Review of Nielsen’s Homescan Consumer Panels

Like many people out there was looking to leverage surveys and other sites to help generate a side income or at least win some perks and free stuff.  One of the most legitimate enterprises I have found was Nielsen’s Homescan Consumer Panels.  This company will actually mail you a bar code scanner, and all the instructions to participate.

Picture of equipment sent to me:

So, the idea is simple or so I thought.  You scan all of your purchased items bar-codes into the scanner, plug the scanner into your computer via USB and it uploads your spending and shopping patterns.  You get awarded points based on how often you submit uploads (you must submit weekly) and how long you were a panelist and you start out by getting only 150 points per week, but the longer you are with the company the more points per week you get.  You get 1,000 bonus points for signing up and each scan enters you in weekly drawings, and there are monthly and quarterly drawings as well.  These range from $25, $50 and to $1000.

I haven’t won any random drawings nor do I expect to, but I did simply scan and see.  The program in the scanner when connected for the first time downloads a huge list of stores in your area.  It does this well, as almost every store I can shop at is in my homescanner.  The product is fairly easy to use, but could use a search function.  When I want to select Walmart, I have to scroll through A-W to find the store, even with the scroll 5 at a time button, this can take some time.

The problem you very quickly discover is how tedious this whole process becomes, if I shop at Fry’s Food and Drug, each item I scan the device does not need you to enter price, but each item scanned you have to enter whether or not you used a coupon and quantity.  This isn’t to bad, but the problem is when you shop at a store like Walmart, where for each item scanned it wants you to input price.  This involves going through your Walmart receipt and finding the abbreviated item, then the price.  This now becomes nasty, I shop for like 50 things at Walmart at a time, I don’t need to go line by line scanning boxes and inputting prices.

This whole system would be so much better if you can just scan the store receipt and it can pick the items and totals from the receipt itself, instead of scanning the bar code one each and every item.  In addition, at a bare minimum you should not have to enter prices for each item when shopping at Walmart, I don’t know why the system will work with Safeway or Fry’s Food and Drug without manually entering prices.

So I do all of this, and browse the reward catalog and even the shoddiest and most useless awards are in the 12,000+ point range, so I have to endure literally all of this inconvenience for minimum of 9+ months to even collect enough points to get a token item that is practically useless?  They should add gift cards to the list of rewards, but they do not.  Gift Cards are worth saving points up for, even if you could get a $25 gift card at least every 6 or 9 months it would be worth it for some simple scanning.

As a result I am considering backing out of the program, they have the scanner sent to you with a return UPS postage so you can send it back to them for free when you cancel the program.  I will stick it out a few more weeks and see if I win any drawings or gift cards, but I am not holding out any hopes.

  • In Summary:

For those who have the time and want to participate in volunteering your shopping habits, you can participate in Nielsen’s Homescan, where you are asked to scan the bar-code of every product you buy from just about any store.  Even a candy bar from a vending machine is requested.  It is tedious, cumbersome and takes more time than you would think.  Especially if the store doesn’t have prices automated like Walmart and you are required to input each purchase price.

The rewards catalog is very minimal not nearly as good as most credit cards reward catalogues, and you collect points 150 per week at first (600 per month) which takes almost a year to even get the most minor rewards.  So I am not terribly impressed with this program at a first glance.  I think surely a $10 gift card every month or two for collecting and submitting all this data should be worth something.

-Dragon Blogger

Justin Germino
Working in the IT Industry for over 13 years and specializing in web based technologies. Dragon Blogger has unique insights and opinions to how the internet and web technology works. An Avid movie fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
Justin Germino


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By | 2008-09-09T10:03:05+00:00 September 9th, 2008|Internet|50 Comments

About the Author:

Working in the IT Industry for over 13 years and specializing in web based technologies. Dragon Blogger has unique insights and opinions to how the internet and web technology works. An Avid movie fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
  • I tried this Nielsen HomeScan Consumer Panel research some time ago.
    From the very beginning, I noticed also that it would be a tedious and time consuming issue of having to scan each individual item’s bar code and then having to upload info to the computer. Usually when I go to the store, there are more then 20 items.
    I decided that this was not going to work for me.
    I do agree it would be so much simpler if the bar code on the receipt could be scanned.

  • Sheila

    Thanks for this review. I got an offer to join Homescan, and am glad I Googled and found your review. Not I know I will not go near it.

