It's incredible how much the web evolves and changes every day. I mean, remember when we used to clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper and look for recommendations in Consumer Reports? Now we check our inboxes for daily deals, we grab coupons from our smartphones, and search for recommendations online.
With all of these technological advances, companies are looking for new ways to introduce consumers to their products and services. One such way that they are doing this is through referral links and programs.
Instead of paying money for traditional advertising methods, brands are offering freebies and cash incentives to consumers who spread the word about their products and services.
The cool thing about making money with referral links is you don't need a website to spread the word. You can do it via your social media and email accounts.
How Do You Get Started with Referral Programs?
The first thing you need to do is get an account with the referral company. Once you have your account set up, they'll provide you with a unique URL (link) that tracks when friends and family members sign-up through your tracking link.
You then share your links online, via email, and text, and when a friend signs up and does the necessary action, you'll be credited with cash, points, credits, or the like.
Are you ready to earn some swag and make money with referral links?
Top Ways to Earn Money With Referral Links
Dabbl is a smartphone application individuals can use to earn points by watching videos and taking surveys. It takes 5,000 points to earn a $5.00 gift card, and retailers include stores like Amazon, Starbucks, Target, and Walmart. Another way to earn points with Dabbl is by referring people to the app. For each person you refer to the app and who earns 1,000 points — you'll earn 2,000 referral points, which is equivalent to $2.00!
Cardpool is a website where you can buy and sell unwanted gift cards. I've used it a few times to sell and trade gift cards that I received but wasn't able to use. Once you create an account with Cardpool, click on the banner at the top of the site that says Refer a Friend, Get $5 — and send your referral link out via email, Facebook, Twitter, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Your friend will receive $5 off their first order when they sign-up with Cardpool, you'll earn a $5.00 credit.
ReceiptPay is a smartphone app that rewards users with points for receipts that they scan into the app. Points can be traded in for sweepstake entries and gift cards from stores like Amazon. You can also earn 250 points for every person who signs up with your referral link and connects their email account to the app. In fact, you can earn up to 6,250 points from referrals each month!
Dosh is a smartphone app that gives you cash back at participating retailers. Just download the app, connect your credit card, and when you shop at a participating store or restaurant — you'll earn a percentage back on your purchase. You can also earn $5 for each friend you refer to Dosh (when they link their credit card). The thing I love about this app is it's totally passive since it's directly connected to your credit card. You can request payment once your account reaches the $25 threshold, and you'll earn $5.00 for connecting your credit card to the app.
Drop is a smartphone application that rewards you for shopping. All you have to do is download the app and connect your credit card via their secure (256-bit encryption) application, and each time you make a purchase at a participating retailer, you'll earn points. You can also earn points for referring your friends! With your referral link, you can give friends 1,000 Drop points ($1), and you'll earn 1,000 points ($1) when your friend joins and links their card. Points can be redeemed for gift cards from Starbucks, Aerie, American Eagle, iTunes, Gap, Old Navy, Nordstrom, and many more!
Formerly Ebates, Rakuten is an online shopping and cashback website. Just create an account, click on the retailer you want to shop with, and you'll earn a cashback percentage on your purchase. Plus, as a new member, you'll receive an additional $10 cashback bonus when you make your first $25 purchase within 90 days. Refer your friends and watch your earnings really add up! For each person, you refer to the platform (that joins and spends $25) you'll earn a $25 referral bonus — which means you can earn unlimited cashback referrals! Rakuten has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
FusionCash is a digital earning site that will pay you for surveys, videos, tasks, mobile apps, games, and referring friends! Earn $5 for signing up (you have to verify your email address and answer a short survey). According to their website, “You'll earn $1 when a referral confirms their email, $2 when they complete a Paid to Sign Up offer, and $5 each time they are approved for cash out – for life.” Which means you can make a good amount of recurring money with this referral program. FusionCash has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Ibotta is a smartphone app you can use to earn money when you go shopping. Before you head out on a shopping trip, complete the tasks related to your favorite brands and companies. Go shopping, scan the barcodes of the items you purchased, and snap a photo of your receipt, and you'll earn cashback rewards. You can also earn money by referring your friends to the application. Generally, you earn $5 per friend you refer when they redeem an offer, but, some months they have special initiatives going on so you can earn even more. I've been using Ibotta for a few years now, and I've earned over $1700 using this app for coupons and referrals.
With InboxDollars, you can earn cash for surveys, reading emails, playing games, redeeming coupons, searching the web, shopping online, and referring friends. Membership is free, and you'll receive a $5.00 bonus just for signing up. With their referral program, you'll earn 10 percent of your referrals' qualified earnings — which could mean a handsome payout just for referrals! You do need to earn $30 before you can request a payout, and payouts are made via check or Visa card. InboxDollars has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Instacart is a service that will shop and deliver your groceries to you. I was hesitant to use this service because I'm picky about my fruits and veggies, but it's been great! It saves me so much time, plus I hate grocery shopping! With Instacart, you can refer your friends to the platform, and when they sign-up and place their first order, they'll receive $10 off their delivery, and you'll earn $10 in Instacart credit too. The only downside is they only allow you to earn $50 total in credit.
Groupon is a daily deal site where they send out emails containing local specials, discounts, and deals. When you create an account and refer your friends to Groupon, you'll earn $10 in Groupon Bucks whenever they buy their first deal. Groupon Bucks can be redeemed for Groupon specials and discounts.
