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How to supplement your income by mystery shopping

Man shopping in a grocery store

If you're looking to supplement your main source of income, mystery shopping might be for you.

Mystery shopping is a fun and low-stress way to make money on the side. While this sounds enticing, it's important you understand everything there is to know about mystery shopping so you can earn extra income.

What's mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is a tool typically used by market research companies to discover how retail stores, restaurants and more handle service and treat customers. Watchdog groups also employ mystery shoppers to see if companies meet compliance with existing laws.

The establishment's staff typically have no idea if they're dealing with a mystery shopper. By not revealing an identity, mystery shoppers can be on the receiving end of genuine customer service that's either good or bad.

Mystery shopping is a neat way to earn extra income (and some freebies along the way) because you can do it on your own time. Plus, who doesn't enjoy being paid to visit stores or restaurants?

"Mystery shopping is a neat way to earn extra income."

How much can I make?

According to Kyle Taylor, founder of The Penny Hoarder, he was usually paid between $8-$25 per mystery shopping outing, in addition to possibly being reimbursed for any purchases [1].

You should expect similar payments, but it'll take time for you to reach higher payouts. Time Money explained that if you're just starting off, you might earn as little as $5 for each outing [2]. But if you stick with it, your payouts will increase.

Additionally, you can earn more money if you take on projects that require more time to complete.

With mystery shopping, it's all about setting expectations. You most likely won't be able to make this a full-time gig, but projects are an easy way to earn more cash to help pay the bills or set aside in a savings account.

What are these projects?

Money Crashers compiled a list of common mystery shopping assignments, along with average payouts [3]. They are:

  • Eating at a fast casual sandwich shop: $20.
  • Visiting a gas station to evaluate cleanliness and customer service: $7.
  • Purchasing a beer (also at a gas station) to see if attendant checks for identification: $8.
  • Dinner for two at mid-scale restaurant: $35 reimbursement.
  • Stopping by an upscale furniture store: $30 reimbursement, $5 in pay.
  • Opening a new bank account: $50.

Ready to start? Here's how

First, you'll need to submit an application to a mystery shopping firm, but you'll need to be careful to avoid potential scams. Legitimate companies you'll want to apply with are:

  • Intelli-shop.
  • Best Mark.
  • Experience Exchange.
  • Market Force.

Of course, there are more mystery shopping companies you may find. Just remember that if you have to pay to join a company; it's most likely a scam. Additionally, some scammers might offer you a large sum of money upfront. Don't accept it because this is also a scam, Time Money warned.

girl looking at clothes in a store
Mystery shopping can be a good source of supplemental income.

Keep these tips in mind

Once you're accepted, you'll usually be able to select assignments through an online portal. Before you head out on your first mystery shopping outing, you'll need to organize yourself in a few ways.

First, make sure you have a camera to take pictures (your smartphone counts). Having a scanner is also useful so you can make digital copies of receipts and be reimbursed for purchases. 

Finally, you'll need to put in the time and effort to work your way up. Your first assignments will be low-paying but if you have superb attention to detail, you'll be able to choose better (and higher paying) projects in no time.

If you want to make side income by visiting stores and restaurants, why not try mystery shopping?

[1]. The Best Mystery Shopping Companies to Work For

[2]. How to Make the Most Money Being a Mystery Shopper

[3]. What is Mystery Shopping? A Complete Guide to Mystery Shopping Companies & Jobs

The information provided in these articles is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be construed as the opinion of Central Bancompany, Inc., and/or its affiliates and does not imply endorsement or support of any of the mentioned information, products, services, or providers. All information presented is without any representation, guaranty, or warranty regarding the accuracy, relevance, or completeness of the information.