    • Glad I could help, I don’t know anybody who gains much value in it, if you could just scan the grocery receipt itself instead of every single item separately it might make the product worth it.

  • Cathy

    Thank you for this review. I came across a Homescan offer on and wondered if it was worth it to sign up to get the MyPoints points. Definitely doesn’t sound like this is for me. Way too much work with very little payoff.

    By the way, though, if you are not familiar with MyPoints, it might be more up your alley because the prizes it awards are gift cards. It gives points for searching the web, playing games, shopping, etc. I’m a new member, so I haven’t acquired enough points to actually get a gift card, so I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that MyPoints works like a charm, but it might be worth checking out. I read about it on MSN. Here’s the link to the article:

    Or if you’re leery (as I probably would be) about following a web link from a stranger, you can just Google “MyPoints” and “MSN.” It’s in an article called “Free Gift Cards … Really” or something like that.

    • Might be something I check out, I have checked out similar “browse” point systems, but not this particular one.

  • Lisa

    I recently signed up with Nielsen and received my scanner a couple days ago. I started to plug it in and thought I’d do a search. Guess I should have done that before now. Are you still participating with Nielsen and to date, do you still feel like this is more trouble than it’s worth? Thank you for your review and input.

    • I canceled my subscription with Nielson HomeScan in 3 months, I gave it three months and 9 grocery shoppings to try and find something worth it about the product. It would take over a year to collect even the most basic rewards and the time put in is horrendous. If it could scan the receipt barcode once and be done with it, it wouldn’t be so bad, but because it can only scan 1 item at a time it is not worth it.

  • Cindy

    I, too, received the Nielson offer via my MyPoints account and decided to google its validity first. I found your review of the deal to be elaborately informative, answering all of my questions, & giving me a clearer expectation of what I’d be signing up for. Definitely would be easier (& smarter) to just simply scan the receipt. Maybe when they offer that, I’ll sign up! Thanks, dragonblogger, for the look-out.

    • Thank you for reading it and sharing your thoughts on my review.

  • Rose

    Thanks for the info I almost joined the panel, but after reading your review decided against it. In rsponse to Cathy’s remark about My Points. I’ve been a member for quite a few years now and it is legitimate. You get 5 pts for reading e mails and extra points for making purchases through their website. I’ve earned shell gas cards and Wal Mart cards. It’s definately worth a look.

    • Thanks for the information, how long does it take you to earn something, how many hours per week do you put into My Points?

  • Steve

    I was a member for three looooooooong years. We have a large family and so buy a lot of stuff. I received no more points for scanning a thousand dollars a week of shopping into the scanner than granny does for her once a week trip for eggs, milk and cigarettes. A large chunk of my life is now gone because of this program.

    There are supposedly 90,000 participants. They do claim to give away tons of random prizes. (I never won anything, unless you count the refrigerator magnet they sent me when I signed up).

    In order to win the big prizes, $20,000+, you have to scan and transmit every single week. And herein lies the problem. Miss a week and you’re totally screwed. You’re now no longer eligible for the big prizes. And it’s not a matter of starting all over and going for 52 weeks in a row, it’s waiting for the end of the year and THEN starting over for 52 weeks in a row.

    I missed transmitting one week recently and immediately quit the program. Three years in the program barely got me 100,000 points and I think I could get an electric toothbrush for that many points. There was no way I was going to go through that much effort again for a miniscule chance of winning something. Oh, and it will take YOU longer to get 100,000 points as they lowered how many points you could earn from taking their surveys about a year into the program.

    And when they’ve figured out that you’ve stopped transmitting, they start threatening you with collection agencies and stuff if they don’t get their equipment back.

    Don’t waste your time with this.

    • I agree with you, and when I stopped the program, I did get a letter and a phone call demanding their scanner back immediately as well. Thanks for sharing, why did it take you three years to figure the futility of the program? eRewards gives you virtual money for surveys and you can get magazine subscriptions in as little as 5-8 surveys, so I use that to get some free mag subscriptions and free blockbuster purchases a few times a year.

  • Very helpful review. Thank you!
    .-= Shelby Skrhak´s last blog ..New Pampers Gifts to Grow Code =-.

  • rachael

    Thank you for the review – I found the homescan offer through MyPoints as well. I’m glad I read this first! As for Mypoints – its great! I’ve earned over $100 in giftgards in the past year. All I do is click on the emails they send and take the free surveys – you could earn even more if you do a lot of online shopping through their site.

