TikTokers Use Creator Rewards to Pay Down Debts

Nick Alphonso joined TikTok to raise awareness of his dog Blue Boy’s cancer diagnosis, spread some cheer and potentially raise money to pay off mounting chemotherapy bills.

When the recent “pay off debt” TikTok trend emerged, urging viewers to watch videos just to help their fellow TikTokers to make money, Alphonso knew his account was the perfect fit.

“We’re paying off debts? Awesome,” Alphonso says at the start of the TikTok. “All you have to do is watch him eat nuggies in a dinosaur hat.”

Blue Boy
Nick Alphonso and his dog Blue Boy make videos to raise money for the dog’s chemotherapy. In this one, Blue Boy is dressed as a dinosaur and eats some dino nuggets.


Alphonso is one of many small-to-medium sized accounts that have started to use the app’s recently revamped creator fund to earn money from views and comments in order to help with debts, medical treatments and, in one instance, saving a family home, turning the wildly popular and controversial social media platform into something akin to GoFundMe.

But rather than crowdsourced donations, creators like Alphonso have been nudged along by other members of the TikTok community who are offering nothing more than their eyeballs and attention.

“In all seriousness, this is the trend we’ve been waiting for,” Alphonso said. “This is the miracle we’ve been waiting for.”

Blue Boy

Alphonso adopted Blue Boy when he was a puppy. The pitbull is now Alphonso’s “whole life,” he told Newsweek.

“At the time I wasn’t looking to get a dog,” Alphonso said in an interview. “But now I can’t imagine making a different decision.”

He started the TikTok account focused on Blue Boy in October 2022, the same time that the pup was diagnosed with lymphoma. The account was meant to raise awareness and spread the dog’s story, with the hope of maybe even raising some money for Blue Boy’s cancer treatment.

Last year, his videos raised about $12,000. Viewers sent Blue Boy treats, costumes, food, jammies and toys.

“We could not have gotten through last year without TikTok,” Alphonso said. “I would be at a point where right now I would be selling things. I would be pawning things if it wasn’t for TikTok.”

Alphonso still has about $5,000 in debt from Blue Boy’s 22 chemo treatments. He suspects that would be a lot more without the TikTok community’s support.

“Even before this trend of help me pay my bills, TikTok has made a difference for us,” Alphonso said. He noted his account saw its biggest success from a single video.

How it works

To join the TikTok Creator Rewards program, an account must have 10,000 followers and at least 100,000 video views within the last month. TikTok also requires users to post clips longer than a minute to qualify for monetization. The program is eligible for accounts based the U.S., South Korea, Japan, Germany, the U.K., France and Brazil.

The app pays about $1 for every 1,000 views, according to several users who have monetized their accounts. Alphonso said the calculations have “gotten tricky,” however. The video must pop up on TikTok’s algorithmic “For You” page to count, and repeat views don’t go toward the total.

Out of the 1.2 million views Blue Boy received on one video, about 750,000 counted toward the monetization, according to Alphonso. That equates to about 89 cents per view, for a total of $550.

Creator Rewards follows TikTok’s previous billion-dollar Creator Fund, which shut down last year. Influencers had complained about low payouts, saying they were receiving just a few dollars for millions of views.

TikTok announced the new program in March to “provide creators with a variety of options to express themselves, share their stories and fully embrace their creativity while getting rewarded.”

Instead of using a capped pool of money to pay creators, TikTok now doles out earnings based on views and other engagement metrics, which come out of the app’s revenue. TikTok is projected to generate more than $18 billion in ad revenue this year, according to Statista.

The fund rewards videos for originality, play duration, search value and audience engagement.

“Our future will be driven by the extraordinary contributions of creators who inspire and entertain, bring us together across generations and geographies, make us laugh and move us to tears,” said Adam Presser, TikTok’s head of operations and trust and safety.

To help creators understand the analytics and mechanics behind the app, TikTok has also created the Creator Academy, an education hub with videos and articles.

The program was released in beta last year, and TikTok said it saw creators receiving an increase by over 250% from September to March. The number of creators making $50,000 each month nearly doubled, according to the company.

“Nothing is more important to me than championing and advocating for our creator community [and] as we move forward, we remain focused on ensuring TikTok is a place anyone can pursue their personal passion,” Presser said. “We will continue to unlock new opportunities for creators to maximize their experience while continuing to earn their trust as an industry leader in safety and security.”

Other TikToks

TikTok creator Bre Boyette posted a video with his cows, Dumpling and Waffles, after their “best friend,” a duck, died. Boyette is trying to save up to “get them a baby cow friend.”

“I did the math and TikTok thinks that if I get five or six million views then we’ll have enough to be able to get them a baby cow,” Boyette said in one video.

Another creator, Isaiah Snyder, is posting to save his family’s home.

“My father built this place when he was my age and this is where my brother and I have lived for the past 20 years,” Snyder said in one video. “Unfortunately, this year we’ve been left with no choice but to sell it.”

Snyder said his family has lived in town for 250 years and that they recently lost the family farm as well.

“Now I’m dealing with this,” Snyder said in the video. “There isn’t much I can do but you might be able to help me just by watching to the end.”

Others have discussed using the revenue from the “pay off debt” trend to pay down their medical bills or just for the everyday costs of living.

“It’s fantastic,” Alphonso told Newsweek. “I’ve stopped to watch every video I see, all the way through…I see videos that have 19, 20 million views on them.”

Alphonso thinks the trend highlights the value proposition of TikTok, whose Chinese owners are currently facing a federal deadline to divest from the app over national security concerns. He called TikTok the only social media platform that is “positive.”

Other community members, like Alicia Bell, have been able to help support Blue Boy and similar accounts.

“They always seemed super appreciative of everything, and I can’t even imagine how much cancer treatments would cost,” Bell told Newsweek.

Bell sells wristlets, luggage tags, cup charms, keychains and other craft items. Each month a portion of her profits go directly to helping animals.

She uses TikTok to find specific animals in need that “could really use the extra money.” Her Facebook page, Rescued from the Storm, is currently highlighting Blue Boy.

“The people on TikTok have a different attitude on what social media is and what social media can be,” Alphonso said. “It really, really is making a difference.”