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There is no charge for awesomeness... or attractiveness.

As the story goes, the hero makes a deal or wager, or else agrees to perform some act with a reward or prize. Could be something as big as rescuing a fair princess to as mundane as a wager to guess your name.

Either way, the hero either completes the task or is so close that completing it is an inevitability. Then just as it seems that the deal is to be complete and someone is about to pony up a great reward, the hero decides to turn it down. He either outright gives it up, defers it to someone more needing, asks for a smaller relatively insignificant reward on the giving parties' side, or just loses the bet on purpose so as to not have the dealer pay, deciding rather not to claim his prize.

The reward may not necessarily be money, but could be of anything of great value such as rank, recognition, a treasure, etc.

This could be due to a change of heart while completing the task, apathy and lack of caring in the reward in the first place, finding reward in the actual task, being generally good-hearted, or a certain disgust with the reward. If the reward is considered ill-gotten or immorally received, it is sometimes followed with "Keep your dirty money", or some variation of such by a morally-inclined protagonist.

Contrast Dude, Where's My Reward?. Related to Screw the Money, I Have Rules and Think Nothing of It.

Examples of Keep the Reward include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Cowboy Bebop episode "Heavy Metal Queen" centers around a space trucker who only goes by her initials and has a running bet going regarding her real name; by the start of the episode she's already got a sizable pot. At the end of the episode, Spike reveals that he knows her name thanks to past association with her late husband, but only takes a couple of bills out of respect for the both of them.
  • In Trigun, Vash defeated the evil Nebraska family which had a fairly large reward on their heads (though not as big as his). Rather than claim the bounty for himself, he allowed the small town he was in to take credit — despite the town spending a good part of the day shooting at him — and thus restore some revenue to the community, in exchange for all the tuna melts he could eat.
    • Again in Trigun, Vash was promised a reward by the head of a caravan to ensure that his son doesn't run off with his slave girl-girlfriend. Vash then proceeds to gun the two down in the middle of the desert before claiming the reward. It turned out that he only shot them with rubber bullets and the reward Vash was given was handed off to the couple in order to be able to start a new life.
      • The couple then turned down the money and vehicle, insisting they wanted to make their own way.
  • At the end of the Duelist Kingdom arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi gives the prize money to Joey/Jounouchi to fix his sister's eyesight.
    • All Yugi really wanted was his grandfather back. Lord knows why the duel between Yugi and Joey was thought as one where someone would lose it all.
      • Blame the Anime. In the manga there is no duel between them; Joey simply forfeits knowing Yugi would have better chances against Pegasus.
  • Dragon Ball Z rather subverts the trope. Android 18, a super-powered (ex)killer android with the power to blow up entire star systems enters into an ordinary human Martial Arts Tournament, and, as you could expect, kicks ass. Then she goes against the World Champion, Mr. Satan. She is in the process of handily beating the crap out of him (mostly for show), and decides she wants to throw the fight because she doesn't want the fame...seemingly invoking Keep the Reward...nope, she blackmails him into giving her double the prize money in return for letting him win, meaning she just wanted a different reward (riches over fame). Since Mr. Satan has already parlayed his fame into wealth far beyond the prize money, this works out well for both of them.
    • All the other major characters are also far stronger than Mr. Satan, and a few are clearly stronger than Android 18 as well. They also decline to take down Mr. Satan, but don't make any similar blackmail efforts. Instead, they do it to maintain the Kayfabe that he's the world's greatest warrior instead of the Fake Ultimate Hero that he really is.
  • In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS supplementary manga set at the end of the season, after Hayate had successfully led the temporary Riot Force Six division to victory and stopped an Incident that threatened the Time-Space Administration Bureau itself, it's no surprise that several higher-ups now want Hayate to transfer to their branch in the position of Commander with a more permanent unit of her own, just like she had always wanted. However, Hayate tells her mentor that she's going to have to decline their offers and quit being a Commander for the time being, not because she's giving up her dream of leading a unit, but because the pitfalls she suffered during the Incident made her realize that she still has a lot to learn before she's ready to take up the position of Commander again. Given a Lampshade Hanging by her mentor.

