Online referral programs produce win-win outcomes for companies and loyal customers alike. Businesses gain new customers while a referring customer earns cash, credits, and discounts for a successful referral. However, not all referral programs are created equally or offer desirable rewards.
In this post, we’ll explain the difference between referral marketing and affiliate marketing and explore some of the best referral programs in the market.
Table Of Contents
What is a referral program?
A referral program is a marketing strategy used by businesses to encourage their existing customers to refer their friends, family, or acquaintances to the business in exchange for a reward or incentive. The program is designed to increase customer acquisition by leveraging the trust and social networks of current customers.
Typically, a referral program works by giving current customers a unique referral code or link that they can share with their friends or family. When someone uses that code or link to make a purchase or sign up for a service, the referring customer is rewarded with a discount, cashback, free product, or another incentive.
Referral programs go by different names, including:
- Advocate program
- Customer reward program
- Loyalty program
- Refer-a-friend (RAF)
- Rewards program
Learn more about referral programs from Raul Galera – the Partnerships expert at Referral Candy:
Referral marketing vs. affiliate marketing
Referral and affiliate marketing do overlap under the umbrella of performance marketing, but they’re different. Affiliate marketing is the promotion of products and services online by affiliate marketers, who are usually full-time content creators, bloggers, and YouTubers. Companies pay affiliates to generate leads and sales. For example, the email marketing company GetResponse has two affiliate programs that pay recurring and bounty commissions for new sales.
The table below highlights the differences between referral and affiliate marketing:
|Referral Program||Affiliate Program|
|Target users||Existing customers, brand ambassadors, and loyal fans||Content creators, bloggers, YouTubers, and agencies|
|Who they target||Family, friends, acquaintances, and colleagues||Anyone|
|Used or tried the product/service||Likely||Not likely|
|Compensation||Credits, rewards, and discounts||Cash|
|Can make a full-time living||No||Possible|
|Many program policies/rules||No||Yes|
Given the differences between referral and affiliate marketing, which one should you choose?
Promote referral offers if you want to occasionally share deals with your friends and people you know but don’t want to focus on creating content. Go with affiliate marketing if you want to create content, part- or full-time, to passively make extra money.
20 successful referral program examples
Let’s review the best online referral programs from companies that have shown continuous referral program success. If a company offers their own referral program, it will likely be visible in their website footer menu, and you might receive details about it in the company’s email or newsletter.
- GetResponse – $30 account credit per referral
- Hostinger – 20% commission
- Dropbox – Up to 32 GB per referral
- Fiverr – Up to $100 per referral
- Chase Bank – $50 per referral
- SoFi – between $50 and $500 per referral
- TurboTax – $25 per referral
- Wise – $50 per three referrals
- Acorns – $5 per referral
- Charles Schwab – Up to $1,000 per referral
- Robinhood – A reward stock per referral
- Wealthfront – $5,000 managed for free per referral
- Sam’s Club – $10 gift card per referral
- T-Mobile – $50 per referral
- Casper – $75 gift card per referral
- Coursera – Pay $1 for the first month
- Purple – $25 gift card per referral
- Smile Direct Club – $200 per referral
- Spanx – $20 off your purchase
- Tesla – Credits per referral
Marketing & online services
Let’s go a bit more in-depth with the referral program examples we’ve just mentioned above, and look into what their referral process is and give you more information to decide which customer referral program you might be interested in.
GetResponse is a leading email marketing and marketing automation software that offers multichannel solutions via its website builder, landing pages, ecommerce marketing, conversion funnels, webinars, live chats, and more. GetResponse helps businesses of all sizes to get leads, sales, and new customers.
GetResponse customers and advocates of the product have a number of ways to refer their friends and associates.
The GetResponse referral program is designed for customers who want to refer a friend or an associate. It is an easy-to-use program that is available in the GetResponse app. The customer and their referrals both receive a $30 credit.
For higher rewards, GetResponse also offers affiliate programs. The programs are designed for customers and non-customers who would like to develop an ongoing income by recommending the platform. There are two affiliate programs to choose from, a 33% recurring program or a one-time $100 upfront commission paid on new sales.
Referral fee/reward: $30 account credit
Website: GetResponse referral program
Hostinger is a popular web hosting provider used by customers around the world. Hostinger’s customers can earn up to 20% commission for their referrals, with the program accessible through the Hostinger customer panel. In this referral program, the referring customer earns a commission when the new customer purchases a 12-month+ web hosting plan.
The referred customer also receives a 20% discount at checkout, triggered by the unique referral link. If the new customer keeps their plan active for at least 45 days, the referring customer will receive the commission.
Referral fee/reward: 20% commission and 20% discount
Website: Hostinger referral program
Dropbox enables you to collaborate, store, sync, and share your files from a central and secure cloud platform. Therefore, you can keep your family organized, streamline remote work, increase productivity, simplify electronic signatures, and more.
