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Make Money

13 ways to get free money

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Need to boost your bank balance without having to work for it? Sounds like you need this list of ways to make free money.

man pointing at pile of free money

Credit: Meilun (sign), radovlad (money), Prostock-studio (man) – Shutterstock

We've found a bunch of ways to earn free cash with little or no effort.

The 'effort' part is crucial. Many other guides to making free money include the likes of paid online surveys, which we think is misleading. Having to do anything other than the bare minimum for your money means it isn't free – it means you're working.

With that in mind, we've only included the easiest and simplest ways to make free money. And don't worry, you can still earn £100s!

Got a little more time on your hands? Our list of ways to make money quickly may require some effort, but the earnings make it more than worth it.

How to earn free money

Here are the best ways to make free money with little or no effort:

  1. Bursaries, scholarships and grants

    university with bags of money

    This one won't be news to a lot of you, but hear us out – we are a student money site, after all.

    You're probably aware that students can receive money in the form of bursaries, scholarships and grants. Unlike Student Loans, these don't have to be repaid. But what you may not know is how many people are eligible for this free cash.

    Some might assume these funds are only available to those with the top grades, a talent for a particular sport or instrument, or those from less privileged backgrounds. But, while these students can get support, plenty of others can get some of this free money too.

    As we explain in our guide to the weirdest bursaries, funding is available to students for all kinds of reasons. Whether it's being a vegetarian or having the right surname, you could get free money for almost anything.

    For more info about where to find funding, see our guide to bursary and scholarship sources.

  2. Sign-up offers

    Creating an account with a company selling... well, anything? Check to see if there are any sign-up offers for new customers.

    Far from just offering an initial discount, loads of companies give you free money for signing up. You may have to make a qualifying purchase first, but if it's something you were going to buy anyway, it's 100% free cash.

    Sometimes, the reward will come in the form of a free Amazon voucher. But as Amazon sells pretty much everything, a voucher is as good as cash. And our Amazon shopping hacks will help you find a bargain.

    There are countless signup offers out there. Among our favourites are the £5 bonus for joining OnePoll, as well as the £5 payout for signing up to Plum (you'll need to add a minimum of £100 to the account).

    Check the T&Cs of each offer for more info.

    Want more? Head to our deals page for all the best ways to earn free money by signing up with companies.

  3. Money for switching bank or utility supplier

    One of the main things we recommend students do before they start uni is open a student bank account. But did you know you can switch bank accounts even when you've already started uni? Better still, you can get free cash for doing so.

    Switching bank accounts couldn't be simpler. And whether it's cash or an Amazon voucher (which, again, is as good as cash anyway), some banks offer up to £200 to convince you to switch.

    To see how much you could get, see our list of the best bank switching offers.

    If you're thinking about switching accounts, make sure it suits your needs. For example, check the overdraft is big enough.

    And if you don't have a bank account yet, don't worry. These offers are often available for new customers too, not just those switching.

    Double-check the terms of each bank's offer as there's a chance you may not be eligible for the free cash (if you've already completed your first year of uni, for instance). And remember, banks also offer cash to non-students looking to switch.

  4. Free money for referring friends

    We love referral codes. In terms of how little effort is needed and how much money you could make, it's hard to think of a better way to earn free money than referring your friends and family to sign up with a few companies.

    There's a fair bit of overlap here with our previous tip. Some of the best referral codes are offered by banks, energy companies (Octopus Energy gives £50 credit) and broadband providers.

    You might find the promotions for new customers (e.g. £100 for joining) mirror the refer-a-friend schemes. But there's a crucial difference – both you and the person you're referring get a reward.

    While the best offers tend to come from banks and utility providers, loads of companies have referral schemes. Some reward you in the form of credits, while others pay cash.

    Cashback sites (which we'll cover below) and automatic savings apps are among the most reliable for this, although the specific offers often change.

    Check all the apps and services you use to see if they offer a referral programme. You could be raking in the cash in no time.

  5. Get a Student Loan refund

    piggy bank with graduate cap

    There's a lot wrong with the current state of Student Finance in the UK. But, broadly speaking, Student Loan repayments are pretty sound. That is until the flaws in the system mean you end up making repayments when you shouldn't.

    To start repaying your Student Loan, two things generally need to happen. First, you must have reached the first April after your graduation. And, secondly, you must be earning over the threshold for your repayment plan.

    In previous years, thousands of graduates have been owed a refund for over-repaying their loans. This lump sum of free cash can sometimes be a few hundred quid.

    We've got a guide on how to check and claim your Student Loan refund.

  6. Check if you're owed a tax rebate

    Student Loan refunds aren't the only way to get back some free cash you've overpaid.

    If you've accidentally paid too much tax, you should be entitled to a rebate.

    You may have overpaid tax for one of several reasons. But the good news is that it doesn't matter if it was your fault or not.

    And, even better, it also doesn't matter if it happened a while ago. You can claim a refund up to four years after the end of the tax year in which you overpaid.

    Bear in mind that students rarely earn over the annual threshold for paying tax (currently £12,570 a year). If you think you've paid tax when you've earned less than this, look into claiming a tax rebate.

  7. Earn interest with savings and current accounts

    If you're a student, you might not have too much spare cash floating around. But if you can save money, you could potentially put it in a cash ISA or a regular savings account.

    Thanks to inflation, £100 today probably won't be worth quite as much in a year. While you'll still have £100, the rise in the cost of goods and services means you won't be able to buy as much as you could 12 months earlier.

    As such, you should try to keep as much of your spare money in an account with the highest interest rate going.

    Chip is one good option, and you can compare others in our guide to the best savings accounts.

