What is Rakuten?
(Formerly known as Ebates) Rakuten is a website and cash back app that sends money when you shop at affiliated stores. Earn 1% to 40% on a variety of items purchased from small to huge retailers like Walmart and Best Buy.
Is Rakuten a Scam?
Free money for doing next to nothing? It sounds like an obvious scam.
But it's legit.
I’ve been using Rakuten (Ebates) since 2011 and have made over $800 in cash back during that timespan.
My cash back from one of my best quarters:
I wrote this post because not enough people understand how cash back works, and I want to change that. It’s a great system that benefits everybody.
Rakuten is well worth my time because I spend thousands on electronics for my reviews and buy lots of web hosting accounts (hosting accounts give around $20 in cash back).
How Does Rakuten Earn You Money?
- You (the shopper) go to Rakuten.com.
- You search to find the store that you want to shop at.
- You click the "Shop Now" button on Rakuten.
- You shop at the store (as you normally would).
Try to make your purchase within 24 hours of clicking the Rakuten link. You’re normally given 30 days, but play it safe and click the link again.
A few days after you've made a purchase, your Rakuten account gets credited for a percentage of your purchase.
Example: If Rakuten offers 10% cash back for shopping at Under Armour and you buy something for $500, you’ll get $50 in cash back.
Once you make a purchase via a Rakuten link, the cash back shows up in your Rakuten account within seven days.
Once your cash back has been in the account for 60 days, you'll get paid via PayPal on the following dates: February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15.
Watch my walkthrough video on how to use Rakuten.
How Much Does Rakuten Cost?
You’re probably asking yourself, “How can Rakuten give you money for free? What’s in it for them?”
How Does Rakuten Make Money? What’s the Catch?
Rakuten has affiliate partnerships with over 2,000 stores. When someone clicks on a Rakuten affiliate link, Rakuten gets a commission if a purchase is made.
Rakuten gives you a portion of their commission (via cash back).
This is a win-win-win. The store gets more sales, Rakuten makes a commission, and you make free money just for shopping!
Affiliated stores would opt-out of deals with Rakuten if it didn't help sales. While customers would make purchases regardless of Rakuten’s existence, it's definitely incentivizing people to spend more money.
Five Rakuten Tips
#1 - Coupons
Check Rakuten for coupons before you check out.
Not only do you get cash back from Rakuten, but they also have coupons for most of the stores too. Coupons help you double-down on savings.
#2 - Rakuten Browser Extension
I used to forget to go to Rakuten before a purchase. But, if you don’t go to Rakuten first, there's no way for Rakuten to track your order and you won't get cash back.
This is where the Rakuten browser extension comes in. The Rakuten button will sit at the top of your window, and when you visit an eligible store, a message will pop up that says "Activate Up To __ % Cash Back".
Click on the button, and you've created the tracking ticket needed to track your order. You don't need to visit Rakuten.com.
#3 - Offline Purchases
Rakuten introduced offline cash back. You go to the offline cash back page and link your credit card. After you link your credit card to your Rakuten account, find a store you want to shop at and click "link offer."
When you tie the offer to your card and buy something at the store, the cash back posts to your Rakuten account.
#4 - Ad Blockers
If you’re using an ad blocker, you should whitelist Rakuten.com. Rakuten doesn’t work well with ad blockers enabled.
#5 - Tracking Tickets
Sometimes the tracking tickets (the thing created when you click a Rakuten link) don’t work well. If this happens, fill out this form and your cash back will automatically appear in your account.
Rakuten - Pros and Cons
- Rakuten is free. I’ve been a loyal user for eight years (back when it was called Ebates). Ebates.com moved and rebranded to Rakuten in the spring of 2019. Nothing changed.
- All previous Ebates accounts were moved to Rakuten.com with the same interface and features.
- Rakuten streamlines the process so you don’t have to waste time testing coupons that may or may not work. Search for coupons and get cash back at the same time, allowing for double the savings.
- You're still eligible for cash back with your credit card when using Rakuten. (That’s cash back on top of cash back!)
- They have a refer-a-friend program. They give $25 for every new member who signs up for Rakuten and makes a $25 purchase.
- The cash back percentages are always changing.
- The cash back is posted in your account within a week, but you’ll only get paid out via PayPal every three months (February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15).
- Amazon purchases aren’t cash back eligible any longer. In 2020, Amazon ended their relationship with Rakuten after years of giving cash back for a few select categories.
Is It Safe to Use Rakuten?
Rakuten is a secure site that does not require payment information but does require email signup.
Rakuten is compliant with PCI standards, so it’s nice to know an overseer is ensuring data is safe. However, Rakuten is not entirely innocent in its pursuits to make money and collect data. The site does use location tracking to collect data for further purposes.
While you can choose to opt-out of the location tracking, it may limit certain features being available to you.
Who Should Use Rakuten?
Rakuten is free and won't ever cost you anything. You can only benefit from using it.
Rakuten is for those who frequently shop online. Otherwise, it may not be worth the time of casual or one-time shoppers.
How to Sign-Up for Rakuten
See the annoying "$40 bonus" links in this post?
If you register on Rakuten through my link, you'll get a $40 bonus from Rakuten.
What’s in this for me? If you sign up via my link and make a purchase of $25 (through Rakuten), I’ll get a $25 commission from Rakuten.
Thanks for reading!