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The Best Mystery Shopping Companies

Where Should You Sign Up as a Mystery Shopper?

In today's economy, everyone's got a side hustle, from making crafts to sell on Etsy to delivering people's takeout meals. What if you could get paid to eat at your favorite restaurant, get your oil changed, or scope out the newest coffee shop in town? That's what hundreds of thousands of mystery shoppers have been doing - for decades.

This is no "here today, gone tomorrow" gig: companies have relied on the intel gathered by mystery shoppers to get first-hand perspective on their signage, customer service experience, product quality and more. What does it take to be a "secret shopper" ? Attention to detail is crucial: some evaluations may have just a few aspects to track (like cleanliness of an entryway and a particular ad's signage), but others require more.

Wednesday, May 29th

2024 Mystery Shopping Company Reviews

About Face Review Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award 5 Star Rating

About Face

5 Star Rating Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

AboutFace is the first place to turn for an excellent experience as a mystery shopper. There's lots of helpful information to get you off to a great start, from best practices guidelines to FAQs, and you can preview many current jobs right on AboutFace's social media channels. Plus, you've also got opportunities to be an editor/scheduler, focus group participant, or even a product demonstrator here. AboutFace remains our top pick among mystery shopping companies.

Market Force Review 4.5 Star Rating

Market Force

4.5 Star Rating

Market Force has a reputation for excellence among mystery shopping companies. You'll be expected to pay very close attention to detail on your assignments here, but some novel features make it worth the effort: a mobile app for finding shops, booking them, and submitting your reports, plus the opportunity to put in a bid for higher pay. You can create a free account and browse jobs in your area right away, no SSN or lengthy application required until you're ready to work. This is one of our preferred choices for mystery shopping, particularly for more experienced shoppers.

IntelliShop Review 4 Star Rating


4 Star Rating

IntelliShop is a solid choice for new and experienced mystery shoppers. You can learn a lot about the work in general and about how this company works in particular just by reading through their website. Creating an account allows you to see jobs near you and their requirements, all without verifying your email or providing your SSN. Payment is made solely via PayPal, so no bank account info needed - ever. Overall, IntelliShop is a good option when deciding where to be a mystery shopper.

Second To None Review 4 Star Rating

Second To None

4 Star Rating

Based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Second To None has been around for over 30 years and has more than 500,000 mystery shoppers throughout the US and Canada. You can apply to be a mystery shopper through their website or through their ShopperHub mobile app, the latter of which will let you complete your reports on the spot through your phone. Several improvements earned Second To None a boost in our rankings since our last review, making this mystery shopping company one to consider.

Elite CXS Review 4 Star Rating

Elite CXS

4 Star Rating

Elite CXS is a small-but-mighty veteran-owned mystery shopping company. Past clients have included big names like Starbucks, Porsche, and T-Mobile, and there are quite a few current opportunities with large brands and local mom-and-pop businesses too. The sign-up process is quick and easy, and you'll be able to browse jobs near you right away. We encourage you to consider Elite CXS when deciding where to become a mystery shopper.

Secret Shopper Review 4 Star Rating

Secret Shopper

4 Star Rating

Secret Shopper is a worldwide mystery shopping company, contracting millions of individuals to evaluate numerous industries from retail to real estate. Their application process is straightforward and transparent, and you can also look at their social media accounts to see featured, current assignment opportunities. We like Secret Shopper's mobile apps that make it easy to see what jobs are available nearby too. This mystery shopping company could improve by offering electronic payments (like PayPal) instead of old-fashioned, monthly checks, but overall Secret Shopper is a solid option for mystery shoppers new and experienced.

Shopper's View Review 3.5 Star Rating

Shopper's View

3.5 Star Rating

Shoppers' View has a lot for mystery shoppers to like: plenty of information before you sign up, easy access to job boards with no commitment of personal details, and twice-monthly payments via PayPal. The company has been in operation for almost 30 years and has a good reputation. However, Shoppers' View is kept from earning a higher ranking because it has fewer available shops than many of its rivals, even in large metro areas.

Sinclair Customer Metrics Review 3 Star Rating

Sinclair Customer Metrics

3 Star Rating

Sinclair Customer Metrics has been working with mystery shoppers for over 35 years - and their website and new contractor application look like they haven't been updated much since then. Still, this company actually had a few jobs in our test area when some of their rivals came up empty, and we didn't find anyone with complaints about being a mystery shopper here. It's not one of our top picks, but it could be a backup plan if you don't find opportunities in your location with another mystery shopping company.

