August 30, 2009

Paid Surveys: My Experience

Before 2007 I filled out online surveys whenever I had the chance. There were several benefits. Surveys were fun to fill out, gave me a chance to voice my opinions, and influenced decisions made by companies. In January 2007 I realized I might be able to fill out surveys for those benefits, and get paid too!

I researched many online survey sites and subscribed to several. For the next two years I filled out several surveys a week. I wish I had kept detailed records so that for each survey company I could report statistics including the number of surveys I received, the number I was screened out of, the average time per survey, the average earnings per survey, and more. The only record I kept was a spreadsheet in which I recorded payments I received during a period of about two years. Those totals follow.

American Consumer Opinion $26.00 (4 surveys)
Brand Institute $0.00 (0 surveys)
Esearch $22.00 (5 surveys)
Global Test Market $95.35 (many surveys)
Greenfield Online $16.00 (many surveys)
MySurvey $60.00 (many surveys)
Opinion Outpost $50.60 (many surveys)
Survey Savvy $3.50 (2 surveys)
Technology Advisory Board $0.00 (0 surveys)

Total earnings for 2 years $276.45

Survey Companies

I'll list the companies I joined and make some comments about each one. Since I didn't keep detailed records, these comments are my impressions based on memory. I apologize for any errors.

American Consumer Opinion
This is one of my favorite survey companies. I am still a member. They don't send me many surveys, but I often qualify for the surveys they do send, and they pay well.

Brand Institute
I never qualified for one of their surveys. Their surveys always included a screening question asking if I had participated in any market studies recently. (I don't remember the exact wording or the time period they used.) I assume every survey is a market study, so I always answered yes. I was screened out of every survey.

I am still a member of Esearch. They don't send me many surveys. Occasionally I qualify for a survey and they pay me for my time.

Global Test Market
I earned more money from this company than from any other, but I also probably took more of their surveys. They sent me a lot of surveys, sometimes several per day. Overall I decided their surveys took more time than they were worth. I am no longer a member.

Greenfield Online
This company sent me a lot of surveys, sometimes several a day. Often the surveys redirected me to OTX, which wrote surveys that were incompatible with my browser. I am no longer a member.

Harris Poll Online
I didn't list Harris Poll Online above because the points they give you for completing surveys have no monetary value. Harris Poll points work like S&H Green Stamps used to work (for those of you from the US who are old enough to remember). There's a rewards catalogue from which you can choose items to get for your credits. I think Harris Poll Online was the first survey site I joined, many years ago. I am still a member. I don't think I have ever traded in any points.

I am still a member of MySurvey. They send me several surveys a week. The surveys are generally short and usually earn 10 points. Frequently, my answers to a short survey qualify me for a longer survey worth more points. A thousand points is worth $10.00. It takes a lot of surveys to earn $10.

NPD Online Research
I didn't list NPD Online Research above because they pay in points, which cannot be redeemed for cash (or products). The points you earn are only good to buy entries in sweepstakes that are always in progress. I have never won anything. I am still a member.

Opinion Outpost
This company sent me a lot of surveys. I came to resent the way this company wasted my time. I cancelled my membership. Here's what happened the last time I received a survey invitation from Opinion Outpost. (I took notes.) I clicked on the survey link and was given several questions to answer on the first screen. After completing those questions I was given demographic questions to answer, one question per screen. After completing those I was asked a series of questions about health insurance. When I finished answering those questions I received a message saying their quota for the survey had already been filled.

Survey Savvy
This company pays you for referring people to Survey Savvy and for filling out surveys. That sounded good to me. Of course before I recommended them to anyone I wanted to do business with them for awhile to make sure they were worth recommending. In two years I was only able to fill out two surveys for Survey Savvy, worth $3.50. I never recommended the company to anyone. I am no longer a member.

Technology Advisory Board
They sent me very few surveys. I never qualified for one of their surveys.

