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Keep the Reward

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Grateful Bunny: How can we repay you?
Legendary Warrior: 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 and/or the reward-giver. 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.

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.

A subtrope that often precedes this one is No Reward is Worth THIS. A character, often a mercenary or someone rough around the edges, is along for the adventure only because he has been promised a big pay out at its completion. Somewhere along the way the character will realize he's in way over his head, and say something to the effect of "No Reward is Worth THIS". This moment foreshadows a change in the character's perspective; since no reward is worth this kind of trouble he must be carrying on for some other reason (e.g. newfound camaraderie, a noble cause, etc) which his tough-guy attitude prevents him from admitting directly.

Contrast Only in It for the Money and Dude, Where's My Reward?. Related to Screw the Money, I Have Rules! and Think Nothing of It. Compare I Feel Guilty; You Take It.


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    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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • The Doraemon movie, Doraemon: Nobita and the Haunts of Evil, have Nobita and friends saving the Kingdom of Bauwan from a ruthless tyrant and assisting the rightful prince of Bauwan, Kuntakku, to regain his throne. At the end of the adventure, the grateful Prince Kuntakku decides to give the gang a chest of jewels as rewards for their help, but having forged a powerful friendship with the prince, the gang turns his offer down, saying he'll need the treasure to rebuilt his kingdom anyways.
  • 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. The circumstances that led to Joey getting the cash differs between the manga and anime.
  • 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 Dragon Ball Super, Mr. Satan is given a reward of 100 million Zeni for saving the world from Majin Buu. Feeling guilty (and not really needing the money anyway), he tries to give it to Goku and Vegeta, the ones who actually beat Buu. Vegeta plays this trope straight (though it helps that he married into possibly the only family in the world richer than Satan's, meaning he needs it even less), but Goku subverts it; he would have turned down the prize, but both Goten and Satan convince him to take it, which makes his wife Chi-Chi so happy that she doesn't even mind him ditching work to go train some more.
  • In the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S 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.
  • Played with in an episode of Astro Boy (The Mighty Atom) where a young surgeon has traveled with Astro back in time to save the life of the heir to a small kingdom (and has also ensured said heir's coronation). All the surgeon wants as a reward is one of the special coins the kingdom issues to celebrate the coronation. After returning to "the present", Astro wonders out loud why the surgeon settled for such a tiny reward until the surgeon asks him to look up the worth of a mint-condition coronation coin... Cue the Oh Wow! moment.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • After Judai's first conclusive win over Manjome during an important exam, he was granted a promotion to Ra Yellow status. However, he turned the promotion down, preferring to remain in the Osiris dorm where Sho and Hayato were. (Sho did not forget this; while he was later accepted into Ra and even into Obelisk later, and didn't turn the promotions down, he still chose to live in the Osiris dorm to support his friend.)
    • In one of the final episodes, Manjome, Sho, and Asuka all scored highly in a tournament, and each won a copy of Yugi Muto's deck. All three choose not to take them, saying they would rely on their own cards.
  • Black Jack varies between this and screw them out of every cent they have depending on how sympathetic said case is.
  • Occurs twice with technicalities being cited as justification in Fairy Tail.
    • Played straight in the Daybreak arc, when Natsu and Lucy are hired to break into the house of Duke Everlue to steal and destroy the titular book. Lucy soon discovers that the book is Everlue's fake biography written by famous author Kemu Zaleon, who was forced to write it by the corrupt politician. It's later discover that Daybreak was actually a secret final letter of his love to his son Kaby, who was the client that wanted to remove what he thought was a stain on his father's legacy. After discovering this, Kaby decides not to destroy the book, which Natsu takes it as good reason to decline the 2 million jewel reward Kaby originally offerednote .
    • Played with in the Galuna Island Arc, when Erza refuses the 1 million jewel reward from the natives because the mission was an S-Rank that was stolen by Natsu and Happy rather than officially accepted by Fairy Tail. She does allow Lucy to accept the Golden Celestial Key that was also part of the reward.
  • Assassination Classroom plays with the trope: After finally killing Koro-sensei, Class 3-E obtains the promised prize reward. They decide to keep some of the money to finance their educations and help with basic living expenses, donate some to their friends, and buy the campus and surrounding area where they studied with Koro-sensei over the year, but otherwise give back most of the money to the government, as gratitude for helping with their education.
