Since joining Ebates some time ago and now using Rakuten for several months, I’ve made quite a few purchases, earning cash back each time thanks to the site. This includes both orders made online as well as items I’ve picked up in stores. Additionally there have been plenty of times I mistakenly went directly to a retailer’s website to purchase something, only to be reminded by my Rakuten extension that I should activate an offer — but we’ll talk much more about that in a moment.
With that little preview out of the way, here’s what you need to know about Rakuten and how it could save you money when shopping online and in-store:
Rakuten vs. Ebates
As I mentioned, the site formerly known as Ebates recently completed its transition to the name Rakuten. Incidentally the site has been owned by Rakuten since 2014 but only recently announced the decision to rebrand. While some have suggested that the updated site is lacking compared to Ebates, I can honestly say I notice no difference.
If you were already an Ebates users and are wondering how the change to Rakuten could affect you, the good news is that it shouldn’t. In my experience, my account was automatically moved over and all of my earned cash back — and cash back history — remained. But, for more on the switch, you can check out my full article on the topic.
How Rakuten Works
There are two main ways you can find cash back offers with Rakuten: searching their site for deals ahead of time or installing the Rakuten browser extension, which will make it easy to opt-into offers as you shop around the web. Personally I actually like to use a combination of the two. For example, if I know several retailers will carry the item I’m looking to buy, I might check Rakuten ahead of time to see where I should start my search. As I mentioned there are also times when I get a pleasant surprise when landing on a site and have the Chrome extension alert me to a deal. In either case, you’ll want to ensure that you either click the link on the Rakuten page to visit the site in question or activate the offer using the extension before making your purchase.
Not only does the browser extension pop-up when you reach an applicable site but it will also help you find Rakuten deals when using Google. If you search for a product or service and you have your Rakuten extension on, your search results will display little ‘R’ logos above the participating sites and even show you what the cashback offer is for each listing. This could be a huge timesaver if you’re choosing a retailer based on Rakuten value alone — however, in some cases, you may still want to ensure that the pricing of the actual item is comparable, lest you overspend on the purchase itself just to earn cash back.
Even when it’s not alerting you to a deal, the Rakuten extension can still come in handy. Clicking on the logo will pop-up various at-a-glance info such as your current Rakuten balance, recently visited sites, featured offers, and more. It also gives you easy access to your Rakuten referral code, which we’ll talk about a little later.
Finding additional coupons and codes
Besides the cash back offers, both the Rakuten site and browser extension also list current promotional codes a la Retail Me Not and other such sites. To view these from the extension, just click the ‘R’ when it has an orange background. Alternatively, once again you can search the Rakuten site for the specific retailer and view their coupon offers there.
The Rakuten app
As you’d likely expect, Rakuten also offers a mobile app. Using this application you can view and search current deals just like you would on your desktop computer and even shop from participating retailers through a built-in browser. Alternatively, in some cases, selecting an offer in the Rakuten app may launch another app on your phone. Personally, this happened to me with Expedia, likely because I had their application already installed.
Although I prefer to do most of my Rakuten-ing on my desktop computer (and via the browser extension), having the app is helpful for a few reasons. First it will allow you to get push notifications and be alerted to special offer deals. Additionally it can help you easily research deals when you’re on the go — or even compare prices while you’re “showrooming.” Lastly, while you can activate in-store offers via the desktop site as well, it makes much more sense to do so on mobile in my humble opinion.
Earning your Rakuten welcome bonus
When you first sign-up for Rakuten, you’ll have the choice between claiming a $10 gift card for Walmart or adding $10 to you Rakuten balance. Now, while the Rakuten homepage declares “Sign Up and Get a $10 Bonus Today*,” the telling asterisk tips you off to the fact that it’s not quite that simple. In order to nab that $10 bonus, you’ll need to make at least $25 in qualifying purchases within your first 90 days of becoming a Rakuten user. In my case, I elected to receive the $10 Walmart gift card as my bonus, which I was able to easily add to my Walmart Pay account (note: this isn’t required for redemption but I just like using it) and was able to spend my free money without issue.
Rakuten referral bonus
Not only can you earn $10 when you sign up for Rakuten but you can also nab $25 by referring friends, family, and others to the service. As a Rakuten member, you’ll be provided with a special referral link you can e-mail to friends, share on social media, or — for example — include in an article. When those you refer sign up for the service and earn their welcome bonus (meaning they spend at least $25 in their first 90 days), you’ll earn a $25 bonus. This current promotion is running through September 30th, 2019 so it is subject to change after that… but it seems like this type of deal tends to renew each quarter.