Mystery Shopping Service Review 2.5 Star Rating

Mystery Shopping Service

2.5 Star Rating

Mystery Shopping Service isn't going to be a company that really draws you in. If you take the time to complete their brief shopper application, you'll be stuck waiting for one of their schedulers to reach out via email: there's no way to preview available assignments near you (or anywhere), and MSS doesn't give out much information about how they work. The BBB gives this mystery shopping company an "A+" and accreditation, but there are other equally trustworthy alternatives that can get you working much faster.

Service Evaluation Concepts Review 1.5 Star Rating

Service Evaluation Concepts

1.5 Star Rating

Service Evaluation Concepts, or SEC, proudly proclaims that they have 30+ years of experience in the mystery shopping industry and anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 "Brand Agents" (aka mystery shoppers). Then where are all the jobs? Their site lets you preview listings in your area before signing up - and we only found two states with one or two active mystery shops in each one. SEC just isn't the kind of actively-engaged mystery shopping company you should be looking for. Choose a different platform instead.

BestMark Review 1 Star Rating


1 Star Rating

BestMark used to be one of our top mystery shopping platforms. They've been around for almost 40 years and have conducted more than a million evaluations across many industries. Sounds great, but when you look at their feedback from mystery shoppers over the last few months, too many of them are going without pay for months on end - not even being reimbursed for what they had to spend to do the assignments. The BBB agrees, bringing BestMark down to a "D-" rating. You'll have much more success with one of the higher-ranked mystery shopping companies in our evaluation, and we recommend avoiding BestMark.

Compare the Best Reviews

Continued from above...

For example, some mystery shopping programs require you to keep track of specific times and names of salespeople while discreetly snapping photos and not blowing your cover as an everyday customer. And yes, a little bit of acting skills can go a long way when doing a mystery shop, since you may have to pretend to be very interested in that new cell phone plan, hot menu item, or fancy new construction home. Other than that, as long as you look at mystery shopping as a fun way to make some money and not as a career, you should have no trouble succeeding as an evaluator.

A word of caution: mystery shopping companies' names are often used to target victims in money laundering scams. Most of today's secret shopping platforms make payments via PayPal, and never in advance of doing a shop; you won't be "invited" to be a mystery shopper with a $1900 cashier's check in the mail. If you receive anything like that, you should contact the company through the toll-free number on their website and ask how they would like you to go about reporting it to the authorities (such as the Federal Trade Commission or the police department). And, whatever you do, DON'T CASH THAT CHECK.

It's also important to realize that you should never be asked to pay to be a mystery shopper. In the past, some less-than-reputable websites have offered to "unlock the secrets" of mystery shopping for a membership fee or one-time payment - when in reality, all you get is a list of secret shopper companies (like the ones we've evaluated here, for free).

Enough about the tricky stuff: let's move on to choosing a mystery shopping company to get you started. Here are several factors to help you pick where to begin:

  • Upfront Information: How much does the company tell you before you fill out an application? The best mystery shopping services give you a lot of information to consider first, usually through FAQs, videos, or even screenshots of their shopper apps.
  • Ability to See Available Shops: How much personal information do you have to give the company before you can see what shops they have in your area? Some applications require everything from your Social Security Number to your height and weight, while others will let you in with just a name, address, and email (though you'll have to complete your profile before you can be assigned to a shop). We appreciate mystery shopping companies who post some of their current shop openings on social media as well.
  • Shops Near You: the most amazing mystery shopping companies around won't be of any use to you if they don't have assignments where you live (or work, or travel, or - you get the idea).
  • Payment: how often will you get paid and in what way? Most companies today use PayPal, so if you're unwilling or unable to create an account there, you'll have to look for a service that also offers direct deposit or traditional paper checks. The usual payment timeframe is the middle of the month following your completed shops; a small number of mystery shopping companies pay more quickly (within two weeks) and more frequently (twice a month).
  • Reputation: the most reputable mystery shopping companies are part of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) and will proudly display that membership badge on their site. Also check to see if they've been rated by the Better Business Bureau, how long they've been in

TopConsumerReviews.com has sorted through today's most popular mystery shopping programs, to give you the information you need to get started on your new side gig. We hope this helps you choose a company that's the right fit for you. Have fun being a "secret shopper" !

