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Passive Income Apps: Fact or Fantasy?

By Shane Dayton |

The dream of residual income has been around for years, though many point to Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Work Week as the work that really made this idea mainstream. While finding truly passive income is going to be hard to do, and usually is a very small amount of actual compensation, there are some options out there that can start opening those doors. Passive income apps tend to be relatively low paying but if you’re getting paid for things you’re going to do anyway, then why not earn something from it?

 One important thing to do is set realistic expectations. If you don’t have to do much work for the payout, then you can safely assume the company (app) can’t afford to pay out all that much. You can have multiple passive income apps going at once and still only be looking at a couple handfuls of catch or gift cards a year.

Still, that’s much better than nothing. While some of these are truly hands-off, it’s only important to note that most are not true passive income where no work at all needs to be done. These often require a base level or low amount of work in order to get those payments. The best way to make many of these apps as low work as possible is to find apps that pay you to do those things you were going to do every single day anyway.

Information Collecting Apps

big data representation

The most common style of passive income app from your smartphone that is actually going to be passive in nature will be an information collecting apps. These apps take a look at what apps you use, how often you hit up social media, what games you play, what websites you visit, those sorts of things. That information can be incredibly valuable to marketing companies.

At first glance this can be concerning. Do you really want an app on your phone that is collecting information? The good news is that these do not collect sensitive information like passwords or usernames. It absolutely is not acceptable for any app to record information like that much less share it. These apps are looking at habits and use, not sensitive information.

Information collecting apps are often going to be the apps for money making that most closely meet those standards of being a passive income app. Whether or not you’re comfortable with the tracking of your behavior is a decision each individual has to make for themselves. However, if you don’t care who knows the games you play, the social media sites you waste time on, or the websites you visit, then consider these apps to start building some residual income off of your phone.

Nielsen Computer & Mobile Panel

Nielsen is a name that most people would recognize. Believe it or not, this is related to the old Nielsen Ratings that were at one time used to determine which shows were most popular versus those that weren’t. Nielsen also offers mobile panel services where it gathers information for major brands and corporations to help them make smarter decisions when it comes to marketing.

The Nielsen Mobile Panel awards points over the course of a year that can then be exchanged for gift cards. The selection of available cards is actually excellent with many very popular brands being offered. Amazon, Target, and Starbucks are just a few of the most popular options available but there are many more. If you have the Nielsen mobile panel on your phone throughout the year then you are likely to earn around $50 worth of gift cards over 12 months. Not too shabby, and one of the best passive income apps around.

Embee Meter CX

Embee Meter CX runs in the background of a phone and is searching for connectivity information to wireless networks wherever you happen to be. This is very passive in the sense that since it’s on in the background you don’t need to open a special browser or log in every time you use your phone. The amount earned isn’t going to be a lot. The average amount of money you earn is 8 to 10 cents a day. Although there have been some reports of earning up to 30 cents a day.

Payout occurs via PayPal once you hit the $5 mark. That’s right: Embee Meter CX is one of the few apps to make money that will actually allow you to earn cash instead of cards. This can be a great way to make truly passive income with your phone but there is one major caveat. While only some phone owners have reported this, in some cases this app seems to really slow down how fast your phone jumps online. There are many others who don’t experience this at all. However, it happens often enough that this might be an issue. Especially if you use the wireless abilities of your phone to jump online quite often.

Embee remains one of the best earn passive income apps because of the fact you actually earn money. You can’t underestimate the benefit of that.

MobileXpression

This works the same way as Embee Meter CX. It runs in the background gathering data that is then valuable to mobile services and providers. It is worth noting that not every phone can run this app. You do actually need to be approved before your smartphone can download this program and start earning.

One major difference is that Embee pays in cash via PayPal while MobileXpression pays via gift cards. There is a sign up bonus if you’re approved. After a week of use you get a $5 Amazon gift card while the actual points can be used for major brands like Walmart, Amazon, and others. This is a good way to earn some gift cards, which does help you save money.

Cross Media Panel

Cross Media Panel collects data from your browsing habits. Basically, they want to know what websites you go to, how often you visit them, and how much time you spend on each. This type of data is used by many tech companies. The focus isn’t on personal data like your personal habits, but it’s collecting the general information on your online practices to bring that data together with that of other Cross Media Panel users to get a better picture of how the average smartphone user spends their time online.

The pay for this information collecting passive app can actually be pretty good. Especially compared to most phone apps offering any type of residual income. You get up to $156 a year once everything is added together. The first phone you register gets you $2 in bonus money. You get $1 a week per device after that, up to three. So basically you can make a straight $1-3 a week depending on how many devices you register.

