Swagbucks Review: Is This Site a Scam?

No review of paid survey sites can be complete without invoking the name of Swagbucks. The site comfortably beats CashCrate as the numero uno when it comes to the most popular paid survey site.

Swagbucks’ site even goes onto claim that they run the world’s largest web-based rewards program.

I’m going to take a slight departure from my usual reviewing style for my review of Swagbucks as this is not just another survey site.

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However, the basic essentials that make up a typical review from me will still be there, which means I’ll be joining the site, poking around its innards and list out my findings to show you whether this is a scam or a trustworthy loyalty program.

The Company

Swagbucks.com is a Los Angeles based online loyalty program that is powered by Prodege LLC (a famous provider of branded and incentivized online reward portals). Prodege LLC’s ‘Search&Win’ partners include big brands such as The New York Giants, World Wresting Entertainment, WGN America, Element, KISS, and many more.

With over 4 million registered members, the company is considered one of the fastest growing online rewards programs. One reason why the site was ranked #43 on the Inc 500 fastest growing company list in 2011 and one of the top 10 Internet companies. It was also ranked by Los Angeles Business Journal as the 3rd fastest company in LA.

Alexa.com ranks the site as the 115th most visited website in the United States and the 539th most trafficked website in the world.
I tried checking its profile and rating on BBB.org (the Better Business Bureau), but I couldn’t find any rating for the site. Instead I was greeted with this message:

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.

If you have to only sign up for one paid survey site to make money with, I recommend Ipsos-iSay. Ipsos is the most fun and well-paying panel. Give it a try to see how you like it. It is free anyway!

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That’s as of May / 15 /2013. I will check back as often for any updates and will definitely include the update here as well.

Swagbucks Contact Info Screenshot

What is Swagbucks?

Swagbucks, now that’s a unique name isn’t it? Full credit to the site’s marketing mandarins for putting together a name that is so hard to miss. However, there is yet another thing that distinguishes this site from other competing survey sites and that concerns the site’s rewards system.

Unlike other survey sites, they do not pay you in cash. Instead, they use a point system known as “swag buck”! Each SB converts to roughly about 1 US cent (¢). Once you have accumulated enough of these points, you can head on over to their famous “Swag Store” and redeem them for a variety of rewards including cash (more on that below).

The system is fairly simple to understand from my explanation below.

You need to start off by becoming a member of Swagbucks.com by registering on its website. Now comes the interesting part. Unlike other survey sites, here the user earns by using site’s own search engine. The results displayed by this search engine are usually sourced from Ask.com or Google, both of which are popular and reliable sources.

Now during this process, you have the opportunity to win what is called in the site’s parlance as a Swag buck. The winner however is chosen randomly, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to those already part of similar sites.

The site has now branched out into different modes of member rewards. Some of the popular ones include being able to tune into SBTV (their in-house internet video channel), playing games and of course, answering paid surveys online. More on that later as I continue to focus on the most important part of the program, i.e. its search engine. I’ll also talk about the infamous “Swagbucks scam” and if it’s safe for you to join in.

An important fact is that membership is only open to USA, Canada or UK citizens with the minimum age requirement being 13 years.


Get Paid to Search!?

As if the concept of being paid to take surveys wasn’t strange enough, here comes a site that pays (or rather, rewards) you for searching stuff on the web. When you add to that my intense dislike for the rewards system the site follows, I expected this site to go bust pretty soon.

However, the opposite happened. I was rewarded with 10 Swag bucks after spending close to 20 minutes on the web searching for a new TV I wanted.

Now that’s a rich haul by any means though I must warn you that it’s quite rare to net that many Swag bucks in such a short time. Most people tend to average around a couple of Swag bucks a day through searches.

By reading this if you’ve concluded that searching day and night could help you earn a lot of Swag bucks then you are wrong. Although the site doesn’t exactly spell out the manner in which it doles out Swag bucks, it has gone on record to say that the awarding of Swag bucks is based not on the number of searches performed but on the amount of time spent on each of those searches.

All you need to do is make it a habit to use their search engine for all your searches. One way you can get habituated to this is by using their own toolbar, which I must say is quite useful.

Once you install the toolbar, you can access a dashboard to perform your searches. The dashboard also allows you to access different rewards programs with a single click of the mouse.

