Market America Scam: Pyramid Scheme or MLM? [Review]

If you’re on the lookout for some extra cash, you might have come across Market America – an MLM company that offers a range of health care products and financial services. You might have even heard about it through a friend or a family member.

Market America offers the opportunity to work from home as an independent distributor. But, let’s be honest, success with this MLM program isn’t guaranteed, and I’ll go over some reasons why in this review. 

As an online entrepreneur, I have reviewed many similar online opportunities over the years. So I can tell you what you need to know.

Before we dive in, let me make it clear that I’m not affiliated with Market America in any way, shape, or form. I’m not being paid to write this review, so you can be sure that what you’re about to read is honest and impartial.

Now, let’s get to it. I’ll also share with you, at the end of this review, an alternative to Market America’s MLM program that has worked for me and enabled me to generate a full-time passive income online.

What is Market America?

Market America is a well-known multi-level marketing company that was founded by JR and Loren Ridinger in 1992. With roots in the Amway network, the company has grown tremendously over the years, now employing over 800 staff members and operating out of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Their extensive range of products includes everything from household cleaning supplies to custom websites, jewelry to water purifiers, personal care products, and weight management products, among others. According to the company’s website, their products have received endorsements from various celebrities and have been featured in popular magazines like Allure, Vogue, US Weekly, and People.

Despite these impressive accolades, Market America has come under fire from critics who view it as just another multilevel marketing scheme. The company’s products have been deemed interchangeable with what’s available at local stores, and the business model has been criticized for relying on fees paid by new members and forcing them to purchase a certain amount of products each month that they must resell.

In fact, Market America has faced legal trouble, with a 2017 lawsuit accusing the company of being an illegal pyramid scheme. As with any multi-level marketing business, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and do your own research before deciding to join.

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Market America: Products and Services Overview

Market America offers a wide variety of products and services that you might find interesting. They have an impressive range of trademarks, including their Isotonix line of dietary supplements. You can check out their website to see the many different product categories that they offer, such as clothes, shoes, beauty, electronics, health and nutrition, kids, travel, grocery, and shopping essentials.

Apart from their products, Market America also provides services such as personal financial management through maCapital Resources, as well as Internet marketing services for small to medium-sized businesses via maWebCenters. These services can help you manage your finances and build your online presence more effectively.

Market America has also teamed up with Sezzle, a publicly traded financial technology company that offers an online payment service. This collaboration allows shoppers to pay for their entire purchase in four interest-free installments over six weeks, making it easier for you to get what you want without breaking the bank.

Is Market America An MLM?

Yes, Market America is a multi-level marketing (MLM) company. As a member of Market America’s MLM program, you become an independent distributor or what they call “UnFranchise Business Owners.” You also have the option to operate an online retail website known as a “Partner Store.”

To join the program, you will need to pay startup and monthly fees like most MLM programs, and you’ll be expected to recruit others to join as well. Your earnings will come from product sales commissions or recruiting new members to your sales team.

It’s worth noting that as an independent distributor, you won’t receive a regular salary from Market America. You’ll be running your own business, selling Market America’s products, and earning commissions based on your sales and the sales generated by the people you recruit.

However, it’s unlikely that you’ll make a significant income just from selling their products. Like most MLM programs, your success depends on recruiting new members to work under you. You’ll earn a commission on the sales and new recruits generated by the people you hire once they begin producing results.

The MLM model is complex, as it involves building a downline of recruits beneath you. As the people in your downline recruit their own downline, your earnings potential increases. If everyone in the downline recruits ten people, you’ll earn commissions from everyone in the triangle. If you can recruit just ten people, you can make $1100.

Most people in MLMs prefer to earn a lifetime passive income from recruiting others than a one-time commission from selling products, even if the MLM offers a wide range of products. However, the people at the top of the downline tend to have the most financial success, while those at the bottom have the least.

Having a large downline is crucial to succeeding in a multi-level marketing company like Market America.

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Is Market America A Pyramid Scheme?

No, Market America is not a pyramid scheme. It is a legitimate MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) company that allows members to make money by selling their products and services. Unlike pyramid schemes, Market America does not solely rely on recruitment to generate income.

However, there was a federal lawsuit against Market America in 2017 that accused the company of targeting Chinese-American immigrants to sell products to friends and relatives in Asia. The lawsuit claimed that Market America’s business practices were “extortion” and that the majority of salespeople did not make any money. Although the case was transferred to a North Carolina court, Market America has not been legally identified as a pyramid scheme.

So, what makes a pyramid scheme? Pyramid schemes recruit members by promising them money or services in return for recruiting others. The scheme is unsustainable and often a scam because members at the bottom end up losing money. Those who want to join must pay a membership fee to the company that runs the pyramid scheme. The company rewards members for recruiting new members by sharing a portion of the funds raised from each additional member.