 Genya: When they let'ya do some investigating, you wanna set up a unit. When they let'ya set up a unit, an' ya get some results, you decide ta stop. You're pretty good at screwin' around with your superiors ya know?

Hayate: D... Does it really look that way?

  • In the first episode of Lost Universe, Cain is under contract to recover a valuable heirloom. When he finishes this task, he only takes 5 credits (out of the ten million he was promised), and tells the little girl who hired him to take care. Canal isn't too pleased.
  • Played with in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple. Villagers offer Hayato Furinji all their money to save their children, which he does. He comes back, having accomplished his mission AND having found a treasure far greater than the reward. Hayato lets the villagers keep the treasure, while taking the money, explaining that its value is greater because they have put their heart in it.

Comic Books

  • Lucky Luke would also decline rewards for he's so noble.


  • In the movie Spaceballs, the hero Lone Starr was promised a million spacebucks for the return of Princess Vespa, which was the exact amount he owed to gangster Pizza the Hutt, who later dies offscreen. Near the end, Vespa laments how greedy Lonestar was to take the money and leave, only for her father to point out that he only took 248 spacebucks for food, gas, and tolls. Lone Starr had asked the King not to tell Vespa, so that she wouldn't realize that he had fallen in love with her, but couldn't be with her.
  • In the 1934 film It Happened One Night, spoiled socialite Ellie attempts to get out from under her father's thumb and runs away to be with her new husband, a fortune-hunter. The old man puts out a reward for her safe return. Selfish reporter Peter Warne encounters her on a bus and basically blackmails her into letting him accompany her on the journey in exchange for him not turning her into her father for the reward. Naturally, they fall in love, but due to a misunderstanding, they have a falling out and she ends up with her father again. A heart-broken and bitter Peter turns up looking for the reward...and only takes enough money to cover the cost of the trip. Ellie learning this from her father naturally leads to her running off to be with him again. Sound familiar to Spaceballs? Not surprisingly, this movie has been parodied many times over.
  • In some random Western, two cowboys go for a trigger-happy quest for lost gold. At the end, they find out that the gold was already found and a village built there, defend the village from a horde of bandits, and are offered a small part of the treasure, which the hero turns down.
  • Heavily spoofed in Three Amigos. A Mexican peasant woman sees one of the Amigos' films, in which they play this trope straight. Mistaking the film for reality, she sends a telegram to the actors, offering 100,000 pesos to save her village. She fully expects them to refuse the money, but considers it an insult not to offer it. Ironically, it is this money that motivates the actors to take the job. At the end of the movie, after saving the village they're offered a small amount of money (all the village has) as payment. They turn it down, showing that they've become true heroes in the course of the film.
  • In Red Water, having killed the shark, Lou Diamond Philip's character would have received a substantial reward but he turns it down because he doesn't want to profit from the deaths of multiple people. Considering, he's actually bankrupt and about to lose his only livelihood, this is stupid to say the least.
  • In Rush Hour, after Detective Carter helped rescue the consul's daughter and bring down the Chinese crimelord, Juntao, he was offered a position with the FBI, which he desired from the beginning of the film. But due to the run around he got from FBI agents earlier, he told them to "take that badge and shove it up your ass. All up in your ass."
  • Inverted Trope in Ocean's 13: Terry Benedict agrees to help Ocean take down Willy Bank. His price is that Ocean and gang steal Bank's prized diamonds — but he doesn't want them himself, he just wants Bank to lose them. Or so he says — he actually plans to re-steal them from Ocean.
  • National Treasure subverted this. They were offered 10% of the $10 billion the treasure was worth, but they turned it down... and took just 1%.
  • In the film Anastasia, after con man Dimitri returns the lost princess Anastasia to her grandmother, Marie, he refused the reward and left without telling her, so as to draw her contempt and hoping to sever any ties so that she could live happily without him to drag her down.
  • In the film Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the titular character Took a Level In Badass and cleared his mall of the evil credit card thieves. The hero of the hour gets the girl and is offered the job as a state trooper he has been working towards for ten years... and turns it down. Idiot.
  • Zig Zagged and Played for Drama in Wanted: Dead or Alive starring Rutger Hauer (a kind of movie sequel to the television series). The bounty hunter Nick Randall shoves a grenade in the terrorist leader's mouth and brings him to the authorities, who've promised him a quarter of a million dollars as a reward. He also gets a bonus for bringing him in alive. When they ask Randall where to send the check, he tells them to give it to his late friend's widow, and he'll keep the bonus for himself. Then he changes his mind about collecting the bonus.
  • In Streets of Fire, Cody takes the 10 percent that he promised McCoy and lets Billy Fish keep the rest.


