What if I told you that you can get paid to play video games online?
You’d probably think it sounds sketchy.
Don’t worry, I had the same reaction. After all, it sounded too good to be true; I mean, who would pay you to play video games, and why? How much can you really make, and is it safe?
To find out, I investigated around three dozen popular games-for-cash sites. As it turns out, most of them are pretty sketchy, having paid for fake user reviews to lure users into sites that never pay out.
However, six of them stood out to me as honest, legitimate, and maybe even worthy of your time.
Overview of the Best Game Apps
- Where to play: Android, iOS, and swagbucks.com
- Typical payout: ~$2–$3 per hour.
- Cost to play: Free (most games)
- Payout method: Gift cards via email, cash via PayPal
Swagbucks is perhaps the web’s no. 1 venue for taking surveys, watching videos, and playing games for cash online. The platform is well-built, well-reviewed, and available for Android, iOS, and through your internet browser.
Upon arriving at Swagbucks’ games hub, you’ll notice that some games offer cash and some offer cash back. It’s worth clarifying that if you play popular games like Trivial Pursuit and Bejeweled 2 through Swagbucks you won’t get paid, but SB will offer you a small rebate for cash you spend inside the games.
In the second category, Swagbucks will actually pay you in cash or gift cards to play certain games. Some are recognizable, like Forge of Empires and Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire. Since you’re effectively playtesting these games for developers, Swagbucks will pay you the equivalent of ~$2 per hour in points, which can be redeemed once you earn around $5 for a gift card or PayPal transfer.
Swagbucks’ competitive advantage is the variety of non-game activities. As you accumulate points towards your next payout threshold, you can take a break from games and watch videos, take surveys, and more.
- Pros: Variety of non-game activities to accumulate points
- Cons: Variety of games
- Where to play: Android
- Typical payout: $2–$5 per hour
- Cost to play: Free
- Payout method: Gift cards via email, including Visa, Amazon, Steam, and more
Mistplay pays you to play new Android games and provides developers with feedback based upon your experience. Each 2- to 10-minute gaming session can reward the cash equivalent of $0.66, and you can begin cashing out your points as early as $5. Mistplay will then email you your gift card within 48 hours.
Mistplay pays out a little above average, and I admire the platform for being both developer- and user-friendly. First, to benefit developers who test their games through Mistplay, the app accelerates cash earnings the longer you test a game, so you’re incentivized to play longer and provide better feedback to its creators. Second, Mistplay offers users a feature called the “Mix” whereby it’ll generate a playlist of gaming experiences based upon your genre preferences (puzzle, platforming, action, etc.).
In total, Mistplay is a great place for gamers to test new games and help out developers while earning a trickle of cash for their efforts. As far as games-for-cash sites go, Mistplay seems among the most wholesome and well-intentioned.
- Pros: Curates based upon your gaming preferences, can feel rewarding to help developers
- Cons: Only available on Android
- Where to play: Android and iOS
- Typical payout: 0.1% APY plus jackpots ranging from $100 to $1,000,000
- Cost to play: Free for 30 days, then $3 monthly (waived if you set up automatic savings)
- Payout method: Direct deposit into savings
Long Game is best described as a gamified savings account. When you make a deposit into your Long Game account, whether automatic or manual, Long Game will reward you for saving by giving you coins that you can use to play games. These games often come with cash rewards.
Founded by a California-based Millennial looking to inspire young people to save, Long Game offers a free 30-day trial and stays free as long as you use direct deposit. What’s also nice is that all of your money is FDIC-insured.
Let’s say the industry average APY these days is around 1.0% (it fluctuates) and Long Game’s is 0.1%. That extra 0.9% interest is effectively what funds Long Game’s jackpots. All of the bank’s games are chance-based, so you’re essentially exchanging your 0.9% interest for a chance to win daily payouts ranging from $100 to $1,000,000.
For young savers, 0.9% APY is a pretty small amount to “gamble,” so if the lure of getting more coins to play games incentivizes you to save more in the long run, Long Game might be a good fit. Plus, if you make $1,000 in the Long Game slots one day, you could make up that 0.9% APY gap and then some!
- Pros: Can incentivize more saving, potential jackpots can offset lower APY
- Cons: Low base APY of 0.1%
- Where to play: Android and inboxdollars.com
- Typical payout: $1–$2 per hour
- Cost to play: Free
- Payout method: Gift cards via email, cash via PayPal
InboxDollars, like Swagbucks, is a popular destination for making a trickle of cash online. The site offers surveys, videos, and of course, games as ways to earn a few cents to a few bucks per hour.
