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The downsides of purchasing online TEFL TESOL certification courses for under $50.

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Cheap Online TEFL courses for under $50 tend to contain very poor study content and conceal hidden fees that you only become made aware of once you have paid your initial course fee. We would go one step further, by recommending not to purchase a 120-Hour Online TEFL TESOL course for less than US$150.

I understand what it’s like to be worried about money – due to student loans, and a stagnant employment market.

Almost eight years ago, I was in the position that you likely might be in now.

I had recently graduated college, I felt the rest of my life was going to be spent paying off my debt debt, and above all, I wanted to take some time away – in a foreign land – where I could self-indulge a little in some TLC.

After much searching, I managed to find a temporary job for the summer, and that was both a blessing and a glorious wake up call.

It meant I could pay my Mom money towards my keep, and it meant I could save some – towards my eventual life dream of settling down in Fiji and making money from selling seashell bracelets. Hey, we can all dream 🙂

But then, someone introduced me to the idea of TEFL, and a few month’s later, I was sat squeezed into an economy class seat, and eating my vegetarian meal – flying over ‘the pond’ and on my way to Europe.

From then on my life changed so much for the best, and I’ve not looked back since.

Back then, the onsite vs online TEFL/TESOL/TESL debate was in full throttle. I chose to take my TEFL online – in doing so saving a small fortune on costs – and I soon came to realize, as I transitioned a few teaching English locations, that online TEFL was the way forward and that all the forum posters who had warned me not to take an online TEFL because I wouldn’t be able to find well-paid work with it, were, well, misinformed at the very least.

Now of course – 2019 – onsite (residential) TEFL courses are becoming obsolete as more and more of us realize that they are time and money eaters, and that online TEFL certificates are equally recognized and accepted.

However, there is a downside to the current explosion of online TEFL certification programs in the industry.

Woman counting one dollar bills to pay for cheap TEFL TESOL online certification course.
Are you rich enough to buy cheap things?

“What’s the problem?”, I hear you wondering.

The problem, my earnest reader, is the new trend of overnight pop-up-like-mushroom schools, which market their online TEFL TESOL Tesl courses for under $50 – with some scraping the barrel with as low as a $5 price tag.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against low prices. My friends sometimes call me all the names under God’s sun, but – to date – I have never been labeled a Socialist. I understand the mechanics of a market economy, and (for the most part) I embrace it.

But, but, but, there are some products you should avoid paying silly-ass cheap prices for. And a TEFL certificate is one of them.

Take a read through the reviews on and you will soon see a familiar pattern – which, incidentally, was my motivation for writing this piece.

Almost every review written on a TEFL course bought for under $50 is a dissatisfied, negative review.

The main complaints of these types of cheap TEFL courses are:

  1. People are taken in by the advertised price of the course, which seems too good to be true, and find themselves being asked to shell out for an expensive course extension, and an expensive hard copy certificate – making the final course fee much higher than was originally agreed on. If something seems too good to be true, it invariably is just that.
  2. Because the initial course fee is so low, these program owners often feel that they can get away with offering subpar services – meaning you will receive little to no support both during the course and when it comes time to begin looking for teaching work.
  3. Another common complaint is the quality of the certificates issued through these under-one-hundred-TEFL courses. The result is often that you are at a disadvantage during the interviewing process and are left to accept the not-so-well-paid positions.
  4. When things go wrong, or when you have an issue, you can try contacting one of these super-cheap online TEFL programs for assistance, but you’ll receive little or no help in return.

“So what is the price range that I should be looking at?”, I sixth-sense hear your question.

Our expert advice is to look for an online TEFL program that offers its base 120-hour course for somewhere between $200 – $400. Anything less than this, and you will be sacrificing quality and support services. Anything more than this, and you will be overpaying.

The reason why I mention specifically 120-Hour online TEFL courses is because this is the industry standard. It is perfectly feasible to pay less for a 40, 60, or 80-hour online TEFL course, and perfectly feasible to pay more for a 140, 160, or 180-hour online TEFL course. Your benchmark though should be a program’s 120-hour online TEFL course offering.

“But, I’ve already been teaching for years and only need the piece of paper for my employer”, I imagine someone else chimes in.

Yes, in this case, it can sometimes seem beneficial to steep so low and just complete a few quizzes and receive a piece of paper in return, but again, why would you not pay a little bit more relatively speaking, and invest in something that you can use long-term, and invest in something that adds credence to your resume – and not something that makes you look like a bit of a cowboy/cowgirl.

Yeehaw 🙂

In conclusion. If something seems too good to be true then it will likely be just that. Online TEFL TESOL TESL certification course programs can provide significantly lower-priced courses than onsite (residential) ones as they don’t have the same overheads of classrooms, teachers, etc. This has resulted in the Online TEFL certification course market growth that we have seen during the past few years – and this is good as a whole for the industry. Remember that any TEFL course is an investment. It’s just that some are worth the investment and some will be like throwing your money out the window.

Thank you for reading this slightly longer-than-usual article 🙂

Written by Mia Williams for Trusted TEFL Reviews (TTR) | Best Featured TEFL Articles

Related article:

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The 5 Best Online TEFL & TESOL certification courses in 2023 & 2024 -


  1. The time you can commit to a TEFL certification will determine what type of TEFL course is best for you. If you are a student or working full-time, or both – an in-class option can be difficult to incorporate into a busy schedule. However, if you have the time to commit to an in-class course that option may be best for you.

  2. Hello Treat Simply.

    Thanks for your comment.

    I think this is a valid point.

    If, for example, you wish to go teaching English in Prague and you have the time and money required for such a significant investment, then why not? You will be having more of a TEFL course working holiday.

    However, given this particular example, you also need to take into account your visa obligations.

    In our Prague example, you only have 90 days in which to find a job, an apartment, and then to sort out all of your working permit papers. For some people, this can take more than the 60 days available after they have spent 30 on their in-class TEFL course.

    Personally, I, and many others, feel that the Online TEFL option is popular for many crucial reasons:

    Price, flexibility of study, and the ability to land in your teaching destination ready to begin the legal paper process immediately.

    Besides, the real training of teaching English begins once you actually start teaching full or part-time, and no course – be it online or in-class – can fully prepare you for this on-the-job training experience.

    But yes, if you have a pile of cash to burn and the ability to work under intense time pressure, the in-class course option could be preferable.

    Mia Williams

  3. Each year, Trusted TEFL Reviews asks language schools, universities, current English teachers, and recent Online TEFL/TESOL course graduates to take part in the Online TEFL/TESOL international certification course Teachers’ Choice Award, by voting for their favorite Online TEFL/TESOL international certification course program.

    Last year’s winner, in 2020, was It is the second year in a row that tefl online pro has won this coveted award.

    Further information on the Teachers’ Choice Award, in 2021, can be read here:

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