  • In the Hearthome City Tag Battle Competition three-parter of Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl, Ash and Paul are forced to team up in a tag-battle tournament, even though they pretty much despise each other. Miraculously, they win the tournament and are rewarded with a pair of Soothe Bells, which help foster a Pokémon's bond with its trainer. Paul wastes little time tossing his bell to Ash, having no use for it. Since his main defining trait is that he's a jerkass who doesn't care about making his Pokémon happy, this is no surprise.
  • Deconstructed in 12 Beast, where the MC goes around accidentally building up a Battle Harem of monster girls. He's too nice to accept the rewards people give him for helping out, so his army is in a state of Perpetual Poverty until his main girl starts handling it.
  • In Zom 100: Bucket List of the Dead, Akira escorts a bunch of people to safety from the zombie horde with the help of a sharkproof (and thus zombie bite-proof) suit. Kencho points out that Akira could easily bask in the praise and gratitude of the survivors to become popular, but Akira declares that real heroes don't need a reward and leaves without getting one.

    Comic Books 
  • The Golden Age Aquaman was adamant about not collecting any rewards for his services, often having any monetary reward donated to charities instead.
  • Lucky Luke would also decline rewards for he's so noble.
    • In one case, he does take the reward, to help out the criminal's victims.
    • In another, he goes on a Bounty Hunting spree when the people he's helping out have their money stolen so as to pay their workers.
  • In Magekiller, Marius has a tendency to refuse to accept payment beyond the reward agreed upon when he is hired, even when it is completely deserved. It annoys his more pragmatic partner Tessa to no end.
  • One Star Wars comic starring Boba Fett featured Fett being hired by the last (and dying) survivor of an alien race that wanted Fett to hunt down the Mad Scientist responsible for his peoples' extinction. After completing the task, Fett turned down the reward, telling the dying alien to use the money to make an offering to his race's memory instead.

    Fan Works 
  • Escape from the Moon: Doa/Spliced Genome is offered a chance to escape from the moon early, traveling to another world where she can aid and be aided by the mysterious voice, both gaining vengeance on their respective captors. Spliced turns them down, since she doesn’t want to indebt herself to another when she’s aware she’ll escape on her own eventually.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, like in canon, Ash fills in for Lara Laramie in the Big P Pokémon Race when Dario injures her. At the end, he turns down her offer to become an honorary member of the Laramie Clan, arguing that he never entered to win any prizes.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Peter insists that Izuku doesn't owe him anything despite asking for lodging earlier because he wants to teach him how to be Spider-Man. Izuku isn't having any of this and constantly uses his saved-up allowance to pay for Peter's expenses and buy him gifts.
  • Linked in Life and Love: Roman says that all his men are Only in It for the Money, and so can't be expected to turn their backs on a profitable opportunity in exchange for no money at all. However, when he says that Neo is the same, she immediately jumps up and starts throwing her last paycheck in his face. Roman is very confused until Raven smirks and says Neo is telling him she doesn't care about the money, she's helping him anyway.
  • The Red Dragon's Saber: According to Artoria Pendragon, her lover Shirou Emiya never accepted rewards or payment for helping or saving people. Later, she enters a contract to protect Issei Hyoudou and Asia Argento and says she'll do it for no payment, then comments to herself that she is acting like Shirou.
  • Worm Grand Order: Taylor Hebert and her Servants travel around the world capturing or killing criminals and other threats. They don't collect any bounties, telling the people to use the money for charities, preservation of historical sites, etc. One time, Taylor agreed to collect a bounty so that she and her Servants could go gambling in Vegas.
  • Charlemagne and Asia's Magnificent Journey: When Asia heals the citizens of a small town, they thank her and pay her with food and money. Asia tries to refuse the money, but Charlemagne points out that they need funds to get supplies and get a flight to Japan, so she relents.
  • Maria Campbell of the Astral Clocktower: Maria dismantles a Sex Slave ring, kills a corrupt noble, and finds further evidence of the Dark magic conspiracy that the crown has been hunting for months. She sees nothing special about any of this, and refuses to even be reimbursed for the money she spent at the inn to quarter the slaves. Later, when she takes responsibility for feeding and housing the former slaves on a permanent basis, she mentions that her funds are stretched tight.