In contrast, Market America has a variety of products and services, unlike companies that run pyramid schemes, which hardly sell valuable goods or services. Pyramid schemes would have to keep growing indefinitely to make money for everyone who participates, which is impossible due to the finite population of the planet.

A good example of a pyramid scheme is Vemma, a producer of energy and weight loss drinks. In 2015, the FTC accused Vemma of operating a pyramid scheme that paid more to recruit new members than to sell products. The majority of participants, who were mostly college students and young people, lost money.

You may read our article on the difference between MLM and pyramid schemes here.

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Is Market America a Scam?

No, Market America is not a scam. It is a legit MLM company. According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, a scam is “a dishonest scheme; a fraud.”

That being said, some people have raised concerns about Market America’s business practices. Members are required to buy a certain amount of products each month which they then have to resell to recoup their money. The focus is on recruiting new members, who then become part of the membership pyramid, rather than selling products.

It’s true that only a few people make money with Market America, and they usually do so by aggressively recruiting new members. In fact, a majority of Market America reps don’t earn any money at all. Consumer Awareness Group President Robert FitzPatrick even commented in 2004 that the company’s growth “can not go on forever” based on available numbers and disputed the claim that “distributors can achieve financial independence.”

Market America has also been accused of making disingenuous and irresponsible marketing claims. In 2020, Truth In Advertising began an investigation of the company and found that it had published more than 450 misleading income claims on its website, blog, and social media pages in the first nine months of the year. According to the investigation, Market America described top distributors’ income as “typical,” when in reality, the majority of distributors never earned a penny.

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How to Make Money with Market America?

Market America offers opportunities through their “UnFranchise” business that can help you get out of debt and retire earlier. But before you can get started, you need to sign up and become qualified.

There are several ways to earn money with Market America, but the most common ones include earning cash back, retail commission, residual commission, shopping annuity, and management bonuses. It’s simple – you can either earn money from product sales commissions or by recruiting new members to your sales team.

However, one issue to keep in mind is that Market America charges exorbitant subscriptions, monthly fees, and other fees. Additionally, to receive a commission, you must make a certain number of sales each month.

Market America Compensation Plan

Market America’s compensation plan is a bit complicated, but don’t worry, we’ll break it down for you. 

One of the main ways to earn money is through the Residual Income – Binary Compensation Plan. You can get at least two people to join your team and earn commissions when they bring in new members. This Binary MLM system keeps separate records for Business Volume (BV) and Internet Business Volume (IBV), so you can earn points when you purchase a product for yourself or sell it at retail.

To earn $3600 per week, you need to recruit 200 DBC owners below you, each with 100 BV or IBV ($200 product). That’s a lot of active UFOs, but keep in mind that this is not the only way to succeed in the company.

Another way to earn is through cashback. You can earn cashback by purchasing something online and earn even more when your customers make purchases through you. Depending on the product, you can earn anywhere from 2% to 50% cash back, with an additional 0.5% if you refer someone.

If you want to turn your spending into income, check out the Shopping Annuity. Use and UnFranchise Business to earn credits as you shop.

You can also earn through retail profits by creating a list of preferred customers and offering them a commission ranging from 30% to 50% of the gross retail profit. This only applies to sales between two people, though.

Finally, if you and your team complete the BV commission cycle in the same field, you’ll receive a $600 management bonus. So, the better your team performs, the more bonus money you’ll be eligible for.

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How Much Does It Cost To Join Market America MLM Program?

The process is simple – just fill out their application form and register on their website. After that, Market America will redirect you to a page where you can purchase a starter kit for $399.

What does the starter kit include, you ask? Well, you’ll get a variety of items ranging from health and personal care products to cosmetics and weight loss solutions. However, it’s important to note that the starter kit doesn’t come cheap.

In addition to the upfront cost, you’ll also need to pay a monthly fee of $50, which adds up to $200 per quarter. That’s an additional expense to keep in mind.

When you start recruiting others to join you in the program, you’ll also need to pay for access to the back office and your own website. The access fee is $20.

To summarize, the costs associated with joining Market America’s MLM program include:

  • Starter Kit: $399
  • Monthly Fee: $50/month or $200/quarterly
  • Access to Back Office and your own domain website: $20
  • Annual Renewal Fee: $99

So, if you’re considering joining Market America’s MLM program, make sure to keep these costs in mind and decide whether it’s a good investment for you.

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Pros and Cons of Joining Market America MLM Program 


  • Market America offers a wide range of products, which means you can compare prices and quality before making a purchase.
  • Some users have reported success with the program, and have been able to make a decent income from it.


  • One of the biggest complaints about the program is the expensive start-up kit packages and other fees involved.
  • Another downside is the lack of free training, which can make it difficult for new members to get started.
  • Some users have also found the products to be too expensive, which can make it hard to sell them to others.
  • Market America has been involved in several lawsuits, which may be a cause for concern for some potential members.
  • The company is not accredited by the Direct Selling Association (DSA), which is a red flag for some people.
  • The income disclosure statement is out-of-date, which can make it difficult to assess the potential earnings from the program.