The downside? The payment is done via electronic gift card. So you’re not getting a direct PayPal payment or anything like that. That is the one major drawback to this truly passive smartphone app.

Panel App

Panel App is an information collecting app that is a favorite of phone farming enthusiasts. Showing its versatility, Panel App can be used with either Android or IOS, which is definitely a plus. This is a very small earner. It’s ceiling is only $1 per month, but it is truly passive. This is in the background and you get your points everyday which can eventually add up and purchased via gift cards. Panel only gives two options for gift cards but fortunately they’re good ones: Walmart or Amazon.

While this has a ceiling of $12 per year, that’s still a truly passive $12 in free Walmart or Amazon stuff you could be enjoying from your phone.

Investment Apps

plants growing from coins

When someone talks about an investment app, they can mean a couple of different things. Investment apps that allow for the trading of stocks can be a great thing. Especially if you can do so without any fees. However, that’s not really a passive income app. A good investment app can help people get started with saving money for the long-term, but only a few apps also give you a way to earn extra money as well.

Acorns

Acorns is one of the best known investment apps out there, and for good reason. This is one of those apps that makes sure all those small purchases actually end up working for you. Acorns works by taking any purchase you make during the course of a month and rounding it up to the nearest dollar. The difference between the purchase cost and the next nearest dollar is then deposited into an account.

This allows you to set up an investment account, fund it through your everyday shopping or splurge spending, and then grows that account over time. That not only helps to create a safety net for retirement but when the investments make money over time, that’s passive income right into your retirement accounts. While this does require money to take advantage of it, this is a great way to help you budget while siphoning off small amounts to creating long-term passive income with your retirement account.

Clink

This isn’t a completely passive app, but it does make investment much easier. For many people the money is potentially there in the budget but the discipline doesn’t necessarily match. This app gives plenty of options for setting up a passive investment strategy that you can set the rules to early on. The suggested amount to set for automatic investment is $1 a day, but you can choose what you want to set automatic investments at.

Clink also allows setting a certain percentage of all transactions to be automatically invested. So you could choose to have 1%, 5%, or even 10% to be added onto all purchases, and that amount sent to your investment account. There is a $1 monthly fee for using Clink, so make sure this is an automated investment strategy you would actually use to make sure that charge is worth it.

Cashback Apps

Cashback apps are a bit of a cheat in the eyes of some people, but money you get back for purchase you’ve already made is about as residual as it gets. You shouldn’t start buying more to get cashback. That’s like charging more on a credit card to get the rewards. But if you are going to be spending some money through your smartphone anyway, why not use these apps to see what you can get back at the end of the month?

Rakuten

Rakuten is one of those popular cashback apps that you will find on pretty much any list of money making apps. This cashback app used to be called Ebates. Whether you’re looking for passive income apps, cashback apps, or anything in between, Rakuten is a name that continues to come up.

For good reason, as well. Rakuten users do their online shopping through the Rakuten platform and at the end of each month they get cash back for the shopping that they did. While this can sound a bit limiting, one of the major advantages that this app has is the fact that they are partnered with many huge merchants. If you can’t find what you want from Amazon, Walmart, or thousands of other partners…well congrats on the esoteric tastes?

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Jokes aside, this is an easy way to still buy everything you were going to purchase anyway but then you get free money back at the end of the month. Without having to do anything extra. It’s worth noting that while you can’t connect a bank account with Rakuten, you can make money via PayPal or even by check. Payments are not every month but make once a quarter.

This is one of the most consistently effective apps to earn money back from shopping that you’ve already done.

Ibotta

Ibotta is mostly passive income. This app has you watch a few ads to unlock some special deals or offers, and then just go on with your normal grocery shopping. This can be used online or in person. Many times the deals are for common items like bread or eggs. There is a sign up bonus and most of the major grocery store chains are supported. On the negative side small independent grocers are generally not connected to this app and Publix is the really big grocery name that doesn’t support it as of this review.

You upload a picture of your receipt after shopping, and at the end of the month you get money back. Think of it as a combination of coupons and rebates that pays you every month once you reach the $20 cash out mark. This is an easy mark to hit and usually is done within a couple shopping trips.

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Paribus

Paribus is another cashback app that focuses on seeing if you missed a sale. Ever buy something for full price and then see it go on sale the next day? Paribus is the app that constantly monitors online sales and compares prices to what you paid. It syncs with your email to watch purchases and scan receipts. When a lower price appears, the app negotiates a refund.