    "Maybe if you'd gotten a large amount of money, perhaps as some sort of reward, that would have been less of an issue," the Third Prince said, returning to flatness.
    Maria nodded in agreement. "Perhaps. However, as I have not had an opportunity to qualify for such, the issue is moot." There was a pause. "Your highness, do you have a headache? Do you wish me to use Light Magic to alleviate it?"
    The third prince stopped rubbing his forehead. "I'm fine, Miss Campbell," he said, clearly not. Prince Alan had come down with sudden tiredness, as his face had fallen into his hands. His shoulders were shaking as well.
  • This Was Easier on the Tabletop: Defied. After the battle of New Avalon, John tries to pull this trope out against Hanse Davion, only for Hanse to point out that he can't. Even if he was inclined to feed John's Survivor Guilt and Imposter Syndrome (which he isn't), not rewarding exceptional service of the kind John has done would lead to a destruction of morale, at best because others start questioning what utterly insane levels they have to rise to in order to get noticed and at worst because they think Hanse is an Ungrateful Bastard and start seeking greener pastures.
  • Remnant's Bizarre Adventure: When Ozpin gives Josuke payment for using his Stand to heal various patients, the young hunter tries to decline and say that he was only doing his job. Ozpin points out that Josuke's hometown Morioh often rewards for exceptional work, which Josuke has been doing for his fellow hunters and huntresses. It's enough to convince Josuke to accept the reward.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Anastasia, after Dimitri returns the lost princess Anastasia to her grandmother, Dowager Czarina Marie, he refuses the reward and leaves 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.
  • 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.
  • In Mulan, the title character turns down the Emperor's offer of a position on his council, stating that she's been away from home long enough. However, the Emperor insists on giving her something, so she accepts the royal crest and the sword of Shan Yu.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Devil in a Blue Dress. Token Evil Teammate Mouse knows Easy will do this so he gets the reward from Daphne himself and gives half of it to Easy. Easy tries to return the money to Daphne the next day, only to find she's already skipped town.
  • Spaceballs: Lone Starr was promised a million spacebucks for the return of Princess Vespa, which was the exact amount he owed to Pizza the Hutt, who later dies offscreen. Near the end, Vespa laments how greedy Lone Starr was in taking the money anyway and leaving, 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.
  • Star Wars: Zig-zagged in the original trilogy with Han Solo. At the end of A New Hope, Solo sticks to his mercenary motives and leaves with his reward before the climactic space battle; some time after that, he has a change of heart and returns just in time to help Luke destroy the Death Star. After this, however, he keeps the reward so he can pay back his debt to Jabba the Hutt, but delays and delays due to his commitment to the Rebellion, Luke, and Leia. At the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back he finally decides to go to Tatooine to repay Jabba, but the Empire gets in his way.
  • In Dollar For The Dead, two cowboys go on 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 ˇThree 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 Philips'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 in Ocean's Thirteen: 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 downplays this. They were offered 10% of the $10 billion the treasure was worth, but they turned it down... and took just 5% percent, enough for a big house. The sidekick got 1% percent, enough for a new car, and clearly isn't happy that he didn't get more.
  • In 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.
  • 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.
  • At the end of The Sting, Hooker refuses to take his share of the money, saying "I'd only blow it".
  • In Never Say Never Again, James Bond plays a video game for high stakes against Maximillian Largo. When he wins, Bond refuses Largo's check, saying he'll settle for a dance with the Bond Girl. Subverted, in that the money was a drop in the bucket for Largo, but he is an extremely jealous man, and Bond is trying to Mind Screw him.
  • Averted in Devil in a Blue Dress, as the hero's Psycho Sidekick asks for the reward on his behalf, knowing he's too soft to do so.
  • In Aquaman (2018), David Kane/Black Manta tells Orm/Ocean Master that he can keep the reward offered to him for hijacking a submarine for his False Flag Operation, and that he wants Arthur/Aquaman for leaving his father to die. Later, when Orm gives David Atlantean weapons and armor to hunt down and kill Arthur and tells him that he’ll be rewarded, David tells Orm that killing Arthur will be his reward.
