Want to learn how to make passive income from your phone? Here’s a rundown of the best passive income apps of 2021.
Passive income is the goal for lots of people. Make money while you sleep? Sign me up!
The real appeal of earning passive income is that you’re not actively trading time for money, meaning you can focus on other sources of income.
But passive income takes some kind of investment, usually time or money, and that can make it feel unattainable for anyone who feels like their finances or time is already stretched thin. That’s what I like so much about these passive income apps.
These 100% legitimate passive income apps are more accessible than other streams of passive income, making them a great starting point for anyone who wants to make more money.
17 Best Passive Income Apps of 2021
1. Embee Mobile Performance Meter
The Embee Mobile Performance Meter is a truly passive income app that you download and let run in the background collecting data on network performance and how you use your phone. You use your phone like you normally would, and Embee sees what you’re doing and sends you small payments.
Yes, you are getting paid for your data, but I figure lots of apps are collecting data right now – this one is just paying you for it. Embee actually shares data with Nielsen (I’m going to mention them in a second), but here’s what Embee says about the data they collect:
“Nielsen does not listen to or record any of your phone calls. We also do not examine, store or record any of the contents of texts or picture messages you send or receive. In addition, we do not read any of the contents of your other files or email messages stored on your mobile device.”
Embee Meter is only available for Android devices. You must have a SIM card, and you must live in the U.S. or Canada.
You can expect to make around $0.10-$0.40/day, and Embee Meter pays out once you’ve earned $5. This app pays via PayPal or gift cards.
Here’s another incredibly passive app that pays you for the data it collects. MobileXpression works the same as the Embee Meter, and you can uninstall it any time you want.
MobileXpression pays you in points each week that you can redeem for gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks, Best Buy, and more. You can expect to earn around $5/month in passive income.
Android and Apple users can download and make money from MobileXpression, but the app works best on Android devices.
As far as data concerns, MobileXpression is not collecting texts, photos, downloads, calendar entries, contacts from your address book, passwords, or other sensitive and personal data.
Sweatcoin says it converts “your steps into a currency.” Here’s what that means: you download Sweatcoin, it tracks the number of steps you take throughout the day, and you earn approximately 1 Sweatcoin for every 1,200 steps you take.
You can redeem your Sweatcoins for offers like a subscription to the Calm app, books on Audible, cash in your Twine savings account, and more. Sweatcoin used to pay in cash via PayPal, but not anymore – they focus on partner offers now.
This passive income app is several things rolled in one – you can take surveys for money and get paid when you refer friends. But the really passive part is the browser extension you install and let run in the background.
You can download SavvyConnect on your phone, tablet, and laptop. SavvyConnect’s browser extension collects data about what you do online and then pays you for the information it collects. Like these other apps, SavvyConnect is not gathering any kind of personally identifiable or sensitive data. They are looking for trends and information about how you use the web, not specifics.
You can make around $5/month with SavvyConnect, and it pays in cash via check.
Taking surveys on the site can bring in an extra $1-$3/month. That’s not passive, but it’s a little extra cash in your pocket and super easy.
5. Nielsen Mobile Panel
Nielsen is an incredibly well-known and trusted data and market research company. The Nielsen Mobile Panel works like these other passive income apps I’ve mentioned – it runs in the background collecting data about how you use the internet and cell networks.
The Nielsen Mobile Panel gathers information about how you use your phone, from which sites you visit and for how long, what apps you use, how long you spend on phone calls, and the number of texts sent. They never record your communications or share personal info with third parties.
You can make around $50/year from this app, and Nielsen pays via gift cards to Amazon, Starbucks, Target, and more.
Rakuten and the next couple of passive income apps pay you cashback for shopping like you normally do. It’s free to sign up for Rakuten, and new users get a free $10 bonus.
Here’s how Rakuten works:
- Sign up for a free account.
- Browse offers – current offers are 2% back at Kohl’s, 6% back at Macy’s, earn up to $75 at Verizon, and more.
- Click on the offer you want to claim and Rakuten sends you to their partner site
- Start shopping like you normally would.
Rakuten pays you in cash via PayPal or check, and there are over 2,500 retailers where you can earn cash through Rakuten.
Ibotta is another cash back app, and they are a couple of ways you can make passive income through Ibotta.
The easiest option is to connect your store's loyalty program to Ibotta, and then you can automatically redeem offers. There are more than 100 stores, including popular grocery chains, that you can connect.
You can also submit receipts to earn cashback or pay for in-store orders using the Ibotta app.