The difference they can get is then sent to you. Now you don’t have to worry about missing those day after sales anymore with Paribus on your side. The refund is made to the source of payment. That means you can even earn money to your bank account if you paid via debit card.

Other Passive Income Apps

There are a couple of passive income smartphone apps that don’t quite fit into the categories we’ve already gone over. There are two apps in particular that really stick out as being different but offering some residual income potential that you won’t want to overlook.

Swagbucks

Swagbucks is an interesting app because it has some parts of it that are relatively close to being passive in nature while there are other parts of it that require much more activity. Many people know about Swagbucks because it is well known as a survey site (I recommend skipping this part of it – it is often too much work for too little compensation), but it also offers a wide array of other options for making money.

For instance, there are payments for watching ads, shopping online, or even playing games on your smartphone. Each of these programs is going to be a bit different depending on which activity sounds the most like part of your everyday schedule.

Swagbucks local allows you to link a card and then earn points whenever you shop locally at participating scores. You basically get free points for supporting local businesses. You can also set Swagbucks Search as your search engine on your phone and you earn rewards for every search.

This can take a lot of time to rack up points but with plenty of options for how to do this, it is possible to reach payout for one or two gift cards a month. The sign up bonus and cash back offers are just a little bit of a cherry on top. There’s a reason Swagbucks is consistently seen as one of the best smartphone apps for earning money.

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Sweatcoin

Sweatcoin is an interesting one as far as a passive app goes. With this app you get points or “sweatcoins” based on how many steps you walk in a day. Generally speaking, about 1,000 steps will equal one sweatcoin. Overtime these can be traded in for prizes or given enough time even possibly cash.

If you are thinking you’re going to make a fortune walking, think again. Like most passive income apps, sweatcoin doesn’t pay a lot. Even if you’re an absolute beast who walks 15 miles a day, you may take three to five years to get a $1,000 cash payout. Assuming that prize is still there three years from now. In other words, it wouldn’t be worth the hours upon hours of walking to get anything worthwhile.

However, if you’re like me and you tend to walk 5-7 miles a day or more anyway…why not start racking up those points? If you’re already taking the steps, why not get rewarded for that good habit over time? You get in shape and earn extra money over time for keeping those good habits.

Honeygain

Honeygain is an app that is a bit controversial among users. This passive income app is one of the more truly passive options that is on this list. Basically the app works by taking your unused internet and turning your phone, tablet, or other device into a “gateway” for data scientists. This ends up resulting in $1 for ever 10 GB of data used. On a very busy month some Honeygain users have reported earning $40 to $50. Payments are done through PayPal.

Obviously more geared towards people with unlimited (or very high monthly number) Internet use, this is a great option for some but ridiculous for others. It all depends on what your plan is for the device. It’s also worth noting that several people have complained that this can really slow down your ability to jump online with your smartphone. Sometimes in a seriously noticeable way. You’ll want to decide if that is a hassle that is worth it or not.

What to Look for in Passive Income Apps

100 dollar bill puzzle

We’ve already talked about how to make money on your phone. In that situation the far majority of the time that means apps that hook you up with the gig economy and allow for making moneys with side hustles. That being said, occasionally you do get those apps that give you a chance to make some truly residual income.

While you won’t be able to use all of your passive income apps together, many of these can be used together. That allows you to earn gift cards and a little bit of cash from just using your phone in ways that you would use them anyway.

What else should you look for in a good passive income app?

If you find an app that hits all of these check marks, then there’s a good chance that you have a potential winner.

In Conclusion

Residual income is a great thing, but creating it is easier said than done. While there are several passive income apps that can help you start building up a few trickles of passive income, you’re not going to be retiring off any of these apps. Even using a combination of several of them is only going to get you so far. However, if you start earning gift cards and even a little money from doing things you would be doing even if you don’t get paid, that’s still getting you extra money that you wouldn’t otherwise have.

Why not take advantage of what these apps have to offer? Even just a little bit towards your next financial goal is better than nothing. With the smart use of a few of these quality passive income apps you can start having that extra free cash and gift cards start rolling in!




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By Shane Dayton

Shane has been a full-time writer since 2005. Shane has a degree in English & Creative Writing from Coe College (2002) and an MFA in Creative Writing (Fiction Emphasis) from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (2007).

Shane spent years using his online writing skills to earn a living online and live the life of a digital nomad. After learning about affiliate marketing and SEO he has since created several niche sites to further increase his business income.

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