Available as a site and Android app (the iOS app is for surveys only), InboxDollars makes up for below-average payout amounts with a sheer variety of games to play. Their extensive library includes classics like solitaire, mahjong, and sudoku, but also new mobile games in need of testing.
If you’re already addicted to simple browser and mobile games like the ones listed above, InboxDollars might be a no-brainer. You won’t make a ton of money by only playing for an hour or two a day, but it adds up fast.
Plus, if you tire of games, you can also switch over to videos or survey-taking as ways to accumulate InboxDollars on your way to their $30 minimum threshold. It’ll take a while, but at least you’ll have plenty of ways to get there.
- Pros: Variety of games
- Cons: Below-average earnings
- Where to play: Android and iOS
- Typical payout: Up to 10% off at over 3,500 retailers
- Cost to play: Free
- Payout method: Delayed cash back on purchases
Okay, so Tokyo-based Rakuten isn’t exactly a paid gaming app. You won’t get paid $2 an hour to play Angry Birds 2 — but several folks told me they switched from gaming apps to Rakuten because the savings outweighed the income generation from gaming.
And to Rakuten’s credit, the app does kinda “gamify” shopping.
Here’s how Rakuten (Japanese for “optimism”) works. If you’re on the way to the store, instead of a gaming app, crack open Rakuten and see what exclusive deals the retailer is currently offering through Rakuten. Link the credit card you’re about to use at the register, swipe it to pay, and Rakuten automatically registers that you’ve earned the reward.
In total, Rakuten claims to have saved shoppers over $3.5 billion in cash back from over 3,500 retailers. And the deals constantly change with the tide, which makes it kinda fun.
Just be careful not to let Rakuten convince you to spend money you’d otherwise be saving!
- Pros: Constantly changing deals to suit your shopping tastes
- Cons: May tempt you to spend money
Google Opinion Rewards
- Where to play: Android and iOS
- Typical payout: $4–$5 per hour (when surveys are available)
- Cost to play: Free
- Payout method: PayPal or Play Store credit
Finally, there’s Google Opinion Rewards. Yep, the Google. They have a paid survey app and, as you can imagine, it’s pretty well-made.
Here’s how Google describes it. Nice and simple:
“Complete short surveys while standing in line, or waiting for a subway. Get rewarded with Google Play or PayPal credit for each one you complete.”
The app maintains a 4.7 out of 5 stars in the Play Store and the positive reviews seem legit. Folks complain about the occasional shortage of surveys to take, sure, but they still seem to earn enough cash overall to cover one premium subscription each month (e.g., YouTube Premium for $11.99).
The app deserves kudos for overall stability, too, since paid survey apps tend to crash frequently and cause frustration.
Overall, Google Opinion Rewards is a top choice if you’re looking to get paid to share your thoughts.
- Pros: Positive reviews and stable app
- Cons: Sometimes limited surveys
How I Came Up with this List
To create this list I investigated about three dozen of the most popular games-for-cash sites and apps. I graded each using a rubric combining multiple factors:
- Legitimacy — Is the app what it claims to be, or is it stealing data?
- Usability — Does the app work and is it regularly updated and supported?
- User reviews — Is the quality and legitimacy of the app verified by real user reviews?
- Cash payout — Do users report actually receiving cash from the app?
- Variety and quality of games — Quite simply, are the games fun and varied?
To my surprise, even some of the most popular games-for-cash apps failed stupendously in two of the most critical metrics: user reviews and cash payout.
Many games-for-cash apps have glowing App Store reviews that are clearly fake and paid for. This really bothers me, because it means that rather than listen to their critical user feedback, developers chose instead to spend resources drowning them out so they could lure more users into broken apps. Fake review scores mean a developer doesn’t care and neither should you.
Next, some of the more popular games-for-cash apps have developed an insidious scheme whereby they cut off earnings just short of their payout threshold. For example, one app has a $10 minimum payout amount, which sounds easy to reach, but right as users approached $9.85 in credit, earning opportunities mysteriously dried up.
As a result, users stuck in a sunk-cost fallacy would continue to log in for weeks and months, digging through ads for opportunities that didn’t exist. Basically, the app had duped them into hours of free labor, and naturally, had no place on this list.