  • In the short story "The Bet" by Anton Chekhov, a banker made a bet with a lawyer to the sum of 2 million dollars if the lawyer can withstand 15 years of solitary confinement. The lawyer grew to despise what that money represented and rather than finish to win the bet and claim his long awaited prize, escaped from his confinement five hours early on the day of victory and purposely lost.
  • Books from The Night Watch series in Discworld always end with Vetinari heaping some new reward on Vimes and the Watch, but they do variants on this trope twice; in Guards Guards the Watch ask for just a new dartboard and a few other trifles, and in Night Watch Vimes, by then a Duke, tells Vetinari there is nothing more he can give him, and angrily refuses his offer of a statue for the people who died in La Résistance. He ends up accepting the return of Treacle Mine Road watchhouse, though.
    • Similarly in Jingo, Vimes, not wanting to be forced into dukedom by accepting a package of rewards including it, says that this time the Watch don't even need a dartboard, and Vetinari wrongfoots him by instead offering to restore his ancestor's reputation.
    • There's also a beautiful subversion in Men At Arms, which at first seems to be repeating the "reward" scene in Guards! Guards!, until it turns out Carrot is just warming up. The new dartboard is just the first and cheapest of Carrot's long list of requests, but he knows that Vetinari will grant them.
    • Also subverted (not in a Watch book, for a change) in Wintersmith, when young witches Tiffany and Anagramma are watching over a corpse in a poor farmhouse. Anagramma thinks they shouldn't impose on the family by accepting breakfast. Tiff tells her that offering breakfast means a lot to the family, and refusing it would be an insult. Tiffany plays the trope straight at the end of the book, when the spirit of Summer offers her a reward for stopping the out-of-control Wintersmith. Since Tiffany had started the book's problems herself, albeit accidentally, she declines; Summer, being an elemental rather than a person, is bewildered.
  • At the end of Harry Potter, Harry gives all the prize money he received from winning the Triwizard Tournament to Fred and George Weasley so that they can start their joke shop. His reasons for doing so hit nearly every single one of the possibilities; Harry is generally good-hearted, he doesn't care much about the money, either for money's sake (he's already quite wealthy) or as a symbol of his victory (he was entered into the tournament against his will by the villains), and most of all he is absolutely disgusted with it, as the circumstances that led to him winning led to another student's death.
    • And the twins needed the money more than he did.
  • In the short story The Quiet Man, the titular man had married, and the bride's brother had promised a dowry but never paid it. Finally, the man threatens to give his wife back to her brother if he doesn't pay it. When the brother pays, the man promptly burns the money — his wife, realizing what he intended, opens the stove door for him to get at the fire — and the climactic fight breaks out.
  • When Kyon traveled 3 years back in time in the 3rd Suzumiya Haruhi novel, for the task he had to do, adult Mikuru offered him to kiss her younger self while she was sleeping, as a reward. Kyon tells us that he didn't do it.
    • Then again, he is an Unreliable Narrator who is Genre Savvy enough to know that if he boasts about doing something to Mikuru, Haruhi and/or Mikuru will find out, and all hell will break loose. Literally, if Haruhi gets involved.
  • Older Than Feudalism: Judas throwing his thirty pieces of silver on the Temple floor after betraying Jesus.
  • In Robert E Howard's "A Witch Shall Be Born", Conan the Barbarian turns down an offered reward of a position in the queen's court, because he must lead the mercenaries to raid other lands, that was the price of their service.
  • In a Star Wars children's book, Han Solo recounts the events of A New Hope from his own perspective, and recalls attempting to refuse the medal before the ending's ceremony. When pressed, he admits that he doesn't feel like a hero for leaving before coming back, and says the real heroes are the pilots who died. Leia convinces him to accept the medal to boost the Rebels' morale.
    • Another novel references the tale of Boba Fett saving a civilization from extinction...for a hundred credits.
  • The plot of Stardust begins when Tristran agrees to bring back a fallen star if Victoria will marry him. When he finally makes it back he learns that Victoria rejected him because she already had a fiancée, but couldn't tell him at the time. Since she made the agreement, she refused to get married until he came back safely. When he does, she offers to marry him as promised. However, he realized he doesn't actually love her, that she loves Mr Monday and thus uses the exact statement of the promise 'I'll give you whatever is your heart's desire' to say his heart's desire is to see her marry Mr Monday. Although at first Victoria thought he was asking for sex when he declined marriage.

