Microsoft has launched a new loyalty scheme where you can collect points each time you search the web, then exchange them for Xbox, Skype and Windows vouchers.

The Microsoft Rewards scheme gives you points each time you use its Bing search engine – which is the UK's second most popular internet search engine after Google according to latest figures. You can also earn points completing Microsoft surveys and quizzes or shopping at the Microsoft or Windows Store.

Points can be redeemed for a range of vouchers across Microsoft's different brands. But you'll need to weigh it up before signing up – there are other ways to get paid to search which could be more lucrative and pay cash not vouchers.

Are Microsoft Rewards worth it – and can you take it to the max?

Let's be clear – this is essentially a loyalty scheme, with Microsoft effectively paying you to use its search engine. If you're wedded to Google then this may not be for you, but if you already use Bing regularly (or are willing to switch) it may be worth signing up. You won't earn a fortune, but you may be able to get a bonus simply for searching the web.

Based on the offers we've seen, each point is typically worth between 0.1p and 0.4p. We've full details below on what you can earn points on and what you can redeem points for, though first, to give you an idea of whether it's worth it, we've crunched the numbers. (Note – these are rough back-of-the-envelope calculations, and given it's just launched, rewards may change.)

  • If you're a casual user and do a couple of Bing searches a day, we reckon you'd collect 2,190 points over the course of a year. That's enough to get about £4 in Skype credit – so not a huge reward.
  • If you're a dedicated Bing user and use it constantly, making up to 50 searches a day, we reckon you'd accrue over 2,000 points in the first month and a whopping 52,710 in the first year. That's enough to get a year's Xbox Game Pass (normally £7.99/month), a year's Skype Unlimited (normally £12/month), £8 in Xbox vouchers and £2 in Skype vouchers.
  • If you REALLY take it to the max, you can earn that PLUS bonus points too. If you do a survey or quiz each day, spend £100 in the Microsoft Store over the year and use the Microsoft Edge browser, by our calculations you'd earn an extra 16,000+ points. Added to points from using Bing, that's almost 70,000 points over the year – enough for the items above and more, OR a £50 Windows Store gift card and £8 in Xbox vouchers.

It's worth bearing in mind that if you sign up to Microsoft Rewards you're agreeing to receive emails from the loyalty scheme and Microsoft itself. Bing will also use your search history by default to suggest results to you.

How to sign up and collect points

This is essentially very simple – you just search the web as normal, using Bing. To start earning points you'll need to sign up for a free Microsoft account, if you haven't already, then make sure you're logged in.

There are two levels to the scheme. You'll initially start out on level one, and jump to level two if you collect and continue to earn 500 points each month:

  • Level one users can earn up to 30 points per day (three points per search) searching via Bing on their PC, Mac or tablet.
  • Level two users can earn up to 150 points per day (three points per search) by doing up to 30 searches on on their PC, Mac or tablet, and a further 20 on the Bing mobile app.

Microsoft says you should also be able to earn points when you search via Bing on your mobile, via a browser or the app, as long as you're signed in. When we tried this though, the points we'd earned didn't seem to be added to our account – we've queried why this is with Microsoft and will update this story when we know more.

You can also earn between 10 and 40 points per quiz or survey (regardless of which level you're on) and one point per £1 spent in the Microsoft Store. Until 15 August 2017 you'll also get double points if you search via Bing within the Microsoft Edge browser (rather than Google Chrome, Internet Explorer etc).

What can I get for my points?

You can exchange your points for vouchers, or use them to enter competitions – to do so, click on the 'Rewards' section of your account and then 'Redeem'. Some redemptions cost fewer points if you're a level two user. Here's how many points you'd need for some of the offers:

  • 200 points to enter the Xbox One S monthly giveaway (only open to those with a Microsoft Rewards account)
  • 1,000 points for £2 Skype credit (900 for level two users)
  • 2,900 points for a £3 Xbox gift card (2,750 for level two)
  • 3,000 points for one month of Skype Unlimited (2,800 level two), which usually costs about £12/mth
  • 6,000 points for a one-month Xbox Live Gold membership (5,800 points level two), which usually costs £6/mth
  • 16,000 points for 12 months' Skype Unlimited (15,000 level two)
  • 30,000 points for a 12-month Xbox Game Pass (29,000 level two) – normally £7.99/month
  • 65,650 points for a £50 Windows Store gift card (61,400 level two)
  • 110,000 points for a 12-month Groove Music pass (99,900 level two)

You can also donate your points to charity. Until 15 August 2017 Microsoft will match your contributions – you can donate £1 (1,290 points for a level one user), £3 (3,760 points for level one), or £5 (6,270 points for level one) to the Special Olympics, AbilityNet and UK Youth charities.

Earn vouchers for searching the web with Microsoft's new Bing rewards scheme
You can earn gift cards for searching the web

How to automatically use Bing for every search

If you want to do this, the easiest way to make sure you don't miss out on points is to set Bing as your browser's default search engine. That means when you type what you want to find in the address bar at the top of your browser, it will automatically use Bing to find it.

Here's how to change your default search engine in some of the most popular browsers on a desktop or laptop:

  • Google Chrome – click the 'three dot' menu button in the top right corner, and go to 'settings'. Select 'Bing' as the 'search engine used in the address bar'.
  • Microsoft Edge (which replaced Internet Explorer in Windows 10) – it's likely this will already default to Bing, but if not click the 'three dot' menu button in the top right corner and go to 'advanced settings'. Select 'Bing' as 'search in the address bar'.
  • Mozilla Firefox – click the 'three line' menu button in the top right corner, and go to 'options'. Select 'search' from the left-hand menu and choose Bing as the default search engine.

You'll need to ensure you're logged in to Microsoft Rewards after making these changes, and it's worth checking you're collecting points every now and again by looking for the trophy image and number of points next to the search box.

Microsoft says you should also be able to earn points when you search via Bing on your mobile, via a browser or the app, as long as you're signed in. But as above, so far we've found points don't seem to be added – we've queried why this is with Microsoft and will update the story when we know more. In the meantime, here's how to set your mobile's browser to automatically use Bing:

  • iOS – Go to 'settings', then 'Safari' (or Chrome or another browser), then 'search engine' and select 'Bing'.
  • Android – Go to 'settings', 'applications', 'internet' and 'select search engine'.

You may be able to get paid MORE to search using other tools

While Bing's the first major search engine to offer a loyalty scheme, there are other ways to earn points and cash while browsing – and in some cases they pay more. Here are our top-pick alternatives to Microsoft Rewards:

  • Qmee is an add-on to your browser that shows extra search results or adverts when you search the web or certain sites – it works on Google, Bing, Amazon, eBay and many more. You can earn between 7p and 15p by clicking on the extra result. You're paid by PayPal, and some users report earning £5/month. See our Make Money Online guide for full info.
  • GiftHulk offers 'hulk coins' if you search via its site. You get about four points per search, but can only collect points on one search per hour. You can also earn points by watching videos and taking surveys. You can swap points for Amazon gift vouchers (eg, you'd need 15,000 points for a £10 Amazon card). See Make Money Online for more info.
  • Nectar fans can earn up to 200 points per month via the Nectar toolbar, which gives you one point per two searches and is powered by Yahoo. There's also a 200 point bonus when you first download the toolbar. Nectar points can then be spent at stores – one point's usually worth 0.5p at Sainsbury's – or boosted and swapped for days out or gift card offers. See Loyalty Points Boosting for more info.

You can also earn points on many survey sites – see our Top 25 Online Survey Sites guide.