Game Apps to Avoid and Why
Now that I’ve shared six apps that I think are worth your time, here are three that aren’t. Out of the dozens of apps I investigated, I’m shining a spotlight on this ignominious trifecta because their shadiness was the most well-hidden. These three sites and apps appear legit at first, but there’s something more mischievous, even sinister underneath their facades.
No single violation disqualified Bananatic from this list. Rather, it was more of a “death by 1,000 cuts” situation, since everywhere I looked I got an uneasy vibe from this site.
Everything about Bananatic looks legit at first glance. According to Similar Web, the site has over a quarter-million visitors per month plus a similar number of Likes on Facebook, and the BananApp (as it’s called) received plenty of five-star reviews on the Play Store. Plus, the site itself looks pretty legit and well-designed, almost like a rival to Steam.
However, the plot thickens as I pulled back the curtain. Despite having 256,000 Facebook Likes, nobody engages with their content, posted at precisely 9 AM every four days. Many of their five-star reviews on the Play Store sound fake, and when a real human publishes a legit one-star review, Bananatic responds “Please change or delete your opinion.”
If their overall shadiness wasn’t enough, Banatic pays out slower than average, and who knows what they do with your personal information. So for those reasons, I recommend you seek sanctuary in Mistplay instead.
Givling was the last games-for-cash site to be ejected from my final list. It wasn’t easy, because I cheered for Givling. I wanted the app to be as good as it sounded.
But like a well-written Game of Thrones character, Givling lured me in with initial likeability, only to betray me with its darker nature.
In my defense, it’s hard not to admire Givling after hearing its elevator pitch. It’s a trivia app where the semi-weekly winners split a $50,000 jackpot to help pay off their mortgage or student loans. Players really do receive the money, which mostly comes from sponsors.
See, the problem with Givling is that you can’t just log in tomorrow, win the week’s trivia, and receive the jackpot. Everything you do in Givling raises your place in the “queue,” and whoever’s at the top of the queue every two weeks gets the jackpot.
You can rise up the queue by watching ads and playing games, but also by buying products from Givling’s sponsors and simply handing the app money.
Do you see the problem? You essentially have to “bid” your way to the top, which explains why one woman had to spend $42,000 to win $50,000 (and countless players spend thousands for nothing).
Inevitably, in 2019 Givling got blasted by CNBC for manipulating and frisking players who were simply desperate to pay off their student loans. A Minnesota state legislator called it “gambling” while watchdog group Pyramid Scheme Alert called it “a sophisticated scheme.”
Givling would claim that they’ve since introduced a Free Queue, and much of the pay-to-play revenue goes to crowdfund someone else’s student loans, but I think these are shaky defenses; even the free queue is going to suck up too much of peoples’ time for nothing, and you shouldn’t be financing someone’s student loans by driving others deeper into debt.
Student loan debt is a crushing mental and financial burden on our generation, and I don’t think anyone should be profiting off of false hopes. If you really want to pay off your student loans sooner, don’t buy lottery tickets or waste time on Givling.
Lucky Day was endorsed by so many “Top 10 Games-For-Cash Sites” listicles that I assumed it must have some air of legitimacy. Furthermore, it offered a simple, seemingly incorruptible premise: play free virtual scratch-offs, maybe win some cash.
Even still, the app had a rather nasty trick up its sleeve, one that I alluded to earlier.
Lucky Day has a payout threshold of $10. When you collect enough points, you’re supposed to head to the in-app marketplace to exchange your points for a gift card. However, users are reporting that once they reach about $9.90 worth of points, they never seem to win the last $0.10 despite weeks, months, even years of attempts.
Once you approach the threshold, the app pushes paid “upgrades” that supposedly increase your chances of earning those final $0.10 so you can finally cash out. Users spend $1, $3, then $5 on upgrades but still don’t win the final $0.10.
Meanwhile, Lucky Day continues to profit from user frustration through upgrade purchases and ad views. To add insult to injury, even the scant few users who do cross the $10 threshold report that once they do, all of the gift cards in the marketplace instantly become “out of stock” and unavailable for purchase.
Lucky Day also has a comically shady Play Store presence. Predictably, pretty much all of its reviews are scathing, with users complaining about the impassable $10 threshold and “sold out” gift cards. And yet, most of the reviews are scored five stars so the app averages 4.1. The only reason I can think of why users would score an app they dislike with five stars is because said app incentivized them to (fraudulently).
