Money at 30: Current Rewards (Current Music) iOS App Review
If you’ve been reading my reviews as of late, you’ll likely know that Instagram has become a surprising source of discovery for me when it comes to new financial apps and services. Naturally, it also frequently introduces me to other products. This includes the Mode Phone, which is apparently an Android phone that pays you to use it. Anyway, when I went to look closer at this phone, I discovered that it comes from the same people behind an app called Current Rewards — or Current Music, depending on if you’re looking in the App Store or at the app itself. Thus, before I decided whether or not to order a phone to review, I figured I should start with the original app.
So how does Current Rewards work? Is it legit? And can you really earn cash and gift cards just for listening to music? Let’s dive into those questions and more, including my personal experience with the Current Music app for iOS.
What is Current Rewards/Current Music and How Does it Work?
Signing up and unlocking earning
To get started with Current Rewards, you’ll first need to create an account using either a phone number or email address. In either case, you’ll need to confirm that number/email before your account is ready to use. Once this is done, you’ll then have access to Current Music stations for listening.
Meanwhile, if you want to start earning points for your music plays, you’ll need to complete another step. At this time, Current requires that you invite three friends to the app before earning is enabled. To send these invites, you’ll need to give the app access to your contacts and then select three people to send invitations to. Although you will earn 500 points for each person who does join the app based on your recommendation, this thankfully isn’t required to unlock earning. Instead, once your invites are sent, you’ll be able to earn points for listening to music and more.
It’s also important to note the strict rules that Current Rewards has for users. On its App Store page, it warns that the use of VPNs is banned as are such activities as using multiple accounts on one device or using multiple devices for one ID. Additionally, you cannot enter a VOIP phone number for sign up, use emulators to fake phone usage, or spam invitations (which is kind of ironic since they kind of force you to spam invitations to friends in the first place…). I can’t speak to just how sensitive Current is about these rules — like, can you really not use the app on your phone and an iPad? — but it’s probably best to be careful.
First the good news: Current Music features a wide variety of streaming stations. This includes stations dedicated to specific genres, decades, moods, or those built around select artists. There are even talk stations such as NPR as well as stand-up comedy stations and more.
The bad news? There’s no search function! Thus, to find stations, you’ll simply need to browse the homepage. That said, as you do try out stations, you can view more related options as well. Plus, you can save your favorite stations to make them easier to find in the future.
Another music option in Current Rewards is to record songs right from the app. To do this, you’ll just need to go to the “now playing” page and tap the record button. Then, your recorded tracks can be found in the Library tab and played back at your leisure — including being played offline.
Keep in mind that, since Current Music is streaming, your recordings are akin to recording the radio back in the day. This is to say that, unless you’re super quick or psychic, you’re likely to miss the first few seconds of the song. Still, it might be nice to have recordings of your favorites or even record songs as you discover them. Plus, the offline feature is nice, although it doesn’t seem as though offline plays earn points.
Earning points for music
Now for the fun part. As you listen to stations on Current, you’ll see points added to your account for each track. You can view how many points you earned per song in your Earning History as well as view what songs you’ve recently heard. Notably, you’ll not only earn points for actual songs streamed but also any news breaks, station promos, etc. you hear. You also earn points even if you only hear a portion of a track so don’t worry if you change stations or close the app before the song ends. And, as mentioned, listening back to recorded songs also earns points as long as you’re online.
As for how many points you’ll earn per song, well that depends on a few things. It appears as though the point-earning algorithm makes the track length the biggest factor. But, according to their site, Current says, “The speed at which you earn is based on how much of your profile has been completed and how long you are consuming. Our most valuable users play frequently and share preferences generously and we want to reward them for their contributions!” Obviously that’s pretty vague and (as I’ll discuss in the “my experience” section) you may see the points you earn per play vary greatly.
Something else to note about earning points by listening to music is that you’ll need to keep your phone active in order to earn. Thus, if you have push notifications turned on, you may occasionally receive an alert to check in with the app before earning is disabled. You might also need to watch a short ad to get earning turned back on. Also, it probably goes without saying but your phone’s volume needs to be on and muting may disable earning. Luckily, though, the app does support Bluetooth playback so you can stream music to wireless headphones or external devices and earn as you listen.
Earning additional points
Truth be told, the best way to earn rewards in Current Rewards/Current Music isn’t by listening to music. Instead, a faster way to reach redemptions is with Mega Offers. By tapping the “Tasks and Offers” tab on the app, you can view different promotions and how many points you’ll earn for completing them. A common example is an offer to download an app and simply open it to earn points or, in other cases, reach a certain level in a game to earn the rewards. These Mega Offers may start at a few dozen or hundred points for easier tasks but go up to thousands of points for more time-consuming ones.
Next up is the “Share Your Opinion” tab, where you can earn points for taking surveys. Having some experience with survey sites and being familiar with the frustration of not qualifying for the best-paying surveys, I have not personally tried the section of the app. Still, if you’re bored, it might be an option.
Lastly, another quick way to earn a few points is to watch video ads. According to the app, doing this can earn you “up to 15 points.” One downside here is that there may not always be ads to watch (as was the case while I was writing this review). Also, these ads interrupt your music listening, so this isn’t my favorite point-earning opportunity.
As you accrue points, you’ll have an increasing number of rewards available to you. The first option, coming at 4,000 points, is what Current calls Bonus Bucks. With this, you’ll earn 50% more points per play for 30 days. Moving up to 6,950, there’s also a $1 gift card for Amazon — although the $4 Amazon card is a much better value, going for 8,950 points. Elsewhere, other redemptions include PayPal transfers; gift cards for Best Buy, Sephora, iTunes, Starbucks, etc.; and more. Interestingly, many of these redemptions also include Bonus Bucks, so you may be better off holding your points until you reach one of these prizes instead of opting for Bonus Bucks off the bat.
