You’re vacuum cleaner finally bites the dust and it’s time to buy a new one. Instead of going with a cheap vacuum as you did before, you decide to go all out.
You’ve got your eyes set on a brand-new Roomba. It’s high time you stop vacuuming up cat hair every week and leave it to the robots.
You’ve got more important things to do.
You visit a few stores like Best Buy and Target to check out their selection—but they’re expensive.
You hop online and realize you can get the exact one you want for $100 cheaper on Amazon.
So, instead of buying one in-store, you click a few buttons and add it to your cart.
What if—with a few extra clicks of a button—you could save $50 more on that life-changing magic robot?
That’s where cash back sites like Rakuten come in.
Cash Back: Up to 40% cash back
Price: Free to sign-up
Promotion: $10 sign-up bonus
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten, formerly called Ebates, is a rewards platform that gives you cash back for shopping online and in person at your favorite stores.
The best part?
Rakuten is 100% free. You never pay anything to use the site.
Plus, you often earn more cash back through Rakuten than you would with a rewards credit card. (Of course, you can maximize your savings by using both.)
Ebates.com was founded in 1998 in Menlo Park, California. It was acquired by Rakuten in 2014 and officially changed its name and logo in 2019.
Today, the site has over 10 million users and has issued out more than $1 billion in cash back rewards.
It was one of the first cash back sites to hit the scene in the late 1990s, and it’s arguably the most well-known online discount site today. (Well, Ebates is a well-known name. Rakuten still needs a few years to catch on.)
How Does Rakuten Work?
Rakuten is simple to use—it just requires a few extra seconds of your time.
Here’s how it works…
Let’s say you want to shop at Walmart.com. All you do is log into your Rakuten account and type Walmart in the search bar at the top of the page.
Once Rakuten pulls up the offers for Walmart.com, click Shop Now.
From that point, Rakuten redirects you to Walmart.com where you begin shopping as you normally would.
Because you went through Rakuten first to get to Walmart.com, it’s able to track your purchases and give you cash back rewards.
Your free money shows up in your Rakuten account within a few business days once Walmart.com verifies your purchase.
How Much Can I Earn On Rakuten?
Cash back ranges from 1% to 40% depending on two factors: the retailer you shop at and the items you buy.
For example, Amazon may offer 3% cash back on all purchases, but 10% cash back on Amazon Echo devices.
So, how much you earn depends on what you plan on buying.
There’s no limit to how much free money you can earn through the site.
So, you can shop through Rakuten exclusively to maximize your savings.
How Can I Cash Out My Earnings?
Rakuten sends cash back payments on a quarterly basis either through PayPal or paper check. (The site sends you a paper check by default. If you want to redeem your rewards via PayPal, you’ll need to change this in your settings.)
The minimum balance needed to cash out earnings is $5. If you have less than this in your account, it’ll rollover to the next pay period.
This chart breaks down Rakuten’s quarterly payment schedule:
If your purchase posted between...
...you get paid on...
Jan 1 - Mar 31
Apr 1 - June 30
July 1 - Sept 30
Oct 1 - Dec 31
How Does Rakuten Make Money?
Nothing in life is truly free, right?
So, how does Rakuten make money?
Partnering stores pay Rakuten a commission every time you shop online and make a purchase.
In return, Rakuten splits the commission with you in the form of cash back. Think of it as their way of saying thanks for using their site.
You win, Rakuten wins, and the company wins.
What Do Customers Say About Rakuten?
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gives Rakuten an A rating based on factors like years in business, financial security, and its number of outstanding complaints.
As of December 2019, it has a customer rating of 4.4 out of 5-stars based on 390 reviews.
Rakuten has a solid 4.5 out of 5-star rating on Trustpilot based on nearly 12,500 customer reviews.
Let’s take a look at what customers like and dislike about this rewards site...
Right off the bat, customers love that they can earn some serious cash back for shopping at their favorite stores.
One customer claims she’s made over $3,200 in cash back since opening her account a few years ago.
Another says she’s made over $1,000.
Customers also rave about Rakuten’s customer service team claiming they’re “pleasant, easy to deal with, and exceptional.”
One Trustpilot reviewer states, “I had lost a check once and called [customer service] and they immediately sent me a new one. Five stars!”
Some customers complain that the service isn’t as good as it once was.
The mobile app is a little laggy thanks to a recent update and the browser extension occasionally times out and doesn’t track your purchases.
Other users have run into issues with big-ticket purchases.
For example, several reviews talk about how they receive cash back on smaller purchases almost instantly, but cash back from bigger items took over a month to show up in their account.
Here’s a screenshot of Rakuten’s most recent reviews:
Rakuten has remained ahead of other cash back sites for its unique perks like:
New members get a free $10 Walmart gift card or $10 in Rakuten cash when they spend $25 at any store.
When you create your account, Rakuten gives you a referral link to share with family and friends.
When someone creates an account and spends $25, you get a $25 bonus (AKA free money in your pocket).