  • Mr. Deeds: Played with at the end when Emilio Lopez inherits the huge company Blake Media. He offers to reward Longfellow Deeds for helping him. Deeds says that won't be necessary as long as they stay friends. Emilio then offers him a billion dollars and Deeds accepts, using the money to buy red Corvettes for everyone in his hometown of Mandrake Falls.
  • The Last Dragon: Eddie Arkadian hires Sho'Nuff to take out Bruce Leroy and offers him a Briefcase Full of Money. Sho'Nuff refuses the money, as all he cares about is defeating Leroy to prove he is the superior fighter.

  • Sherlock Holmes would sometimes waive his fees from clients, usually if the client was rather poor and deserving of the kindness.
  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • From the Watch storyline:
      • Guards! Guards!: Vetinari wants to give Vimes and the Watch expensive rewards, but the Watch is only interested in a new dartboard and a few other trifles.
      • Men at Arms: The reward scene seems to be repeating the 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.
      • 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.
      • Night Watch: Vetinari wants to reward the Watch, but 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.
      • Thud!: Vimes declares to his family that Vetinari can't reward him because he has everything he could ever want with them. Cut to Carrot demanding another sixty officers for the watch from Vetinari as the price of peace.
    • 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. Tiffany tells her that offering breakfast means a lot to the family, and refusing it would be an insult.
      • At the end of the book, the spirit of Summer offers Tiffany a reward for stopping the out-of-control Wintersmith. Since Tiffany was responsible for the book's problems, she declines; Summer, being an elemental rather than a person, is bewildered. (Note that Tiffany intends this as an insult as well.)
  • At the end of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 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. His first instinct was to give it to the dead student's parents, but they didn't want a reminder of the events any more than he did.
  • "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 third Haruhi Suzumiya 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 knows 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: In The Bible, Judas throws 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.
  • In Jessica Day George's Dragon Slippers, commoner and apprentice dressmaker Creel more or less saves the entire kingdom and the royal family. She is summoned before the King, who offers her his eldest son's hand in marriage for her part as the Heroine of the Dragon War. Creel hates the title—she blamed herself for the damage done by the dragons, and moreover, Creel is in love with the younger prince. She refuses but then asks for a dressmaker's shop of her own.
  • Journey to Chaos: In A Mage's Power, the owner of the Long Horn Item shop gives Team Four a free item from his shop for the comedy routine (i.e. novice bickering) they performed while painting his shop. Nolien is about to say something along the lines of this trope but Tiza elbows him in the stomach and accepts. This scenario turns up again after the climax when Nolien heals Princess/Queen Kasile's injuries, but this time, it's reversed; Nolien elbows Tiza out of accepting a big reward.
  • At the end of Dreadnought!, Piper's friend Merete refuses the medals and commendations she was awarded due to not feeling worthy of them, as she was The Mole until shortly before the battle's end. Piper tries to do this, but Starfleet pressures her into accepting them as a public face-saving measure due to the shakeups and courts-martial that are starting to happen in its bureaucracy as a result of uncovering the Big Bad's plot to overthrow the Federation.
  • At the end of The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins declines to accept the full 1/14th share of the treasure in Lonely Mountain, opting to only take a few chests with him back to the Shire. It's all his pony can carry, and even that's more than he needs.

    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.
    • Aaaandd, Jayne did take "payment in kind" from the owner's girl.
  • Burn Notice adheres 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.
    • In several episodes he takes a reward, but smaller than what was to be paid. Often just enough to cover whatever items he needs. In another episode: He takes up the reward of a lifetime supply of yogurt.
      • 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!"
    • But averted in "Provider" when Angel becomes obsessed with raising money to support his newborn son Connor. Eventually they come across a Briefcase Full of Money. Angel is stumbling his way through An Aesop that money isn't everything when Cordelia steps in to save him.
      Cordelia: They tried to cut Fred's head off. We earned every penny.
      Angel: Hold the baby.
      [Cordelia takes Connor from Angel as everyone else rushes over to the spilled money and starts to stuff it into their pockets.]
  • 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.
    • A variation regularly plays out with the clients. Invariably, they will tell their story of how they were conned out of a lot of money, but then insist how the money means nothing to them as long as their life-saving formula isn't kept secret any longer/their innocent brother is kept out of jail/the orphanage stays open.
  • Jonathan Creek. In "The Scented Room", the title character 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.
