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Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Companies were slow to jump on board and pay for a mystery shopper to come and evaluate their business, even though it seems like a valuable resource! Over the years, there have been great companies that are legitimate about helping brands gain valuable insight on their businesses and promoting fair pay and responsibilities to mystery shoppers as well. There have also been companies that have not so fair practices and refuse to negotiate rates that are feasible for their shoppers.

In my quest to dive deeper into mystery shopping companies and become a shopper myself, I’ve tried many different companies. I’ve had some great experiences and others were not worth the time and effort. Before I get into the top 3 companies, I want to give you a few tidbits for use when applying with a company to become a mystery shopper.

  1. Check credentials – Make sure the company is registered with the MSPA – Mystery Shopping Providers Association http://www.mspa-na.org/search. It doesn’t cost you any money to check if a company is listed with the MSPA and would be well worth it so that you aren’t taking the risk of wasting your time with a scam or non-reputable company.


  1. Find the best one for you – Opportunities with these mystery shopping companies are going to vary based on their clients, and your location. If you live in a rural area, you may not have as many assignments available to you with one company as you might with the other. Sign up with multiple companies for a better chance to snag the best assignments.


  1. If you must pay, turn away! – This is a big one that I want to make sure I put out there for you. You should never pay a mystery shopping company to join as a shopper or gain “extra perks”. The only exception to this, if you want and feel it would be beneficial, is paying to become a certified mystery shopper through the MSPA. The certification could help you get higher rate assignments at some companies, but it is definitely not a guaranteed benefit. Another exception is paying for an item or service, then being reimbursed. This is ok as it is very common with most assignments; however, I wouldn’t advise you to take an assignment if it’s not reimbursing you for the purchase, plus giving you a shop fee. It may not be worth it depending on the distance you have to travel and amount of documentation you need for the shop. I’ve made over $1200 mystery shopping in 1 year without certification and could have made more if I signed up for more assignments.

Last, but definitely not least,

  1. Be thorough – Companies want to see that you actually took the time to complete all requests in the assignment and that you can provide detailed answers to their questions. It makes the clients feel like their use of the service is worthwhile and in turn, improves your rating with the company. I’ve actually worked with a company that increased the rate paid to me for completing some shops because I had a great reputation with them.

Now, for my top 3 recommendations(click the company name to visit their website):

Sentry Marketing   – I’ve been completing shops for Sentry Marketing for about a year now and have had consistent work available. One of the shops was an interesting study that paid me a set amount every month to provide anonymous data to them, so it was an ongoing shop. I don’t run across those frequently, so it definitely was a diamond in the rough. The pay is above average (at least at the time of this blog post) compared to other companies so I would definitely recommend you give this one a try.


MarketForce  – If you’ve read any articles or heard anyone talk about mystery shopping companies, you’ve probably heard about Marketforce. It is a very popular company in the industry and has many top brands as clients. I’ve been working with them since 2009 and they’ve always had consistent shops no matter where I’ve moved over the years. The pay is standard for the industry but you can do as many shops as you want and build up a good amount of side income.


SecondtoNone  – Second to None is a unique mystery shopping company that offers a variety of different types of shops, on a frequent basis. I’m sure the other companies offer a variety of shops as well, but I haven’t had that experience with them. I’ve completed over the phone shops where I’m inquiring about a product, assignments where a service comes to my home, and of course the traditional shop types. Pay is about average for the industry and there’s usually a good amount of shops available for the week.

As you can see, shop availability and pay are what make these companies top picks in my book. These companies have become my go-to resources for mystery shopping opportunities near me, and I’ve also found that they are good for those that live in rural areas as well. So if you’re ready to become a shopper, check out these companies today!

Do you have any other mystery shopping companies that you’ve had great experiences with?   Comment below. The more the merrier!

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