Live Action TV

  • The A-Team would often turn down their fee for helping out decent folks.
  • Averted in Firefly. Mal may give the money back when he can't do the job, but when he actually does it, he always expects his payment.
    • Weeeell, there was the time in "Heart of Gold" when he said he wouldn't be needing payment for helping Inara's friend. Inara insisted she'd pay him, since she thought it important to keep their arrangement strictly business.
  • Burn Notice is starting to catch complaints over its adherence to this one. Michael Westen has had all his assets seized. He's trying to scrape out a living by taking whatever jobs come his way. And nearly every week, after expending God knows how much money on cover IDs and explosives and other expenses (not to mention putting himself and his friends in grave physical danger), he refuses the money. Get paid for your job, idiot! You're not rich!
    • Averted in a recent episode where his mother Maddie insists that he take the reward.
  • Angel practically lives on this. Mocked mercilessly by Spike:

 "No, helping those in need's my job, — and working up a load of sexual tension, and prancing away like a magnificent poof is truly thanks enough!"

  • The Leverage team work like this, doing jobs where all the profit goes to their clients. Somewhat justified in that their first job (a vengeance gig against the guy who tried to screw them) made them filthy stinking rich.
    • They have an "Alternate Revenue Stream," which usually means fleecing the bad guys twice, once for the victims and once for themselves.
    • Plus, Hardison is a Wall Street-level genius at shuffling money around.
    • Averted, however, when Tara filled in for the absent Sophie — she very specifically demanded her cut of the take each week.
  • In "The Scented Room", Jonathan Creek initially refuses to help an unpleasant couple he has a grudge against regain their painting regardless of how big the reward is. Maddie disagrees, and just wants the cash. When the couple use their connections to put pressure on Jonathan's employer, he arranges things so that the painting is restored by their horribly neglected son.

 Maddie: Now about the reward...

Lady Theresa: Yes, of course.

Maddie: You'll need to take it up with your son. Maybe he can buy something he really needs. Like a life.


Tabletop Games

  • In the Dungeons and Dragons supplement Book of Exalted Deeds, there's a justification for refusing the reward (or at least all of it): upon hearing that whatever's been attacking has been defeated, people might give up more than they really have to spare, and if the players accept it, they'd be in for harder times as they tried to rebuild.