It’s free to sign up for Ibotta, and they pay out once your account reaches $20. Ibotta sends money out via PayPal and Venmo, or you can transfer your cash to store gift cards.
You can earn your first $20 when signing up through our exclusive M$M link.
Dosh pays you cashback for shopping, eating out, and booking hotels. It’s super easy, too – you just download the app, link your card, and shop. When you use your linked card at one of Dosh’s partner companies, Dosh deposits cash in your account.
Once you have $25 in your Dosh account, you can transfer it to your bank or access it via PayPal or Venmo.
The average return rate on your purchases is 2% to 3%, but sometimes you can find offers that pay upwards of 10% cashback.
Even though cashback apps don’t pay back a ton, they can be a really good way to make a little extra money. You can essentially double-dip if you use rewards credit cards – earn credit card points for travel and cashback when you shop.
Okay, this one isn’t technically passive income, but it’s definitely worth mentioning! See, Paribus is an app that looks over your recent online purchases and helps you take advantage of missed coupons and price drop refunds.
For example, say you just bought a new vacuum online from Walmart and paid $200 for it. If Walmart reduces the price to $180 next week, Paribus will help you get that $20 difference.
Paribus can do that with something called the Paribus Receipt Fetcher. This technology uses an algorithm to go through your emails and see what online purchases you’ve recently bought and how much they are being sold for.
Don’t worry, Paribus isn’t actually reading your emails. It’s only scanning for specific kinds of data.
Paribus is 100% free to sign up for, and they track purchases from retailers like Amazon, Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, and more.
Trim is another one that isn’t technically passive income, but it works on your behalf to lower your bills and cancel unwanted subscriptions. It’s not cashback, but you can end up reclaiming hundreds of dollars that you would be spending in the future.
Here’s exactly what Trim can do for you:
- Negotiate for lower rates on your cable, internet, and cell phone bills – Trim does charge for this service, and it's 33% of the total you save each year.
- Cancel unwanted subscriptions by looking through your credit and bank history to identify recurring subscriptions, and then cancels them on your behalf. This service is free.
Trim has recently expanded their financial services with an automated savings account that offers a 4% annual reward on the first $2,000 you save in the account. They also have a debt payback program called TrimPay, financial coaching, a debt calculator, and bank negotiation.
Feel like you’re overpaying for internet and cell phone?
Trim negotiates for lower rates on your cable, internet, and cell phone bills. They can also cancel your unwanted subscriptions.Quickly save money with Trim
Now we’re getting to passive income apps that can have much larger returns in the long-term. These are investment apps, so they require an upfront financial investment from you. What’s nice about Acorns, though, is that it’s a micro-investment platform.
Micro-investing is investing with small amounts of money, even spare change. Instead of buying full shares of stocks or ETFs, you’re burning micro or fractional shares.
You’re not going to get huge returns by investing spare change only, but it’s a really good way to start investing if you don’t feel like you have a lot of money to put towards investing.
- Acorns Lite – $1/month: includes a taxable, personal investment account.
- Acorns Personal – $3/month: includes your personal investment account and an IRA (Traditional, Roth, or SEP).
- Acorns Family – $5/month: includes the personal investment account, IRA account, checking account, and investment accounts for kids.
Acorns asks you questions about your age, income, and financial goals when you sign up so they can recommend the best investment portfolio for you. There are five options from conservative to aggressive.
You can fund your Acorns account using automated deposits or Round-Ups. Round-Ups are when you link a credit or debit card, and Acorns rounds up your transactions to the next dollar amount and deposit the difference.
So, if you pay $3.47 for a cup of coffee, Acorns will round up to $4 and invest the $0.53 difference.
What’s unique about Stash is that you can invest in either pre-built portfolios that are matched to your goals, or you can pick which micro shares of stocks and ETFs you invest in based on your values or interest.
- Beginner – $1/month: This account includes a personal investment account, unlimited trades, debit card access, the Stock-Back program, and financial education.
- Growth – $3/month: Everything in the Beginner account plus a tax-advantaged retirement account.
- Stash+ – $9/month: Includes everything in Growth plus custodial accounts for up to two children. You’ll receive a monthly market insights report and a Stash debit card with 2x Stock-Back.
You need just $5 in your account to start investing with Stash.
Betterment also offers micro-investing options, but it looks more like a traditional brokerage compared to those last two passive income apps.
That’s what I like so much about Betterment – it’s an affordable online brokerage that has options for brand new investors, but it still offers robust features and portfolios, like:
- Tax strategies: Daily tax-loss harvesting, a tax impact preview tool, and a tax coordinated portfolio tool.
