Can Rakuten (formerly Ebates) help you save money? YES! It is my favorite way to save money and get cash back on my purchases. This will help you save SO MUCH money during the holidays. Seriously, Rakuten is the perfect side-kick for Cyber Monday shopping!
I know we all love to shop sometimes but how would you like to shop with slightly less guilt? Using a cashback service like Rakuten allows you to shop and gain cashback for your purchases. If you’re someone who does a considerable amount of shopping, especially online shopping, then Rakuten would be a perfect addition to your money management arsenal.
Before you continue, I want to say this isn’t just a cookie cutter impersonal review of Rakuten: I have been using – and saving – with Ebates, and now Rakuten, for many years. It is the #1 site I recommend to anyone looking for easy ways to save a little money. Keep reading to learn more about Rakuten, how it works, tips for getting the most out of the site, and if it is right for you!
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) is a cash back website and app that allows you to earn cash back on purchases made either online or in store.
The premise behind Rakuten is simple. Follow a link from the website or the app and get money on purchases you would make anyway.
For example, if you were to buy a $100 jacket at a Rakuten partner store with 5% cashback, then $5 would be added to your Rakuten account upon completion of your purchase! Rakuten also keeps a regularly updated list of coupons and deals for your favorite stores.
There are plenty of similar websites, but Rakuten is a household name and is arguably the largest cash back website. A quick scroll of the website will show you that you can receive some amount of cash back from virtually every major retailer, including Amazon, eBay, Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Macy’s, Walgreens, CVS, and many others. You can also receive savings from various restaurants, travel or vacation sites, and other goodies.
Is Rakuten legit? Is it a scam? Why do they give cashback?
TLDR: Yes, it’s legit! No, it’s not a scam!
Rakuten is an affiliate marketing website that makes money from commissions. Every time you make a purchase via Rakuten, the retailer pays Rakuten a commission (a certain dollar amount or percentage per item), and they return part of that commission to you via cash back.
It’s pretty simple, and a very common practice. Rakuten just happens to be a mega site.
Rakuten has been around for more than two decades. It is 100% legitimate and you will get paid when you are supposed to. Some 15 million active users have collected more than $1 billion via online purchases! I am one of the active users and can assure you that Rakuten is not a scam.
What does Rakuten offer?
Rakuten partners with over 2,500 stores so there’s something for everyone here. Some of Rakuten’s cashback store categories and top brands within each category include:
- Clothing and Accessories: ASOS (2.5% cashback), Madewell (10% cashback), Claire’s (10% cashback), Old Navy (8% cashback) and many more.
- Health and Beauty: Ulta Beauty (8% cashback), Sephora (4% cashback), Kate Somerville (10% cashback), Macy’s (10% cashback), and many more.
- Travel and Vacations: BookVIP (15% cashback), HotelTravelCLub.com (10% cashback), Vera Bradley (6% cashback)
- Electronics: Avast (20% cashback), Lenovo (10% cashback), TurboTax (up to 7.5% cashback), Microsoft Store (up to 7% cashback), Samsung (6% cashback)
- Books and Media: The New Yorker (30% cashback), Coursera (10% cashback), Udemy (8% cashback), Rosetta Stone (3.5% cashback)
Just a heads up – the cashback percentage does change throughout the year. They offer daily deals on the front page, and during the holidays there is always a spike in the percentage of cashback that Rakuten offers!
How Rakuten works
Using Rakuten is easy to do, and getting started is very simple and 100% free.
Go to the Rakuten website or download their app and click “Join Now.” Register with Facebook, Google, or with your email address. That’s it.
Cash bonus for signing up
Rakuten offers a $10 cash bonus for new members. But you won’t see the $10 immediately. You have to make purchases totaling $25 within 90 days to receive the bonus. If you plan on using the website, that shouldn’t be too difficult.
How to use Rakuten
Once you’re signed up and logged in, you can begin using Rakuten. It is your personal choice whether you wish to shop online using a laptop/desktop or a smartphone. You can even get cashback in store with Rakuten!
