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40 Comping Tips

Find and win competitions with insider tips
comping tips

From £20,000 in cash to luxury weddings, five-star holidays to £10,000 in Tesco gift cards, MoneySavers have won it all. It's all about 'comping', a potentially profitable hobby.

This guide includes sourcing the right free online competitions, using web gadgets to form-fill at speed, free help with tie-breakers and much more.

Thanks to the Competition Time boardís users, especially comping queen VelvetGlove (see her comping guide for lots of the tips below). The aim of this guide is to complement the forum board. Hopefully it will mean more competitions posted, and more prizes for MoneySavers.

The art of comping

Itís possible, though not easy, to walk away with swanky gadgets, lavish holidays or thousands of pounds in cash - all without spending a penny.

The reasonís simple. Competitions are a cheap chance for companies to promote their wares. Giving away a £3,000 Maldives getaway is cheaper than buying a big national newspaper ad. Add to that the chance to collect valuable info on potential customers, and itís easy to see why these contests abound.

What's comping? Itís about putting in the hours - systematically entering hundreds of free competitions, rather than doing the odd contest. This way, youíre statistically more likely to win big. Depending on your work ethic and luck, you could furnish your house, travel the world and boost your bank balance.

Often all entering involves is filling in an online form or sending a postcard, sometimes answering a question or tie-breaker.

Collectively, MoneySavers have scooped hundreds of thousands worth of prizes, from laptops to luxury breaks, iPods to film premiere tickets. Plus your gains are tax-free, so unlike other ways to boost your income, the taxman wonít get any of it.

Success isn't guaranteed

Itís crucial to realise you wonít immediately be frolicking on a bed of £50 notes. Unlike other money-makers, such as Survey Sites, eBay Selling, Earning Cash Online and other ways to Boost Your Income, the rewards arenít guaranteed.

"I've won £50,000 worth of prizes!"

While we donít want to give anyone the impression this is a sure-fire way to make cash, a little bit of inspiration may just help.

MSE users have had some good luck in the past. Forumite HollySmith's is probably the biggest success we've heard of - see the MoneySaver wins £50k worth of prizes News story for her full account.

I've won £50,000 worth of prizes in 5 years from entering comps I spot on the MSE comping forum.

It gives me a fantastic lifestyle and I've been able to do things that I would never have been able to otherwise.
- HollySmith

Last year, MoneySaver Isla struck it lucky with a massive win through ITV's Good Morning Britain.

I got a call on Friday to say I'd won £20,000 and my rent paid for two years. How long does it take to get your cheque? I was so shocked I forgot to ask!
- Isla

Another big win on the forum was for the aptly named luckystar101 who scooped £20,000 AND a BMW.

I am in complete shock. Just found out I've won £20,000 and a BMW. Had a missed call last night and phoned them when I got to work. I was so shocked when he said £20,000 but when he added the car to that I thought I was going to be sick!

Never give up hope. People laughed at my hobby and "little wins". Guess who's laughing now. Keep comping everyone!
- luckystar101

Lady Luck's gazed down benevolently on many other MoneySavers from the Competitions board. For more successes, see the What's your biggest win? thread.

Just won a £17,000 wedding, including a honeymoon in Dubai and platinum wedding rings. Whoooo - buzzin'! See her full story.
- PINKTEEGAN

I'm still in shock. I had a call yesterday to say I had won £22,000, a trip to NYC for 4 and a private Great Gatsby screening. So grateful for this life-changing prize.
- yummymama

I started in May 2011 and I've already won a trip to Las Vegas worth £3,000 and gadgets worth over £26,000 [including a Bang & Olufsen home cinema and Canon SLR camera]. I'm hooked!

The trip to Vegas was amazing. We got to stay at the MGM, go quad biking across the desert, front row tickets to the Cirque du Soleil and a helicopter trip over the strip. We got picked up by limos everywhere.
- mrsrobertson

Join the MSE comping team

The site's Competitions Time forum board is full of the latest contests. There's a real community there, with hundreds of dedicated compers who love to share the competitions they find. They know it diminishes their chances of winning that contest, but sharing their research increases opportunities for everyone.