- Social Responsible Investment (SRI) portfolio: Invest in companies that are aligned with your beliefs.
- Goldman Sachs Smart Beta Portfolio: This portfolio uses passive and active strategies that involve a little more risk, but potentially offer a higher return.
- BlackRock Target Income Portfolio: For investors preparing for retirement, this portfolio works to provide a dependable stream of passive income.
- Financial advice packages: Paid, in-depth financial advice from a Certified Financial Advisor.
Betterment’s pricing is based on the amount of money you have invested. It’s 0.25% annually if you have less than $100,000 invested. Above $100,000 is 0.40% annually, and when your invested balance hits $2 million, your annual fee drops to 0.30%.
If you have an RV, camper van, or travel trailer, you can make passive income from the Outdoorsy app.
Outdoorsy is an app where you list your RV, and Outdoorsy finds verified renters (must pass an extensive driving history check).
This could be a really good passive income stream if you’re not using your RV, and you keep 80% of the booking fee. Outdoorsy also provides $250,000 in comprehensive collision damage and $1 million in liability coverage for the length of the rental.
Turo is another peer-to-peer rental platform, but this one is specifically for cars. Maybe you’re not driving as much these days, you want to offset the cost of your new car payment, or you just want another passive income stream.
It’s free to create an account and listing for your car. You set your rates – they have something called the Carculator to help you with pricing. Turo checks the driving history of anyone who’s renting, but you have the final say.
Turo pays via PayPal or bank transfers, and you keep 65% to 90% of the daily rental price for your car. The range is based on the number of extras you offer, like allowing one-way trips or unlimited mileage. More extras = a higher percentage.
To give you an idea of how much cars list for, here are some rental prices where I’m at in Houston, TX:
- 2007 Honda Odyssey – $55/day
- 2011 Ford Explorer – $60/day
- 2011 Nissan Altima – $32/day
Turo protects your vehicle with a $1 million liability insurance policy from Liberty Mutual. It protects you and your vehicle in the event of damage or theft.
Honeygain is an app that lets you make money from your unused internet data. Honeygain creates a gateway from that data so other companies can run various search queries for their clients.
These aren’t nefarious searches – Honeygain is a super legit passive income app.
The searches are for things like search engine optimization or collecting data for price comparison sites based on users in different markets.
Honeygain pays you based on how much of your internet is used, and the current rate is 1 credit for 10 MB of traffic that goes through your network. Each credit is worth a penny, and 10 GB = $1.
You can cash out once you have $20 in your Honeygain, and they estimate that it takes approximately 48 days to earn $20.
If you use the referral link below, you are eligible to claim $5.
Swagbucks is mostly known as a cashback app for shopping online and paying people to take surveys. But Swagbucks is another one of the passive money making apps that does a lot of different things.
We’ve already talked about how passive cashback is, and you get that with Swagbucks. The other super passive way to make money with this app is getting paid to watch videos.
Yep, Swagbucks will pay you to watch videos.
There’s isn’t a very high payout for watching videos – like 2 to 3 Swagbucks per video – but you can have it running in the background while you work, make dinner, or do anything else.
Swagbucks pay you in points (100 Swagbucks = $1) that you convert to gift cards for Amazon, Target, Walmart, and over 140 other companies. You can also redeem your points for Visa gift cards, which is pretty much like cash.
How do I generate passive income? The final word
Passive income takes some kind of investment, and usually, it’s time or money.
Starting a blog is a really good example of a time investment. You can start a blog in your spare time, and while it’s a slow business model overall (it took me around 3 months to start generating any income from my site), there is virtually unlimited earning potential.
I’m now earning around $50,000/month from this site, and a good chunk of it semi-passive income from affiliate marketing and course sales.
Investing in the stock market or real estate investing is a really common way to earn passive income through financial investment. These are options typically thought of as less accessible because not everyone has the capital to start investing, whereas we all have a little time we can spend building a stream of passive income.
But what the apps on this list prove is that anyone can start generating passive income. Many of these are much smaller streams of passive income, but it’s still income.
One of the best things you can do is to channel the passive income you’re earning from one of these apps into building another stream.
For example, the cashback you earn when you shop through Ibotta can be put into your Acorns investment account. You’re not going to see huge gains sticking to this investment strategy alone, but it’s a start.
It’s also a great lesson in how passive income can generate more passive income – which is how you build real wealth in the future.