How to become a mystery shopper

by Erika Torres

how to become a mystery shopper

Mystery shopping–it’s always been something I was interested in but never actually needed the money badly enough to finally sign up and start doing it.

Until now, that is. Let’s start with the basics:

  • You will never become rich mystery shopping.
  • It doesn’t pay all that great.
  • It’s something that you do for fun, and to make an extra buck or two.
  • You have to actually work at it.

How I started mystery shopping

As for my experience with mystery shopping: I’ve actually really enjoyed it. I barely started this month, and have already completed 4 shops and earned about $50 (told you it won’t make you rich).

But $50 is currently about 1/4 of my grocery budget, so yup, I’ll take it!

I also have about 5 more shops scheduled, bringing my total earnings for October over  $100 (and the month isn’t even half over yet.)

I actually enjoy it. 3 out of the 4 shops were within blocks of my house. The other, a 10 minute drive. It does take some prep work and you do have to play close attention to detail. But for the most part, it’s fun! You get to pretend you’re a secret spy and these people don’t know you’re spying on them!

Tips on how to become a mystery shopper

  • Search for certified companies through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. They list assignments for certified companies, but you usually have to sign up for that particular company to apply for the shop.
  • Get more background information at the Mystery Shopping Forum. This has been a great tool to learn about more companies and get tips on which ones pay better, which ones don’t pay at all, etc.
  • Diversify. You’ll have a much greater chance of getting access to more shops (aka assignments) if you sign up with a bunch of different companies. I’m signed up with almost 10. You won’t always get all the assignments you want and you have to be flexible.
  • Sometimes you won’t get paid in cash. I know one company that pays a flat fee, but you have to pay for a service. For example, a haircut. You have to pay for the haircut but you only get paid a flat fee like $20, which is supposed to cover the cost of the haircut. If you need a free haircut though, this would work out perfect! Or perhaps you want free breakfast…every little bit helps.
  • Once you get your first assignment, do everything possible to turn in the best report. One of the companies I work for, rates your assignments. If you turn in a great assignment, they’ll let you do more shops. But if you turn in shoddy work, they won’t pick you as much unless they’re desperate.
  • Be flexible but don’t get desperate. Think if what they’re asking you to do is worth your time and gas money. Most shops pay between $8-20. You have to make sure that it’s worth it. Lucky for me, they’ve mostly been a five minute walk from my house, but otherwise it has to be something that I can do while doing errands–not going out of my way just to perform the shop. One of the shops I’m performing is literally across from the street from where I work, and I’ll be doing it during my lunch hour!
  • If you earn more than $600 a year with one company, you’ll have to report it on your taxes. So make sure to keep track of how much you’re making with each company.

How to Make More Money Online

If you’re considering mystery shopping because you need to get out of debt, or simply need to make more money, check out my post on How to Make Money Online for more tips and ways as to how I make extra money.

If you are interested in reading more about mystery shopping, check out our article on making money as a mystery shopper.


Paloma May 29, 2015 - 6:48 pm

I’m a MS too. I love this work. We can enjoy this benefits

Secret shopping enables you to earn extra income.
Most restaurant assignments include meal, tax and gratuity reimbursement.
Access to a variety of secret shopping assignments across the U.S. and Canada.
Second To None Mystery shopping assignments fit those with flexible schedules.
Your mystery shopping feedback directly improves customer service in many industries.
You have the opportunity to learn new information and skills.

Renee S April 30, 2013 - 7:48 am

I love mystery shopping and I just want to say that it *is* possible to make a LOT of money from shopping. Once I got my ratings up (with Corportate Research International) by only doing about 15 jobs, I was contacted to do a gas station route around my area. It includes 70 shops which will pay about $15 a shop and I get to do it quarterly.

I asked them to let me talk to the person who did this route before and we talked about how to do the shops most efficiently, etc. Anyway, this guy is retired and does shops all over the state and he told me he made $72,000 last year from doing mystery shops. He said that it doesn’t even make him work that hard…he still vacations 2 months out of the year in Florida (and does shops down there, too!) haha

He also told me that he is able to write off his mileage, half the price of his internet per month and half of the use of his phone per month.

