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Don’t count on your rewards “cash”

You’ve probably heard about those sites where you can take surveys and earn some extra stuff, like gift cards, airline miles and more.

You feel like you’re earning money!

But here’s a story about how your digital “money” can disappear — and what you can do about it.

Watch our video report here:

 

 

 

Why you shouldn’t count on your rewards “cash,” by Archer News Network.

 

Eric likes to do surveys for market research.

He does many — each week — through the company e-Rewards online, and his rewards account adds up.

He redeems his “cash” for magazines, hotel points and airline miles.

But one day he goes to log into his account and can’t get in.

His account is shut down. His $500 in rewards? Gone.

“Why?” he asked the company.

A breach of our terms & conditions, the company said.

No warning, no explanation, you’re done.

Eric said he was mystified.

“I reviewed their rules and could not find anything that I knowingly did not follow,” he told Archer News.

Go online and you’ll see many complaints like Eric’s, people who say e-Rewards suddenly shut them down — with no notice — and slow or no response when they asked for help.

 

Complaints against e-Rewards on SurveyPolice. Image: SurveyPolice

 

“I have never committed ‘tomfoolery’ yet suddenly I’m locked out,” wrote Pamela Poag on The Frequent Miler blog. “This is crazy. They could at least give us our rewards. No warning. No nothing. Very upset right now.”

“All of a sudden I was deactivated…no warning or anything…and for what!” wrote Ke on SurveyPolice. “They said for lack of activity – negative! I just redeemed for points and miles as well as Best Buy, etc. No matter how many times I emailed them as per their request, I still haven’t heard back from them. $900 gone! Extremely weak!

“Was a member for over 5 years before they canceled my account without any prior notice or warning,” said Michael D. on the Better Business Bureau’s site. “I never received a reason for the cancellation and I could not use my rewards that I saved up. Requests for more information went unanswered.”

“After over 10 years of doing surveys with e-rewards, my account was terminated,”  wrote Sabrina O. on Sitejabber. “No reason was given. When I asked for a reason, I was summarily ignored.”

 

Complaint against e-Rewards on Sitejabber. Image: Sitejabber

 

For Eric, it’s like working for a bad boss.

“Then they tell you to get lost, they didn’t like your work and they weren’t going to pay me, but they could not tell me what about my work they didn’t like,” he said.

And that $500?

“Maddening, because I had spent many hours doing surveys with them and had earned them,” he said.

Archer News called e-Rewards’ parent company, Research Now Group in Texas.

“A person who registers as a panel member agrees to provide truthful and well-considered answers to our market research activities,” the company said in an e-mail to Archer News.

“Research Now reserves the right to withhold awarding panel currency to a member if, in Research Now’s reasonable view, a member’s survey question responses are untruthful or not well-considered,” Research Now added.

 

E-Rewards says it allows panelists to redeem for rewards with these & other companies. Image: e-Rewards

 

Eric said he had done his surveys in good faith.

He kept trying to get answers from the company and eventually got his account back, with a warning to slow down when he takes his surveys.

Archer News asked Consumer Reports’ Jeff Blyskal about these kinds of rewards accounts, where you get what looks or feels like money for using a credit card, flying an airline or taking surveys.

“Basically, you have no rights. You have no regulations. These are not regulated,” Blyskal said.

We checked E-Rewards’s policy and found it says the company can shut you down at any time without notice or reason.

 

E-Rewards’ terms and conditions re: terminating your account. Image: e-Rewards

 

A 2015 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report says many credit card companies use the same kind of policy with their rewards accounts.

“It’s based on whatever the contract is,” Blyskal said. “If the contract says the company can change the rules at any time, you’re at their mercy.”

There are other problems with these rewards accounts that feel like money you’ve earned, but actually belong to someone else who can take them away.

Malicious hackers can and do break in and steal points.

It happened to customers of Holiday Inn, Hilton, United, American, Toys R Us, Kohl’s and more, according to news reports.

“You may not get what you expect to get,” Blyskal said.

Blyskal’s advice:

 

—Don’t think of it as real money.

—Check out companies online before you do business with them.

—Spend your rewards early so you don’t lose out.

 

“I would take the lowest amount and get your money sooner rather than later,” he explained.

The Better Business Bureau contacted e-Rewards’ parent company, Research Now Group, about the complaints, saying it had concerns.

 

The BBB noted a pattern of complaints against e-Rewards. Image: BBB

 

Research Now told Archer News it then made changes in its quality filters to more precisely identify bad actors” and let good-faith panelists do surveys.

The company said some people try to cheat the system and earn money for poorly-done surveys.

“Our clients expect high quality data. Members who repeatedly participate in surveys without careful consideration of their survey answers may have their accounts closed,” Research Now said. “It’s a balancing process that we must adjust on an ongoing basis, to retain panelists with integrity and filter out those trying to game the system.” 

Eric is back to doing e-Rewards surveys, but with questions about how all this went down. 

“I felt the way they handled this was not good at all for them, their companies they work with or for me,” he said.

The bottom line: check the terms to see if they can simply snatch your money away at any point without warning, and if so, don’t ever count on that “cash.”

And for those people who ARE gaming the system — you’re ruining it for everybody.

 

Main image: Brett_Hondow / 515 images

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