Could you use a few extra dollars every week? InboxDollars might be the perfect solution for you to pad your bank account with additional income.
With InboxDollars, you can create a small but real income stream by completing relatively simple tasks online. InboxDollars began back in 2000 as a service that provided nominal cash payments, typically a few cents per email, to members who opened and read sponsored emails (called PaidEmails) from companies that partnered with InboxDollars. If the partner companies allowed, users could earn additional payments, ranging from $0.10 to $25, for taking action requested in the email, such as clicking a link to the partner’s website and enrolling in a trial offer.
PaidEmails was wildly successful, attracting hundreds of retail partners and many thousands of email recipients, and remains in place today. It has since been joined by a number of other initiatives, including exclusive discount offers from retail partners, electronic coupons (and payments for using them), free and discounted online game play, paid online surveys, payments for viewing advertorial videos, payments for conducting online searches, and payments for newly referred users who then complete qualified activities on the site. Once you request your first payment, you receive Gold Membership, which confers such additional benefits as faster payment and better incentives for certain activities.
InboxDollars competes with a number of other sites, including Qmee, Memolink, Zoombucks, and Swagbucks, which also offer rewards and cash payments for completing simple tasks online. It’s free to join and use, and you get a $5 sign-up bonus as soon as you activate your account, though InboxDollars reserves the right to discontinue this promotion at any time.
A word of caution: While InboxDollars is a legitimate business with more than a decade of positive user feedback, it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Some of the retail discounts and cash back offers from InboxDollars’ partners require you to make a purchase, while others may simply require you to register with the partner. (InboxDollars never requires you to make a purchase as a condition of membership.) In short, keep your expectations low and know that while InboxDollars is both a legitimate online side gig and discounting opportunity for many people, it won’t ever replace your day job.
How It Works
Signing up for InboxDollars is straightforward. You need to provide basic contact and location information, as many deals are country-specific, and create a username or password. Because InboxDollars pays by mailed check or Visa Prepaid card only, no bank account or PayPal information is required. As soon as you create your account, the $5 opening bonus drops into your account.
Once your account is active, you can access the full range of InboxDollars’ discount and income opportunities. As you complete income-generating tasks, InboxDollars deposits small credits into an escrow account tied to your user account. You can request a payment as soon as your account reaches $30. Payments for non-Gold members typically take about three weeks to receive in the mail, while payments for Gold members typically arrive one to two weeks after your request.
Limitations and Restrictions
There are several important limitations that could affect your earnings with InboxDollars:
- One-Time Use Restrictions on Some Offers. Some InboxDollars advertisers only let you take advantage of a given discount offer once. Other offers allow you to participate more than once. However, if you’ve already completed the offer and it’s subsequently discontinued for any reason, it’s removed from your list of available offers.
- Processing Fee. Your account is subject to a $3 processing fee for all payments, regardless of size. This fee is factored in after you make your request. However, Inbox Dollars may waive it when you reach certain earning benchmarks.
- Inactivity Penalties. InboxDollars requires that you either confirm receipt of a PaidEmail, or enter your account and perform a task (such as completing a survey or using a coupon) at least once every 10 days. If you don’t, your account becomes inactive and you’re rendered temporarily unable to request a payout. You have six months from the day your account becomes inactive to request that your account be reinstated. Once the account is reactivated, you again have full access to any accrued funds and regain the ability to request a payment. However, if you fail to reinstate your account within six months, you permanently lose access to the account and forfeit all unpaid earnings.
- Cash Value of Account. The money held in your InboxDollars account has no value until you clear the $30 threshold. If a member account is permanently removed due to six months of inactivity, you forfeit all unpaid earnings.
- Coupons and Groupons. Through a partnership with Coupons.com, InboxDollars offers access to retail and grocery coupons from brands such as Scott (toilet paper), General Mills (cereal), and Pillsbury (baked goods). Depending on the coupon and brand, you can either redeem these online or at a physical store. For every redeemed coupon, InboxDollars credits $0.10 to your account. Separately, InboxDollars partners with Groupon to offer location-specific discounts on products and services. For every Groupon you buy through InboxDollars, your account is credited 5% of its face value. So if you buy a $50 Groupon coupon for a massage, you get $2.50 credited to your account. In both cases, however, coupons and Groupon deals only make sense if you’d buy them anyway without your InboxDollars account.
