Mystery Shopping – Make Extra Money

Mystery shopping. Many of you have emailed me and asked me the question “what is mystery shopping” and have been wondering how I am making money through mystery shopping. I usually make around $150 to $200 a month from mystery shopping. Side note: If you are interested in the many other ways I earn extra money,…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 12, 2024

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. See my disclosure for more info.

Mystery Shopping - Make Extra Money BestmarkMystery shopping. Many of you have emailed me and asked me the question “what is mystery shopping” and have been wondering how I am making money through mystery shopping.

I usually make around $150 to $200 a month from mystery shopping.

Side note: If you are interested in the many other ways I earn extra money, check out my Extra Income page on my blog.

I use mainly Bestmark for my mystery secret shops. I’m not sure what other companies are good and reputable mystery shopping websites, but I know for a FACT that Bestmark is a legitimate mystery shopping website, so you can trust me when I say that.

Last month I didn’t make too much because not a lot of “good” shops were offered in my area. Lately, I’ve been a little more picky with the shops that I sign up for also.

What I consider a worthwhile shop for ME:

  1. Either an online shop or phone call shop
  2. If I have to drive, it’s close to somewhere I’ll be
  3. Something I’ll use. I love doing Estee Lauder shops because I always love free makeup.
  4. Restaurant shops, because I have to eat, of course.

Of course, what’s worthwhile to you and me might be different. When I first signed up for mystery shopping (sometime last summer I think), I literally signed up for everything. I made decent money, but it wore me out. The amount of surveys that you have to do is so repetitive that it makes you want to throw your computer at the wall.

Sometimes surveys take just a minute, but sometimes they literally take an hour. Restaurant shops usually take a little longer than others because usually you are grading every little detail.

Some examples of mystery shops I’ve done include: 

  1. Restaurants. This ranges from cheaper restaurants where I’m reimbursed for around $30 worth of food, all the way up to nice steakhouses where I get $100.
  2. Dealerships. Bestmark has a ton of dealership shops available, but I only have done the phone call and scheduling services online secret shops.
    • I usually do about 4-5 of these a week and these are the easiest shops. You don’t have to drive anywhere and the surveys literally take one minute. And you get paid around $5 for them. Although recently they’ve lowered the payment to only $3, and there’s a ton more work involved. I had to cancel around 3 or 4 shops because they didn’t make it clear enough about the amount of work that I signed up for. And for $3, I’m not really willing to do too much.
    • They also have dealership secret shops where you go in and pretend you want a car. These usually pay around $20. This is something I’ve never done, and they have plenty of these available for everyone to do.  I’ve never done this because car salesmen scare me. I’m not ready for thousands of annoying phone calls and I’m afraid that I’d be stuck in a dealership for an hour while trying to run away from the salesperson.
  3. Retail. I mainly do Estee Lauder. I’ve done a lot of these. I’ve gotten foundation, lotion, toner, face wash, concealer, lip gloss and so on, all for FREE! And these aren’t sample sizes, I’ve probably gotten over $200 in stuff, plus gotten paid around $10 on top for each shop as well.
    • I’ve also done a couple of Best Buy shops. These are easy too. You just survey a certain department (takes like a minute), and then you can just buy something small like a candy bar so that they have your receipt for proof that you were actually there and performed it. Best Buy shops usually pay around $13. Not a ton, but the Best Buy is along the way home from my work so I just pop in.
Bestmark Mystery Shopping - Make Extra Money
This is a mystery shopping check from one week’s of mystery shopping.

The highest paid shops I do are usually for restaurants. I’ve done a couple of nice restaurants where I had to eat over $100 worth of food. Crazy!  I’ve also seen Hotel mystery shops, but they’ve never been on a good day for me, so I’ve never been able to sign up.

Also, if you find that you cannot do a shop that you sign up for, all you do usually is contact your scheduler and say you need to reschedule or cancel. Try not to do this too often though. These schedulers will remember you, and if you’re good to them, they will give you good shops, so remember that!

Mystery shopping money will NOT make you rich. I want to make that clear. It’s just a nice form of side income, where I can get things I want for free! What I make from mystery shopping, I add to my vacation fund. So it’s a nice little addition every month.

If I want to eat at a nice restaurant that I would usually go to, then YES I would love to do a secret shop there. Those are always the greatest shops because you are paid to have fun.

Do you secret shop such as through Bestmark? Any tips?

