What are InBox Dollars and SwagBucks?

InboxDollars and SwagBucks are both websites where you get paid for taking surveys, reading e-mails, completing offers, searching the web, playing games, and shopping on-line.  I tried out both sites so that I could add a little extra money to my vacation fund.  I didn’t expect to earn a lot, but I figured that it would be fun to explore the possibilities of generating some additional cash by spending time online, which I do a lot of anyway.

Important Note

SwagBucks tracks your earnings with points that they call, naturally enough, Swag Bucks (SB).  One SB is equivalent to one cent. On the other hand, InboxDollars tracks your earnings in dollars which makes it very straightforward.  For comparison purposes in this article, I will convert SBs into dollars when talking about money that you can earn on the SwagBucks site.

Signing Up

First, let me say that if you are going to sign up for either site, you will want to get an e-mail address just for this purpose so that your primary e-mail does not get clogged up with all of the mail you will be receiving.

InboxDollars starts you off with a $5 signing bonus.  With SwagBucks, you can earn about $0.32 during the registration process by answering a series of questions.


Both InboxDollars and SwagBucks allow you to earn money by performing website searches through their site.  InboxDollars’ search results are powered by Yahoo!, while SwagBucks uses Google and Bing.

With InboxDollars, you earn ½ cent for each search with a maximum of $0.15/day for all searches combined.  With SwagBucks, instead of earning a set amount each time you search the web, you are awarded a random number of Swag Bucks at random times.  When I first began using SwagBucks, it seems that the awards came more frequently.  Now, I mostly earn nothing when I search.

To make searching easier, you can download the InboxDollars or SwagBucks toolbar.  With InboxDollars, I downloaded the toolbar which gave me another $1, but the search feature never worked.


You certainly won’t get rich responding to surveys on either site.  With InboxDollars, you can earn anywhere from $0.25 to $1.50 for a 15-30 minute survey.  After you complete a survey, you will also get a spin on the prize wheel where you may win up to $5.  However, I could not find any information on the website where it said what your actual chances of winning the grand prize of $5 is.  The payout on SwagBucks is roughly the same as InboxDollars, but without the prize wheel.

If you do decide that taking surveys is worth your time, you must first find surveys that you qualify for.  This requires answering several screening questions at the beginning of the survey, and can end up being a frustrating waste of time if you don’t end up qualifying.


With offers, you usually have to spend money to make money; although sometimes you may earn money by signing up for a free trial.  For example, many of the offers require signing up for a monthly service such as a monthly credit report or a monthly supply of vitamins.  Other offers amount to getting a few dollars off of a one-time purchase.

Comparing offers on InboxDollars and SwagBucks, I found that InboxDollars was paying $7 for signing up for a GameFly subscription while SwagBucks was giving $5.15 for the same deal.  On the other hand, SwagBucks was giving $12.85 for joining Disney Movie Club, but InboxDollars was only paying $10.


Both sites offer grocery store coupons and credit you $0.10 once the coupon is redeemed at the store.


Online games are offered on both of the sites where you can pay to enter tournaments that reward the winners with cash.  On SwagBucks you can also play games for free that randomly award Swag Bucks.


Cash back rewards are offered on both InboxDollars and SwagBucks for shopping online at e-commerce sites such as Target, Macy’s and Walmart.  The two sites have different retailers available and cash back percentages range from 1%-8%.

InboxDollars’ program is extremely confusing.  They’ve partnered with Ownza, so you will end up having to get an Ownza account and your cash back is credited to that account and not to your InboxDollars account.  Instead of earning cash back on all your purchases at a participating retailer, you first have to post the item to your Ownza account, and not all products qualify.

SwagBucks is much more straightforward.  You just click through from SwagBucks to the online retailer’s site to receive cash back credited to your SwagBucks account; although, some retailers have special terms excluding certain purchases.  The big caveat here, though, is that you cannot use any coupons or special deals unless they are provided by SwagBucks.

Other Ways to Earn Money

You can also earn money by watching videos (with lots of ads) on both sites.  The payout is between $0.01-$0.03.  You can also do micro-jobs which I will cover in a separate blog.  Finally, both sites reward you for referring friends.

Cashing out   

There are big difference between InboxDollars and SwagBucks when it comes to cashing out.  With InboxDollars you have to have at least $30 before you can request payment, which is in the form of a check or a Visa Cash Card.  With SwagBucks, you have to have $25 before you can get cash which is deposited into your PayPal account.  However, you can redeem as little as $5 for gift cards at places like Starbucks, Walmart, Target, or Amazon.com.

Bottom Line

I found InboxDollars to be a colossal waste of time.  I probably won’t earn $30 until I’m ready to retire.  I do think if you spend enough time initially discovering what aspects of the site are going to be the most beneficial to you, you can earn money more efficiently.  For me, I rarely qualify for a survey so I’m not even spending time trying anymore.  SwagBucks is more lucrative for me.  Again, I’m not bothering with the surveys, but some of the Offers have been appealing to me so that is how I am mostly earning my Swag Bucks.

Unfortunately, neither site is worth the effort.  The primary goal of both sites is not to make you money, but rather to induce you to spend more money than you make, either by entering contests on the site, or by shopping with their advertisers.  Even the goal of the surveys is to get information so that you can be sent more targeted e-mail offers.

If you like the cash back feature for shopping online, I prefer Ebates, which doesn’t have so many strings attached.

If you have tried InboxDollars or SwagBucks, please leave a comment and let me know what your experience has been.

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