  • Mimpi Metropolitan. Subverted in episode 12. Bambang refuses the reward money from the son of the old man whom he has taken care of yesterday because he wants to be selfless. His friends are more accepting of the money, however, and Bambang quickly tries to take it from them after they find out that the reward is a million rupiah.
  • In the Sherlock episode "The Blind Banker":
    Sherlock: I don't need incentives, Sebastian. (walks away)
    John: He's kidding you, obviously. Shall I look after that for him? (takes the cheque and gawks at it momentarily)
  • In The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed, Gleb Zheglov, after finding his provisional target, a small-time swindler, in a gambling den, plays billiard with him for a sizable sum of money (mostly for his own amusement), wins without (showing) much effort, then turns down the dough with a condescending remark about taking dirty money from a lowly scum - before ultimately taking the guy in for interrogation.
  • Arrowverse: In the Elseworlds (2018) crossover, Superman comes to Earth-1 to help Supergirl fight AMAZO. Once the day is saved, Sherloque hands him a check; Superman politely refuses, as he doesn't do this for money. Sherloque clarifies that he has an ex-wife on Superman's Earth, and he wants him to deliver the (late) alimony check. A later episode of The Flash (2014) reveals that Superman actually delivered the check; Sherloque's ex-wife is not happy he turned Superman into his delivery boy.
  • Rome. Marc Antony and Cleopatra have cut off the grain shipments from Egypt, so Octavian asks his estranged mother Atia (Antony's former lover) and Octavia (Antony's wife, and Octavian's sister) to go to Egypt to convince him otherwise. Atia gleefully screws an expensive villa in Capri out of Octavian in compensation for doing his bidding. However Antony refuses to see her, so when she returns to Rome she gives Octavian a slap (knowing he's engineered the event to discredit Antony before declaring war) and tells him to crush Antony. When a shamefaced Octavian offers her the villa, she tells him to keep it and storms off.
  • Kung Fu (1972): Kwai Chang Caine doesn't really care about money, so this is his usual reaction to being offered it. For example, in "The Stone", Caine stops a gunman from shooting Isaac Montola. Isaac thanks him and offers a huge wad of cash to compensate him, but Caine ignores it to Isaac's confusion.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • A variation occurs in the Book of Genesis, making the trope Older Than Feudalism. After a coalition of kings rampages through Canaan and robs the local rulers, Abram gives chase with his own men (Lot, a relative of his, was among the captives) and takes everything stolen. After that, the king of Sodom comes to him and says "Please, keep the treasure, just give me back my captured men". Abram responds that the king can have everything - except, of course, for Abram's own war expenses, with portions for Abram's servants.
  • In 2 Kings 5, Naaman, a captain in the Syrian army, is suffering from leprosy, and Elisha tells Naaman to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and he will be healed of his leprosy. After Naaman is healed, he offers Elisha a present, which he declines. Later, Gehazi attempts to acquire silver and clothing for his own gain, claiming it was for the sons of the prophets, and Naaman gives him two bagfuls of silver and changes of clothing. When Elisha finds out what Gehazi did, Gehazi is cursed with leprosy as punishment

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Dungeons & 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.
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: A Variation in the Fyreslayers; Fyreslayer culture revolves around mercenary work, selling their services as warriors in exchange for gold, and thus most Fyreslayer Lodges are Only in It for the Money. Members of the Hermdar Lodge, however, have recently begun accepting shockingly low prices, or even no pay, for jobs that involve overthrowing tyrants and freeing slaves and the oppressed, to the point where people have begun referring to them as "the breakers of tyrants." This has made them unpopular with other Lodges, who accuse them of undercutting and price gouging, but the Hermdar argue in turn that such a heroic reputation is "good for business."

    Video Games 
  • In Ancient Domains of Mystery, Tywat Pare, the sheriff of Terinyo, can give characters a quest that involves killing a fearsome raider named Kranach. If the player character manages to complete this quest, they get a boost to lawful alignment and Tywat Pare will leave three thousand gold pieces for them to take. If they choose to leave the money alone, however, they get a bigger boost to their alignment than if they take it.
  • During the Tournament Arc of Breath of Fire III, Ryu is asked by his opponent to throw the fight so his opponent can win the money and pay for his sick daughter's treatment. However, in a subversion, your party members will automatically explain that you're in a must-win situation as well, and losing the fight (for any reason) is a standard game over. The guy is revealed to be a con-artist after you defeat him; his daughter was simply faking illness for sympathy.