    • Another good one is I have earned four annual magazine subscriptions including Popular Science in just five months of the occasional one to two surveys per week. This is over $100 in magazine subscriptions, which I enjoy reading but wouldn’t spend money on.

  • Alicia

    I just got my scanner today and it appears that I was given an updated one from the one you have. I do not need to connect to the internet and there was a scanning booklet for the stores I use. I might suggest asking them for that version because it seems easier. I haven’t done it yet but I appreciate your review. Thanks!

    • Does the scanner now wirelessly connect to them and transmit data? Does it need to plug into your PC at all, the one I had had all the booklets for the stores, but you still had to scan every item one at a time. For people looking to make money from taking surveys, or doing consumer items like this, Homescan barely is worth the amount of time, unless you are one of the lucky few (like lottery winners) who win the drawing.

  • AJ

    Thanks for your detailed review of Homescan. I too got the “call” through MyPoints and hoped it would be as good or better than MyPoints. I know now to stay clear of this one. I love MyPoints and have been a member for 8-10 years. I have earned countless gift cards and it doesn’t take up too much of my time. Best Wishes Dragonblogger!

    • I haven’t tried MyPoints, will have too look at it, you weren’t the first person to mention.

  • Chatty Gal

    Dragon blogger,
    Thanks for your detailed review. I just learned of Homescan through a frugal site and decided to Google it for more info. Your site came up in the top searches, thankfully. I definitely decided it’s not for me. I will look into the MyPoints program and the eRewards. Great blog!
    .-= Chatty Gal´s last blog ..10 Ideas for Making a Memory Quilt out of Old T-shirts =-.

    • Thank you, one consumer did say the newer scanner is better, but I still doubt it is as easy to use and worth using.

  • mary

    Thanks so much for your post. I recently signed up and was put on a waiting list. I received my scanner in the mail last week. Guess I should have searched for information on it before. Once I read the instructions, I was very disappointed. I am one of those people who are always looking for the best deal, and shop sales and use coupons all the time. I love combining manufacturers and store coupons to get the best price on my groceries. As a single mom, I really don’t have the time to put into this program, especially since the rewards are so hard to come by.
    I am glad you gave an honest review of this program, because besides yours, I have only found one other one.
    If you have not tried yet, you should. I have gotten many free gift cards from them, and it takes practically no time. Once a week I go through the emails from them, and earn my points. If you are looking to save money in your area, I will give you two things that I use and they are wonderful. I use freecycle. It is yahoo groups, where people post unwanted items for others who might need them for free. You can also make requests on these groups, and if you are lucky someone who has the item you need will respond. In order to find a group in your area you need to go to and search for freecycle, it will ask you to enter your location and will find the group nearest you.
    The other one I use, which often saves me well over $200 a shopping trip is This one is not free, however it is fairly inexpensive when you see the savings you rack in. I pay $15 every 8 weeks, and this woman matches the sales in the stores I list with recent coupons. She tells you when it is the best time to purchase items, for the best price. The price of this one varies depending on the stores you want to watch the sales for. I only get two stores in my area, because they seem to have the best sales. It is $10 for the first store, and five dollars for each subsequent one. It is not uncommon to save 75% on the items you are purchasing. She tells you to clip the coupons and file them, but i find it easier to put the date on the front of the coupon books, because she gives you the date of the coupon. This way I only clip the ones I need, saving me more time.
    Thanks again, for your information. Hope someone out there benefits from my response. I will be returning my scanner on Monday, 😉

    • You are the 5th person to recommend so far, I will have to create an account and check them out. I do use and I earn points to get free magazine subscriptions which are nice, but would like to earn gift cards if I am going to do surveys or read emails.

  • mary

    Oops, forgot to mention: freecycle takes up a huge chunk of email space, as it is not uncommon to get upwards of 100 messages a day. So I recommend setting up an extra free email account for this one.

  • [email protected] for groceies

    Sounds like a big drag to me. Plus the points system might encourage some people to buy more stuff just to get the points, in which case, you sort of ending paying for what you get for “free”.

  • Amanda

    We have received our scanner through Mypoints and love it.. Its not hard ..its actually very easy. As we pick up our items we write the prices in the top corner of the boxes/bags so when we scan later they are right there with the item itself. -imagine that! This has also saved us money at the register cause of price changes in stores on items that are not scanning accurately. Then as we put stuff away when we get home its scanned and done with.