Recurring Issues

1. Several companies require that you fill out the same classification data at the beginning of every survey. The data includes personal information -- age, gender, income, employment status, number of adults in household, number of children in household, country, state, zip code, and more. The companies should store that data, use it to determine which surveys to send you, and automatically use it in surveys as needed. The data is not secret if you're willing to give it. The question is whether you should have to give it once or over and over.

2. Some surveys have so many screening questions that you think you've almost finished the survey only to reach a screen that tells you you're not eligible for that survey. I found that survey behavior infuriating. It was not uncommon for me to spend 15 minutes answering questions only to then be screened out. Companies should store the screening data about you and not even send you surveys for which you aren't eligible.

3. Some surveys only work in Internet Explorer and don't let you take them in Internet Explorer if you've attempted to take them in another browser first. My default browser was Mozilla 3.72. When I'd click a survey link in an email Mozilla would open and the survey would give an error saying Internet Explorer was required. So I'd copy the link, open Internet Explorer, paste the link into the address bar, and the survey would give me an error saying I had already taken that survey.

4. Surveys crashed way too often. Sometimes surveys got stuck in error loops. Some surveys redirected me to another company conducting the survey. Some of the other companies I remember are BrainJuicer, Nielsen, and OTX, for example. All three of those companies crashed my browser more than once. BrainJuicer locked up my browser so often that I just stopped taking surveys when BrainJuicer was involved.

5. As part of a survey's screening questions, several companies started asking about the topics of surveys I had taken in the past so many weeks or months. There was no way to answer those questions without keeping a list of dates and surveys that I could refer to whenever I received a question about recent surveys. In a given week I might receive surveys about cell phones, automobiles, coffee, hotels, restaurants, grocery shopping, etc, but only pass the screening questions for one or two surveys. Without a record there was no way a week or a month later to know what surveys I had taken.

6. Occasionally a survey would let me make it all the way to the end and then refuse to accept my answers saying the session had timed out.

Copyright © 2009 by Jon Maloney


  1. Thank you for writing about your survey experiences so eloquently and informatively.

    If you're still into it, (and I have nothing to gain by telling you this, not trying to play a referral game,) I've had great success at . I just joined a month ago and have already amassed $62, which isn't bad for one of these sites. You can cash out to PayPal (there are other options, that's what I chose) when you reach $25, and they give you a $5 headstart when you join.

    Also, via Greenfield, I've taken part in quite a few "live interactives" that require you to logon to a certain site at a certain time. Once invited there's no screening out. For an hour and a half of interacting live at a set time, Invoke has paid me between $30 and $45 a pop!

    Having gotten this far in the game I was asked if I would be willing to do live focus groups via webcam and I accepted. These would pay equally well or better, though I've yet to receive an invite or qualify for one.

    The trick in all the sites I've joined is to logon repeatedly to check for new surveys. If I waited for an invite I'd rarely have any and make no money. So I do it in a loop throughout the day, from one to the next. They fill up and disappear quickly, so many people are doing it now.

    Harris Poll Online: They now have Amazon gift certificates as a cash out option for certain point amounts. They don't send enough surveys, that's for sure, but it's a nice one to have in my coffer as time and again over the years I've cashed out in this and similar ways and covered holiday gifts with no sweat.

    So how did I find your page, you may wonder. I was searching to try to find out if BrainJuicer was a browser hijacker. Every time a Greenfield takes me to OTX and BrainJuicer has popped up, I've simply dumped the survey. The page that pops up just looks like something from Hell that I don't feel like dealing with. So thank you for the information regarding that.

    I hope I've said anything useful here to you or anyone else interested in survey/market research cash online.

  2. Roberta,

    Thank you for sharing all that great information. I especially like knowing Harris Poll now offers Amazon gift certificates. I buy many gifts at Amazon, and like I said in my write-up, I've never traded in Harris points. I just checked and see that I now have 13,650 points. I think your information will change the way I do my Christmas shopping this year! :-)

    Several sites have invited me to join online focus groups by various names, what you called "live interactives". I never accepted one of those offers.

