How Much Money Do Survivor Contestants Make?

Survivor is widely considered one of the best reality shows of all time, and is credited with inspiring countless shows that were released after its 2000 debut. Since then the series hasn't really ever slowed down, usually airing two seasons per year on CBS (and streaming with a Paramount+ subscription). While the New Era has longer Survivor episodes and a shorter amount of time on the island, there's a lingering question that fans have: how much money do contestants on the show make? Let's break it all down.

Throughout each season of Survivor’s record-breaking run on television, the castaways are entirely focused on winning the game and earning the $1 million dollar prize. While Winners at War brought back icons and doubled this prize for a season, the show usually doesn’t touch on how much money each of the castaways make for their participation in the show. But there is money involved; after all, they spend weeks away from their families and become public figures overnight. Here's what information is public. 

How Much Is The Bare Minimum For Survivor Prizes?

It's widely known the winner of Sole Survivor get the $1 million dollar prize, but there’s plenty of money to spare for the other castaways who didn’t manage to win the iconic game. This includes the ill-fated first boot, which typically gets a payout of $3,500 in new player seasons. Before the pandemic, every member of the cast that attends the finale/reunion was awarded an addition $10,000 for their time. This sum served incentive for even the most bitter castaway to show up for the finale and guard the season's secrets. Additionally, that $10k was forfeited if their contract is broken in any other way. It's currently unclear how this part of the contract functions in the post-Covid seasons, where the results are being read on the island directly after filming. 

So even if you they the first person voted out of the season, contestants on a new season of Survivor can make a minimum of around 13.5 thousand dollars. Not too bad for only 3 days spent on the island. And rather than starving (although some Survivor alums think the contestants are getting more food) and being mentally exhausted, the pre-jury get to go on a vacation for the second half of their 26 day trip (formerly 39 days).

How Much Do The Top Placing Survivor Castaways Make?

Everyone knows that since Survivor’s first season back in 2000, the grand prize for the winner is $1 million. While this was briefly doubled to entice the winners back for Season 40, the show is mostly consistent in this way. But castaways who fail to win their season can still make a big chunk of change.

For instance, the second place castaway in any given survivor is typically given a whopping $100,000. While this is before taxes, it’s a substantial consolation prize. Similarly, the third place contestant makes $85,000. And while everyone on Survivor is hoping to win the million, simply making the final tribal council guarantees a pretty penny-- especially combined with the $10K reunion sum.

What About The Castaways In The Middle?

While we’ve got an idea of how much the Survivor cast makes if they’re first boot or make it to Final Tribal Council, most castaways are someplace in the middle. Luckily some notable alumni have been open about their earnings, which goes up with every vote survived.

Two-time Survivor contestant and podcast host Corinne Kaplan is one alum that has helped peel back the curtain on how much castaways can end up taking home who place in the middle of the seasons’ ranking. She made a whopping $45,000 total for placing seventh in Survivor: Gabon, aka one of the best Survivor seasons. That same season she made her legendary Jury Speech about Sugar. And when returning for Survivor: Caramoan and placing 12th, her payout was $20,000. So while it’s risk to take so much time off from work to film the show, contestants on Survivor can definitely make a pretty penny from appearing.

Then There's The Sia Prize(s)

A few years ago singer-songwriter Sia came out as a Survivor super fan. After storming the stage to award Tai money for saving his chicken friend in Kaoh Rong, Sia made a habit of out awarding tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to castaways who she particularly likes. This opens another door to possibly make some cash for the contestants.

In Season 44, she awarded fan favorite contestant Carolyn $100k, as well as Carson and Lauren $15k each. Her reasoning changes every season, but it's opened the doors for folks to make some more money while on the popular CBS show. For Survivor 45, Sia gave $100k to Katurah, while Kaleb and Jake each got $15k. Unfortunately, Probst announced at the end of Season 46 that Sia was no longer awarding money to the contestants... even though some fans thought Bhanu was going to be an obvious choice for her. 

Survivor is clearly the adventure of a lifetime, and the long-running CBS competition show has been known to change the lives of its contestants. And it turns out there’s a wide margin for prize money depending on how long you outlast. Because in addition to TV exposure and an adventure in Fiji, castaways can earn anywhere from $12,000- $100,000 when not taking home the title of Sole Survivor.

CinemaBlend will keep you updated on all things Survivor as details about the show’s future become public. That includes the upcoming 50th season, which will finally feature returning Survivor players. But next up is Season 47, although it doesn't currently have a release date yet. But the finale of 46 showed a brief teaser for the season. In the meantime, check out the 2024 TV premiere list to plan your next binge watch.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Graduated with degrees theater and literature from Ramapo College of New Jersey. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid. He's particularly proud of covering horror franchises like Scream and Halloween, as well as movie musicals like West Side Story. Favorite interviews include Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Jamie Lee Curtis, and more.