20 Ways (and 30 Apps) to Make Your Smartphone Pay for Itself

Photo (cc) by Johan Larsson

It’s small, sleek, and you love it like a third arm.

Yes, 58 percent of us have decided basic phones that only make calls are passé. And who needs a significant other with a pulse when 44 percent of us sleep with our phone within arm’s reach? A person might snore or bore us or steal the sheets, but the phone, yes that wonderful phone, will be and do whatever we want.

Alas, despite your deep affection for your smartphone, that little piece of electronic joy may be eating a hole in your budget. We’re talking about a hole that could be thousands of dollars over the course of the year.

However, we have a way to make you feel better about spending all that money. Money Talks News finance expert Stacy Johnson has put together a collection of ways your smartphone can both save and make you money.

Watch the video, then keep reading.

10 ways to save money with your smartphone

We’ll start with how you can use your phone to save money each and every day. These alone may be enough to help you justify the purchase of a shiny new iPhone 6 or Samsung Note 4.

Compare prices

First up, you can use your phone to help you decide if the store deal is really a deal after all. Apps such as Amazon Price Check, ShopSavvy and ShopAdvisor let you enter a product or scan a barcode and find out whether it’s available elsewhere at a cheaper price. Some apps let you set up price alerts as well.

Clip coupons

You can also clip coupons with your smartphone. Meijer, Kroger and Target are among the stores with apps allowing you to clip virtual coupons or load savings onto a loyalty card. There are also apps that aren’t store specific, such as SavingStar.

Of course, you could always clip virtual coupons from your computer at home, but the mobile apps are helpful for those times when you want to check for savings while in the store.

Get deals

Your phone can also be your source of deals beyond grocery coupons.

Retailers, restaurants and other businesses might have “text clubs” in which you opt-in to receive text messages and the company immediately responds with a special offer. Of course, you could do that with a regular old flip phone, too.

However, you will need a smartphone to get the deals from apps like Foursquare that may reward you for checking in at local businesses.

Find free ATMs

Another way to save money with your smartphone is to use apps from Allpoint, MoneyPass or your local bank or credit union to find surcharge-free ATMs in your area. You could save $3-$5 in bank fees every time you fire up the app.

Track spending

Smartphone apps can also track your spending and help you build a better budget. PowerWallet, Check, HelloWallet and You Need a Budget are a few of the biggest names in this category. While you won’t instantly save money as you would with coupons or price comparison apps, these can provide some long-term savings if used to keep spending under control.

Locate the cheapest gas

GasBuddy and Fuel Finder are two of the apps you can download in your quest for a cheaper fill-up. By reporting local gas prices to GasBuddy, you can earn points toward prize giveaways, making this one app that can both save you money and make you money.

Replace expensive gadgets

Of course, you don’t need an app to save money with a smartphone. It can keep cash in your pocket by eliminating the need to purchase pricey gadgets such as video recorders, cameras and GPS systems. Some of these items may be built into your phone. For example, your Android device may come preloaded with navigation through Google Maps, while others may be enhanced by downloading apps such as those for photo or video editing.

Cut the land line

You spend a lot of money on your smartphone. Do you really need a land line, too? In many situations, a mobile phone is all you need.

If you’re worried about others being at home without a phone while you’re gone, I’ve found $100 can buy a basic Tracfone and a year’s worth of service. You get a limited number of minutes, but if the home phone is only for occasional use, that should be more than enough. Other prepaid carriers may have similar pricing.

Let it replace your Internet

Likewise, you might be able to use your phone’s 4G capabilities to replace your home Internet.

A Verizon settlement with the FCC two years ago paved the way for many mobile users to tether their phones to their computer and use their data plan without any additional charge. If you have a grandfathered unlimited data plan, like me, or have a company that doesn’t accommodate tethering, you might have the option to turn your phone into a mobile hotspot. It will cost you, but it might be less than paying for separate Internet service.

However, these options may be best for light Internet users. Individuals who are on the computer 24/7, play games or stream movies may find a phone plan doesn’t give the bandwidth needed. Watch your usage carefully to avoid extra, and expensive, charges for exceeding your data package limit.

Stay on top of your day

Finally, a simple way to save money is to simply be organized.

If you realize you have multiple errands in the same general location, you can group them together to save time and gas. If you know your children’s schedules well in advance, you can arrange for shared rides, another time and money saver. Finally, being organized means you don’t miss visits or deadlines that could translate into cancellation fees at the doctor or late registration fees for sports sign-ups.

What does that have to do with your smartphone? Apps such as Cozi, Evernote and Remember the Milk can all help you stay on top of life and head off expensive mistakes and oversights.

10 ways to make money with your smartphone

Now that we’ve covered 10 ways to save money using your smartphone, it’s time to focus on 10 ways to make money with your favorite handheld device. These apps won’t make you rich, but they can bring in a little extra cash to offset that big bill you get each month from your mobile provider.Field Agent

Available on Android and Apple devices, Field Agent pays you a couple bucks for completing tasks such as taking photos in local stores or completing surveys. Payments are made through either popular payment site PayPal or the lesser known Dwolla.


If you’ve been interested in mystery shopping but would rather not fill out long applications and sample narratives, Mobee might be a good option for you. It’s easy to sign up, and users can accept missions that involve answering brief questions while in a store. Each mission results in points that can be redeemed for cash. Mobee is supported on Android and Apple devices.


Gigwalk is similar to Field Agent and also open to both Android and Apple users. Complete tasks such as checking on-shelf inventory or product displays and earn money for each gig successfully completed.

Receipt Hog

It doesn’t get much easier than Receipt Hog when it comes to making money off your smartphone. Snap a photo of your receipt from any store and be rewarded with coins that can be used for cash or gift cards. Receipt Hog is compatible with Android and Apple devices.

Google Opinion Rewards

If you’re an Android user and looking for a way to feed your app habit, you might want to try Google Opinion Rewards. It doesn’t reward you with cash, but you can get credits to use in the Google Play store in exchange for completing surveys.

Gym Pact

If you want to get in shape and earn money at the same time, you might want to install Gym Pact on your Apple or Android phone. The premise is simple. You set a goal, such as working out three times per week, and receive cash for meeting your goal. Of course, if you fail, you’ll be opening your wallet to pay the Gym Pact members who had more success than you. The creators of Gym Pact also have a Veggie Pact and a Food Log Pact for those who want to eat more greens or do a better job tracking calories. (We covered this app a few months ago in this story.)


Couch potatoes can use their phone to earn points by watching their favorite shows, answering trivia questions or completing surveys on the Viggle app. Points can then be redeemed for gift cards. Viggle is available for Apple and Android.


Apple users can get paid to snap photos of out-of-stock displays at their local stores. Download the gapNsnap app, visit a participating store and transmit photos of inventory gaps and shelf tags. Points can be redeemed for cash or prizes.


Fronto is an Android-compatible app that turns your phone’s lock screen into an ad. Swipe your screen to the right to go to your normal home page. Or, swipe to the left if you find the ad interesting and want to learn more. Either way, you earn points that can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards, coupons or cash through PayPal,


This final money-making app is geared toward all you aspiring photogs. You can upload your best pics to Foap where it’s rated by other users. Photos with at least 5 ratings and a 2.6 average are placed on the Foap Market for others to purchase. When you make a sale, you split the earnings with Foap and walk away with $5. However, photos can be sold multiple times, so a good image has the potential to earn more. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

There you have it: 20 ways and 30 apps that can help you turn a profit with your phone. Did we leave something out? Tell us your favorite ways to use your phone below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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