Earn extra space by inviting your friends to try Dropbox. Dropbox Basic users get 500 MB per referral and up to 16 GB. Dropbox Plus and Professional users get 1 GB per referral and up to 32 GB.
Referral fee/reward: Up to 32 GB
Website: Dropbox referral program
Fiverr is an online marketplace that connects businesses with on-demand freelance talent. It offers digital services in more than 400 categories across nine verticals, including graphic design, digital marketing, programming, writing, translation, animation, and more.
Your referrals will get a 10% discount on their first purchase (up to $100). After that, you’ll receive Fiverr Credits (capped at $100 Fiverr Credits per qualifying purchase). In total, you can earn up to $500 in Fiverr Credits.
Referral fee/reward: Up to $100 Fiverr Credits
Website: Fiverr referral program
Banking & financial
5. Chase Bank
Chase offers a broad range of financial services, including personal banking, credit cards, mortgages, auto financing, investment advice, small business loans, and payment processing. Chase is a part of the JPMorgan Chase financial services company.
You can earn $50 for each friend (up to $500 annually) who opens a Chase checking account. In addition, your referral will get a reward, which varies on the type of account they open.
Referral fee/reward: $50 per referral
Website: Chase Bank referral program
SoFi creates financial products to help people borrow, save, spend, invest, and protect their money so that they can achieve financial independence and realize their goals.
SoFi offers six referral programs, where you can earn between $50 and $500 for a successful referral:
- App referral program
- Loan referral program
- Invest referral program
- Credit card referral program
- Checking & savings referral program
- Bank referral program
Referral fee/reward: between $50 and $500
Website: SoFi referral program
Read more related content:
TurboTax is a user-friendly and uncomplicated tax software that helps taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned money. It offers the convenience of preparing and e-filing your tax return from virtually any computer or mobile device with internet access.
Invite your friends to file with TurboTax, and you will get a $25 gift card for each referral up to $250. Furthermore, your referrals get up to 20% off online federal products.
Referral fee/reward: $25
Website: TurboTax referral program
Wise is a global money transfer services company helping people save, hold, and spend multiple currencies efficiently and affordably. It offers transparent money transfer and payment services for personal and business customers.
Every friend that you invite to Wise will get a discount on their first transfer. There are many different rewards. For example, with one program in the UK, you’ll get £50 once three invited friends make a qualifying transfer of at least £200 each.
Referral fee/reward: £50
Website: Wise referral program
Investing & trading
Acorns was the first company to offer micro-investing to the world. It can automatically invest your spare change and lets you invest as little as $5 or regularly invest into a portfolio of ETFs. It offers banking and ecommerce savings too.
When your referrals invest at least $5 in their new Acorns Invest accounts, they’ll receive a $5 welcome bonus. In addition, Acorns will also give you a $5 thank you reward.
Referral fee/reward: $5
Website: Acorns referral program
10. Charles Schwab
Charles Schwab provides a full range of brokerage, banking, and financial advisory services, including trading, investment management/products, financial planning, research, and more.
Every referral who becomes a Schwab client and makes a qualifying deposit of cash or securities gets you up to $1,000.
Referral fee/reward: Up to $1,000
Website: Charles Schwab referral program
Robinhood is a stock brokerage that allows customers to buy and sell stocks, options, ETFs, and cryptocurrencies commission-free.
As soon as your referrals sign up and link their bank accounts, Robinhood will credit each of your accounts with a bonus stock. You can receive up to $1,500 in reward stocks each calendar year.
Referral fee/reward: Up to $1,500 in gift stock
Website: Robinhood referral program
Wealthfront helps you build wealth by allocating your money to low-cost exchange-traded funds and using tax-loss harvesting. It makes it easy to maximize your returns, lower your taxes, and grow your money.
When a referral funds an investment or cash account, you’ll both get $5,000 managed for free.
Referral fee/reward: $5,000 managed for free
Website: Wealthfront referral program
13. Sam’s Club
Sam’s Club is a membership-only warehouse chain selling various bulk grocery items, electronics, and home goods. Walmart owns and operates Sam’s Club, founded in 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton.
For every friend who joins, you’ll get a $10 eGift card, and your referral will get a $20 eGift card. You must be a Sam’s Club member with a registered account on SamsClub.com to redeem your gift.
Referral fee/reward: $10
Website: Sam’s referral program
T-Mobile is a leading provider of phones and telecommunication services. You’ll receive a $50 prepaid virtual MasterCard card for each new qualifying account you refer (up to $500 in a calendar year). Additionally, your referrals will receive discounts on plans and services.
Referral fee/reward: $50
Website: T-Mobile referral programs
Read more related content:
Other referral programs
Casper sells mattresses direct-to-consumer, eliminating commission-driven, inflated prices. It also sells pillows, bed frames, bedding, and accessories.