I work full time and can’t mystery shop all of the time, but with these gas station shops I am going to make about $4,000 a year extra which sounds pretty good to me!

BestMark December 18, 2012 - 11:22 am

Hi Rachel! I also noticed the link wasn’t working but I believe the website address to be There are a bunch on Mystery Shopping forums out there and there are a lot of legitimate mystery shopping companies. Make sure you don’t do mystery shopping when they send you the money first. These are all scams. Most mystery shops are done then the survey is completed and edited and then you get a check in the mail.

Rachel September 18, 2012 - 1:23 pm

I have only been married a month. My husband and I are both still in college in a one room apartment. I would love to be able to mystery shop. I understand it won’t earn alot but anything helps! The links to mystery shop wouldnt work, can you show me where I can go to start? THANKS! Love your website!

Lanla April 24, 2015 - 7:08 pm

Late but it’s okay 🙂 I have done MS-ing for years and have found it a great way to earn a little extra money while enjoying meals out, hotel stays, etc. You do need to be very organised and have a good memory, though smartphones have made life easier as you can easily jot down notes to help with your report without looking too conspicuous.

Adrienne April 30, 2012 - 4:10 pm

oops, commented on the wrong post 😉

Adrienne April 30, 2012 - 4:10 pm

AH! Awesome girl! Way! To! Go!

TB April 5, 2012 - 9:16 am

Thanks for this. Not only did I stumble onto your site for the first time, but I also got some great info. What a neat way to make a little extra green! You won’t get rich on it, but a couple hundred extra a month is nothing to sneeze at!

Desi January 23, 2012 - 7:55 pm

I’m a shopper too, but I haven’t found a good way of tracking my mystery shop expenses (I don’t want to include them on my “everything” budget.) Do you have a strategy for tracking?

City Girl October 17, 2011 - 8:39 am

I’ve always wondered how to do this! Thanks for this informative post. I’m passing it on to a few friends. And, I’m with JoBo that they should pay more! xoxo

kim October 14, 2011 - 1:52 pm

This post is so timely! My volunteering comes to an end in a few weeks, and instead I’m going to start either mystery shopping or pet sitting (I just found I’m so glad you could put a number on it. I used to evaluate websites – you get $10 per pop, which isn’t bad for 20 minutes of sitting on your bum. Now that I’ve said that…I think I’m going to go back to that!

Claire February 5, 2012 - 9:56 pm

Kim, what company do you use to evaluate websites? I think I’d like to try that!

eemusings October 14, 2011 - 1:55 am

I’ve done it for years (my mother used to take me on some assignments, and when I moved out I started doing it to supplement my income). I’m signed up with about five different companies.

I had a sweet thing going for about a year doing bus surveys – I had a flexible schedule, lived near a central station and could catch all kinds of different routes to get home, and had an unlimited bus pass. Heck, I’d spend my lunchtime catching a few buses and make $40 in an hour, easily.

But they changed up the rules and now those are no longer worth the time and effort. The most lucrative are restaurant/bar ones and they’re the only ones I still do. The fee is only $15 but you do get $60 of free food and drinks, which is a pretty good deal IMO, and the company pays you in the same month.

I have to admit, I am not the most observant person in the world (thankfully all the shops I do nowadays are restaurant ones and I can enlist T’s help). But often the questions are just so ridiculous, it’s matter of just boiling it down to the fundamentals and fleshing out the details later.

Teacher Girl October 13, 2011 - 3:40 pm

I would love to know more! I worked in retail for years and always dealt with mystery shoppers on the other end. It would be interesting to know how it works the other way around.

Courtney October 13, 2011 - 9:30 am

I am interested!

Michelle October 13, 2011 - 6:10 am

I mystery shop also. I did one last night. And you are right, you will not get rich off of it. Before classes started back up, I’d make around $200 a month, but that was a lot of work! I went to dinner last night as my mystery shop and got paid $25. But the survey when I got home took over an hour.

jobo October 13, 2011 - 5:15 am

Ha! We didn’t end up talking about this!! So funny, because I used to work at a grocery store and would watch the mystery shoppers go around, kind of fun when you know that is what they are doing! Should pay more though, jeesh that’s cheap!


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