You gotta have a system

Donít just pick at random - systematically work through the competitions on the board, so you donít miss any beauties.

On the Competitions Time forum board, scroll down to the bottom of the forum board to the Ďdisplay optionsí box. Now tell it to sort threads in order of íthread start time' from the beginning, and 'descending'. This will sort the competitions into chronological order.

Use the page numbers to go back to the page showing the oldest (still open) competitions. This is usually page 300-ish. Work through the posts - to complete them all would take several days, as there are so many comps posted.

At the end of a session, write down the last competition you entered. This way you have a record of where you got up to for next time.

Keep track of what youíve entered

Some promoters exclude people who enter multiple times. To keep track of completed contests, press the tick button at the bottom of the post. Next time you visit the board, it will show a green tick next to that comp. Alternatively, press X to skip one. You must register and log on to the forum to do this.

Always read terms and conditions to check if itís one per household - rules vary for every competition.

Don't forget to thank the MoneySaver who posted the comp by clicking the button below their post.

Set up a dedicated email address

Never use your normal email address. It'll be immediately flooded with spam. Instead, set up a dedicated email account. As a powerful free option, Gmail's among the best. See more stopping spam tips below.

Be picky about the competitions you enter

It may sound obvious, but focus your time on entering contests with goodies you actually want to win.

Many prizes are non-transferable, so if the prize is a tour of Stamford Bridge with Josť Mourinho and you canít stand footie, give it a miss. As well as freeing up your time, it could make another MoneySaverís dream come true.

Of course, with some contests there is the option to try to sell the prize on eBay. But youíre entering the contest based on someone elseís efforts to find it, and by doing so diminish their chances. So consider the ethics before entering just to flog.

Check for exclusions and travel requirements in the small print. If a comp means taking a midweek mini-break when youíve no holiday allowance left, move on.

Extra effort comps may boost your chances

Lots of people are lazy, so anything involving a smidgen of extra effort attracts fewer contestants. Need to pen a poem, complete a tie-breaker or snap a photo? Try your luck - you might be the only entrant. Youíll also stand a better chance with highly localised competitions, such as a local paper offering tickets to a nearby theatre.

Pen witty tie-breakers - or use a tool to help

A host of competitions require tie-breaker slogans. If youíre a wordsmith, this can be an easy way to boost your chances.

Keep 'em short and punchy. Always read through the company's own marketing literature. It has often spent time developing the brand, and will want something that fits it, so thatís your clue.

To help spark ideas, Winspiration lists past winning slogans. Also use Rhymezone to generate rhymes at the click of a button.

Hunt for answers

The OneAcross site lets you search for answers to crosswords. It also has an anagram solver Ė plug in a word and it instantly generates hundreds of possibilities. For example, did you know that Martin Lewis is "Mini Wastrel"? Of course, thereís also good old Google and Wikipedia for quiz questions.

Enter answers at speed

A free add-on for web browser Firefox, Split Panel lets you split browser windows in half, so you can see two web pages at once. This way, you can copy and paste answers at speed.

Installing it is simple. If you don't already have Firefox, head to mozilla.org and follow the prompts to install. Then go to Split Panel and hit the Ďadd to Firefox' button on the left. Follow the prompts and restart Firefox.

Clever tools for speedy entries

Next, take a technological grip so you can enter more contests, but spend far less time doing it. Many top compers enter 100 online competitions a day by exploiting tools and tricks to turbo-charge their competition-entering.

The easiest way is to set up a Word document with your particulars on - your name, phone number and address. Then when you want to fill in a form, just highlight the info and copy and paste it into the boxes.

To take it up a notch, most web browsers, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, feature an option to remember your details and fill them in automatically. So next time you start to enter the same thing, just type the first few letters and a suggestion list should appear. This can be a security risk though, so avoid on shared computers.