Get a $75 Amazon gift card when a friend purchases their first Casper mattress. Your referrals will get 25% off their mattress orders.
Referral fee/reward: $75 gift card per successful referral
Website: Casper referral program
Coursera partners with 200+ leading universities to bring flexible, affordable, and job-ready e-learning to students worldwide. It offers online courses, specializations, professional certificates, degrees, and more.
When your friends make their first purchase, you’ll both pay $1 for the first month with access to over 7,000 courses
Referral fee/reward: Customer and referral pay $1 for the first month
Website: Coursera referral program
Purple is a comfort-first company and sells mattresses, pillows, seat cushions, bedding, pet beds, and more. Customers can buy online and in different retailers across the United States.
Purple’s refer a friend program lets you give your friend an additional 5% off their first purchase at Purple. Once your friend makes a purchase, you’ll get a gift a $25 Amazon gift card. Of course, the more friends you invite, the more you’ll earn.
Referral fee/reward: $25 gift card per referral
Website: Purple referral program
SPANX offers slimming intimates, body shapers, hosiery, apparel, and the latest innovations in shapewear for women and men. From the United States to Singapore, SPANX is available worldwide in more than 50 countries.
Give your friend 15% off their purchase, and if they buy, you’ll get $20 off yours.
Referral fee/reward: $20 off your purchase
Website: SPANX referral program
19. Smile Direct Club
Smile Direct Club helps more people realize the life-changing potential of their smiles. They state that they are revolutionizing the oral care industry with innovative and affordable products and therapies. Give $200 to your referrals and get $200 for their aligner purchases.
Referral fee/reward: $200 per referral
Website: Smile Direct Club referral program
Tesla wants to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy through increasingly affordable electric vehicles in addition to renewable energy generation and storage. It’s committed to developing best-in-class in safety, performance, and reliability standards.
Through Tesla’s referral program, orders for their cars and solar products are eligible for referral rewards.
Cars – You and anyone using your referral link can each earn 1,000 miles of free Supercharging with the purchase of a new Tesla car.
Solar – Anyone using your referral link can earn a $100 award after activating their new solar energy system or Solar Roof while reducing reliance on the grid and producing clean solar energy. You’ll earn $400 for each solar referral. Additionally, you will earn one Powerwall when you refer 10 solar customers, limited to one award.
Referral fee/reward: various
Website: Tesla referral program
How to choose referral programs
Beyond our list, we recommend referring reputable and established companies with rewards and offers that you want to earn. Moreover, focus on recommending products and services that you genuinely love to get others excited.
How to promote your referral link
It’s easy to promote referral offers to your friends and network. The most common ways are emails, a website, social media, and chat apps.
Depending on how often you plan to send emails containing your referral code or link, you may use a free email service (Google, Yahoo, Outlook, etc.) or an email marketing service such as GetResponse. Your email needs partially depend on your intended audience, for example, people you know versus strangers. For the latter, email marketing and spam laws focus on user/recipient rights, including consent, privacy, and data.
For instance, suppose you’ll send monthly emails to a small group of high school friends – a free email service would suffice. By contrast, suppose you own a public Facebook group and get members to sign up for your monthly newsletter. In that case, you should consider using an email marketing service. You can start with GetResponse completely free.
While plenty of free third-party websites and blog platforms exist (Medium, Blogger, etc.), there’s nothing like having a website that you fully control. GetResponse’s free website builder allows you to develop an online presence quickly. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create eye-catching websites in a very short time. You can also build a website from scratch with stylish templates and a visual drag-and-drop editor. Best of all, you don’t need to know how to code, making for a hassle-free experience.
With a website, you can create a page about your favorite companies and add your referral code or link. Whether on social media or through emails, you can direct your friends to that page. Add images and calls to action to your page for extra pop and more clicks.
Start building with GetResponse’s free website builder.
Grab your referral link and post it on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook offers many opportunities, including your profile, pages, and groups. Also, add some text for what your post is about to entice people to click on your link. A link by itself won’t be very appealing and may even appear spammy.
If you occasionally upload videos to YouTube, add your link to your descriptions. Consider where you can post your link on Instagram, Pinterest, and Tik Tok.
Send your link to your contacts through popular chat and instant messaging apps, including WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage, Viber, and Signal.
Ready to refer?
Now that you have the knowledge and insights to go forward collecting referral rewards through these successful referral programs, consider which is your favorite referral program? If it seems like you’d like the chance to earn a little something extra for referring new customers, suggesting products or services you actually use and believe in, or even reaching out to encourage others outside your network to try them out, now you’re ready to refer and earn.
If you are interested in affiliate marketing, go ahead and leave a comment and let us know. Better yet, partner up with us and join the GetResponse affiliate marketing program!