Whenever I make a purchase online, I like to spend a few extra minutes looking for coupons or promo codes. If I don’t find the code somewhere, I head over to Rakuten.com to get some cash back. This Rakuten review will tell you how you can do it too.
Ebates changed its name to Rakuten a couple of years ago, but it’s still the same great service. Through the years I’ve tallied up more than $2,200.00 just by heading to Rakuten first to make a purchase!
Rakuten.com is an easy, safe way to save money when shopping online. It has certainly done well by me.
Table of Contents
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten.com is pretty much the best online shopping cashback website out there. They’ve been around since 1998, and I’ve used them off and on since 2006.
As an affiliate reseller of over 2,500 online retailers, Rakuten passes part of its commission on your sale back to you in the form of a cash-back payment. You earn cash back by using the Rakuten online shopping portal.
How Does Rakuten Work?
Using Rakuten is very simple and easy. There are no fees or forms you need to fill out to get your money. To get the cashback, all you have to do is start any online shopping you do at the Rakuten website.
You’ll click through their site to your preferred online store and then make your purchase as usual. Easy, right?
To make this Rakuten review more helpful, I’ll give you an example of how it works. Find a store where you want to shop and check out what categories are eligible for cash back. Let’s say you’re shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond and there’s a 5% cash back offer on cookware.
This means that when you go shopping, you’ll receive 5% of your purchase as cash back in your account. If you’re in the market for a blender and it costs $100, you’ll get $5 cash back just for going through Rakuten.
You can also find coupons for many of the online stores on the portal. This means you can combine a coupon with a cashback offer for even bigger savings.
Once you have an account, make sure you remember to start your purchases on the Rakuten website. If you’re the type to forget that first step when you make a purchase, you can install their browser extension to make sure you never miss an opportunity to earn cash back.
Get $10 for Signing Up
Here’s one of the best parts about getting your account set up with Rakuten: if you sign up today, you’ll get $10 cash instantly added to your account. You just need to make purchases equaling $25 or more within 90 days of signing up to receive your $10 bonus.
Once you’ve signed up, you can start earning cash back rewards for every purchase you make online. This includes orders you make online for in-store pickup. When you create your new account, browse through the Rakuten portal to get an idea of what stores are available.
Also, after you have your account set up, you can refer friends and get up to $25 for each successful qualifying referral. You can refer all of your family and friends so they can get cash back, netting you a referral bonus in the process.
Is Rakuten Free?
Yes. Rakuten is totally free for you to use. Since 2006 I’ve never paid them a cent. They make their money by referring you to other sites and earning a commission on that sale.
Here’s the catch though: Rakuten and the shopping sites that participate with them are counting on you using the Rakuten portal to browse and buy things above and beyond what you need.
They want you to see Rakuten as your portal to the things you want. In that sense, Rakuten could “cost” you a lot if you’re not careful and buy things you wouldn’t have otherwise bought. (Okay, enough preaching to the choir.)
Does Rakuten Work with Amazon?
Lord knows we buy a bunch from Amazon around here. So having Rakuten work with Amazon is a big, important question in our house. From my experience, Rakuten does connect with Amazon, but it only works with Amazon on select categories–and they are changing all the time.
Here are some of the current ones:
Additionally, Amazon Home Services is a different “store” for purposes of browsing Rakuten offers.
It’s important to note that items you place in your online cart before you visit Rakuten won’t be eligible for cash back. So don’t add anything to your cart before you head to Rakuten to grab the discount.
I’ve found that it makes sense to start your Amazon shopping trips from Rakuten every time, just in case Rakuten covers the category you’re shopping. It’s worth the quick extra step to potentially get some cash back for one of our many (many!) Amazon purchases.
Click here to get started with Rakuten.
Does Rakuten Work for In-Store Shopping?
Yes, it sure does! It’s a little trickier than using Rakuten for online shopping, but you can do it. To earn cash back from a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll first add your credit card to your Rakuten account.
Then, browse the stores (using the website or app) that offer in-store rebates. Connect your card to that store and then every time you shop there, you’ll earn cash back with Rakuten.
The nice thing is that the Rakuten app allows you to do this from your phone while you’re standing in your preferred store.
How Does Rakuten Pay You?
Rakuten pays you with a “big fat check!” sent in the mail, or via PayPal. To receive your money, you must have your account properly filled out with your address and payment setting.
Alternatively, you must have a valid PayPal account linked to your Rakuten account. Rakuten only sends out payments on accounts that have earned at least $5, so if your account balance is less than that, you’ll have to wait until the next payment cycle to see your cash back.
Payments go out every three months on these dates: May 15th (for Q1), August 15th (for Q2), November 15th (for Q3), and the all-important Christmas season payout on February 15th (for Q4).