There’s no limit to how much money you can earn through the refer-a-friend program, so share your affiliate link however much you’d like.
Rakuten Cash Back Button
Rakuten offers thousands of cashback deals. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to keep up with all of them. That’s where the Rakuten Cash Back Button comes in.
This Chrome browser extension displays a pop-up icon every time you visit a site that partners with Rakuten.
Instead of having to log into your Rakuten account to earn cash back, simply click the icon and Rakuten will track your shopping and issue cash back for any qualifying purchases.
Even better, the extension will notify you if you’re shopping for a product at one store, but it’s available for a cheaper price with cash back at another store.
The Cash Back Button is a surefire way to maximize your savings and earn more free money. If you open a Rakuten account, you’ll definitely want to install it.
Rakuten Mobile App
Download the official Rakuten App from the Apple Store or Google Play and earn cash back as you shop directly from your phone.
You can also use the mobile app to earn cash back for in-store purchases (more on that below).
Double Cash back Deals
Every day Rakuten chooses one store to be featured as its double-cash back deal of the day.
If you shop with this store within the 24-hour window, you’ll earn double cash back on your purchases.
So, if you spend $100 and the standard cash back deal is 10%, you’ll get 20%, or $20, in free cash.
Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card
Ready to stack on the savings?
Rakuten offers a Cash Back Visa Credit Card that earns an extra 3% cash back when you use it to shop through Rakuten, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases.
For example, if you buy something from Walmart.com and earn 5% cash back, you’ll earn 8% cashback in total when you pay for it with your Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card. (Hard to beat, right?)
In-Store Cash Back
Most cash back sites don’t support in-store purchases. You either earn cash back from shopping online or you forego any type of discount.
But not with Rakuten. The site lets you earn cash back when you shop in person, just as you do online.
At the time of this article, you can earn 3% cash back on in-store purchases at H&M, Nike, and Bed Bath & Beyond.
Or, 8% cash back at stores like Under Armour, Gap, BareMinerals, and more.
How Does In-Store Cash Back Work?
Earning cash back for in-store purchases through Rakuten works like this:
Scroll through the list of in-store cashback offers (either online or through the mobile app) until you find a store you’d like to shop at. Click Link Offer.
Enter the debit or credit card information for the card you’ll use for your in-store purchase.
Use your linked debit or credit card to pay for your shopping trip.
For example, let’s say you visit H&M and find a cute outfit you want to buy.
You can earn cash back by opening the Rakuten app on your phone, finding the in-store offer for H&M, entering your credit card information into the app, then using that card to pay for the clothes.
That’s it. Rakuten will email you once your cash back is approved and on its way to your account (which can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days).Note: If you use a debit card for in-store purchases, you must select the “credit” option when paying. Otherwise, Rakuten can’t track your cash back.
Which Stores Accept Rakuten?
Rakuten partners with over 2,500 stores to bring you the best cash back deals.
Stores range from clothing, beauty, and luxury stores to home goods, electronic, and travel sites—and everything in between.
Some popular stores include:
If you’re ever wondering if Rakuten offers deals for a certain store, log into your account and type the store’s name into the search bar at the top of the screen.
Or, you can install the browser extension and Rakuten will display a notification when you visit a site that’s eligible for cash back.
Is Rakuten Safe?
Yes. Rakuten uses a TLS protocol to encrypt your connection as you enter personal information on its website.
If you use the in-store cash back feature, it protects your credit card data by keeping it in a secure, encrypted environment.
Although the company takes extra measures to protect your personal information, security is never guaranteed online.
Always be vigilant when you shop around. Make sure your internet connection is secure.
Only enter personal information into sites that have the padlock symbol next to the URL (this lets you know the site is following HTTPS protocol and is encrypting your information).
Pros & Cons
How Do I Get Started With Rakuten?
Opening your Rakuten account takes less than a minute:
Go to the official Rakuten website, enter your email and password, and click Join Now. Or, sign up with Gmail or Facebook.
Click Add to Chrome - free! to install the Rakuten Google Chrome browser extension.
That’s it! Once you create your account you can start shopping around for cash back, coupons, discounts, and more.
Should You Sign-up to Rakuten?
Nearly 80% of Americans shop online, according to a Pew Research study. And why wouldn’t we?
It’s convenient. It saves a ton of time. And it’s often cheaper than buying something in-store.
If you already shop online, Rakuten is a no-brainer. It’s safe, easy to use, and earns you 1% to 40% cash back on online and in-store purchases.
And best of all… it’s free.
So, go ahead. Open your account, install the browser extension, and keep doing what you’re already doing—shopping online.
You’ll see the dollars rack up little by little as you continue to make purchases.
Have you used Rakuten or Ebates in the past?
If so, would you recommend it or use it again? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
I’m Cassidy Horton, a personal finance freelance copywriter. I craft action-worthy content for financial services companies. My #1 goal is helping people break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and experience financial freedom.