Also, if you join Bestmark, please say I referred you! My ID is MO4999. You can join Bestmark by clicking here.

If you are new to my blog, I am all about finding ways to make and save more money. Here are some of my favorite sites and products that may help you out:

  • Cut your TV bill. Cut your cable, satellite, etc. Even go as far to go without Netflix or Hulu as well. Buy a digital antenna (this is the one we have) and enjoy free TV for life.
  • Start a blog. Blogging is how I make a living and just a few years ago I never thought it would be possible. I earn over $30,000 a month online through my blog and you can read more about this in my monthly online income reports. You can create your own blog here with my easy-to-use tutorial. You can start your blog for as low as $3.49 per month plus you get a free domain if you sign-up through my tutorial.
  • Save money on food. I recently joined $5 Meal Plan in order to help me eat at home more and cut my food spending. It’s only $5 a month (the first two weeks are free too) and you get meal plans sent straight to you along with the exact shopping list you need in order to create the meals. Each meal costs around $2 per person or less. This allows you to save time because you won’t have to meal plan anymore, and it will save you money as well!
  • Answer surveys. Survey companies I recommend include American Consumer OpinionPinecone ResearchOpinion Outpost, Survey Spot, and Harris Poll Online. They’re free to join and free to use! You get paid to answer surveys and to test products. It’s best to sign up for as many as you can as that way you can receive the most surveys and make the most money.
  • Use Swagbucks for your online searches. Swagbucks is something I don’t use as much, but I do occasionally earn Amazon gift cards with very little work. Swagbucks is just like using Google to do your online searches, except you get rewarded “points called SB” for the things you do through their website. Then, when you have enough Swagbucks, you can redeem them for cash, gift cards, and more. You’ll receive a free $5 bonus just for signing up today!
  • Try InboxDollars. InboxDollars is an online rewards website I recommend. You can earn cash by taking surveys, playing games, shopping online, searching the web, redeeming grocery coupons, and more. Also, by signing up through my link, you will receive $5.00 for free just for signing up!
  • Find a part-time job. There are many part-time jobs that you may be able to find. You can find a job on sites such as Snagajob, Craigslist (yes, I’ve found a legitimate job through there before), Monster, and so on.

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

Like this article?

Join the Conversation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. I love mystery shopping too! I also make around $150-$200 a month after reimbursements. So many free meals on top of the extra cash really helps out! I also use Bestmark and worked for them more in DC but after I moved to Louisiana there weren’t as many good shops that I liked (like you said, is it worth my time and will I use the product/service) so mostly I just make a little off of referrals. I primarily use Market Force and a smattering of other companies. There are so many companies out there and I review some of the ones I have worked for on my blog.

    1. Dorit

      Hi Alice,
      are these mystery shoppers website really legitimate? Should I trust them & sign up for them since I need a side job & extra income? are they hard to work for?

      Please reply,
      Thank you, Dorit

      1. Ann Saye

        I have been mystery shopping the last 3 years and I love doing it. It has also led to my doing pricing/signing audits for several companies. I signed up with Bestmark from Michelle’s link. They were my first job. I got an oil change/tire rotation at a local dealer. Two weeks later, I got a check in the mail ($73) for my shopper fee and my reimbursement. I was totally hooked then. I have been shopping ever since. You NEVER have to pay to get a job!

  2. Josephine

    Referrals are nice too like Alice said. I know that Shoppers’ View has a referral program, and phone shops available. Those are nice because you don’t have to travel, and if you have time can do several in a row to make it worth while.

  3. kelli stricker

    So I am clear on this…. You receive your money back on whatever you purchased ( items,food,etc) plus receive payment for your shopping experience survey?
    Thanks for the info!

    1. Usually that is how it works, yes.

  4. Mandy A

    Is a job through BestMark an independent contract position or a W2 employee position? How do you write it up when you do taxes?

    1. It’s not technically a job. It would not be a W2 due to that.

    2. K

      You are an independent contractor.

  5. Beth

    Do you know of any reputable mystery shopping companies in Canada? I’d like to try this

  6. Courtney

    You make $30,000 a month blogging?! You mean a year?

  7. Mystery shopping is a great way to put the side hustle to work and earn that extra buck. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Gloria Bates

    hi Michelle,
    Please connect me to AUSTRALIAN mystery shops. I would be very interested.
    Thanks a lot.
    Gloria Bates