Online shopping using a computer:
Option 1: Go to their main webssite
If you already know exactly where you will be shopping, go to their Click here and type your desired store in the top search bar.
When you search for the store and click on its name, it will take you to a landing page where you can then click on the big red “shop now” button to be redirected to your shopping site with cashback activated.
You can also search by product. In the same space bar where you could search for a company, you can also search for the item you would like to buy. When you do that, you will see all the results with the final price and the cash back you will receive already calculated for you in an easy to follow fashion.
Option 2 (the BEST option): Download the Rakuten extension on your computer.
This extension allows you to activate Rakuten cashback with one click without ever leaving your current shopping page.
In fact, the bookmark even lights up if you are checking out online and you forgot to activate cashback for this shopping trip. The bookmark also allows you to try out a bunch of active coupon codes and it chooses the best option for you.
Online shopping using a mobile app (available for iOS and Android):
Install the Rakuten app on your phone and then log in to your account. Use the search button to type in your desired shopping website. Click on your desired store name and then click on the “shop now” button to be directed to a mobile version of your shopping destination within the Rakuten app. As long as you are in the app, your shopping trip is still active, and you are making cashback on your purchase.
While saving money online via the website is the most common method for using Rakuten, you can also receive cash back offers with in-store purchases. Here’s how it works.
Scroll through the In-Store Cash Back page and find an offer you would like to receive. Select ‘Link Offer’ and then add it to the card you will be paying with.
However there a couple of things to note before you take this route:
- If you link a debit card for your in-store cashback then you must ask for it to be charged as a credit card. All stores allow this option and they will just give you a receipt to sign just as you would if you used a credit card.
- In-store cashback only works as a one-time coupon of sorts so you must re-link your card every time you shop at a physical store.
So go on ahead and link up all your credit/debit cards to your most frequented stores so you can gain cashback while shopping in store! I personally always keep Gap, Athleta, and Macy’s linked because there’s about a 99% chance that I will end up buying something from those stores even if I’m just strolling by!
There is virtually no waiting period when you link a card to a store for in-store cashback so if you’re window shopping somewhere and you like something, just open up Rakuten and link your card instantly for some cashback.
Every time you make an eligible purchase using Rakuten, it takes a while for the cashback to be added to your account. This can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a week.
Rakuten also only disperses your accumulated cashback once every three months as a payment they refer to as your “big fat check.” Their payment schedule is as follows:
- May 15th for all purchases made between January 1st and March 31st
- August 15th for all purchases made between April 1st and June 30th
- November 15th for all purchases made between July 1st and September 30th
- February 15th for all purchases made between October 1st and December 31st
You can choose to receive these checks as physical checks to a valid mailing address or as a direct payment to a PayPal account.
You need to have earned more than $5.00 that period to have a payment processed. If you earned less than $5.00, it will carry over to the following period.
Top Rakuten tips to maximize your cash back
How can you get the most out of Rakuten? Here are some tips as you get started.
Rakuten Chrome Extension
Rakuten offers an extension button across various browsers. After you download the button/extension, cash back and coupons are made available with just one click. With the Rakuten extension, you can save money without having to go to the main website.
Installing the chrome extension is my ** top tip **! Before I installed the extension, I would make online purchases and then remember to use Rakuten…unfortunately, I couldn’t “undo” my purchase and I wouldn’t get any cashback. Now, it’s impossible for me to forget! If I am shopping on a website, there will be a pop-up in the corner of my browser asking me to activate my Rakuten account, like this picture:
Take advantage of the referral bonuses
The more members Rakuten has, the more money they make. So, they encourage you to refer your friends. Just invite your friend via the Rakuten website with your special link and they then get a $10 bonus for signing up and shopping (just like you did when you signed up).
After they make a qualifying purchase, you will then receive a $25 bonus. This is good for every referral so the more friends you convince to join, the better.
Look for special deals
You will always save money when you use Rakuten, but you can save even more money by taking advantage of specials the site is running.