My Experience with Current Rewards
The referral requirement
I’ll admit that I nearly punched out on Current Rewards before I even got started. That’s because I really hate the referral requirement — and for a few reasons. First, I just hate the idea of needing to get your friends to sign up for something just so that you can use it. Second, unlike some apps that allow you to tailor your message when sending a link, Current simply has you select the friends you want to invite and then it sends its own text. So, what I ended up doing was giving these selected friends a heads up before I okayed Current to send the texts.
On the bright side, as I mentioned, these friends didn’t actually need to sign up for the app before I was able to start earning. Had this not been the case, I definitely wouldn’t have gone forward. So, while I guess I’m thankful that’s it’s not worse, this is easily among my least favorite things about the app.
Enjoyable stations (with some quirks)
Even though my impression of Current Rewards started off poorly, it was quickly redeemed as I began exploring the different stations it has to offer. To start things off, I headed for a couple of 60s stations, as I very much enjoy music from that decade and think it works well in a radio format. From there, I also moved onto an 80s New Wave station that is all around great. While it does play some of big synth pop hits of the era, it also plays a lot of lesser-known tracks, leading me to discover all kinds of songs I’ve since come to love. Elsewhere, I’ve also tried out everything from J-Pop to comedy and beyond — enjoying most of the music along the way.
Of course, while I’m glad to have found some solid stations, I do want to mention a couple of quirks I discovered along the way as well. For one, some of the stations don’t exactly play what you might expect. Take for example the “Sing Along” station that isn’t a collection of mega hits that anyone would know the words to but, instead, seems to sound more like coffee shop music. Another (and perhaps a bit more fun) quirk is that some of these stations come from international sources. Because of this, I was once treated to a top-of-the-hour newscast in German. Combining these two quirks, that Best of the 90s station may have been playing the biggest hits of the decade in Deutschland, but even someone as well-versed in that era of music as I am had never heard half of the songs. On the one hand, this can be fun but, on the other, it may take you a bit of extra
searching browsing before you find a station that’s right for you.
Major point fluctuations
As I alluded to earlier, I’ve seen some pretty significant swings in the number of points I earn from listening to music on Current Rewards. When I first started, I was averaging between six and 10 points per play. Then I saw this decreasing but eventually saw it rise a bit. Nevertheless, more recently, I’ve seen my earnings drop to just three to four points per song — and that’s with the Bonus Bucks activated!
Based on the wording of Current’s site, I’m guessing that they want me to do more of their other activities in order for me to earn more with music. However, it’s hard to say for sure, making the whole thing a bit frustrating. This is a big reason why I’d say that this is more of a free music option than it is a money-making opportunity.
Redeeming my gift card
Between my music listening and a few Mega Offers (which did lead me to discover a couple of fun apps I’m still playing with), I was able to cash in my points for a $4 Amazon gift card. After submitting my order, I received an email from Current saying that it would arrive in a few days. In reality, it actually hit my inbox the next morning. As soon as it did, I was able to head to Amazon, enter the code, and the money was added to my account.
This was honestly about as good as things could go in my opinion. While the initial “in a few days” email made me a bit skeptical, that was apparently unfounded. I also appreciated that I could head directly to Amazon on my own and redeem the code as I’ve done with past gift cards, removing the risk of having to click an unknown link. Given this experience, I’d say that Current Rewards is at least legit.
On that note, I still have just one big question about Current: how much data do they collect? I was hoping to have some answer to this as the app includes a data request option. Unfortunately, despite trying twice, I have not received any such report. This is pretty frustrating but, then again, I’m also not exactly sure what I’d expect from such a document.
The bottom line is that, if you value your privacy, this might not be the best idea. Yet, given how much info many of us give away to Facebook, Google, and the like, I’m not sure that whatever Current is collecting is much worse. Perhaps that’s naive and I’d love to know more but, for now, that’s about where I land on the matter.
Final Thoughts on Current Rewards
I have to say, I’ve really been enjoying using Current to explore new-to-me music as well as listen to a fun mix of favorites. For me, it’s a bit of a throwback to when I’d just put on the radio, note what songs I liked, and even make an effort to record the ones I really wanted to hear again. In that aspect, Current Music could almost be a replacement for the likes of Spotify or Pandora — although the sound quality isn’t always as good as those and there’s no skipping tracks. While the lack of a search function makes it a bit hard to navigate, most of the stations being commercial-free is a benefit.
However, I suspect that most people heading to Current Rewards (especially those reading about the app on a personal finance site) will care more about Current for its earning potential than its tunes. Unfortunately, that’s where you may be disappointed. Despite the app stating on its site that users can earn $600 a year, I think that’s a major stretch — especially if you’re earning from music spins alone. In fact, given my experience with the fluctuating points per play, I think you’d be lucky to get $60 in a year.
Still, when you consider that you’re getting something for next to nothing, it might not be such a bad deal. After all, in order to get my $4 Amazon gift card, all I really did was discover and revisit music I like as well as download other fun apps. Then again, there is the question about privacy and data that comes with Current… but that’s a matter for someone smarter than me.
All things considered, if nothing else, I think that Current Rewards/Current Music is a fun app that’s enjoyable to use. It won’t make you rich but you may score a few dollars along the way. For me, that just might be enough.
Also published on Medium.