Video Games

  • Pick a Role Playing Game with a Karma Meter and odds are you'll find at least one instance of this. Refusing the reward might open up access to even more substantial rewards down the line, or just give you good karma. The gameplay benefits of these decisions vary based on the game.
  • During the Tournament Arc of Breath of Fire 3, Ryu is given the chance to throw the fight so his opponent can win the money and pay for his sick daughter's treatment. However, in an aversion, doing so simply results in a standard game over, as the guy is revealed to be a con-artist after you defeat him, as his daughter is simply faking a cough from a sore throat. Your party has their own lives at stake in the matter, so it's not much of a hard choice to make, either.
  • Subverted Trope in Star Fox 64: Upon defeating Andross and restoring peace to the galaxy, Team Star Fox refuses General Pepper's offer to make them honorary members of the Cornerian Army, stating they "Prefer doing things their own way". Since they're mercenaries, they then stick him with an outrageous bill. The bill at the end would be determined by how many enemies the player has killed in the game. Killing a good amount can have Pepper say "This is one steep bill! But it's worth it." Killing a huge amount of enemies can rack up a massive bill that has Pepper saying "Whaaaat!?" in total shock. He signs it anyway.
  • At the end of The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Linebeck is given a wish by Oshus for anything at all; everyone assumes he will wish for money, but having "grown" he wishes for nothing more than his ship back, which was destroyed in the course of the story.
  • In Lufia II, when you recover a king's stolen crown, you're offered a number of rewards, one of which is "Nothing". If you ask for nothing, you get a bigger reward than any of the other choices would have given you.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, you often have some variation of "Keep the reward, I was glad to help" as a dialogue choice when you've completed a quest that involved helping some needy person. In some cases, refusing the reward leads to a larger award or being given a valuable item instead of money.
  • In one instance in Neverwinter Nights, you can threaten someone to offer a greater reward. When the time to collect it comes, however, you can turn it down. This gets you Good points (for turning it down), and Chaotic points (for forcing them to offer you more, when you had no intention of claiming it).
  • Subverted in Fallout 3. To get one of the best guns in the game, you need to specifically ask a quest giver for a reward. If you simply tell her that no reward is needed, instead of getting a better reward (like in most RPGs), you simply get nothing.
    • Not only that, but it doesn't give very many goodness points, if any, to not get the reward, and if it did, it would be less good points than the monetary value of the reward. This matters because you could sell the reward and then donate the money to charity to get one goodness point per cap, which gives you way more than simply refusing the reward.
  • In Chrono Trigger, in order to get the Sun Stone you have to give the jerky to the mayor's wife in the middle ages and not accept the payment she offers. She then decides to teach her kids about generosity, and the mayor in the present (previously a greedy man who cared more about money than his children) gives you the Sun Stone instead of keeping it for himself.
  • Subverted in Mass Effect 1, if you head to Nassana Dantius first for the asari diplomacy quest, you have the option to tell her to keep the reward for her missing sister. Turns out it's a ruse for you to get rid of her outlawed sister who blackmailed her to threaten her position as a diplomat. When you confront her about this, if you refuse the money for spilling blood, Nassana shoves a large chunk of credits into your account anyways.
    • Inverted, too — after completing a side quest for Emily Wong, Shepard can offer her an interview when s/he's got the time. She immediately gives you an advance.
  • Several types of quests in Mount and Blade allow you to deny the reward, in which case you'll gain honour points. If it's a "Rid Village Of Bandits" quest, the village in question will think more highly of you if you refuse reward.
    • In the first case, being honorable is not very useful compared to being rich. But in the second case, their few spare bits of food and trade goods are rarely helpful once you're into the game properly, so it's much easier to refuse it.
  • In Icewind Dale 2, if you have a Paladin doing all the talking, you automatically refuse any and all quest rewards. This can be avoided by simply having another character take the lead position in the party and do the talking instead, when it comes time to collect your rewards. (This troper had his bard do the talking, although it was frustrating when he forgot to switch over and had to reload a saved game because he lost a reward due to this.)
    • Also happens with Monks.
  • Downplayed, but played straight in Metro 2033. A few times, Artyom has the option to turn down a reward (or deny a reward he promised someone else), and being generous will improve his score on the Karma Meter. However, the game's unusual Karma Meter means that doing so helps, but doesn't guarantee a good ending.
  • World of Warcraft has a few questlines where the goal drastically changes at one point, usually because someone informs the player that the questgiver is evil. The most memorable of those would be a questline in Grizzly Hills where Alliance players are asked to befriend a town of human trappers (that turn out to be a bloodthirsty pack of werewolves worgen).
    • In Cataclysm, there's one questline that results in you rescuing a prince of a major faction. As a result, you can either accept a reward of 100 gold, or turn down the monetary reward and receive an item that significantly boosts your reputation with that faction.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 occasionally calls you on this. For example, if Neeshka overhears you saying "No reward is necessary", she'll say "Will you stop saying that!"
  • Subverted in the first Dragon Age game; there's no Karma Meter penalty or punishment for grubbing for a bigger reward, and no bonus for turning one down, which somehow makes it more satisfying to turn down rewards.
    • In a notable instance at the end of the game if you made Alistair king, he offers you a reward. If you say you don't want anything, he replies "Really? Not even a pony? Gosh, way to wreck the drama!"
    • Likewise in Dragon Age II, you may get no reward at all if you don't press for it, but no Karma Meter penalty or bonus either way. It can affect Relationship Values instead; helping someone for no reward will get Aveline's approval, while Isabela will approve of driving the best bargain for your services that you can and collecting the pay.
  • Reiji in Kara no Shoujo refuses payment for solving the first case on the grounds that he was not able to stop an additional murder from occurring.



