Increasing mail-survey response using monetary incentives is a proven, but not always cost-effective method in every population. This paper tackles the questions of whether it is worth using monetary incentives and the size of the inducement by testing a logit model of the impact of prepaid monetary incentives on response rates in consumer and organizational mail surveys. The results support their use and show that the inducement value makes a significant impact on the effect size. Importantly, no significant differences were found between consumer and organizational populations. A cost-benefit model is developed to estimate the optimum incentive when attempting to minimize overall survey costs for a given sample size. © 2006 Operational Research Society Ltd. All rights reserved.