    Mypoints is a great site as well but it takes effort to get points so if you dont like work I wouldnt try.

  • Judy

    dragonblogger–thank you for the heads up about nielen–I was just about to sign up & receive my scanner this week when I decided to search for reviews first. This may not be for me. I have been with mypoints for about 8 years too. Even with little to no shoppin done through the site you can get $50-100 gift cards in a year with email clicks & surveys (I participate while watching tv everyother week). If you get tired just ignore them for a while & you can pick up again whenever. I’m going to try erewards too now that you’ve recommended it. Again, thanks for the info…

  • Ruth

    I just wanted to say that I have been on mypoints for almost a year and I love it. The only prizes really are gift cards and the points are not that hard to get. Make sure you sign up for the bonus emails, I get just a few a day and they give you points for clicking on them. Sometimes it’s an offer you may really want. They also send you surveys via email, and if you don’t qualify you stll get some points. If you shop online at all you need to be on mypoints, they often have specials just for their customers like free shipping or special codes, plus the customer service is really good. Get your friends to sign up for more points. I’m not posting my link or anything, just want to say that it’s a great site with no catch.

  • Travis

    I use to belong to Nielsen Homescan (aka NCP). It was fine at first except for the time it took to scan everything, which I am not one to complain. However, after 2 months of having my scanner( mine seems older than the one pictured in your post- no USB connection- had to hold the thing up to my phone and could hear modem “handshake” tones) the scanner stopped transmitting. Everytime I tried to upload it said my information could not be understood. Tried several different phones, 3 different house locations. Occassionally it would work (like 1 out of every 20 tries). I treid to called their help desk and was told to try different phones or different locations (which I told them I already did). After several calls( they hung up on me 3 times), I demanded that they send me a new scanner as this one seemed to be defective. They told me that since it occassionally transmitted it must be a problem with my phone or wiring and that they wouldn’t send me a new scanner. After 3-4 months of this problem ( and only occasional transmissions) I got a nice letter in the mail from them with the words FINAL NOTICE-RETURN THE EQUIPMENT, and went on to say I had been terminated from the panel for poor transmission behavior ( I had not transmitted 3 time sover the past 6 weeks) and I had 10 days to return the equipment otherwise I would be turned over to a collection agency. I again tried to call the help desk and was told they would not help me since I had been terminated and to return the scnaner or I could contact someone named Lynne Morrison. I contacted her and recieved a response to call the help desk (so typical). I told her that I had tried and they were unhelpful. I finally decided it was no longer worth my effort and to return the scanner. I would highly NOT recommend this company to anyone looking to do something worthwile with their free time. Mypoints, InboxDollars (pays real cash) , e-Rewards, and Harris Poll Surveys are much more worth your time and effort. Stay away from NCP/Nielsen.

  • Debbie

    I am so happy to hear that other people had as much trouble using the homescan as I did. It is really frustrating to think that you are trying to help a company gather data when they treat you the helper so poorly. I do not think that there is anyone that is nice that works for Neilson. When you try and contact someone to return the equipment etc, they treat you poorly. They act as if they are doing you a big favor.

    No one at the company explains how much work it takes to scan your items. It is extremely difficult if you use coupons or have to input the price of everything you buy. Near the end, I started lying and saying I shopped at the stores that did not make you add the price of each item and bought and I said I never used coupons. When I returned the machine, they never recieved it and I am now getting collection agencies calling me at work demanding that I return the machine. It’s a joke!

    The offer of great prizes is a joke. It reminds me of the prizes that you try to win at arcade games. For the amount time that you spend trying to transmit your purchases you could go out and buy whatever it is you want from their prize catalog.

    I am warning people that you should not participate in this program. There really is no benefit to you for inputting your data.

    • I agree with you and they did warn me about returning my scanner or being charged for it as well. The idea is good but the way they have it implemented is not.

  • Nicole

    I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one having issues with a returned scanner. Like many commenters above I found the whole process too tedious to be worth the not-so-great prizes.

    Despite Homescan having confirmed they’ve received my returned scanner I am still receiving harassing phone calls from them asking me to return it. Ugh!

    • This is why I sent mine back by UPS and kept a tracking number, it is too important to make sure you have tracking when returning an item like this where you are held liable to a cost if it isn’t returned.

