Need extra cash, but don't know where to start? Your body is literally a money-making machine! Did you know that you can donate plasma for money?
I couldn’t believe I was standing in a blood plasma donation facility, getting ready to be hooked up – literally – to a giant whirring machine. I’m terrified of needles.
The nurse across from me was wearing a plastic face shield while completing the intake paperwork for my first appointment. Curious, I asked her why the odd choice in headgear.
“Oh, that’s for gushers, honey,” she said. My heart stopped.
I found out a few minutes later that my veins were too small to take the large-bore needles they use in the donation process. I left the facility that day feeling partially relieved and partially peeved that I wasn’t eligible to go through with it.
I’d been looking for ways to make some extra money, and the facility would have paid me $40 per visit for my plasma if I went in eight times that month. That $320 sum would have taken a big chunk out of my student loan debt.
I’m not alone, either. There are hundreds of plasma collection centers across the U.S., many of them located near college campuses with oodles of cash-strapped students. These facilities can be a great way to make some extra money. But there are a few things you should know before you start getting paid to donate plasma:
How Does Plasma Donation Work?
Plasma is the liquid part of your blood that contains all sorts of molecules that keep you alive, like antibodies and blood clotting agents.
For thousands of people with rare immune or blood-clotting diseases, plasma-related treatments literally mean the difference between life and death.
In order to be a qualified donor, you must be an adult who weighs at least 110 lbs.; have no recent piercings or tattoos; pass a brief physical exam (complete with finger sticks); and – of course – have large-enough veins.
Plasma collection facilities exist all over the continental U.S. But make sure to do your research and check reviews before you go. No one wants a shoddy experience when big needles are involved! Your first appointment will likely take a couple of hours to get all the initial processing done. After that, each appointment will take about an hour and a half.
Plasma donation is a relatively straightforward process. You go in and have a needle placed in your arm. A machine draws your blood out, skims off some of the plasma, adds some saline to your blood to replace the lost fluid, and returns it back to your body through the needle.
You end up with a small bottle of straw-colored plasma, which the collection facility then buys from you. Plasma collection facilities will generally let you donate up to twice weekly.
How Much Will I Get Paid to Donate Plasma?
Different companies offer different compensation rates that are often confusing. For example, many companies offer bonuses for your first month, or if you complete a certain number of donations per month. They'll also generally pay you with a debit card, and these often come with various fees. So before you go in, make sure that you understand how the company will pay you.
Donating plasma for cash can be a great way to make some extra money.
CSL Plasma – a company that operates near me – offers up to $400 per month. And another one, BioLife, offers between $20 and $50 per donation. Plus, if it's available, you may want to scout out the local college student newspaper to check for coupons and offers that will pay you more for each donation.
Side Effects of Plasma Donation
Plasma donation is a very safe process, but there’s still a risk of side effects. The most noticeable short-term effects are things like bruising, a sore arm, and dehydration. Some people even experience fatigue and faintness.
“I didn't feel any real side effects, except I always made sure to eat before I went in,” says Zina Kumok of Debt Free After Three. Although she did add that, “The worst part is how cold you feel because of the saline.”
Long-term effects of plasma donation are a bit more serious, especially if you donate a lot. You can end up with scarring on your arm from the needles going in. (Imagine explaining that one to friends and family!)
So, donating plasma is definitely not without risks. Zina was eventually excluded from donating due to low iron levels. Still, she says, “I hate needles, but it was still worth it. I used the extra money for living expenses and going out. I would've kept going if I qualified.”