Internet Explorer. Go to Tools, then Internet Options, click the Content tab and press AutoComplete. Put a tick in the box to select AutoComplete for forms. If you have any problems, Microsoft has a guide to its AutoComplete function.

Firefox. Firefox comes with a basic form-filling function. Go to Tools>Options> Privacy and make sure 'Remember history' is checked. This doesnít always fill out forms correctly first time, so try downloading the Autofill Forms add-on, which is more sophisticated.

Turbo-charge your form filling

While you can set browsers to remember basic information such as names and addresses, they arenít that intelligent and often put the wrong info in fields.

Free web program Roboform is a form-filling weapon that easily outguns typing alone. It stores info such as addresses, phone numbers and postcodes and uses them to automatically fill in online forms.

The details are stored on your computer. All you need to remember is the crucial master-password to access them.

One consideration is that Roboform blindly fills out form details in the same way as spambots, which spammers use to send scores of entries. So some companies may mistake you for a spambot and block your entry. We've no stats on how many online competitions will block you this way, but if you're worried, try Autohotkey instead.

Read a full guide to setting up Roboform.

Customise your keyboard

To get things done at top speed, thereís a way to customise your keyboard shortcuts.

Let's imagine you've got certain words that you use over and over again Ė '29 Acacia Road'. You can automate that phrase using a bit of free software called AutoHotKey. Then all you have to do every time you want to enter, say, the first line of your address is press 'Alt' and '4', and like magic the words '29 Acacia Road' appear in the form.

To do this, you need to write a Ďscriptí, a plain text file with personalised instructions for the program. This sounds uber-nerdy, but it's actually pretty simple.

Find out how to write an AutoHotKey script.

Speedily open multiple links

Often competition board threads involve opening lots of links to different contests. Firefox users can open several threads at once with the free Snap Links Plus add-on. It lets you draw a box around a group of threads and open them all - just right-click and drag.

Quick email contest entry

For email entries, draft and save a template email with your name, email, address and telephone number, so you can fire it off quickly. Remember to leave a space for the answer.

Got a top tip we haven't listed? Feed back in the 40+ Comping Tips discussion.

Always enter TV premium rate comps for free

Never enter telly contests by calling a premium rate number. Companies do offer free ways to enter online.

Try Good Morning Britain and Dickinson's Real Deal. Also check the Competition Time forum board for daily updates.

You've as a good a chance as those who pay to play - several MoneySavers have won big cash prizes this way. One forumite won a £17,000 Dodge car, £10,000 of Tesco vouchers and a Mediterranean cruise, all in one go. Read forumite crackout's story.

Boost postcard entries

Never pay for postcards. Cinemas and library tills always have plenty of freebies. Buy sticky labels and print them out with your details to speed up entries.

With stamps, the only difference between first-class and second-class is that with first, Royal Mail aims to deliver your letter or packet the next working day. It aims to deliver second-class by the third working day. So unless the closing dateís near, donít buy first.

Superdrug runs 5% off stamps sales a couple of times a year. Use them to stock up. These are always included in the free weekly MoneySaving e-mail.

Count your winnings

Depending on end dates, you could be notified the next day or next year. The small print usually explains whether you will be contacted by email, phone or post. Often the postie will just turn up with a parcel (every door knock is exciting).

For a tiny minority of competitions, promoters ask people to return to the site to see if theyíve won. This will be in the terms and conditions. You could also try Googling your name to see if wins appear.

Always read all emails carefully, as winning notifications often donít have obvious subject lines. And donít forget to post on the I won! I won! I won! board to share the good news!

Filter winning emails

To help sort 'you're a winner' messages from spam, set up rules to automatically filter winning emails into a special folder.

These emails often feature the words 'congratulations', 'won' or 'winner', so automatically move messages with these words in the body or subject line into a competition wins folder. This option's usually found under Edit, Options or Tools on your email account's menu bar.

Also, check spam folders in case a vital communicationís slipped through.