  • Bill

    I was a member of Homescan/NCP until recently. I switched my phone service to MagicJack and could no longer upload the purchases I scanned. I notified NCP that I could no longer upload and they immediately started threatening me with collection agencies if I didn’t return the equipment, no friendly reminder first, just threats. They closed my account and I could no longer cash in what points I earned. They said they would reactivate my account once I returned the scanner, which I did within a couple of weeks of no longer scanning. I called to reactivate my account after NCP received the scanner back and the person I talked to refused to do so. She said I had to tell her which prize I wanted, which I couldn’t do because I couldn’t get into my account to access the catalog. She then said she would email me a link to the catalog and it would take about a week. A week to send an email? Seriously?

    Concerning Mypoints, I have been a member for 10 years now. It won’t make me rich, but I have accumulated a ton of points in that time and cashed them in for many different gift cards. For the time I spend on it, it is well worth it.

    • I haven’t really delved into MyPoints yet, though many have recommended. Thanks for sharing your experience with Nielsen’s Homescan

  • Barbara

    I just got the scanner- wish I had read his first, but will give it a try- I will come back and let you know!

    • This review is almost 3 years old now so hopefully they have improved the product quite a bit since then.


    Thank you for the excellent review. I was thinking about signing up but not anymore.

    • Thanks, remember this review is several years old and the program may have solved many of the problems I originally faced with it.

  • Guest

    I’ve been doing this for years trying to get enough points to get something worthwhile. Out of the blue I get a noitce saying that this notice was my final one and that I have to have the scanner sent back in 10 days. I don’t even know what they’re talking about, but I’m sending the scanner back. They’ve called and questioned so many of my scans because at times I buy in quantity. Also, when I’ve called, it took forever to get through and they were really rude. They said after they get my equipment back that I have 60 days to spend my points, but I told them just to donate them. I wash my hands of them.

    • Sorry to hear that after this many years customers are still frustrated by how they handle the scanning.

  • kkalin

    I have been scanning for NCP for about 2 years. My scanner quit transmitting about 4 months ago, which I contacted them. I have contacted them 5 times – they keep telling me that they will send me a prepaid return label – I have not received this label but have received threatening letters about not scanning. I talked to them today and I told them that it has been 10 days since I last contacted them and they promised to send a prepaid return label – which I have not received. The person on the phone told me I didn’t call 10 days ago, that according to their records I last called several months ago. What the heck! Why would I lie – what would be the benifit for me to lie??? I have receive no compensation for nearly 2 years of scanning because frankly you need too many point to receive a product that isn’t junk. Scanning is very time consuming and you receive very little points towards earning a worthless gift. I also belong to MyPoints – now here is a program everyone should sign-up for. I have been a member for atleast 5 years and have earned atleast $50 in gift cards every year with really no effort. There is several ways to earn points – I earn point by reading the e-mails they send, using coupons they offer and by going through MyPoint site when making purchases from other retailers. It takes very little effort to earn point & gifts with MyPoints.

    • @kkalin I have signed up for MyPoints but haven’t done much with it. Have you tried what do you think of that program?

  • Aerin_S

    As an update, they DO now offer gift cards as rewards. They also offer a 25% discount on AT&T wireless. I’ve been a member for years and have had no problems at all with scanning, transmitting, or ordering rewards. Everything has worked just as it should. However, I question whether the time is worth the rewards unless you’re really strapped for cash. The value of the merchandise rewards averages about $1 per 1,000 points. Translated into time and effort, that means I (as a “super scanner”) earn about $0.35 per week for scanning and transmitting my purchases, plus about $0.15 per survey. The gift cards are a slightly better deal — 18,000 points for a $25 gift card. I’m really not interested in any of the items in the rewards catalog, so I’ve redeemed points for items and then sold the items on Craigslist for almost full retail. I’ve decided to quit as soon as I have enough points for a $25 gift card (to use up the points I’ve already earned). Hope I don’t run into problems returning the scanner, as described by others.

    • I haven’t touched the service since 2008 which is when this article was published, but it is good to know they offer gift cards now.

  • Iggy

    I tried it about a year ago and found it horrible, get back from the groceries and the last thing you want to do is unload and scan then put it away, and like mentioned previously the rewards were pretty bad too. I sent it back in under a year, it was too much to keep up with

    • So basically same problems as in 2008, maybe when all can’s/goods have RFID chips and it can wirelessly pick them up automatically it will be a much more viable service.