Have you ever searched for a way to make money online or wondered about how to find a new passive income stream? The Internet is filled with get-rich-quick schemes but most only get the instigator rich. The idea of passive income is appealing for the obvious reasons: a little upfront work and then sit back and reap the benefits. If this sounds too good to be true, it's not. There are legitimate ways to earn a little spending money without much effort. You won't get rich, and the methods mostly involve selling information about your habits and interests, but if you're game there are buyers out there.
When you consume free online services, you're essentially trading away rights to information about yourself. When you "like" something on Facebook, make a purchase at the local grocery using the loyalty card, or search the Internet, that action is often recorded, bundled with others' data, and sold in one form or another. If you're okay with sharing your information but would rather (or additionally) be rewarded with cash than with a service, several companies are willing to compensate you.
Great Bridge Group (GBG) pays for access to your spending habits. You provide data by linking up your credit card accounts using bank-level 256-bit SSL encryption. GBG sells your purchase history as anonymous and aggregated information to its partners as the raw material for identifying trends in consumer spending. In turn, GBG pays you 0.25 percent of your total spending once every 90 days in the form of a PayPal transfer, Amazon gift card, or donation to one of several charities. The earning maximum is $60 a pay period ($240 a year), which translates to nearly $8,000 in spending each month. GBG also rewards you with $5 for referring a friend and in the future may add new ways to earn money (e.g., completing surveys). These are hardly big bucks, but if your rewards card already gives you 1 percent back on purchases, now you'll earn 1.25 percent back.
Another passive income option is Panel App, an iPhone and Android app that pays you in exchange for keeping tabs on where you are. It records your movements (anonymously) using your smartphone's GPS capabilities and occasionally asks you to confirm where you were at a given time and given day with survey questions. You earn points for leaving the app on and then exchange those points for money or gift cards. A company representative we spoke with explained that you earn more points the more you move around throughout the day. One downside pointed out by users is that the constant use of the phone's GPS system drains the battery pretty quickly, and anyone on the go knows how hard it can be to recharge the phone.
Panel App estimates that most people earn about 33 points a day, or 1.38 points an hour. The surveys to confirm your location are optional, but if answered truthfully you earn an additional four hours worth of points. For as little as 20 points you can enter to win a $5 Amazon gift card or PayPal payout, but if you want guaranteed winnings the rate is 3,000 points for $2 on Amazon. Panel App's real potential lies in its referral system: You earn 10 percent of the points earned by the first 1,000 people you refer to the program plus 5 percent of the points earned by the first 500 people referred by your referrals. We calculated this out and if everyone in your network kept the app up and answered three survey questions a week you'd bring in a guaranteed $1,620 worth of points every year. It's not a likely scenario but it's a shot to aim for.
Both of these passive income streams are a little creepy (hello, NSA) - you're literally selling intimate details about your habits and life for a few dollars. Then again, you often give away this information in exchange for using a free app or website. One small safeguard with both services is that information is anonymous and the companies that buy the data don't care about a single person's experience because they're fixated on the trends.