These are easy to find. They’re right on the front page of the website. This includes daily deals, and double – and sometimes triple – deals.
Go in with a game plan
Just glancing at the Rakuten website can be intimidating if you don’t necessarily know what you are looking for. This is especially true of rookies who might not have much (or any) experience with the site. Certainly play around with the website, get a feel for how to use it, where to find deals, etc., but I’ve found it best to otherwise know what I want and dive straight into that. Sort of like a shopping list at the grocery store.
Finding a great deal on something you don’t really need isn’t necessarily a great deal, especially if you are trying to stick to a budget. Just be mindful of that as you begin because it’s very easy to go in directions you never planned.
It’s free money. If you are making a purchase anyway, you might as well take advantage of Rakuten and get a few extra dollars from that purchase.
It’s free. So not only do you get “free money,” the site doesn’t cost you anything to be a member.
It’s easy. The Rakuten website is very user friendly, making it simple to find an item and make your purchase.
You know you can trust it. It’s been around for two decades. It has millions of users. You can trust Rakuten to pay you what they said they will pay when they said they will pay.
You might be tempted to buy things you don’t need. As you are scrolling on your phone or maybe via something you saw on Instagram, you see that Rakuten is offering 10 or 15 percent back on something you’d love o to have. But don’t necessarily need, or maybe it doesn’t fit in your budget for the month. Just be careful you don’t fall into any traps.
It takes time to get paid. Because Rakuten only pays out quarterly, it may be a few months before you see your money after making a purchase.
Exclusions. Virtually every store will have certain exclusions. Often times they are popular, big-ticket items. Just pay attention to what you are buying to make sure it qualifies for cash back.
Rakuten Case Studies
Case Study 1
Muah-ha-ha: I am subject number 1. I use Rakuten every single time I shop online. This is why I have written such a long article describing how awesome it is – I want to share with you so you can save money too!
Here is a screenshot of my last “Big Fat Check”. I just got an extra $15.88 over the last three months without doing any work.
I mentioned my #1 tip above, but I’m going to say it again: download the Rakuten extension! If you have it installed, it will remind you that you are eligible for cash back when you are shopping online (because sometimes you just forget!).
I was recently planning a trip with my husband to Southeast Asia and we were on the Viator site looking at possible tours and classes we could take while traveling. It never occurred to me that I could use get cashback on these vacation tours, but the Rakuten extension reminded me with a pop-up when I went on the site. All I had to do was click the “Activate” button to ensure I would get cashback for eligible purchases. So, we got a few bucks off of our bicycling tour and cooking class!
Also, from my screenshot above, you can see that sometimes I only got a few cents to a couple dollars, but it sure does add up!
Case Study 2
Subject number 2 is a friend. Over the course of three months, she saved $89.15. Without any hassles. Without wasting any time. Ahhhhhh!!! Why wouldn’t you use Rakuten?
She had to buy a new computer, and she saved 10% ($86.45) on her purchase. Yes Rakuten sometimes offers 10% cashback (I’ve even seen 12% cashback, especially during the holidays).
Should I use Rakuten?
Rakuten is a great resource for earning some extra money. If you are making these purchases anyway, you should absolutely use it. It is as close to free money as you can find. And it’s so easy. There’s no quizzes to do or points to earn that have some random monetary value. Just real money.
But it can also cause you to buy things you don’t really need or want, or in some cases, can’t afford. That completely defeats the value of this site. We’re all for finding great deals and saving money, but be careful of impulse purchases. If you struggle with that, you might want to avoid Rakuten.
Rakuten probably isn’t that much of a benefit for those that don’t make that many online purchases. In that case, you might only make a few dollars a year with Rakuten. Meaning it’s probably not worth the hassle.
But for those that do Christmas shopping online, back-to-school shopping online, purchase items for your business (or side business) online, or are just regular online shoppers, you could see nice bonuses pop up. It’s a great system and it doesn’t cost you anything!
Click here to get your $10 cash back bonus today!