The Best Mystery Shopping Companies Compare Mystery Shopping Companies Compare Mystery Shopping Company Reviews What are the best Mystery Shopping Companies Best Mystery Shopping Company Reviews

Mystery Shopping Company FAQ

Mystery shopping, sometimes referred to as "secret shopping" , is the way that many businesses get information about how their stores, offices or locations are doing with respect to customer service. Are the employees friendly? Are the proper signs displayed for a holiday promotion? Companies contract with mystery shopping providers that send in "secret shoppers" , who pretend to be there as a regular customer but are actually taking notes on their experience. Does that sound like fun? It is!
There's really no limit to the types of "mystery shops" you might have the chance to complete. You could visit a restaurant and place a specific order, go to a movie theater and see how clean the restrooms are, or even ship a package at the post office. Some mystery shops require you to buy a product and return it later, to evaluate how well the employee handles the transaction on both ends.
You'll get a lengthy series of instructions for each mystery shop assigned to you. In order to get paid, you'll need to follow those details to the letter. Common requirements are noting the time it takes to be approached by a salesperson, how long you wait in line to ring up your purchase, or the number of customers present at a particular time of day. You might also be asked to take photos or video (as surreptitiously as possible!).
It shouldn't! Reputable mystery shopping services allow you to register as an independent contractor at no cost to you. If you see a website that asks you to pay to become a secret shopper, you'll know it's not on the up-and-up. In fact, they're probably just going to give you a list of the real mystery shopping companies that you could have signed up for without their help!
That varies widely. Some shops only pay you a small amount of money, because you get to keep the product (or eat the meal, or see the movie, etc.). If a shop is high-priority - because it's time-sensitive, or maybe another shopper cancelled at the last minute - you could get a bonus payment. It's unlikely you'll make a living as a mystery shopper, but it could put some spending money in your pockets, give you a free date night, or provide you with some fun merchandise at no cost.
Yes, most of the time. Mystery shopping is always done on a 1099 (independent contractor) basis, and most providers understand that their secret shoppers will be working with more than one service at a time. But, during the sign-up process, be sure to read all of the requirements of the company where you're applying, just to make sure there aren't any non-compete clauses that would prohibit you from working for a rival service.
You want to avoid that happening at all costs! Think of mystery shopping as an acting role: you're not really "you" , but rather someone that could be an everyday customer at the store. If you're outed as a mystery shopper before you've finished gathering the required information, it could invalidate the entire job - and you won't get paid.
While there are absolutely some scammy services and sites out there, who just want to get your money in exchange for a list of mystery shopping opportunities, the industry itself is absolutely legitimate - and used by most of the big-name corporations you know to gather insights on their many locations nationwide. There's even a certification process you can participate in, which may boost your chances of being accepted by a mystery shopping provider and then landing more shops. Check to see if a mystery shopping company is a member of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professionals Association) before you register: it's a good sign that you've chosen a trustworthy, established service to start your adventure as a secret shopper!

Compare Mystery Shopping Companies

Select any 2 Mystery Shopping Companies to compare them head to head

  • About Face
  • Market Force
  • IntelliShop
  • Second To None
  • Elite CXS
  • Secret Shopper
  • Shopper's View
  • Sinclair Customer Metrics
  • Mystery Shopping Service
  • Service Evaluation Concepts
  • BestMark
About Face vs Market Force About Face vs IntelliShop About Face vs Second To None About Face vs Elite CXS About Face vs Secret Shopper About Face vs Shopper's View About Face vs Sinclair Customer Metrics About Face vs Mystery Shopping Service About Face vs Service Evaluation Concepts About Face vs BestMark Market Force vs IntelliShop Market Force vs Second To None Market Force vs Elite CXS Market Force vs Secret Shopper Market Force vs Shopper's View Market Force vs Sinclair Customer Metrics Market Force vs Mystery Shopping Service Market Force vs Service Evaluation Concepts Market Force vs BestMark IntelliShop vs Second To None IntelliShop vs Elite CXS IntelliShop vs Secret Shopper IntelliShop vs Shopper's View IntelliShop vs Sinclair Customer Metrics IntelliShop vs Mystery Shopping Service IntelliShop vs Service Evaluation Concepts IntelliShop vs BestMark Second To None vs Elite CXS Second To None vs Secret Shopper Second To None vs Shopper's View Second To None vs Sinclair Customer Metrics Second To None vs Mystery Shopping Service Second To None vs Service Evaluation Concepts Second To None vs BestMark Elite CXS vs Secret Shopper Elite CXS vs Shopper's View Elite CXS vs Sinclair Customer Metrics Elite CXS vs Mystery Shopping Service Elite CXS vs Service Evaluation Concepts Elite CXS vs BestMark Secret Shopper vs Shopper's View Secret Shopper vs Sinclair Customer Metrics Secret Shopper vs Mystery Shopping Service Secret Shopper vs Service Evaluation Concepts Secret Shopper vs BestMark Shopper's View vs Sinclair Customer Metrics Shopper's View vs Mystery Shopping Service Shopper's View vs Service Evaluation Concepts Shopper's View vs BestMark Sinclair Customer Metrics vs Mystery Shopping Service Sinclair Customer Metrics vs Service Evaluation Concepts Sinclair Customer Metrics vs BestMark Mystery Shopping Service vs Service Evaluation Concepts Mystery Shopping Service vs BestMark Service Evaluation Concepts vs BestMark
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