  • Subverted 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: Rise of the Sinistrals, 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.
  • Knights of the Old Republic
    • In both games, 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. Refusing the award almost always nets you light side points, and occasionally the needy person will say some variation of "No, take it, I insist", allowing you to have your cake and eat it too.
    • A subversion also: At one point, the player may help out a droid running the small shop of a blind man. The only choice after helping the droid, other than simply exiting the conversation, is to ask for a discount on all purchases from the shop, and the droid begrudgingly complies.
    • Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords has a hilarious variant if you side with the Administrator against the mercenaries on Dantooine - when she offers you credits as a reward for your services, one of the dialogue options is to ask her to keep the credits... and use them to build a statue of yourself to honor your heroism.
  • 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).
  • Fallout 3
    • You can opt to give scrap metal to the repairman in Megaton for no charge. You'll gain Karma if you do.
    • Subverted in that 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.
  • Defied in Fallout 4's "Far Harbor" expansion. Small Bertha doesn't have much to give you in exchange for helping her out, but she makes you accept the meager payment anyway and bluntly says she doesn't care if you don't want it.
  • 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.
  • Mass Effect
    • Subverted 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 & 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.
  • Mount & Blade II: Bannerlord: Similar to the first game you can turn down the reward, its more beneficial here as boosting the disposition of influential citizens will let you recruit more powerful troops without having to train them up. You can also accept part of the reward, which gets you a bit of a disposition boost.
  • In Icewind Dale 2, if you have a Paladin or Monk 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. In both cases, this is actually a pretty serious effect since most quests, especially early in the game, end with you being given some useful or flat out necessary items or money, so turning down the rewards makes things much harder on the player.
  • 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 often grants moral points.
  • World of Warcraft
    • In a few questlines the goal drastically changes at one point, usually because someone informs the player that the quest giver 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!"
  • Dragon Age:
    • In Dragon Age: Origins, you almost always have the option to refuse rewards. There's no Karma Meter penalty or punishment for grubbing for a bigger reward (some quests actually give you a reward only if you demand one) but it does affect Relationship Values. Self-serving party members like Morrigan and Sten will disapprove if you refuse rewards, while Good Samaritans Alistair and Leliana will approve. Sometimes this can make it more satisfying to turn down rewards as you get to see the grateful reaction of the person you just helped or just a funny line.
      Alistair: Is there any boon that you might request of Ferelden's king? If it is within my power, I will grant it.
      Warden: I have no need of anything further.
      Alistair: 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. In one quest, offering to do the quest with no pay is the only way to get the best reward.
  • 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.
  • According his in-game backstory, Ghor from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption either works for free or gives the money he earns from bounty hunting to the victims of his targets.
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door plays with this for laughs. Kroops will offer Mario a reward for defeating Hooktail before he supposedly hears Mario say that he doesn't want one. Depending on your response, you can either make it seem like Mario played this trope straight and turned down the reward on purpose or that Kroops misheard the first time and that Mario did want the reward, in which Kroops also mishears that as a "no", double-subverting this trope.

  • Subverted in Antihero for Hire:
    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.
  • In Freefall, robots in Jean have the tradition to dedicate two per cent of their remaining runtime to anyone who saves them from destruction. Protagonist Florence Ambrose took massive risks in preventing the spread of a dangerous safeguard program that would have wiped out all robots in Jean - all 450 million of them. So when she later checks in her credit rating when bidding for the construction of a new reactor for the ship she's working at, she's less than pleased to note it would basically come free from the robots, and politely asks for a regular quote. Unfortunately, she works for Sam Starfall, and the regular price for the reactor is far too high for him and his crew to afford.
  • In Oceanfalls, this gets subverted and played for laughs. After Nino and the rest of the group make peace with Kaji and save his reputation by getting Mei to turn herself in in exchange for letting them all go, Lacia and the other Seafolk offer them rewards to help them on their journey. Nino, and everyone else besides Reed, pretty much instantly rush after her to claim their "free stuff". The narration lampshades this.
    And this is probably where a REAL HERO, whatever that means, would be all like, "oh, my fair maiden, your words were more than enough to aide me on my journey!"