    Even if you're not after the free cash you could earn in interest, you'll want to make sure your money retains its value.

  8. £1,000 free every year with a Lifetime ISA

    Owning a house may seem like a distant pipe dream right now. But you can help bring that dream to life by putting money in a Lifetime ISA (LISA).

    Offering up to £1,000 every year, a LISA is undoubtedly the most generous source of free money that we can think of.

    To get the full grand, you'll need to deposit £4,000 into your LISA in a single tax year (April to April). But don't worry if you haven't got that much going spare. The government will still give you a 25% bonus on anything you save up to £4,000.

    The maximum total bonus you can earn from a Lifetime ISA is £32,000 (equivalent to 32 years in which you deposit £4,000 each year). This is certainly a lot of free money. But, as is forever the case in life, there are a few catches.

    For starters, you can only withdraw money from your LISA if you're using it to buy a house, if you're aged over 60 or if you've been given less than 12 months to live. If you withdraw money for any other reason, you'll lose the bonuses you've received, plus an additional percentage of your money.

    While you should only put money into a LISA if you're confident you'll use it for a house or your retirement, it's probably the trick that will earn you the most free money. Check out our guide to Lifetime ISAs for everything you need to know.

  9. Use cashback sites for online shopping

    quidco website

    Credit: Sharaf Maksumov – Shutterstock

    We know, we've already mentioned it in this guide on how to get free money. And, if you're a fan of making and saving money, chances are you already know about cashback. But, just in case you don't, here's a quick breakdown.

    When you buy something online, you can either do it directly or go via a cashback site. Whenever possible, we'd recommend using a cashback site.

    If you shop with cashback sites, you'll have the same shopping experience as when you're on the website of your chosen retailer. However, the cashback site will track your activity and will refund you a percentage of the total purchase (or, in some cases, a set amount).

    So many of your favourite shops are on cashback sites like TopCashback and Quidco. Adidas, ASOS, Amazon, plus some retailers that don't begin with A, are all on there. You'll usually be looking at getting up to 5% back, but it's better than nothing.

    The big money is, as you'd expect, in the big purchases. If you're buying car insurance or getting a new phone, cashback sites could pay you over £100 to purchase it through them.

    It's also possible to get money back at supermarkets. As well as cashback sites offering money back on online food shops, supermarket cashback apps pay up to 100% cashback on a whole range of single items, from sweet treats to pet food.

    Use cashback sites every time you shop online and you could earn a few hundred quid in free money each year. Just read our guide to earning cashback to get started.

  10. Get paid to use the internet with Swagbucks

    Spend your life online? Well, when you're not re-reading your favourite Save the Student guides (we all have one), you could be earning free money for doing a range of easy tasks on Swagbucks.

    There are many ways to make money from Swagbucks. One of them is to make it your default search engine. While that means saying goodbye to Google, you can potentially earn 10 SB – 20 SB points (the virtual currency used on Swagbucks) for every 10–20 searches.

    Head over to our Swagbucks review for more info, or sign up to Swagbucks right now.

  11. Earn money from walking

    We all know about the main benefits of walking: it's free, helps you stay healthy and doesn't impact your carbon footprint. But what if we told you there was a fourth reason to walk everywhere?

    Thanks to apps like Sweatcoin, BetterPoints and winwalk, walking can be a source of free money.

    These apps track your movement throughout the day and reward your steps with virtual currency. This 'money' can be exchanged for rewards, which often include vouchers.

    We won't lie, you won't become a millionaire from paid walking apps. But keep your phone on you while you're out and about, and you might find you're able to get free gift cards for stores you already use.

  12. Win free money from competitions

    Now, let us be clear. When we say you can win free money from competitions, we mean free. We're not talking about entering the lottery, which costs money and gives you a very low chance of winning.

    We mean the hundreds, if not thousands, of other competitions running in the UK right now which are free to enter and could win you an eye-watering amount of free cash.

    Elite-level compers (people who enter competitions regularly) might enter around 100 competitions each day. But that's simply not manageable for most of us. If you aim for around 30 every week, you could end up winning a fair number of prizes (cash, items or experiences).

    One of our favourite ways to win money is to enter free lotteries. Most require you to check the results daily to claim your prize (if you've won, of course), but with jackpots as high as several hundred pounds, it's worth a few seconds of your time.

    And there are plenty more competitions offering thousands of pounds worth of free money. Read our guide to winning competitions for the best places to find them.

  13. Scan your receipts for cash

    card machine with receipt paper

    Credit: ADragan – Shutterstock

    Last, but by no means least, on our list of ways to make free money: receipts. If you usually bin your receipts or reject them altogether, you may want to reconsider your actions.

    Aside from making it a lot harder to guarantee your consumer rights, throwing away your receipts could see you missing out on free cash, too. Make sure you keep hold of them – at least long enough to take a picture.

    Receipt-scanning apps like Storewards and Shoppix pay you to upload copies of your receipts for any purchase from any shop. And while you won't get paid actual cash for each receipt, you will get coins or tokens whenever you make a submission.

    Once you've earned enough coins to make a withdrawal, you'll be able to get your free money. This will either be a voucher (including Amazon) or free cash (usually via PayPal).

    It may take you a while to get to this stage. But with such little effort required, we'd say receipt scanning is a worthy way to make free money.

Find out the surprising and unusual ways students make money.

Tom Allingham

WRITTEN BY Tom Allingham

Tom joined Save the Student in 2017, initially heading up the editorial team before becoming Communications Director. He has appeared as a Student Finance expert on a range of TV and radio stations including the BBC, ITV and Sky, sharing his top tips for saving money and cutting student bills.
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