13 ways to get free money
Need to boost your bank balance without having to work for it? Sounds like you could do with reading this list of ways to make free money.
Your parents may have told you that you'll never get money for nothing but, unfortunately for them, that's just not true. We've found a whole bunch of ways to earn free cash with little or no effort!
Now, that 'effort' part is important. Lots of other guides to making free money include things like paid online surveys, which we think is a little misleading. Having to do anything other than the bare minimum for your money means it isn't free – it means you're working.
So, with that in mind, we've only including the very easiest, very simplest ways to make free money – and don't worry, you can still earn £100s!
How to earn free money
Here are the best ways to make free money with little or no effort:
Bursaries, scholarships and grants
This one probably isn't news to a lot of you, but hear us out – we are a student money site, after all.
While you're probably well aware that students can receive money in the form of bursaries, scholarships and grants (and that, unlike regular Student Loans, these don't have to be paid back), what you may not know is just how many people are eligible for this free cash.
Many students tend to assume that these funds are only on offer to those with the top grades, talent for a particular sport or instrument, or those from less privileged backgrounds. But, while these students usually are eligible for support, plenty of others can get some of this free money too.
As we explain in our guide to weirdest bursaries, grants and scholarships, funding's available to students for all kinds of reasons. Whether it's being a vegetarian, having a knack for FIFA or just having the right surname, you could get free money for almost anything – so there's really no reason not to search for funding yourself.
Before you create an account with a company that sells anything, you should always check to see if there are any signup offers for new customers.
Far from just offering an introductory discount, loads of companies will give you free money for signing up. And although you'll sometimes have to make a qualifying purchase first, if it's something you were going to buy anyway, it's 100% free cash.
Sometimes the reward will come in the form of an Amazon voucher, but given that Amazon sells pretty much everything, a voucher is as good as cash anyway. And, if you use our Amazon shopping hacks, you'll be guaranteed a bargain.
If you're after more, just head to this deals page for all the best ways to earn free money by signing up with companies.
Money for switching bank or utility supplier
One of the main things we advise students to do before they start uni is to open a student bank account. But did you know that you can switch bank accounts even when you've already started uni, and that you could get some free cash for doing so?
Switching bank accounts couldn't be simpler, and whether it's pure cash or an Amazon voucher (which, we repeat, is as good as normal cash anyway), loads of banks offer as much as £100 to convince you to switch.
And if you've not got a bank account yet, don't worry – these offers are available for new customers too, not just those switching.
Just make sure to double-check the terms of each bank's offer, as there's a chance you may be ineligible for the free cash (if you've already completed your first year of uni, for instance). And remember that banks offer cash to non-students looking to switch, too!
What's more, it's not just banks offering significant amounts of free money for switching, either. Energy companies are all over this sort of thing, with Bulb promising £50 and broadband companies often run offers too.
Free money for referring friends
We absolutely 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.
Often the promotions they run for new customers (like £100 for joining) are mimicked in their refer-a-friend schemes, but with one crucial difference – both you and the person you're referring get a reward.
The biggest and best offers will indeed come from the banks and utility providers, but loads of companies have referral schemes. Some reward you in the form of credits, but others will pay you cold, hard cash.
Cashback sites (which we'll also cover later on) and automatic savings apps are among the most reliable for this (although the specific offers often change), and you could earn as much as £15 per signup.
The bottom line is: check all the apps and services you regularly use to see if they offer a referral programme – you could be raking in the cash in no time.
Get a Student Loan refund
There's a lot to complain about when it comes to the current state of Student Finance in the UK but, on the main, Student Loan repayments are pretty sound. That is until the flaws in the system mean you end up making repayments when you shouldn't be.
You see, to start repaying your Student Loan, two things need to happen: you must have reached the first April after your graduation, and you must be earning over the threshold for your repayment plan.
We explain things in more detail in our guide to Student Loan refunds but, over the last few years, it's emerged that 100,000s of graduates have ended up repaying their loans before the April after their graduation.
While this is less than ideal, what it does mean is that 100,000s of graduates are also entitled to a refund – a lump sum of free cash that averages at least a few hundred quid.
For a full explainer of how to check and claim your refund, as well as why you probably won't end up having to pay it back again later, check out our guide.
Check if you're owed a tax rebate
Student Loan refunds aren't the only way to get back some free cash that you've overpaid.
Every year, thousands of people across the UK accidentally pay too much tax – and if you're one of them, you're entitled to a rebate.
You may have overpaid tax for one of a number of reasons (which we explain here), 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 this all happened many moons ago – you can claim a refund up to four years after the end of the tax year in which you overpaid.
It's worth remembering, too, that students very rarely earn over the annual threshold for paying tax (£12,500 a year), so if you think you've paid tax when you've earned less than this, definitely look into claiming a tax rebate!
Earn interest with savings and current accounts
We know that, if you're a student, you might not have too much spare cash floating around. But if you are able to save some money, we'd definitely recommend putting it in an ISA (Individual Savings Account) or regular savings account (or, if you've got one offering a decent interest rate, you could leave it in your bank account).