Related: 35 of the Best Passive Income Apps
5 Tips for Maximizing Earnings
No Rakuten review is complete without some tips to make more cash. While making money with Rakuten is quick and easy, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you maximize your earnings.
Check Rakuten for Coupons
In addition to offering cash back at 2,000+ online stores, Rakuten also has coupons for many of those retailers. You can combine the coupons with cash back for even more savings. To figure out what coupons are available for a particular store, just search for it on Rakuten.
When you click on the page for the store, it’ll show you all of the current active coupons that you can use on your purchase. When you click on a coupon, you’ll be taken to that retailer’s website and will get both the discount and cash back on your purchase.
Download the Rakuten Chrome Extension
Are you forgetful like I am? With Rakuten, there’s an easy fix for that. Rakuten offers a Google Chrome extension that can be very handy for getting cash.
Now, here’s the best part: it’ll alert you any time you’re on a website where Rakuten offers cash back. For example, if you’re shopping on Walmart.com, you’ll get a notice that there’s cash back available on your purchase.
All you have to do to take advantage of the cashback offer is to click on the message from the Chrome extension. You’ll be redirected through the Rakuten cash back portal and back to the website where you were shopping so you can finish your purchase.
You’ll see your cash back amount in your account a few days later. Having the extension makes it easy to get money for your purchases without having to remember to go through the actual Rakuten portal every time.
Do you have an ad blocker or a pop-up blocker? This could be costing you money. You may not even know you have one installed. If you’ve used the Rakuten portal to buy something but didn’t get your cash, that’s the most common culprit.
Pop-up and ad blockers prevent Rakuten from using cookies to track your purchase. This, in turn, means your shopping trip was never recorded so you won’t get any cash back for your purchase. If you have one of those on your browser, make sure to whitelist Rakuten by going into the settings.
Click Before Each Purchase
If you don’t want to install the Rakuten Chrome browser extension or you don’t use Chrome as your browser, the next best thing is to make notes to yourself. Place a note on your computer monitor that says something to the effect of “use Rakuten.”
You can also wrap a note around the credit card you use most often to remind you to do it. Whatever it takes, make sure you remember to click on Rakuten before making a purchase. That’s the only way to get some money back on your purchases.
Link a Credit Card
Originally, the only way to get cash back through Rakuten was to do your shopping online. That all changed when they started offering an in-store cash back option. To use it in store, you’ll need to link a credit card so make sure you do that when you sign up.
Link the credit card that you use most often for your purchases. Once you do that, go through the available offers and link them to your card. When you tie the offer to your card and buys something at the store, you’ll see the cash back in your account.
Take Advantage of Double and Triple Cash Back
When signing up for Rakuten, make sure to sign up for their emails as well. That way you’ll get notices when they offer double and triple cash back. This means that if they regularly offer 5% cash back at a store, you’d get 10 to 15% on double and triple cash back days.
Usually, those promotions are linked to holidays or occasions such as Memorial Day, July 4th, Halloween, and so on. However, sometimes Rakuten runs promos for other reasons as well. Being on their list will ensure you’re always in the know so you can take advantage.
Here’s an example of current double cash back offers:
If you’re planning to make a big purchase, it could pay to wait until one of those cashback promos. Rakuten runs them pretty frequently so you shouldn’t have to wait too long. It could mean a significant cashback payout depending on the price of your purchase.
The Secret to Using Rakuten.com
In my opinion, the secret to using Rakuten.com is to treat it as just another tool in your frugality tool belt. Only take it out and use it when you are already planning on making a purchase.
By all means, if you need something, take the time to swing by Rakuten.com and use their cash back discounts. If you don’t, you’re simply passing up free money. Otherwise, leave it alone. Don’t go into Rakuten.com without a plan already.
There are actually a bunch of different websites that offer cash-back rewards and savings. Some of them send you cash rewards, like Rakuten. Others provide your rewards or savings in a different format, such as depositing your earnings into a savings or retirement account.
Ibotta and Swagbucks are just two of those sites that can save you money. Here’s our full list of cash back sites. Some will assist you in saving for a child’s college education, while others will simply reward you for shopping online. Take a look and see which of these cash-back sites will put a little more money back in your pocket!
My Rakuten Review: The Bottom Line
Using Rakuten is a quick and easy way to save money. One great way to take advantage of it is by ordering online and picking up in store. This works well for large retailers such as Target and Walmart and can even save you money since you’re avoiding potential impulse purchases.
Take the time to get familiar with the Rakuten website and take note of all of the online retailers where you regularly shop. This will make it a little easier to remember to use it before making a purchase.
Happy frugal shopping!