No self-respecting reviewer of the online survey panels could claim to have a good collection of reviewed sites if he or she does not cover Swagbucks, especially when it is arguably the top dog in the paid survey market, allegedly beating CashCrate comfortably in the popularity rating.
And Swagbucks itself is never shy of trumpeting its own competitive strength, claiming that the largest web-based rewards program can only be found at the site.
All in all, regular readers of my blog would notice I approached this review somewhat differently from my usual work, as Swagbucks is not one paid survey site that can be measured by a usual yardstick.
Having said that, I would still subscribe to the core activities that have become a definitive part of my review work, which is to sign up as a member, check out the sorts of work available and the corresponding reward programs, picking up work as any member would, and finally presenting my findings and drawing my conclusions about this company.
I is always my fervent hope that readers can gain from my experience and make up their decision if this is a company they can trust, or it is just simply a scam.
To start with, Swagbucks is operated by Prodege LLC.
Due to the background of the parent company, Prodege is a popular provider of branded and incentivized online reward portals, it is no surprise that the Los Angeles based Swagbucks is pretty much focused on an online loyalty program.
Prodege claims to have many established and international brands under their ‘Search&Win’ program as partners. Some of them include The New York Giants, World Wresting Entertainment, WGN America, Element, and KISS.
Today Swagbucks counts more than 4 million netizens as registered members. This is one of the most amazing growth story (given its relatively short time of existence) ever observed in, as far as online reward programs are concerned.
This remarkable feat has not gone unnoticed, the Inc. 500 in 2011 decided that Swagbucks is among the top 50 fastest-growing companies, and among the top 10 Internet companies. In LA itself, the Los Angeles Business Journal sees Swagbucks among the top three fastest-growing companies there.
It is also viewed favorably by Alexa.com. According to this Internet traffic tracking company, SB is the 115th most visited website in the US, and 539th when measured internationally.
Better Business Bureau’s Rating
Consistent with my past investigations, I headed out to the Better Business Bureau website to see how the company fares over there. I could not see any rating at the BBB’s website, but came across this statement nevertheless:
BBB is currently updating its files on all businesses in the Greater Los Angeles area and pending that review, a BBB rating is unavailable. However, this business is Accredited by BBB, which means that the business has committed to meeting our standards.
This same message was still posted there the last time I checked, which was on May 15, 2013. So it looks like I will have to go back in another day to check out it’s rating on the BBB. As soon as I get it, I will update the information on this same blog.
So, What is Swagbucks?
To start off, you would agree with me that the name Swagbucks tends to invoke curiosity. I know people often say that the marketing folks represent some of the most creative minds out there. But for being able to come off this name, I take my hat off to the marketing genius at this company. But the name is not the only thing that sticks out.
What makes this site outstanding among the competitions in the industry is their remarkable reward systems. The compensation for your work is not rewarded in cash.
They have a points-based reward system using their “swag bucks”. You can literally see that each swag buck carries a face value of about one US cent (¢).
You keep accumulating these points until you get to the threshold level. At that point, you can head off to their “Swag Store” and make your redemption. You can exchange for a number of rewards (cache included).
I summarized the working of the system as follows:
Before you can start doing any real work, you need to of course signup for an account. It’s free.
Incidentally, the website also represents the first opportunity you can begin to score points with Swagbucks. When you choose to use the search engine presented on this website, they will reward you with points. Do not worry too much about this proprietary search engine, as the results are typically drawn out from trusted sources such as Google or Ask.com, so there is no valid ground to worry about the authenticity of the search engine.
Now, this is a form of sweepstakes, with the stake being the swag bucks. It is really a game of probability, as the winner is drawn out in a completely random manner. I also noticed some of their competitors are also doing this on their respective sites.
When it comes to innovativeness in the reward system, Swagbucks is really on top of its game. I have never seen such many varied reward options.
For example, members can choose to tune into SBTV (their in-house internet video channel), enjoying online games, and naturally, taking up an online survey. I will expand on the survey part since this is probably the reason you are reading my blog.
In the meantime, I will elaborate further on their search engine, undoubtedly, the most prominent feature of the site, and go on to present my case of Swagbucks being a completely legit company or a scam.
Before you read on, I thought it is nice to point out that it only accepts user’s from the UK, Canada, and the US. The site also imposes age limit, with all members having to be at least 13 years of age.
Do Online Search and Get Rewarded!
If this is the first time ever you are checking out the “taking survey and get paid” space, you would very likely be more amazed by “getting paid for searching the web” idea. While I agree that this is a novelty, I had strong doubts if this business is going to take off.
But a 30 minutes search on their site completely changed my opinion. I was looking for a new radio anyway and I thought no harm in giving them a try. At the end of my search, I found a fanciful radio within my budget, and my account also got richer by 10 Swag bucks.
Seems like the reward is more than decent given the short time I spent on their search engine, though I have to warn you that things do not necessarily work this way as you would soon notice.
On average, you can expect a couple of Sbucks a day when you spend time on their search engine.
So, do not misread this and come to the conclusion that you could accumulate plenty of Swag bucks if you are willing to put in the hours doing the search on their website. It is never intended to be this way.
