Get Paid to Shop: Mystery Shopping

I’ve received quite a few inquiries on how to get paid to shop since my post, 12 Ways to Make Money Now. I hope this post will answer all of your questions and help you start your very own mystery shopping business!

First, let’s discuss the three most popular ways one can earn money while shopping.

Get paid to shop

Personal Shopping

A personal shopper is one who does the shopping for another. Personal shoppers can be hired to do any type of shopping. This type of shopping ranges from groceries and dry cleaning to finding the perfect Christmas gift for that hard to buy for relative. Now, you may think that only the super uppity need this service. However, it can be just as practical for the middle class folk.

For example, let’s say I was a general contractor. It’s 7pm and I have a decision to make. I can go to the supermarket and do some grocery shopping, or I can keep working and make an extra $150. If I could pay someone $20 to shop at the grocery store for me, it’s a win-win. The personal shopper is happy to do my shopping and I’m happy to make an extra $130 (after paying the personal shopper). And on top of that, my client is happy I’m working on their project. That’s how personal shopping works.

As I said before, personal shopping is not limited to grocery stores. A very popular service is to have food delivered to your home or office. As someone wanting extra money, you could work lunch and dinner shifts on days off delivering food. GrubHub and DoorDash are companies that offer this service. Their drivers use their own cars (similar to Lyft or Uber) to deliver food.

Becoming a DoorDash driver has some great perks:

  • You get to keep 100% of the tips
  • Flexible hours (night, weekend, lunch, etc.)
  • Offered in most major cities (20+ major US markets)
  • Paid weekly
  • Independent contractor agreement meaning you can work for multiple companies

Although, I have not signed up to be a DoorDash driver, I have used the service before and from what I can tell, signing up is easy. Check it out for yourself: DoorDash and GrubHub and you can get paid to shop!

Shopping with Cash Back

This next one is more of a discount method instead of a true “make money shopping” method. Here’s how it works:

  1. You sign up for coupon or rebate companies like eBates..
  2. You make your regular purchases.
  3. The rebate company writes you a check for a percentage of what you bought.

I love eBates. I’ve made over $150 since I signed up in 2012. I can vouch for them. They do what they say. The only downside is if you make a purchase at the beginning of the quarter, you have to wait three months before you get your check.

The beauty of eBates is that you can still use coupon codes, store gift cards, gift certificates, etc. You don’t buy anything on eBates itself, rather eBates directs you to the specific retailer you are interested in. EBates receives a small commission of what you buy because you went to their website first and they “referred” you to the retailer. EBates then gives back a percentage of what they make to you. It’s a win-win.

If you are very diligent, you can sign up for couponing websites that will give you coupon codes to use in conjunction with the cash back you get from eBates. For example, I can go to CouponSurfer and download coupons to save me $2 on paper towels. I can then go to eBates, click Walmart, and am redirected to I add the towels to my cart, add the coupon code and wham! I saved $2 instantly and will be getting a check in the mail for $0.10 from eBates.

For an added bonus, if you use a cash back rewards card with American Express or Visa to make this same purchase, it will give you an additional $0.06 cash back on your paper towels. Suddenly, $5 towels just cost $2.84, a 43% savings.

This was a very low cost example, but can be applied to literally any product you want to buy. Bigger ticket items offer a greater percentage back as well, making the money back add up much faster.

Unfortunately, with this method you will still have to make a purchase before you make any money back.

Mystery Shopping

Mystery Shopping, Ghost Shopping, and Secret Shopping

Now, on to the most fun of the three methods! Mystery shopping, secret shopping, ghost shopping … Here’s how it works:

  1. Retailers (McDonald’s for example) want to ensure every one of their customers is getting the best experience in the marketplace.
  2. They hire a mystery shopping company to conduct surveys and send out a shopper.
  3. Shoppers visit the retailer posing as a customer, buying and eating just like everyone else.
  4. Shoppers type up a report to the mystery shopping company who sends the report to let the retailer know how they are doing.
  5. The retailer analyzes this information and makes changes to ensure better and faster customer service.

What’s good about this whole process is that everyone wins. The retailer gets to see firsthand how random customer’s experiences are and can make real changes to their processes and/or products. The mystery shopping company gets paid by the retailer and acts as a middleman to the mystery shopper. The mystery shopper gets free food or merchandise from the shop and gets paid a small fee for their time as well. Finally, in the end, the customer gets to have a better shopping experience moving forward.

So how does someone make money shopping? The easiest way is to sign up for a bunch of different mystery shopping companies. Personally, I’ve used four companies I like:

The links above will take you to their signup page. You have to put in information such as name, address, phone number, etc. They will also ask you for things such as what type of car you drive (so you can get oil changes for the specific car you own), what type of phone carrier you use (so you can do specific carrier shops), etc.

Finally, they will also ask for your social security number. Personally, I HATE giving my social to ANYONE. Especially over the internet. However, they need it so they can notify the IRS of the money you are making. Like I said, I’ve personally used and made money with actual checks from the four companies above. I trust these.

Once you’re signed up, you may need to take five minutes to cruise around their website and learn their interface. I found BestMark and MarketForce have the easiest websites to use. On the website, you should be able to see descriptions of the shop, exactly what you need to do, and how much you will get paid. From here, all that’s left to do is perform the shop, upload your report, and collect your payments! You’ll get paid to shop in no time!

Notable tips for Mystery Shoppers:

  • If you schedule a shop, do it. You can cancel shops in the case of emergencies, but what they don’t tell you, is every shop you cancel counts as a negative mark against you. The more negative marks, the more you are seen as unreliable and you won’t get the good high-paying shops offered to you.
  • Read through the directions. Many shops look the same, but they’re not. You have to be sure to read through the entire directions to ensure you know what you’re doing. I’ve not gotten paid on some shops because I missed things in the directions. Plus, a lot of holes in your reports will also hinder you from the best shops.
  • Try everything once. I signed up for 3-4 GNC shops once without trying it because it had a high fee. Turns out the fee was high because there was a lot of work associated. On the flip side, I tried a Costco shop once even though the fee was very low and signed up for a bunch after because it was SUPER easy.
  • Schedule multiple shops within proximity to one another. For example, I did 5 shops one Saturday all within one mile of another. I was able to save on gas and commute time which is the biggest enemy in the mystery shopping business.
  • Pick food shops for lunch and dinner. All of us need to eat. Even though the shop fees are small, a free $12 large restaurant burger and fries can be split in two and eaten half during the shop and half the following day for lunch (or enjoyed with a husband or wife).
  • It’s the fringe benefits of mystery shopping that make it all worth it. Free food, free oil changes, free gas, etc.
Get Paid to Shop

Another question I get a lot is, “How much money can I make?” This is a direct function of how much you work at it. One month I did four shops and made $47.23 in reimbursements (for food and products) and made an additional $55 in fees. Another month I hustled 37 shops and brought in $195.75 in reimbursements and made an additional $428 in fees. Keep in mind I was working a 50 hour a week job at the time and did this strictly before work (breakfast shops), lunch breaks, and after work (night and weekends). If you were able to devote more time, I don’t see why you couldn’t make a few hundred dollars a month consistently.

You now have everything you need to shop till you drop AND make money while doing so!


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