Simply put, this is more suited to people who spend a fair amount of time searching on the web. If you are not of the same variety, I’d suggest you look at some of their other rewards programs.

Swagbucks Review

Earning Swagbucks

So, now that we have established what the site is all about as well as how you can get paid to search, let’s see how many others ways there are to earn money with this particular rewards site.

  • Swag Codes: Swag codes are something that you need to find rather than earn. Quite similar to digital solid gold, Swag codes need to be pasted in the space provided for them in your Swagbucks’ account member’s area. The parent site keeps posting at least one Swag code per day on its blog so that is something that you can check out.
  • Games: Here is the fun part, you can also play all kinds of flash games on SB and earn points.
  • Referral Program: This is one thing I liked a lot about Swagbucks. The site allows you to earn by referring your fellow colleagues and friends to the program. In fact, you stand to gain close to a 100 Swag bucks for every referral you bring. The catch here is that you’ll be paid those Swag bucks only if your referrals are active members and actually make use of the service. The more your referrals participate; higher the amount you are likely to make.
  • Toolbar: The toolbar is available for all popular web browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer. Not only does the toolbar make it easier for you to use Swagbucks’ search engine whenever you need to search something on the web, it also helps you earn money every time you simply fire up your web browser.
  • Tasks: Another cool feature not seen on any other online rewards program is the “Tasks” section of the site, which is powered by the famous crowdsourcing company, CrowdFlower. Essentially, these are simple tasks that can only be done by humans and not machines (same as the famous micro task site Amazon Turk owned by the online shop giant, Amazon.com) such as gathering important data for firms, transcribing audio files, and things of that nature that you can do to earn extra points. Unlike Mturk that pays in pennies for tasks, you earn points here.
  • Sweepstakes: Quite similar to a real life lottery system, the site allows you to enter a sweepstake in which the winner stands to be rewarded with a large number of Swag bucks. However, members need to part with some of their existing rewards to gain entry into such a sweepstake in the first place. Those with a penchant for risk would love this feature.
  • SB TV: Its their version of YouTube with one big difference; for every 10 videos you watch you earn 3 Swag bucks. Now granted, this is not much, but if you are like me and watch lots of videos online anyway, you may as well earn points for it.
  • Surveys: One of the more disappointing aspects of this site, the site’s surveys are not oriented towards market research. This means you stand to gain very little in terms of rewards for completing such surveys. If earning through surveys is your area of interest, sticking to something like Opinion Outpost would be a better idea.
  • Shopping: This is excellent for frequent shoppers like me. Akin to popular discount coupon site Groupon.com, SB too offers members some very attractive discounts and daily deals. Opting for any featured deal would earn you some rewards in addition to saving money. However, resist the temptation to shop just for earning rewards.
  • Daily Goals: An interesting dashboard feature of the site is a meter display that shows a set number of points as your goal for the day which if you rich will earn you bonus points.
  • Trade-in: Here is something cool you won’t see on any other survey site such as CashCrate or Global Test Market – As a member you can actually exchange video games, consoles and books for Swag Bucks. That is a cool feature if you ask me!


Redeeming Points

You can redeem all your Swag bucks once you’ve accumulated a sizable number of the same in your account. However, bear in mind that their payouts are not the most attractive ones around so if you are looking to earn some serious money, it’s advisable to look at other sites.

But if you don’t mind being rewarded with video games and gift cards for your accumulated points then Swagbucks’ store is the place to be. The Wikipedia page on Swagbucks mentions that almost $27 million dollars have been paid out by the site to its members.

Some of the popular things that make up its attractive store selection include electronics, gift cards, clothes, video games etc. However, just like every other survey or rewards site out there, here too you are required to wait at least a week before being able to redeem the rewards you’ve earned.


Should You Join?

Here is the deal, if you think you can make a living on this site, you better look elsewhere. In fact, most survey sites are designed in a way that it is almost impossible for anyone to make a “living” through them.

Nonetheless, for those trying to earn additional income, I’d say SB brings a lot to the table. But it still trails other similar sites because of its low pay per hour. That said, Swagbucks is a pretty good option, as is evident from this review, if you intend to earn through web searches.

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