- Discounts. Dozens of online and offline retailers offer discounts and deals exclusively through InboxDollars. For instance, the Light & Sweet Wine Club offers four bottles for the price of two (an average of $7.50 per bottle versus $15 normally), plus $12 cash paid into your InboxDollars account, for first-time customers. Baby Einstein offers its Baby’s First Learning Kit for $35 (normally $44), plus $5 cash paid to your InboxDollars account.
- Surveys. InboxDollars partners with market research companies such as Peanut Labs, Tap Research, and Opinions Direct. In exchange for small payments, typically $0.30 to $10, you can take short (two to fifteen minutes, depending on the company, length, and difficulty) surveys. You receive credit once the company receives and reviews your survey, which can take anywhere from a few minutes to one week (though most surveys credit on the same day). Note that you can’t just provide nonsensical answers in an effort to complete surveys as fast as possible. If the survey company notes inconsistencies in your responses or finds obvious signs that you didn’t take the survey seriously (such as answering “Yes” to every question), it will throw out your answers and you won’t get paid. In most cases, you can attempt the same survey multiple times per day. However, with the exception of PeanutLabs (which allows up to five successful survey credits per day) you can only be credited for the same survey once.
- PaidEmail. InboxDollars’ original feature pays you to read up to three sponsored emails per day from InboxDollars’ retail partners. Payment is always $0.02 per email. To acknowledge that you received and read the email – and to receive payment – click the acknowledgement link at the bottom of the message body. InboxDollars uses your answers to its General Profile Survey to make your emails more relevant, sending you offers that you’re likely to appreciate. Some (but not all) PaidEmails come with additional earning opportunities that pay between $0.10 and $25. These might include enrolling in a free trial with a retail partner.
- Search. InboxDollars has an onsite, proprietary search engine. You earn $0.01 for each of your first five qualified searches and $0.01 for every two subsequent queries, up to a maximum of $0.15 per day (25 total qualified searches). Non-Gold members who use the search feature on four consecutive days get a $0.05 search loyalty bonus. Gold members who do the same get a $.10 bonus You don’t have to do anything with the results to keep your earnings, so there’s a minimal time investment here. Separately, InboxDollars maintains a partnership with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. When you sign up for Bing Rewards, which offers gift cards and other rewards for using the search engine, you earn $1.50 to your InboxDollars account. That’s in addition to whatever you earn through Bing Rewards, which operates independently of InboxDollars.
- Referrals. InboxDollars offers referral links (good for social media sharing) and banners (good for websites and blogs) to all members. When a new member signs up for an account using your link or banner, you get an ongoing bonus equivalent to 10% of the earnings, paid out of InboxDollars’ pocket (referred members keep 100% of their earnings). This bonus accrues to your account on a rolling basis – you earn as your referrals earn.
- Videos. For every short (30 second to 1 minute) video that you view all the way through, you can earn anywhere from $.01 to $.04 cents, depending on the video provider. Some videos can only be viewed once, while others permit unlimited viewing (and earning).
- Games. InboxDollars offers access to dozens of online games through the GSN Games family. Though you can take advantage of free game trials (typically 30 days), you can’t earn rewards until you create and fund a WorldWinner account (an online gaming rewards account) through GSN. You can earn up to 10% cash back on the total purchase of token packs and boosters, and certain GSN tournaments allow you to apply extra game winnings to your InboxDollars account. Once you deposit real money into your InboxDollars Cash Games account, which connects to your WorldWinner account, you can earn between $.01 and $.04 for each dollar you spend on weaponry, add-ons, points, or other game-related features. Note that this is basically a discount on the cost of game play, not a way to earn income.
- Gold Membership. Once you receive your first payout, you’re automatically upgraded to Gold Membership. This confers several advantages over regular membership, including double the search loyalty bonus ($0.10 instead of $0.05), expedited payment processing (roughly one to two weeks), and more exclusive offers and survey opportunities.
1. You Earn Real Cash
InboxDollars offers several ways to earn real cash: reading PaidEmails, redeeming coupons, completing surveys, referring friends, conducting targeted searches, and viewing advertorial videos. While payments for these tasks are typically quite small, they add up over time and can definitely supplement your income from your day job or other side gigs. By contrast, Swagbucks only offers online rewards that can be redeemed for gift cards, electronic coupons, and shopping discounts – not hard cash. If you care more about padding your bank account than getting deals on online merchandise, InboxDollars is a superior choice.
2. Automatic Bonus for Signing Up
When you sign up, InboxDollars immediately credits $5 to your account. It’s one of the few online rewards or cash back platforms that offer sign-up bonuses. Such competitors as Swagbucks, Zoombucks, and Qmee don’t cost anything to join, but also don’t pay you just for signing up.
