Incentives are often discussed in the literature on the topic as a way to increase response rates. In this article, sample composition and item nonresponse are also considered. Using social exchange theory, the concept of social inequality is theoretically linked to the effect of incentives and is empirically tested using data from a recruitment experiment for an online survey in Austria. Since the participants of the Austrian micro-census were used as the selection framework, a detailed analysis of nonresponse is possible. Based on the four different incentives (a brochure, a €2 commemorative coin, a €5 commemorative coin and a €10 voucher), conclusions can be drawn about the different forms incentives take and the values they hold. The results underline the potential of incentives to increase response rates, but at the same time they reveal potential distortion problems.