Overall, it’s important to do your research and weigh the pros and cons before joining any MLM program. Talk to other members, read reviews, and make sure you understand all the fees and requirements involved.

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Why I Don’t Recommend Joining Market America MLM Program

If you’re considering joining Market America MLM, there are a few things you should know before taking the leap.

Expensive to Join

One of the biggest drawbacks of joining Market America MLM is the cost. The startup fee to become a distributor is reportedly $399, and there are also additional monthly payments of $129. 

On top of that, distributors are required to spend between $130 and $300 on Market America products and attend training events that can cost between $20 and $200 each. For many distributors, these expenses end up being higher than what they earn from the MLM program.

Difficult to Make Money

Another drawback of Market America MLM is that it can be challenging to make money. Statistics show that 72.5 to 99.9 percent of MLM members actually lose money. This is because MLMs have sales quotas that require members to keep selling products to remain active and eligible for commissions. If members don’t meet the quota, they won’t get paid. As a result, many MLM members end up losing a significant amount of money before even recruiting one person into the company.

Losses Are Reframed as Investments

Another concerning trend among Market America MLM uplines is that they often reframe their financial losses as “investments” in their business to keep their reps in the MLM scheme. They promise future financial freedom, but the reality is that these are not real investments. The chances of getting the money back are slim, and the return on “investment” is often negative. In most cases, it’s simply a way to justify the losses incurred through the MLM program.

Cult-like Company Culture

One of the major issues with Market America is its company culture. Like many MLMs, Market America appears to have a cult-like atmosphere. Critical thinking is discouraged, and representatives who ask questions or express doubts are ostracized. This can lead to a sense of isolation and detachment from friends and family who are not part of the company.

Leaving the company is also difficult because former representatives are labeled as failures or bad influences, and current reps are discouraged from contacting them. Losing the support of people who were once considered family can be devastating.

Pressure to Buy Products

Another drawback of Market America is the pressure to purchase products. If you do not have a large network of potential customers, you will need to buy products yourself every month. This can be expensive and lead to financial strain in the long run.

Overpriced Products

Market America products are overpriced compared to similar products from other brands. This makes it difficult to sell them to potential customers who can find the same product for a lower price elsewhere. Many people who join MLMs end up focusing on recruitment rather than product sales, as it can be difficult to make a profit from selling overpriced products.

The Distribution of Commissions is Skewed Towards the Top

One of the biggest drawbacks of Market America’s MLM model is that the majority of commissions go to those at the top tier and pioneers, while those at the bottom often don’t even break even. This has led to many people viewing Market America as an illegitimate business opportunity.

Exaggerated Claims of Income

Market America, like many other MLM companies, often makes exaggerated income claims. Unfortunately, the reality is that very few people actually make a good living by promoting Market America. Their low retention rate also makes it difficult for distributors to earn a profit.

Recruiting is Required to Succeed

Another drawback of Market America’s MLM model is that recruiting is required to succeed. Eight out of ten ways to earn money with Market America require recruiting, and those who don’t recruit are likely to lose money.

Lawsuits Against Market America

Market America has a bad reputation in the MLM industry, with many lawsuits filed against the company over the years. The federal government has even sued Market America, alleging that it was an illegal pyramid scheme that duped Chinese immigrants into believing they could make money in a way that simply was not possible. This has resulted in over 90% of distributors at the bottom of the scheme losing money.

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Final Verdict

If you’re thinking of joining Market America MLM to make money, I have to be honest – I wouldn’t recommend it. While it’s true that you could potentially earn a commission, the reality is that it can be a tough road.

At the beginning, you’ll need to prospect and find recruiters to add to your Market America commission. Unfortunately, this can be a challenge. To make matters worse, you may feel pressure to ask your family and friends to join, which isn’t always the most fun experience.

Another issue is that your upline will likely be constantly following up with you, encouraging you to buy more Business Support Material. All the while, you’ll be struggling to get people to join your downline.

What’s more, statistics show that 99% of people who join an MLM like Market America break even or lose money, according to a case study on the FTC’s website. That’s not a promising prospect.

The pressure to succeed can be overwhelming, and it’s one of the primary reasons why people leave these types of businesses.

If you’re interested in earning money and having a flexible schedule, I would recommend starting your own online business instead. This way, you can choose what you want to promote, rather than being told what to promote.

In the next section, I’ll show you how to build a legit online business that can provide passive income. This is the approach that I took, and it allowed me to make a full-time income in just one year. Best of all, it’s 100% legit and sustainable.

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Is There a Better Way to Make Money Online?

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If you like what you see, you can upgrade to the premium membership for just $49/month or $395/year, giving you access to everything on the platform. And unlike other programs out there, there are no upsells or hidden fees to worry about.

You may read our article about the difference between MLM and affiliate marketing.

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You can read our full review of Wealthy Affiliate here.

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