Seated is similar to Rakuten, in that it rewards you for dining out. Just download the app, make a reservation through the app, and snap a picture of your receipt. For each dining experience, you'll earn a percentage back in rewards that can be used at stores like Amazon, Sephora, Nordstrom, and more. You'll also earn more rewards when you refer your friends! For each new user that signs-up and dines out, you'll make $35! Refer five friends to the app (they have to download and dine out), and Seated will pay you 5% of what they earn on all future reservations! Currently, Seated is only available in a handful of cities, but they are rapidly expanding!
FetchRewards is a smartphone app that rewards individuals for scanning their receipts to the platform. They only accept big box store and grocery receipts, but for each qualified receipt that you upload, you'll earn points. With these points, you can purchase gift cards from a wide variety of retailers, or you can donate them to charity, or enter sweepstakes. It currently takes 5,000 points to earn a $5 gift card. Another way you can earn points is by referring people to the app. For each person you refer, and who uploads a receipt, you'll each earn 2,000 points!
Respondent is a qualitative research group that recruits participants for a variety of research studies. With Respondent, you can earn money by participating in surveys and research studies, or you can make money by referring your friends, family, and colleagues. You can refer people to specific projects, or you can refer them to the site in general. With project referrals, you'll earn $50 when a referral completes a particular study, or you'll earn $20 for each participant that completes a study through your general referral link. Payments are made via PayPal. Be sure to check out our full Respondent review here.
Shopkick is a smartphone app that rewards you with kicks (points) for shopping, walking into stores, scanning barcodes on products, making purchases, and referring your friends to the platform. Invite your friends via text, email, or Facebook, and each of you will earn 250 kicks when they accept your invite and get their first walk-in or scan within seven days of joining. Kicks can be traded in for gift cards from Walmart, Target, Starbucks, Amazon, eBay, Lowes, Tiffany, and many more! Since I've been using Shopkick, I've earned over 121,000 kicks — which is a lot of FREE Starbucks coffee (500 kicks equals $2).
16. Stitch Fix
If you hate shopping (like I do), then you'll love this one! StitchFix is a personal shopping service that will hand-select five items (clothing, shoes, handbags, or accessories) based on your personal style profile. The styling fee is $20 and can be applied to any items you decide to purchase. Any clothing you don't like — you just send back to them in a pre-addressed shipping bag. And when you refer your friends to StitchFix, and they schedule a fix (order a subscription box), you'll earn a $25 StitchFix credit. This video talks about StitchFix and their work-from-home styling job — but it also gives you a good look at what comes in a box.
Swagbucks is a digital earning platform where you can earn points, called Swagbucks (SB), for searching the web, taking surveys, watching videos, shopping online, clipping coupons, and yes, referring your friends! Sign-up for a new account, and you'll earn $5 right off the bat! All you have to do is share your referral link with your friends and family (you can do this via email, social media, or your blog). Once your referral signs up and earns 300 SB, you'll receive 300 SB too! Plus, you'll also get 10 percent of their earnings for life. Swagbucks can be traded in for cash via PayPal or for gift cards from Starbucks, Walmart, Target, and more. Swagbucks has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
If you use Pinterest or Instagram for your business or blog, you'll enjoy this one! Tailwind is a social media scheduler that allows you to schedule pins and photos. If you decide to invite your friends to the platform, they'll get a free month of Tailwind service, and you'll earn a $15 credit too!
thredUP is a site where you can sell and buy used and new clothing. I've been using thredUP since 2015 to sell all my daughter's outgrown clothing and shoes. Whatever ever money we earn, we turn around and use it to buy new-to-me stuff. They also have a great referral program where if you refer a friend and they make a purchase, they'll receive a $10 credit, and you'll earn a $10 thredUP credit. Credits must be used with 30-days, and the maximum number of credits you can receive in a calendar year is $580.00. Everything I've ever bought off of thredUP has been like new, and we've been able to new brands for little to nothing!
Zulily is a daily deal site for home décor, clothing (women, men, and children), toys, shoes, and more. When you invite your friends, and when they make their first purchase on Zulily, you'll earn a $15 Zulily credit. With Zulily, you must use your credit within 90 days of issuance.
By no means is this list extensive, there are tons of ways to get free swag and make money with referral links. You can generally find referral programs with companies and brands that you're already using. For instance, both my bank and credit card have referral programs for when a new user creates an account or signs-up for a credit card with them — and these programs pay handsomely, like $100 per referral.
You can also find out if the services, brands, and companies you're using have a referral program by asking — I know many cable and cell phone providers offer referral programs. If you're using it and loving it, why not share it with your friends and get rewarded at the same time!
Have you used referral programs? If so, drop us a note; we'd love to know about your experience.
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Originally published May 6, 2012. Content updated February 12, 2020.
Holly Reisem Hanna is the publisher and founder of The Work at Home Woman, which has been helping individuals find remote careers and businesses that feed their souls since 2009. Through her unconventional career path of holding over 30 jobs and obtaining two college degrees, she's been able to figure out how to find a career path that you're truly passionate about. Holly's had the pleasure of sharing her expertise on sites like CNN, MSN Money, Huffington Post, Woman's Day Magazine, as well as being recognized by Forbes as one of the “Top 100 Websites for Your Career.” Holly resides in Austin, Texas, with her husband and daughter and enjoys reading, traveling, and yoga.
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