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • In the second book, the Order is charged to save a dirt farmer from ogres. Afterwards, Haley, of all people, refuses to take a reward. She later tells Elan that she didn't think there would be much of a reward, in any case.
      Haley: What was I going to do, take a percentage of their dirt?
    • Subverted later on, in Book 5, when Roy is given a magic belt for saving a family from slavers;
      Roy: 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."
  • In The Savage Sword of Sharona, Sharona refuses a reward for helping a kingdom apprehend their tyrannical ex-ruler.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Variant. When the heroes try to give their employer a report on how much danger she's in, she (reasonably) comes to the incorrect conclusion that this is part of some trick to rob her, and executes an escape clause in their contract. This means they're not getting any more money, and they most certainly don't have to send her the report. They send the report anyway, which makes her realize they're telling the truth.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Subverted in Season 1 when the Senlin village leader asks if there's anything the village can do for the heroes and Sokka immediately says "You could give us some supplies, and some money." Katara admonishes him and he replies, "What? We need stuff."
  • 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 Grunt were sent - in captured Kilrathi fighter - on a mission to Kilrathi-occupied backwater planet Dolos. Officially, their objective was to sneak there, make contact with the natives (used by Kilrathi as a slave labor), and convince them to rebel against their oppressors so they could aid the planned attack of Terran marines. The mission did no go smoothly - Blair and Grunt were shot down on their way to destination, barely survived the crash-landing, and contacted the Dolosians, only to be betrayed by their leader and imprisoned by Kilrathi. Still, they were both able to survive the ordeal and even deal a serious blow to Kilrathi by crashing their crippled dreadnought into their own troops gathered on the planet's surface. It was later revealed that there was going to be no marine landing at all, and the whole mission was merely a diversion to draw the Kilrathi's attention to the planet and sacrifice the cadets (and rebelling Dolosians) so that Tiger's Claw could launch an all-out attack against Tolwyn's true target - Prince Thrakhath's personal dreadnought. The battle was ultimately won - though not without heavy casualties - and Blair was presented with a medal for his actions. Disgusted by Tolwyn's actions, he refused to accept it, saying that he cannot take it from a superior who purposefully lied to his own men and was willing to sacrifice both them and the Dolosians to achieve his goal. On a finishing note, he threw the medal into space, claiming that the people who truly deserved it were those who died in battle.
  • Occurs several times on The Simpsons:
    • Subverted 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.
    • Played straight in the episode "The Old Man and Lisa". Lisa helped Mr. Burns regain his fortune by performing environmental services and was horrified when he used that knowledge to make Lisa's Patented Animal Slurry. Mr. Burns offered her 10% of his earnings as payment to her as his adviser which equaled 12 million, which she refused.
  • 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 Young Justice, Kid Flash, 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.
  • In Dan Vs. "Wild West Town", Dan begins a campaign of revenge against the Wild West-themed tourist town because he felt he didn't get twenty dollars' worth of Wild West entertainment. After defeating the corrupt "sheriff" who was embezzling the town's earnings Dan refuses the offered refund. Dan felt that after everything he had done in the episode (performing a stick-up, engaging the sheriff in a Quick Draw, etc.), his twenty dollars were well spent. Instead, he opts to remove the corrupt sheriff from power and gives the badge to the cashier.
  • Hong Kong Phooey. The title character has never been known to accept rewards for his heroism. But in the episode "Hong Kong Phooey vs. Hong Kong Phooey," a doppelganger goes about accepting all the rewards. The real HKP faces him, but his dubious skills meant that Spot (his cat) would eventually wind up saving the day.
  • In one of the short episodes that precede the pilot of Star Wars Rebels, Zeb beats up a squad of Stormtroopers for harassing a fruit vendor. He turns down a monetary reward and instead takes a fruit to snack on while he fights the Stormtroopers.
  • Super Friends: In "Batman: Dead or Alive", when Batman defeats the Wild West-themed villain the Capricorn Kid, a sheriff offers Batman the $25,000 bounty. Batman declines and tells him to use the money to repair all the damage the villain caused.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: In "Joker's Millions", Batgirl and Nightwing reluctantly save the Joker from being shot by some gangsters. Joker genuinely thanks them and hands them some money. In disgust, they crumple up the bills and drop them on the ground before walking away.