From the Kenosha News on 5-13-07

Can you really get “free stuff” using the internet?

      It’s true that there’s really no such thing as a free lunch, but there are a lot of internet sites and junk mail that promise free gift cards and so on.  Are these real?  Over the years, scam artists have transitioned from regular mail to telephone solicitation, to junk e-mail (spam) and internet ads.  The old adage “anything too good to be true always is” definitely applies here.  Still, there are a few relatively painless ways to get some “free” stuff in exchange for your time.

      The first rule of thumb is that if the reward is very large, there’s always a catch.  If you get an e-mail touting a $500 Home Depot gift card, you can bet that you’d need to “participate in offers” where you’d spend at least $500.  Any site that offers a free iPod or Nintendo Wii has a similar catch. 

      So, are there any honest deals out there?  Yes.  If you’d like to spend some time taking surveys or viewing advertisements, you can earn points or dollars that you can trade for gift cards, airline miles, and so on.  Here are a few suggestions:

Harris Interactive – the same people that do the famous Harris polls.  My brother suggested this one to me, and it’s the first one I tried.  You get an e-mail once every couple weeks to take a survey, for which you earn 10-200 points, depending on if you fall into a category they’re looking for and complete the entire survey.  These tend to be consumer surveys like whether you’ve heard of various banks, what cars you drive, or what breakfast foods you buy.  Each complete survey can take up to 20 minutes.   For about 800 points, you can get a $5 gift card for various retailers and eateries, such as Starbucks, Blockbuster, or Pizza Hut.  You can also get merchandise rewards instead.  It takes me about 6 months to earn a $5 gift card, but I only do about one survey each few weeks.  Signing up can be done on-line at http://www.harrispollonline.com/.  They will NOT give out your e-mail address to other companies, so you will not get spam by signing up with them.

MyPoints – a combination of advertisement, surveys, and on-line shopping.  MyPoints gives you several ways to earn points which can be redeemed for gift cards, airline miles, and other rewards.  If you shop on-line anyway, you should look into this.  You can earn points at places like Overstock.com, Ebay, Walmart.com, etc.   When you sign up, you can indicate the number of promotional e-mails you’d like to receive each day.  Many of the messages will earn you 5 points by clicking the link and opening the advertiser’s web site.  Of course, you earn more points by buying things and taking surveys.  I suspect they may sell your e-mail address to others.  Check it out at www.mypoints.com.

eRewards – Survey opportunities   They send more opportunities than Harris, so you earn rewards faster, but the rewards are more limited – mostly magazines and travel rewards like airline miles.   I do not know if they sell your e-mail address.  Go to www.e-rewards.com.

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 5-13-07