Cagey Consumer

Consumer Alert: Cybergold's "Free Money" Not So Cheap

Cybergold is a web-based advertising service that offers consumers the opportunity to earn credits for viewing specific advertisements on the web. When $5 worth of these credits have been accumulated, the dollar equivalent can be transferred to the consumers credit card or checking account.

Cybergold is one of several reward programs that are based on the premise that you can earn money to surf the web. It's arguable that viewing ads or answering questionnaires on a specific web site is "surfing the web", but if Cybergold is typical of these programs, participants are likely to be spending a good deal more money than they earn.

Free Offers, Trial Offers, & Rebates

Although there are a limited number of these offers that allow you to earn credits without spending money, most of these pay only 25¢ or 50¢ a piece... and since you can only earn the Cybergold once per offer, it can be touch reaching the minimum threshhold amount using just the free offers, not to mention the fact that your effective rate of Cybergold pay is far below minimum wage.

In some cases, you can earn money with a "free trial", but beware of those offers in which your subscription continues after the free trial if you fail to cancel.

For all the rest, the "cyber rewards" are the online version of a rebate program, and it makes sense to participate only if you were going to buy the product anyway at the same price.

Ripoff Offers

A promise of $2 in Cybergold for merely qualifying for a credit card drew the Cagey Consumer's attention. But upon reading the fine print on the applications from Premiere Bank's FutureCard web site, it appers that your application will result in a $69 annual fee for a secured credit card (with a $250 minimum initial deposit) or $168 in one-time program and setup fees plus a $5 monthly charge for an unsecured card, and it's not exactly obvious how to earn the Cybergold credit without actually incurring these fees.

With these fees, earning $2 in Cybergold no longer seems so attractive.

Give It Up, Cybergold!

Cybergold actually has a patent on its method of attracting viewers to its site by offering them money. But when people realize that Cybergold's site is just one more internet source of scams and ripoffs, it seems less likely that this method of business will be a profitable one.

I'm closing my Cybergold account today, and my advice to those reading this site is, if you haven't already signed up for a Cybergold account, don't bother! When Cybergold makes it clear that it won't allow for offers to be misrepresented or otherwise fraudulent, maybe I'll give them another chance.

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Posted December 21, 1998