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Tax Reform

7 Free Things That Are Actually Free and What's In It for "Them"

Updated for Tax Year 2017


There are many "free" offers today that seem to be too-good-to-be-true. However, many of these offers are legitimate and you can score something for free. Find out why certain offers are free, and what is really in it for "them."

1. Free iPods, Xboxes, flat screen TVs

You have likely seen flashy banner ads for "Free iPods," "Free flat screen TVs" and a variety of other valuable items online. Did you know that these offers can be legitimate? You can actually get a free iPod or a flat screen TV!

So how does this work? In order to receive your free iPod, you are required to participate in several trial offers from other companies. These trial offers usually consist of things like:

  • Signing up for credit cards
  • DVD or CD purchase programs
  • Monthly re-bill products (pills, vitamins, etc)
  • Magazine subscriptions

Once you have completed at least 6 of these offers, and each individual company has verified your participation, you will be sent your free product. The trick is picking good trial offers. Pick the offers you might actually use. The credit card offers are usually a safe bet (as long as you don't use them more than once). Most of the offers are monthly subscriptions.

What's in it for you?

There actually is an iPod or flat screen TV at the end of the rainbow—you just need some persistence.

What’s in it for them?

  • They make money by selling your e-mail and contact information.
  • They make commissions when you sign up for the trial offers, and when you are re-billed for anything you forget to cancel.
  • A very small percentage of people ever completes every offer, so very few free iPods are actually ever sent.

2. Free products and cash for surveys

Looking for ways to make extra income online? One of the most popular and ubiquitous ways to make some extra cash is by taking surveys. With so many different companies offering cash or products in exchange for surveys, you need to separate the legitimate offers from those that are not worthwhile.

There are legitimate market research firms who will pay you to take surveys. Companies use these firms to get real opinions on their products or services from consumers. Most surveys take from 10 to 20 minutes to complete. The payment for taking surveys varies, but is usually in the form of a check, a gift certificate or merchandise (DVDs, electronic gadgets, appliances, cookware, etc.)

What's in it for you?

You can earn an extra few hundred dollars per month if done diligently (legitimate market research firms pay anywhere from $1-$20 per survey).

What's in it for them?

  • Market research firms rely on well-targeted, high-quality survey takers to provide feedback and opinions.
  • Information gleaned from the surveys helps these companies to improve their products or offerings, leading to bigger profits.

3. Free Samples

We have all tried the free samples given away at the supermarket, or the local coffee shop, or through mailers. There are literally hundreds of companies giving out free samples of almost anything. Electronics, beauty products, pet supplies, office supplies and magazines are all items that are given away free through company promotions.

There are many sites online that specialize in combing the Internet for free sample offers. There are even aggregator sites that provide comprehensive lists of free samples taken from other free sample sites.

What's in it for you?

  • There are a very few downsides to soliciting free samples.
  • It is necessary to submit your contact information. If you stick to the major retailers, you are generally safe from getting massive amounts of unsolicited mail.

What's in it for them?

  • Free samples are an excellent way to introduce products to new customers.
  • Once you've tried and enjoyed a particular product, you are much more likely to purchase it next time.

4. Free Trials

Free trials are available for a wide range of products at a great range of price points. Beds, exercise equipment, online services, magazines, supplements, and a whole host of other products and services are available as free trials., for example, allows you to sign up to get free trial offers in exchange for reviewing the products you sample.

What's in it for you?

  • The benefit of a product or service without having to plunk down any cash

What's in it for them?

  • Free trials serve as an excellent way for companies to entice customers to purchase their products.
  • By offering a free trial, many customers find that they like the product enough to keep the product (and pay for it).

5. Credit Reports

Verifying that your credit report is accurate is an essential part of managing your money, as it can have substantial repercussions on your life.

Any individual's credit information can be obtained for “free” from online services that aggregate data from these three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Trans Union or Equifax). Sites like offer this information for free, but there are a few things you should know before signing up.

What's in it for you?

  • You can receive your credit information to monitor your current credit status.

What's in it for them?

  • While your credit information is free from many of these services, you may need to sign up for recurring monitoring/billing.
  • This monitoring service will help you keep track of your credit, but will also come at a cost (which some companies don’t make clear).

6. Free WiFi

In the past few years the availability of WiFi has exploded. Depending on where you live, it has become increasingly common to discover numerous access points every time you flip open your laptop or WiFi enabled phone.

Often, wireless access points are left unencrypted (intentionally or otherwise), giving those within range the option of truly free Internet access. Many U.S. airports, for example, offer free WiFi.

What's in it for you?

  • Free wireless access

What's in it for them?

  • Free WiFi is a serious benefit for many and can greatly increase sales for vendors.
  • By providing WiFi, customers may be able to do more work and stick around the store/restaurant for a longer time. By staying in the store for a longer time, customers are more likely to purchase food/coffee/drinks.

7. Free Ringtones

Now that most cell phones can play polyphonic or even MP3 ringtones, there has been an explosion of services offering free ringtones. The ringtone market has been an explosive niche online, as well as within other advertising platforms. What many consumers are unaware of is that they can easily create their own "free" ringtones, and that in many instances, what may at first seem free, can become quite costly.

What's in it for you?

  • Often opt-in services can be bypassed, allowing users to download a 100 percent free ringtone.

What's in it for them?

  • Most companies are making an attempt to sign you up for a monthly service charge that is applied directly to your cell phone bill. Beware when you send a text message to get a free ringtones – you may be signing up for a monthly content package.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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