How to make money as a mystery shopper

by Erika Torres

I’ve spoken about how to become a mystery shopper, but now that I’ve been doing it for about five months, I wanted to share some of the perks.

In the past five months, I have:

  • eaten meals at restaurants we can’t afford
  • had my dog’s annual vet exam covered
  • gotten an oil change on the house
  • received $60 in free groceries
  • had frozen yogurt at a popular yogurt shop
  • received $40 in free items at a popular high-end home decor store, on top of being paid
  • drank several coffee drinks for free at a popular coffee shop
  • mailed packages for free
  • tried on $1600 dresses at a high-end fashion retailer

and these are just the ones I can remember!

My proudest mystery shopping moment yet came last week when I went to the mall and made $65 in two hours at the mall, in addition to $40 in free merchandise and then on the drive home, I picked up $20 in free groceries.

Essentially, that’s $125 for only a couple of hours of my time, plus about an hour to do all the reviews. Now granted, $20 of the “free merchandise” was because I had two Victoria’s Secret free undies coupons they send in the mail. And I’m lucky that this mall has two Victoria’s Secret locations.

But the other $20 in free merchandise was to a high-end home decor store that I love but can never afford.

I haven’t made a ton of money mystery shopping, but I have definitely benefited from the free perks. Eric and I have been able to keep our monthly dining out budget to under $100 in recent months because of gift cards and restaurant mystery shops.

There are the negatives to mystery shopping:

  • it’s time consuming
  • it costs some money up front to pay for the oil change, restaurant, groceries, etc, but you always get reimbursed in addition to getting paid
  • the pay is low (most shops pay between $10 and $20)

The very first shop I did I was super nervous about screwing it up. But once you figure out how to perform a shop, they get easier and easier.

This is definitely not something I would do if we had more disposable income or if I weren’t trying to save for a honeymoon. Because while it is nice to get perks and dinners for free, it’s still work and it still requires some time commitment.

However, if you’re a broke newlywed, or are trying to make extra money, mystery shopping would be a good fit. You do have to be a decent writer and have good attention to detail.

Now that I’ve been mystery shopping for five months, I know which companies are my favorite, which shops I love to do, and when to check for my favorite shops.

If you’re interested and want more information, check out How to become a mystery shopper.


Janita Hood January 28, 2013 - 4:17 pm

I would like some more information on how to get started..

Mikaela Hartzog August 17, 2012 - 7:52 pm

Thanks again for the article post.Thanks Again. Keep writing.

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MyMoneyDesign March 22, 2012 - 4:59 pm

You are the first person I have ever heard who has said that being a Mystery Shopper is a real thing. My wife would love this!

ShortRoadTo March 20, 2012 - 11:22 am

I have done over 500 mystery shops in the last 6 months. Some of the reports take longer than the shop. It is worth it if you can set a day aside and do multiple shops in one area. I average about $20-$25 per hour when taking into consideration driving time, doing the shop, and entering the report. If you have any questions about mystery shopping, you can email me at masterp1976@gmail.com

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Hannah March 20, 2012 - 6:07 am

THANK YOU for your post a while back. I am loving mystery shopping and its honestly made my shopping experiences better. I’ve started to notice great customer service no matter where I am and I am quick to speak up about being treated poorly. Overall, it has been a great experience!

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Marissa @ Thirty Six Months March 16, 2012 - 9:27 pm

I loved the idea of mystery shopping but hated the write-ups. I eventually gave up. By “eventually” i mean I didn’t start.

Teacher Girl March 13, 2012 - 6:27 pm

This sounds like something I would be up for in the summer when I have lots of free time on my hands 😉

femmefrugality March 13, 2012 - 4:59 pm

You’re definitely convincing me! Sounds like some of the stuff you get reimbursed for is stuff you have to do anyways.

SB @ One Cent At A Time March 13, 2012 - 5:08 am

Thats wonderful to have so much in freebies. I need to read about becoming mystery shopper. Some occasional dresses and free food won’t be bad I think.

Liz March 12, 2012 - 7:00 pm

I am so glad I stumbled across this blog! We seem to have a ton in common! I am currently working on paying off all my debts so I enter my marriage (October 2013) debt free and ready to have a strong financial future. And to help pay down that debt I’ve become a mystery shopper as well. I love that it allows my fiance and I to eat out without the guilt of the added expenses! I’ve been able to make about $150/month pure profit plus $150/month of luxuries and splurges that currently have no room in my budget. I look forward to following your blog!

Kevin @ SpringCoin March 12, 2012 - 4:03 pm

I remember when I was in college I was thinking about doing this. I never knew if it was a scam or if it was for real. This is a great way to make extra money. I’d love to recommend this to some of our users, if you don’t mind, could you shoot me an email of the company you’re working with?

Aloysa @ My Broken Coin March 12, 2012 - 11:48 am

If I had time I definitely would go for it. It sounds like my cup of tea! 🙂 $1600 dollar dresses? Bring it on! 🙂

shopping2saving March 12, 2012 - 11:38 am

I always want to do some mystery shops but for some reason there are never any good ones in my town… and I thought I lived in a bigger city! The only one I wanted to do was Souplantation but then it got booked quickly. There are a lot of video game stores and auto shops like Nissan and Ford, but I find those too time-consuming for the pay.

Savvy Scot March 12, 2012 - 8:45 am

When I was a student I had meals for free and got money to gamble in the casino as well as visiting various shops. Good thing to have on the side. The Oil Change and VET examination sounds like a score!

SWR March 12, 2012 - 7:58 am

We have gotten some nice dinners out as a result of mystery shopping. I have done a couple of phone call shops as well, but didn’t like those as much. (I felt super awkward- maybe it was just the jobs that I was doing.)

It is time-consuming, but the way I see it, restaurant mystery shopping replaces something that we would want to do anyway because we love going out to eat. I have also stuck with just one company, so the reports are getting easier and easier to write because they don’t change much from shop to shop.

Jai Catalano March 12, 2012 - 6:49 am

I think it sounds fun. I don’t have the time to do it but if I were in your shoes I would do it in a heartbeat.

Michelle March 12, 2012 - 6:21 am

I’ve been doing less secret shops lately. I try to only do the phone call shops so that I don’t spend money on gas or any upfront costs.

I agree, it’s definitely time consuming!


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