Although the 2008 financial crisis, austerity measures, Brexit and even coronavirus have kept interest rates relatively low over the past decade or so, there are still some great offers out there.
Our list of the best savings accounts has a few gems that payout at above the rate of inflation. This is important as, thanks to inflation, £100 today will not be worth quite as much in a year's time (you'll still have £100, it just won't be able to buy you as much anymore).
So, for that reason, you should always try to keep as much of your spare money as possible in an account with the highest interest rate you can find – if not for the free cash you could earn in interest, but just to make sure your money retains its value!
£1,000 free every year with a Lifetime ISA
Owning a house may seem like a distant pipedream right now, but you can help bring that dream to life by setting some money aside in a Lifetime ISA (LISA).
Offering as much as £1,000 of free money 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 stash away up to £4,000, too.
The maximum total bonus you can earn from a Lifetime ISA is £33,000 (equivalent to 33 years in which you deposit £4,000 each year), which is certainly a lot of free money. But, as is always 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 either buy a house or if you're aged over 60 (and most likely using it for retirement). If you withdraw money for any other reason, you'll lose all of the bonuses you've received plus an additional percentage of your money.
So, 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'll earn you the most free money. Check out our guide to the Lifetime ISA for everything you need to know.
Use cashback sites for online shopping
We've mentioned it already a few times in this guide and, if you're a fan of making and saving money, chances are you're already pretty well versed on cashback. But, just in case you're not, 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 always recommend using a cashback site.
If you shop with cashback sites, you'll have the exact same shopping experience when you're on the website of your chosen retailer, but with one crucial difference: 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, so many of your favourite shops are on cashback sites like TopCashback and Quidco, including Topshop, ASOS and, sometimes, Amazon too (although they tend only to appear during peak shopping times). You'll usually be looking at getting a maximum of 5% or 6% back, but it's better than nothing!
It's also possible to get money back at supermarkets, too. As well as cashback sites offering money back on online food shops, supermarket cashback apps run offers for up to 100% cashback on a whole range of individual items, from sweet treats to pet food.
Use cashback sites every time you shop online and you could easily earn a few hundred quid in free money each year. Just read our guide to earning cashback and to get started!
Get paid to use the internet with Swagbucks
Spend your life online? Well, when you're not re-reading all your favourite Save the Student guides (we understand, some of them are timeless classics), you could be earning free money just for using the internet.
Among the many ways to make money from Swagbucks is to make it your default search engine. While that means saying goodbye to Google (or, god forbid, Bing), you'll earn 10–20 SB points (the virtual currency used on Swagbucks) for every 10–20 searches.
Using these figures, we've worked out that, if you search as normal for six months, you'll earn around £300.
But the free money doesn't end there. Swagbucks will also pay you to watch videos which, let's face it, is pretty much all most of us end up doing online anyway. You may find it a little harder to earn free money this way as it's not as effortless as simply searching, but it's definitely worth a go.
Earn money from walking
We all know about the three main benefits of walking: it's free, it helps you stay fit and healthy, and it's completely carbon neutral. But what if we told you that there was a fourth reason to walk everywhere you go?
These apps track your movement throughout the day and reward your steps with virtual currency. This 'money' can then be exchanged for gift cards at a number of popular shops and restaurants and, more importantly, for free money too.
We won't lie, you won't become a millionaire by earning free money from paid walking apps – but keep your phone on you while you're out and about and you'll start to see the cash trickling in.
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 lower chance of winning than these crazy things.
We're talking about 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 (that is, people who enter competitions on the reg) claim to enter around 100 competitions each day, but that's simply unmanageable for most people. If you aim for around 30 a week, you should still end up winning a fair number of prizes (be they cash, items or experiences).
One of our favourite competitions for winning free money is Pick my Postcode. All you need to do is register on the site and you'll be entered into the prize draw to win £500 every single day – simple as that!
But there are plenty more competitions out there offering thousands of pounds worth of free money, so get reading our guide to winning competitions for all the best places to find them.
Scan your receipts for cash
Last, but by no means least, on our list of ways to make free money: receipts. If you usually find yourself throwing away your receipts, or even rejecting them altogether, you may want to reconsider your actions.
Aside from making it a lot harder to ensure your consumer rights are being honoured, failing to keep your receipts could see you missing out on free cash, too. So, make sure you keep a hold of them – at least long enough to take a picture.
Why? Well, receipt-scanning apps like Receipt Hog, Shoppix and Huyu will pay you to upload scanned 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 some coins or tokens every time you make a submission.
Once you've built up enough coins to make a withdrawal, you'll be able to get your free money either in the form of a voucher (including Amazon, thank god) or as 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 has definitely earned its stripes as a way to make free money.
Feeling creative? This list of weird ways students make money has all the inspiration you'll need once you've exhausted our sources of free cash.