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Use Microsoft Rewards to score free Amazon or Starbucks gift cards every month

Formerly Bing Rewards, Microsoft's we'll-pay-you-to-love-us program can be turned into cold, hard store credit. Here's how to max out your monthly points.

Look, I'm not here to judge. If Microsoft wants to bribe folks to use its Bing search engine and Edge browser, I'm only too happy to enjoy my next Starbucks peppermint mocha gratis.

There's this thing called Microsoft Rewards. Until last month it was known as Bing Rewards, which netted you points in exchange for using Bing, taking quizzes and so on. Those points could be exchanged for things like sweepstake entries, Microsoft services and apparel, and even gift cards from various major businesses.

So I'm here to put free coffee in your pocket. Well, not really, because that would burn, but you get the idea. With a little strategic planning, you can score yourself a $5 Amazon, GameStop, Hulu or Starbucks gift card every single month. Probably even two $5 cards.

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Give it a few months and you'll start racking up rewards like these.

Microsoft

That may not sound like much, but consider: Hulu costs $7.99 per month. Play your Microsoft Rewards cards right and you could get the service absolutely free. Or you could pad your Amazon account with gift cards for the next time you decide to splurge. (Echo Dot, anyone?)

How to score points

If you want to start seriously amassing points, here's the hard truth: You'll need to bid goodbye to Google. Microsoft's maximum rewards come from running Web searches with Bing (5 points per search, up to 250 points per day) on your PC. If you're mostly on your phone or tablet, use Bing in your mobile browser (again, 5 points per search) and you can score up to 100 points per day.

Android users, you'll need to change Chrome's default search provider by venturing into the app's Settings menu, then selecting Search Engine. In iOS, head to Settings > Safari, then tap Search Engine and choose Bing.

If you're thinking, "No way, Bing is terrible," think again. In my experience, Bing's search results are virtually identical to what I get from Google. It's mostly about switching your brain over to think "Bing" for search.

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Some easy bonus points await you.

Microsoft

The tougher change for many users will be swapping Chrome or Firefox for Microsoft's Edge browser. Doing so nets you 5 points per hour of active browsing, for a maximum of 150 points per month. Thankfully, this isn't mandatory. You'll accrue the search points even if you use another browser.

Bing and Edge are your big earners, but you can also score points by participating in various bonus offers. Set a reward goal, for example, and you'll land a cool 100 points. Take a super-quick tour of Microsoft Rewards for another 50. Take a Bing-powered quiz to earn 30 extra points. Heck, at time of writing, you can earn 10 points just by clicking the Register to Vote link.

Newcomers to Microsoft Rewards will be limited to Level 1 status (meaning a maximum of just 50 search points per day) until hitting at least 500 points in a month, at which point the Bing yield jumps to a maximum of 250.

Yeah, it's all fairly confusing. And it seems like a lot of work just for a few bucks' worth of gift cards. But it's really not.

Points for perks

Let's do the math. Assuming you get to Level 2 status (very easy to do), then do nothing more than switch to Bing, you can potentially earn 350 points per day -- or 10,500 points in a 30-day month.

To score a $5 gift card from any of the four aforementioned stores, it'll cost you 5,250 points. So you can bank a pair of cards just by maximizing your search points. And there are other rewards as well, like a three-month Xbox Gold subscription for 15,000 points, or even 12 months for 29,000 -- that's the equivalent of just three months' worth of maxed-out search points.

Obviously you can pick up even more points by performing bonus tasks a few times a month. But it's hardly even necessary.

What are your thoughts on this? Are you willing to accept Microsoft's, er, largesse in exchange for switching to Bing? Or do you need more than a free venti latte to give up your beloved Google?