    That's interesting how you found this post. What amazes me the most though is that I just published the post today. Usually it's weeks, months, or never before anyone comments on my posts. It seems quite coincidental that you found it through a search so soon after I posted.

    Thanks again for your comments. I'm sure others who find this post will appreciate them too.

  3. Hey Jon,

    I'm really happy that I was able to help you out with that Amazon/HiPoints info. Don't hang onto the points, cash them in ASAP is my advice. For a while they offered a PayPal cash out option and it disappeared without a trace. I really wanted that option.

    Greenfield has been doing Special Promotion periods off and on lately where they offer 50¢ for every completed survey if you do them through the promo email. I've racked up quite a few bucks there with those.

    I have to agree it's tedious and ridiculous to have filled out all the profiles for each of these sites, be invited specifically for a survey and then be repeatedly asked my age, sex, ethnicity and other specifics unlikely to ever change, only to be rejected based on these. Seems like a pretty poor way to manage a program or to encourage people to stick around.

    I know you know how frustrating it is to get to what you think is the end of a long one and be told you don't qualify. I actually have written the sites about such incidents and told them I don't appreciate being used like that, it amounts to working for them for free. Greenfield comped me the stupid $1 last time. thanked me by sending me less surveys when I told them that their 10 points equaling 10¢ wasn't worth my time and torture for the grueling questions and lengths of their "brief" surveys. I could get homeless people to throw dimes at me for less work and enjoy fresh air at the same time. They're currently shipping me some Easy Mac to try and report on. I think I'll put it in the food bank kiosk at my local supermarket instead.

    I always appreciate when people let me know how they found me, so I like to repay that courtesy on others. I saw the date on your post and also thought how strange it was, fortuitous for me, really, that you posted this now. Let's just play like great minds are in tune with one another; I'll delude myself into saying I'm one of those if you're game, also.

    Thanks to you next time BrainJuicer pops up in that annoying way with those hideous colors I'll give it a chance to see what happens.

    I hope you consider doing the "live interactives" sometime. I've said some mighty scathing things and never been booted out, plus you get to see comments that other people make during them and it often makes for great comedy all around.

    Hope you have a happy Autumn,


  4. Roberta,

    I went to the HarrisPollOnline Rewards site and looked at the gift card offerings. Amazon or PayPal are not offered now. I thought about the gift cards they do offer, but I don't want any of them. I guess I need to check back every month or so in hopes that they'll offer Amazon or PayPal again.

    Good luck with BrainJuicer. BrainJuicer locked up my browser almost every time I took one of their surveys. The last time was the worst, and the one that made me stop doing their surveys. I had been answering their questions for 10 or 15 minutes before the browser froze.


  5. I'm looking at the Harris folio offerings now and can tell you that they are still offering the Amazon cards (to me, anyway!), but not in every point cash out category. Please check the 8500 point redeem folio option, it's the largest Amazon card amount, for $55. The next lowest is available in the 5000 point option, for $35. The next lowest is a $20 Amazon card for 2500 points. So if you went straight to the highest point cash out one, you would not have seen these there.

    This is where I login, perhaps you've been hooked up otherwise? :

    I feel good so far about having avoided BrainJuicer. I'll try it once and see what happens. Greenfield seems all screwed up today, so no opportunity.

    I really hope you can get those Amazon cards, the other offerings, eeesh, who wants those?

  6. That's interesting. I log in here: HarrisPollOnline Rewards, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was that I scrolled down the rewards folio list and only looked at the folios that had "gift card" in the name, of which there were two: "HIpoints Gift Card Folio (1600 points)" and "HIpoints Gift Card Folio (6000 points)". Neither of those folios offered Amazon gift cards. It didn't occur to me that gift cards might be in both gift card folios and in non-gift card folios. Pretty funny. My mistake.

    Here are the Amazon gift cards I jotted down:
    $55 for 8,500 points
    $35 for 5,000 points
    $20 for 2,500 points
    $5 for 800 points.