Don't forget to reply

Some promoters say you must reply within a certain amount of time or they'll withdraw the prize. Reply on time to avoid the heartbreaking scenario of missing out on a big prize.

Keep tabs on prizes

Itís worth keeping a list of prizes youíve won, in case they donít materialise. Usually promoters are not purposely withholding the goodies - they just need a little nudge now and again.

Know how to complain

If a prize doesnít arrive or it does but it's faulty, first politely prompt the company (contact details should be in the terms and conditions).

If you get an unsatisfactory reply or hear nothing, get in touch with the Advertising Standards Authority.

All advertising and marketing must follow a code of conduct called the CAP Code which sets out how competitions and promotions have to be run. If you think a competition has failed to meet these rules, check the ASA's website to see if your complaint falls under its powers and make a formal complaint.

Post your own finds

The competitions board is a community, and etiquette dictates you post your own finds, as well as looking at the ones already posted. Itís unscientifically believed that posting your own comps increases your chances of winning.

Donít worry too much. The board is a friendly place, and youíre allowed to walk before you can run. If you don't find any comps, you can still help by researching answers.

How to post in the free online competitions forum

First use the search function to check itís not duplicated, otherwise some people may accidentally enter twice. At the top left of the forum, thereís a search box. Use a few different terms to be doubly sure.

Thereís a specific format to post comps in, so people can search and track competitions. When writing the title, first put the end date, then a description of prize, like this:

E: 05/08 Win £100 Nandos gift voucher

If thereís an age restriction, add this to the end of the title, eg, (U16). If a comp has an end time, as well as date, post this in the title too.

Then just post a link to the competition, explaining in your own words what the prize is. Some firms complain about copyright when details are copied and pasted wholesale.

Where to hunt out comps

Comps are everywhere: magazines, newspapers, websites, shops, the telly. Scrutinise flyers in shops, supermarket shelves and websites. The more obscure the publication or product, the better chance of you being the first to post it on the forum.

Itís worth browsing WHSmithís magazine shelves for publications with comps. If youíre feeling brave, you could note down the details. Your local libraryís another good bet; they're stocked full of magazines and papers.

The competitions boardís only for comps that are free to enter, though those requiring a stamp, a postcard or a text are fine.

Work out your potential return

While blind luck is out of your control, you do have control over the number of comps you enter. After some highly sophisticated number crunching, we came up the following surprising statistic: the more you enter, the bigger the chance of winning. So get that mouse clicking.

The trickís setting a weekly target Ė auto form fillers can help. To give you an example of a typical return, MoneySaver JadeCripps says:

In one year I won £1,713 worth of prizes. For that I put in approximately 1,500 hours or four hours per day.

I enter on average 50 to 500 comps per day and have calculated my win rate at being 1/1,000 comps entered. Seeing as this worked out at £1.14 per hour, itís only worth doing if you enjoy entering comps.
- MoneySaver JadeCripps

You don't have to pay tax

Just like betting on sport, your winnings in the UK are tax-free. The exceptionís if your employer runs an incentive competition for staff, for example, the salesperson who sells the most cars wins a trip to Ibiza.

Don't pay for comps listings

When looking for comps, you may come across websites and magazines charging to view lists of contests. Never pay to register with a competitions site. Often they just focus on obvious contests, and canít compete with the army of kindred spirit compers using this site's forum.

Protect yourself from spam

Thereís usually a way to choose not to get Ďfurther communicationsí that should stop any bumf. Be careful with the wording though. Sometimes adjacent check-boxes mean different things - the first an Ďopt iní, the second an Ďopt outí. If thereís no way to opt out, consider whether you really want to enter.

Junk the junk

All members of the Direct Marketing Association agree to a code of practice not to send advertising mail to any individual who has indicated they don't want it.

To stop the junk, simply join the Mail Preference Service register. It takes up to four months for the service to take full effect, although you should notice a reduction in mail before then. The easiest (and cheapest way) is MPS Online.