The site does not explain how they equate search to rewards, but if you bothered to read through the faq, you would have come across statement effectively saying that the reward is not a function of the number of times spent on a search engine, but rather how much time you spend on individual searches.
What is surely in your control is that you can habitually turn to their search engine whenever you are looking for something. To nurture this habit, the site has come up with a toolbar that I think is very helpful in getting you into the mood of doing this.
With the installation of the toolbar, it’s easy to get to a dashboard to conduct your search.
Once you are inside the dashboard, one click on the mouse would quickly lead you to the different reward programs.
In other words, this option would work well for folks who regularly do searches and spend a fair bit of time on their searches. I
f you don’t see yourself fall into this kind of description, I think some of the other reward options could work better for you.
After spending some time walking through on how you can get rewarded using their search engine, I will now want to bring your attention to some other ways to earn money with Swagbucks.
- Swag Codes:
Swag Codes are not for you to earn, but rather for you to find. The working principle is not unlike digital solid gold, you paste the Swag codes at some specified location your account member’s area as instructed.
Every day, the parent site makes Swag code available (at least one) on its blog so you need to make a habit to check out their blog.
It is great that the toolbar can be installed on all popular web browsers. So if yours is Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer, you should have no problem installing it.
I have mentioned that the toolbar is a great option to get to the search engine and make a subsequent search. Additionally, there is always “swag bucks” to be made by just starting up your web browser.
I feel this is the least alluring option on offer at this site.
It is hard to pin down what the site’s surveys want to achieve, but these are not the surveys that collect market research information that businesses are ready to pay big (means that you make very little points for taking and completing such surveys).
For dedicated survey takers, options such as Outpost would present a more regular and more profitable option.
You would like this if you shop online a lot. It operates similarly to those of discount coupon sites like Groupon.com, so expect to see generous discounts and super deals on daily basis.
Sometimes they feature certain deals, which could turn out to be a great money-saving opportunity as well of chalking up points.
At this point, I also want to stress that it is not a good idea to go shopping for the sake (or excuse) to earn rewards.
- Daily Goals:
This is some sort of goal tracking mechanism. A meter is going to be put on display showing your projected points (as your daily goal) against what you have physically accumulated.
If you get to that goal, you will be rewarded with bonus points.
You gamers would love this, the variety of games presented on SB is mind-boggling, and that includes flash games as well. But the most important thing is that you earn points as you play.
- Referral Program:
I think SB probably has one of the best referral programs in the market.
First off, you get rewarded when you introduce friends and family members to the program. Technically, you could get rewarded as much as 100 Swag bucks every time you bring in a new member.
There is, of course, a catch, which requires your referrals to be active members and are just intent of earning rewards as you do.
The higher the level of participation of your referrals; the more the points you stand to make.
One more unique feature is the “Tasks” section. CrowdFlower, the most frequented crowdsourcing company, is behind this task.
In general, you can expect simple tasks that are not possible to be done by machines, so human efforts are invariably involved (this is similar to Amazon Turk, that famous microtask site owned by the online shop giant, Amazon.com) like consolidation of critical information for businesses, transcribing audio files, and things that fall along this line.
While Mturk pays in cash for committing certain tasks, you get to earn points here.
- SB TV:
This is like YouTube of Swagbuck’s creation. How it works is that you view 10 videos and you make 3 Swag bucks.
Obviously, this is not a lot. However, if you enjoy and spend time looking at lots of videos on a regular basis, why not make some Swag bucks as you spend time on them.
I sometimes wonder why no other survey site (CashCrate or Global Test Market included) offer this feature that is so cool!
Members are allowed to trade their video games, consoles and books in exchange for Swag Bucks.
This is a lottery system, PERIOD. You can enter as many draws as you desire and the winning comes in the form of Swag bucks, and many of them.
The site also makes it compulsory to exchange your Swag bucks for entry into a sweepstake. If you believe you have the luck, you are more than welcome to check this out.
Redemption can happen when your account reaches some pre-defined level. I think the rewards need to be more attractive to stay competitive.
So, if you are single mind enough to make serious use of your time to get serious money, I would say this site is probably the one to pass over.
On the other hand, if video games and gift cards work for you, then you bring your accumulated points to Swagbucks’ store. I read from Wikipedia that SB has disbursed some $27 million to its members.
You would probably be impressed with the collection of its store. Some attractive items here include electronics, gift cards, clothes, video games, etc. But there is still this rigid rule practiced here (to be fair, this is almost just as applicable to all other survey or rewards sites), there is going to be at least one-week waiting time before you could lay claims on the rewards you’ve earned.
To Join or Not To Join?
Honestly, I would not advise this site to anybody who is in need of real earning, and on a timely basis. But then again, facts be told, I have yet to come across any survey site that purported can provide a dependable income to make a “living”.
But if you are out there to make some pocket money, SB can be an interesting option. But I have to rub this in: you still have to look the other way if you hope to maximize your reward per hour.
Having said all these, my conclusion is that Swagbucks is just about decent, especially if the idea of getting paid to search the web and taking surveys is something that excite you.