3. No Need to Pay for Gold Membership
You don’t have to pay anything to become a Gold Member with InboxDollars. In fact, you’re automatically upgraded to Gold Membership once you earn $30 through the site, and you retain your membership for as long as your account remains active. Zoombucks’ VIP packages offer similar premium features, but there’s a catch: You have to pay anywhere from $6 to $60 per month, depending on your chosen package.
4. Lots of Ways to Earn and Save
InboxDollars offers many different ways to earn and save money, so whether you’re a big fan of online surveys or prefer to earn passive income by reading emails, you can find a way to benefit from membership. By contrast, competitors such as Qmee (cash rewards for targeted searches) and Memolink (surveys, coupons, and cash back on online retail purchases) are more narrowly focused.
1. You’re Charged a Fee for Each Payout
As an InboxDollars member, you’re charged $3 for every payout request.This requirement ostensibly encourages frequent use, but it’s costly if you have limited time and resources to devote to InboxDollars, or if you’re okay with just earning a few bucks (literally) on the platform. Swagbucks, Memolink, and Qmee don’t ever charge for payout requests, though they may impose minimum balance requirements that must be reached before you can ask for a payout.
2. Website Is Not Mobile-Friendly
InboxDollars launched at the turn of the millennium. Frankly, the site looks like it hasn’t had a major redesign – or even a cursory tuneup – since then. It’s all Web 1.0: small-font, out-of-line text, thumbnail images, cluttered pages, clunky navigation, and the occasional HTML error. It can be frustrating to spend a lot of time on the site. InboxDollars does have a mobile app, but downloading it takes time. And while there is a mobile browser version of InboxDollars, it doesn’t have any of the desktop version’s informational resources for non-members – it’s simply a landing page that prompts you to sign up for the service.
3. You Can Only Take Advantage of Offers Once
InboxDollars doesn’t let you take advantage of the same exact discount, coupon, and PaidEmail offer twice. Once you click on the offer link and redeem, you’re barred from doing so again, regardless of how long the offer remains valid. (That said, some broad types of offers, such as discounts on flower delivery or language tapes, tend to recur frequently – so you may just have to wait a few weeks to find a similar offer again.)
Since many of InboxDollars’ offers are similar to sales or discounts that online retailers provide directly to their customers, you may save more bypassing InboxDollars, navigating directly to each participating retailer’s website, and taking advantage of offers and discounts as often as you please. This is especially true for discounts and coupons on things you’d buy regularly, such as food staples and household goods.
4. Strict Inactivity Penalties
If you go 10 calendar days without acknowledging a PaidEmail or using your InboxDollars account, your account becomes inactive and you lose the ability to request a payment. If you go a further six months without requesting reinstatement, you permanently lose access to your account and unpaid earnings.
This is stricter than most of InboxDollars’ competitors. For instance, Memolink lets you go 90 calendar days without a login or completed task before rendering your account inactive. Swagbucks lets you go six months (180 days). And Qmee accounts never become inactive.
5. No Charity Donations
The InboxDollars platform doesn’t allow you to donate your earnings to charity. Competing sites such as Qmee and Memolink do offer this option. While not everyone using online rewards and cashback sites is interested in passing their earnings along to those in need, the lack of a charity option at InboxDollars is a big drawback if you’re serious about using your free time and energy to “pay it forward.”
People and companies have been advertising digital get-rich-quick schemes since the dawn of the Internet. That’s not about to change. But there are also plenty of legitimate, legal ways to make money – and sometimes a bonafide living – in cyberspace. You just have to know how to sort wild-eyed claims of instant riches from sustainable strategies. As in the real world, slow and steady usually wins the race.
With this in mind, InboxDollars clearly offers some value for realistic, clear-eyed folks who want to add a few extra bucks to their weekly bottom lines or save on purchases they’d make anyway. As long as you don’t expect your relationship with InboxDollars to change your life or make you rich overnight, you’ll probably do fine with it.
InboxDollars is a straightforward way to earn discounts and cash online. With free premium membership and a multitude of saving and earning opportunities, it appeals to a wide range of Internet users – those who like taking surveys, those who love finding coupon deals, and those who don’t want to do much more than type a few words into the search box.
But InboxDollars would be a lot better without strict inactivity penalties and payout fees. It would also be nice if its website could get out of the early 2000s.
3.7 out of 5 stars: Real cash, an automatic sign-up bonus, free premium membership, and multiple earning and discount opportunities all count in InboxDollars’ favor. But strict inactivity penalties, payment fees, and a mobile-unfriendly site are major cons.