I hope that my descriptions of Bananatic, Givling, and Lucky Day serve as reminders that most games-for-cash sites are a waste of time at best and can fleece you out of thousands at worst. If you’re really interested in experimenting with this type of website, you’ll find safer havens in the six that I’ve highlighted.
How to Spot a Sketchy Paid Gaming App
Now that we’ve covered some legit and less-legit cash-generating apps, what red flags should you watch out for to separate the two?
Let’s use the weirdest, sketchiest one I came across as an ignominious example: Coin Pop.
For starters, Coin Pop is an Android-only app, not to be mistaken for COIN POP — Covered in Kitties listed on the App Store.
(There’s a sentence I never thought I’d write).
Anyways, despite having the less interesting name of the two, Coin Pop for Android is one quirky gaming app. On the surface it’s pretty standard stuff: play games, reach “levels,” convert level bonuses to cash.
But things get weird from there.
First, once you register, Coin Pop will ask your age and gender so it can offer you a preselected list of what it thinks are age- and gender-specific games (Coin Pop isn’t gunning for Politically Correct App of the Year).
Then, Coin Pop will prompt you to download games you’d like to play individually. This can take up some serious space on your hard drive, and since the ROI on certain games tends to drop off a cliff after a few sessions, you’re encouraged to keep downloading new games constantly and sucking up your data.
Worse still, the app used to let you cash out as little as $0.50 worth of earnings, and securely via PayPal, no less.
But now, Coin Pop has moved the goalpost to $35 — and even the most dedicated users report it being impossible to get there. Multiple users have reported getting super close, only to be logged out and unable to log back in.
But I love Coin Pop because it’s a one-stop-shop for every red flag in the paid gaming space. A jack-of-all-trades of shadiness, if you will.
Those red flags are:
- Requires a concerning amount of personal data upfront (e.g., facial ID)
- Uses too much mobile data
- Appears to be “abandonware” with little to no developer support
- A confusing rewards system
- A manipulative and unreachable cashing out threshold
- Overwhelmingly negative app reviews
- A disconnect between anonymous rating scores and published review scores
- Doesn’t tell you when you’re not earning cash to trick you into playing “for free”
Here are some other paid gaming apps that raised at least two of these red flags:
- Poll Pay
- App Flame
- Money Well
- Bingo Clash
- Money RAWR
Can the developers turn these apps around? Possibly. But for now, I subjectively think they’re a waste of time.
Why Do Game Apps Let You Play for Money?
When you play games through apps like Swagbucks, Mistplay, or InboxDollars, they’re paying you because you’re watching ads or testing games for their clients, the developers.
In essence, you’re every child’s dream: a paid video game tester. Even if you’re not directly providing feedback via surveys, the developers are collecting background data like how long it took you to complete a certain quest, where you got lost, which items you used, etc. This is incredibly valuable data to mobile game developers, especially since they’re competing to make the most playable and addictive game possible.
How Much Money Can You Make Playing Games Online?
Payouts from games-for-cash sites and apps can range from a few cents per hour to an entire $50,000 jackpot.
On average, you can consistently make around $2 per hour playing games online.
Overall, games-for-cash sites aren’t much of an income generator, so I don’t recommend that you play them for the money. Instead, play them for fun and enjoy the trickle of cash as a side bonus.
Is My Personal Information Safe on these Websites?
Sharing your name, email, and phone number online is never totally risk-free, but generally speaking, you’ll be OK sharing the bare essentials on these sites.
In some cases, these sites may redirect you to third-party apps or games. If so, follow these tips to protect your personal information, and don’t hesitate to back out if you feel uncomfortable:
- Add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry
- Use an alternative email address
- Give a fake phone number (XXX-555-XXXX)
- Use your last initial instead of your full name
- Never give possible answers to “secret questions” i.e., name of childhood best friend
Read more: Signs You’re at Risk for Identity Theft
“Play games for cash” sounds too good to be true, and it mostly is. The majority of games-for-cash sites are junk, luring users in with fake review scores and teasing them with cash payouts that will never come.
However, there are at least six that are honest and well-intentioned. Swagbucks, Mistplay, and InboxDollars offer you a trickle of cash for helping developers test their games. Long Game encourages you to save. Rakuten shaves a little off the top at some of your favorite stores, and Google Opinion Surveys will honestly pay you for your $0.02.
For a list of apps that may be less fun upfront, but will help you save life-changing money, check out the Best Budgeting Apps for Managing Your Money.