Nine studies met the criteria for inclusion in this systematic review of randomized controlled trials of treatments for obesity and overweight involving the use of financial incentives, with reported follow-up of at least 1 year. All included trials were of behavioural obesity treatments. Justification of sample size and blinding procedure were not mentioned in any study. Attrition was well described in three studies and no study was analysed on an intention to treat basis. Participants were mostly women recruited through media advertisements. Mean age ranged from 35.7 to 52.8 years, and mean body mass index from 29.3 to 31.8 kg m(-2). Results from meta-analysis showed no significant effect of use of financial incentives on weight loss or maintenance at 12 months and 18 months. Further sub-analysis by mode of delivery and amount of incentives although also non-statistically significant were suggestive of very weak trends in favour of use of amounts greater than 1.2% personal disposable income, rewards for behaviour change rather than for weight, rewards based on group performance rather than for individual performance and rewards delivered by non-psychologists rather than delivered by psychologists.