  "Normally, I would say that you didn't need to do that, but we're sort of on an 'every possible advantage needed' type of quest. So I'll just say, 'Thank you.'"


 General: The country's in your debt, son. We'll have to repay you for your bravery.

Shadehawk: That won't be necessary. I was simply doing my duty as a protector of this country!

General: Do you actually mean that, or...

Shadehawk: My account number is 1007-MOV3-2061.


Western Animation

  • The Real Ghostbusters: the Ghostbusters were called in to deal with a fearsome spirit trapped in the attic of an old lady named Mrs. Faversham She was ready to pay all of what little money she had for the service, when Peter in an act of kindness (in memory of his own mother), offered her a special discount price of one smile.
  • Wing Commander Academy: Blair and a team were sent on a scouting mission to search an unstable jump node. While searching, they get into a skirmish with the Kilrathi forces leading to several casualties. It was later realized that this was a planned diversion to sacrifice the cadets by the higher-ups in order to force the Kilrathi's hand, which the search team was not notified of. Blair was able to survive the ordeal as well as pull out a great victory and was presented with a medal for his actions. He promptly threw it into space, saying that receiving the medal from his superior was a dishonor because of his willful negligence and that the people who truly deserved the reward were those who died in battle.
  • Subverted several times on The Simpsons. In one instance, Moe is offered a check for $100,000 by a crooked boxing promoter; Moe says "I don't need your dirty money!", then folds the check and puts it in his pocket.
  • Outright inverted on Futurama: Bender, after winning the title of "Iron Cook," declines the title, suggesting instead the "lesser" title "Zinc Saucier." He then explains that he just made the title up on the spot, and also, it comes with double prize money.
  • Used in one episode of Samurai Jack where the lion-esque hunters refuse Aku's reward for Jack's capture, saying instead that they will capture him for the thrill of the hunt. After chasing him for the entire episode, they eventually catch him and take it a step further, deciding that because Jack put up such an impressive fight, they'll let him go free.
  • Shows up in the Strawberry Shortcake episode "Around the Berry Big World," where the pieman bets Strawberry she can't travel around the world in 80 days, with all the pies in his cart as her prize if she should do it (if she can't, he gets all the strawberries in Strawberryland). Of course, she manages to make it, but she tells the pieman to keep his pies, as she really took his bet just to see if she could do it.
  • In the Aladdin sequel, The Return of Jafar, near the beginning of the movie Aladdin saves the Sultan's life and the Sultan offers to make him Royal Vizier. In the end, he turns it down, because he says he wants to have adventures and see the world. This is a poor excuse since he would probably still be able to do that and sort of inconsistent with the fact from the first movie that Aladdin wants to live in the palace.
  • On Young Justice Wally, who likes to collect souvenirs from his missions, is offered Count Vertigo's Sword Cane for stopping his plan to steal Queen Perdita's donor heart. He declines it, instead taking the case he had used to bring the heart to her.
  • Phineas and Ferb has a variant--the title characters make a bet with Buford that they can go around the world before sundown, and if they win, he'll give them back their stolen bikes. By the end it's about a minute to sundown and they're only a few blocks away from the finish line, and Buford gives them back their bikes so that they can get there in time.