The Telephone Preference Service is a similar service for phone calls. There's more on how to stop unwanted mail, texts and calls in the Junk the Junk guide.

Get a comping batphone

If you donít want to give out your mobile number, consider getting a cheap pay-as-you-go Sim just for comping communications.

A Sim is the small (roughly 2cm by 1cm) microchip card you insert into a phone when it's first set up. It provides the identity of a phone for the mobile network, so it can recognise, bill and send calls to individual customers.

When you temporarily change the Sim card in your phone, youíll have a different number. The Sim card is usually located behind the battery on the back of the phone. See the Free Sims guide for a full how-to.

Check it's legit

If you have any suspicions about a competition, flag up your worries with seasoned compers on the Competitions forum board.

All companies should be listed on the official Companies House site, the government register of UK firms. Be wary if its records show a PO Box address or just an email.

You can also find out who registered the site, and when, on the Whois database, or study the site's worldwide web ranking on Alexa. Anything in the top 100,000 means it's reasonably big - a good, though not foolproof, indication of legitimacy.

Be wary of 'free' holidays

A common timeshare company ruse is to say you've won a totally free, no-strings-attached holiday... but first you need to listen to a presentation. These are best avoided. For more on this, read Rose's Don't try to sell a timeshare to a MoneySaver blog.

Look for the competitions kitemark

Institute of sales promotion stampThereís a voluntary stamp of approval for competitions provided by the Institute of Promotional Marketing.

To include the stamp logo on a competitionís advertising, promoters must get it approved by the IPMís legal experts, who will check it conforms to Advertising Standards Authority codes.

The stamp doesn't feature on every legit competition, but if you do see it, it's an indication - though not a guarantee - of legitimacy.

Get free anti-virus software

Everyone needs protection software, especially compers, who may click on hundreds of new sites each day. Without up-to-date protection, if you're defrauded, banks could argue negligence, leaving you liable. A host of professional-level Free Antivirus Software is available, including crucial regular updates.

Avoid pay-to-enter contests

Most contests are for promotional purposes. Those that require fees are essentially lotteries and gambling. While the cost of a stamp's fine, beware this takes away from any winnings.

Be extremely wary of premium rate phone contests. You could be listening at £1 a minute for five or 10 minutes before you hear any details. Read how to enter TV premium phone line comps free via hidden web links.

If you've 'won' but the company demands a fee or deposit, walk away.

Guaranteed ways to boost your income

There are a host of new ways for canny MoneySavers to boost their income - without banking on Lady Luck. Small amounts quickly add up. Try flogging old mobiles via the MobileValuer. Or earn from selling old junk for cash. See the Boost Your Income guide for over 60 money-makers.

Freebies, freebies, freebies!

Comping isn't the only way to grab quality stuff for nothing. Whether it's song downloads, free tea, Harry Potter bookmarks, or gym passes, if you know where to look, it's all available on the web.

We've catalogued 100s in our Freebies, Freebies, Freebies guide. If you don't want to scroll through hundreds, you can spin the Freebie Roulette to see what it stops on.

Plus hundreds of top-quality used goodies are available every day across the country for free via giveaway sites. Read the Freecycle & Freegle guide for a full how-to.

Win via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

There are many competitions now being run through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so it may be worth signing up if you haven't already. Facebook comps usually involve 'liking' a company's page.

Many MoneySavers have separate Twitter accounts Ė one for comping and one for everyday use.

The temptation's to set up two Facebook accounts too. Yet it's against Facebook's rules to have two accounts, and a few MoneySavers have been banned for doing this.

On Instagram, there are lots of ways to enter competitions but it usually involves posting a photo and using a hashtag. As it's a newish social media channel it's not as big as the other two, but it's still worth checking out.

Earn cash from your sofa

If you've a computer or smartphone, there's a host of small ways to boost your coffers, as well as comping. The internet's opened up new forms of online work, as firms need folks to do tasks such as crowdsourcing info, data entry and content writing. Our 30 Make Money Online Tips guide lists the top sites and apps that pay.