    Dividing each card's points by its dollar value calculates the points cost per dollar for each card. The point cost ranges from 160 points per dollar on the $5 card to 125 points per dollar on the $20 card. The $20 card is the cheapest, point-wise.

    I appreciate your follow-up comment to correct me regarding the Amazon cards. Thanks.

    BTW I joined Surveyhead today, tried three surveys, and was screened out of all three. One of the three estimated I had a 100% chance of being eligible.


  7. I'm really happy that you're getting your Amazon cards out of Harris. Whew! I noticed their points-per-dollar inequalities, too. Games galore with all these sites.

    I hope you have better luck with SurveyHead down the line. It's been the best so far for me as far as fast money, though it takes about a month for them to deposit the finished survey's earnings into your account.

    Did you ever try ? That's also been a pretty good one, if you don't mind $1 deposits to PayPal.

    Have fun with your Amazon cards. I'm so happy for you!

  8. Thanks, Roberta. I haven't looked at dollarsurveys.

    I traded in 2,500 points for one $20 Amazon card. I wanted to test it first to make sure there aren't any surprises. The terms acted like Amazon doesn't have anything to do with the gift cards. They made me fill out my personal information -- name and postal mailing address. I clicked the button that I think said "Ship It" and a screen came back telling me the card would be sent by email.

    The terms also said something about how the card could not be applied to any account, which I didn't understand. I assume if I placed an Amazon order for $15 and used the $20 gift card to pay, then my Amazon account would receive a credit of the $5 left over. I hope that's the way it works.

    The terms didn't say anything about whether or not the card expires, but that was another uncertainty I had as I read.


  9. Sounds like it could turn into a real pain in the ass. I'm hoping the PayPal option returns. I get $25 Amazon "cards" using an Amazon credit card, with bonus points from that gig. That amounts to a code on a piece of paper in my credit card bill. I've never not used the whole thing, so am unsure how it works. I'm thinking if you don't use it all you'd better hang on to the code.

    Harris was one of the first I joined. Over the years I've used the points to get some great household necessities without issue. I got a huge toaster, a coffee grinder and quality pots and pans. The few lower level gift cards I got all came USPS without problems.

    Anyway, please let me know how this plays out. I'm itching to cash in myself now.

  10. I received the Amazon gift card by email from Harris today. I was glad it came from the same email address that the Harris surveys come from, so my spam filter routed it to my in-box. The email tells me the gift card's code, that the card's for $20, and how to use the card when buying stuff from Amazon.

    I wanted to know how any remaining balance would be handled after a purchase of less than $20 and I wanted to know if and when the card expires. I went to Amazon and read that any remaining balance is credited to my Amazon account.

    Regarding expiration, I found this statement: "The expiration date for Gift Certificates issued after October 8, 2005 are waived and those Gift Certificates may be redeemed for eligible purchases notwithstanding any stated expiration date."

    So far the process for redeeming Harris points for an Amazon gift card looks smooth and easy. I redeemed the points on August 31 and received the gift card on September 18.


  11. Sounds like that works out just fine. I bet you've already cashed in the rest of those points.

    SurveyHead is working out really well for me now. I already cashed out $46 to PayPal just to see how that would work. It took a few weeks but the money was there. I've already earned $40 more.

    Something I hadn't mentioned, I believe, is eRewards, That's one you join via Upromise. We've been using that survey site to pay off my son's student loans. It links directly to Upromise, the rewards are paid quarterly directly to SallieMae. We just had a transfer of over $100, almost all of it via eRewards. So if you're looking at a student loan it's a great deal.

  12. It sounds like you're doing really well with your surveys, Roberta.

    I'm in no hurry to cash in Harris points. I'd rather just wait and get Amazon gift certificates now and then before gift-giving occasions.

    I still don't think I've qualified for a SurveyHead survey. I've probably tried ten or so. So far I've just wasted my time with them, which is why I cancelled most of my survey memberships.


  13. I just cashed in Harris Points for the $20 Amazon card. We win.