say they anticipate that the cost of child care will be higher than before COVID-19, and nearly that many (47%) are more concerned about the cost of child care now than they were before the pandemic.”
The Child Care and Development Fund, which is administrated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, may help relieve this burden. It can cover the cost of child care for children under 13, depending on your income.
10. Locate unclaimed pension funds.
Similar to securing unclaimed Money, this isn’t really free. Instead, it’s funds owed to you if you had to part with a company as a result of an acquisition, merger, or layoff. Simply visit pbgc.gov to see if your name is included in their database.
11. Upgrade or open a new checking/savings account.
A lot of banks are handing out free stacks of cash? Why. According to Bankrate, sign-up bonuses are used “to distinguish themselves from others in the industry. Cash bonuses also help financial institutions bring in new customers and new deposits.”
As of July 2020, the best savings account bonuses, as ranked by Bankrate, are:
- Associated Bank: $500 bonus
- Wells Fargo Bank: $400 bonus
- HSBC Bank: $200 or $450 bonus
- TD Bank: $150 or $300 bonus
- Chase Bank: $200 or $300 bonus
- PNC Bank: $50, $200 or $300 bonus
- Huntington National Bank: $150 or $200 bonus
- SunTrust (Truist) Bank: $200 or $400 bonus
- Bank of America: $100 bonus
As for the best checking and savings, Bankrate lists the following:
- Citibank: $200, $400 or $700 bonus
- Citizens Bank: $100, $200, $300 bonus
If you don’t want to open a new account, you should at least upgrade your existing savings account to a high-yield online savings account. Then again. I can’t see why you wouldn’t want to get more bang for your buck and do both.
12. Get free stock investments.
You may be skeptical of this one. But it’s true. If you download apps like Acorns, Robinhood, Stash Invest, Webull, or Nvstr, you could land anywhere from between $5 and $1,000 in free stocks or account bonuses directly into your account.
13. Join a focus group.
Focus groups can be traced back to the work of sociologist Robert Merton in 1946. Because they’ve existed for decades, you’re probably already familiar with them. You merely share your thoughts and feedback on products, services, or even concepts.
Traditionally, focus groups take place in-person. However, there are plenty of opportunities to give your opinions online via chats and forums. You won’t make a ton of Money here, but it’s possible to collect anywhere from $50 to $250 easily.
14. Take surveys.
Don’t have the time to be a part of a focus group? No worries. You can still share your opinions through sites or apps like SurveyJunkie, MyPoints, Swagbucks, Surveys on the Go, or Opinion Outpost.
Again, it’s not much — most pay between $0.50 and $3. But, if you keep plugging away at this, you could get some extra cash in your PayPal account or in the form of gift cards.
15. Play mobile games.
Do you enjoy playing games on your phone? If you do, you might as well get paid for it. For example, the Android app Mistplay will pay just to play popular games, including Words With Friends 2, Star Wars, or Yahtzee. The more you play, the more rewards you’ll earn, which can be exchanged for Amazon or Visa gift cards.
16. Sell your smartphone’s data.
If you’re comfortable with this, simply download and install Smart App. That’s it. It will then collect insights about your usage to improve apps and websites. You’ll get $5 after your initial download, and if you keep the app, you’ll get five bucks every month.
17. Go on a shopping spree.
I’m no way advocating for you to blow-up your budget. Instead, I’m recommending that you use a free app like Fetch Rewards. All you have to do is just scan your grocery receipt. You can then redeem these points into electronic cards that can be redeemed at participating brands, such as Amazon, StubHub, or Airbnb.
In addition to scanning receipts, you can earn cash whenever you shop online with Rakuten, Wikibuy, Ibotta, or Be Frugal. There’s also Paribus from Capitol One that will track your purchases to determine if a store owes you a refund.
Furthermore, you could use a credit or debit card that will give you a cash bonus if you spend a certain amount of Money within a specific timeframe. One word of caution here, make sure that you can pay your card off so that you aren’t swimming in debt.
18. Watch videos.
Yes. I would certainly classify this into the “it’s too good to be true” category. But, it’s totally possible through sites like Nielsen and Inbox Dollars.
The catch? Like many of the other selections in this list, you’ll be compensated in the form of a check, gift card, or PayPal.
19. Drive around town.
If you’ve got the spare time and want to earn some quick cash, sign up for Lyft. The ride-sharing company is guaranteeing a cool $1,000 to become a driver.
If you’re not interested in driving others around, you have some alternative to make Money off your vehicle. Getaround allows you to rent your car out. Or, you could convert your vehicle into a moving billboard with Wrapify.
20. Share your space.
Do you have a spare bedroom? Are you fortunate enough to own a second home or apartment? If so, you can rent these spaces out on Airbnb. Not too shabby for unused spaces — as long as you don’t mind having people crash at your pad.
There’s also Neighbor.com. It’s a site that lets you monetize your garage, shed, attic, or basement by allowing others to use it as storage space.
21. Turn your junk into gold.
I’m not mentioning that your personal belongings should be tossed out with the trash. What I am suggesting is that you sell any of your unused items.
Sites like eBay or Craiglist are obvious go-to-sites. You could also try consignment shops or Facebook Marketplace. Or, you could turn to niche-specific sites. For example, you can cash-in on your old gadgets with Decluttr, while Thredup is a solid choice to sell clothing.
Need an incentive to get in shape? Achievement and Sweatcoin will reward you for following through with your fitness goals. HealthyWage is more appealing since you can win real cash rewards (up to 10 grand) for weight loss.
23. Take advantage of freebies.
If you’ve ever perused Craigslist, you may have noticed that there’s a “Free” section. While you shouldn’t take items just because you like the price tag, you may find some hidden gems in there, like furniture or workout equipment. With a little TLC, you can flip these items for a profit.
Businesses are well aware that the most effective marketing tactic out there is word of mouth. To sweeten the pot, though, they’re often more than willing to pay you for referring their company to others.
For instance, I recently joined the environmentally conscious home goods site Grove Collaborative. As a thank you, they’ll give me $10 whenever one of my referrals makes a purchase. All I have to do is send them a link through email or text.
However, banks, credit card companies, travel sites, Acorns, and even DNA service 23andMe will add Money to your account just by spreading the word about them.
25. Track and Save your Money.
Perhaps my favorite way to get free Money is by signing up for Trim or Truebill. The scan your bank accounts after you’ve authorized it to help you create and stick to a budget. They can also identify recurring charges you no longer need so that you can cancel them. It’s a win-win.
There’s also Fiona. It’s a site that will help you identify the best savings accounts, credit card offers, or most affordable loans.
The bottom line.
Whether if you’re in a pinch, trying to pay down your debt, or set it aside for a rainy day, you don’t have to look far to snag-free Money. Just be wary of scams. And try to focus on the opportunities that make sense for you.
For example, if you don’t want to get into credit card debt because you can’t pay the monthly balance, avoid signing up for rewards cards. What’s more, if you’re short on time, then it wouldn’t make sense to fill out surveys or join a focus group.
The main takeaway is that there’s free Money out there for you to grab. You just need to get out there and seize it!