Like I mentioned, your unique referral link can be found by clicking the Rakuten browser extension button and heading to the “Get $25” tab. Similarly there’s also a “Refer & Earn $25” link in the main navigation bar of Rakuten site. This section of the site will also let you keep tabs on who you’ve invited to join, who’s joined, and who’s made their qualifying purchase. As a result, you can monitor your referral progress and perhaps even nudge your friends along if need be.
How Often Does Rakuten Payout?
Rakuten refers to their cash back payouts as “Your Big Fat Check.” Contrary to what that name implies, you don’t actually have to opt for a check, but can instead have your balance sent to you via PayPal if you’d like. However, in order to cash out, you’ll need have at least $5 in cash back to claim. Furthermore Rakuten only sends out “Big Fat Checks” on a quarterly basis.
Here’s a look at their payment schedule via their help page:
|Jan 1 – Mar 31||May 15|
|Apr 1 – Jun 30||Aug 15|
|Jul 1 – Sep 30||Nov 15|
|Oct 1 – Dec 31||Feb 15|
Thankfully, if you don’t end up earning $5 in a quarter, your money won’t disappear — it’ll just roll over to the next quarter, giving you another shot at making enough to cash out.
I should also note that, despite Ebates asserting that you must have at least $5 in order to receive a quarterly payment, I once got a PayPal payout for less than that amount. This has me wondering if the threshold really only applies to paper Big Fat Checks being mailed out. Regardless I wouldn’t count on getting a payout if you don’t have at least $5, but you may be surprised like I was.
What Else You Should Know About Rakuten
As you’re browsing the Rakuten site, you may notice that some retailers list a flat cash back amount while others say “Up to X%.” Why the difference? Well, some participating sites may apply different cash back amounts depending on the category while others might exclude certain items altogether. For example you might see that Apple.com offers up to 2% cashback — although, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that this offer excludes a massive list of products you’d likely be buying from Apple. As a result, I have a hilarious line in my Rakuten balance history that shows me making a $1,618 purchase and earning a whopping $0.38 back (the laptop I purchased was excluded from the deal but the $19 dongle I bought with it did qualify). While that may be frustrating, it is actually nice that Rakuten is able to apply cash back to some items in a transaction even if the bulk of your order doesn’t qualify.
Limited time increased offers
Something else to be on the lookout for are limited time offers where the typical percentage that a given retailer offers is greatly increased. This practice was especially prevalent around the holiday shopping season but I still see numerous “double cash back” promotions and the like. To take advantage of these flash sales, I’d recommend opting into emails from Rakuten as well as enabling push notifications via the mobile app.
Credit card rewards
Something else you should know about Rakuten is that any cash back you earn using the service comes in addition to anything you might earn from your credit card rewards. As a result, in addition to the 3% back I earned from using Ebates to purchase my business cards, I also earned 2% from my Uber Visa Card. This might seem obvious to some but it’s still worth mentioning for those who might not realize how these two potential benefits work together.
Tax and shipping
If you go into your Rakuten balance and view your transaction history, you may be wondering why the total amount doesn’t quite match what you actually paid. That’s because Rakuten cash back offers typically do not apply to any taxes collected or shipping costs. So, if you’re trying to compare your receipt to Rakuten, make sure you’re looking at the subtotal before these additional charges are applied.
Rakuten in-store offers
While the vast majority of Rakuten deals are for online retailers, they do also have some in-store offers that can be found on their mobile app. Like with Dosh and others, you can take advantage of these offers by linking a credit card and using it at a participating location. However, unlike Dosh, it seems you’ll need to activate each offer before attempting to redeem it. In other cases — namely the 1% cash back at Best Buy offer — you’ll instead tap the “Redeem Code” button, which will launch a QR for the cashier to scan at checkout.
For the longest time, this was one aspect of Rakuten I hadn’t yet explored. However that changed a few months back when I noticed that both Dosh and Rakuten (then Ebates) were offering in-store cash back at Sephora. This gave me the perfect excuse to try out the service and it worked like a charm! In fact, as I had hoped, I was able to take advantage of the Dosh and Rakuten offers at the same time, double dipping on cash back.
Another interesting aspect of in-store purchases in comparison to online ones is that it seems that your grand total is eligible for cash back when you shop in-store. This is to say that, instead of the tax being excluded before determining your kick back like with online offers, my experience would suggest you earn on the full amount. Granted, I’m basing this on only one experience but, if true across the board, it could be a significant factor in determining whether you want to order online or head to a physical store.
Final Thoughts on Rakuten
After using Rakuten (and Ebates before it) for some time now, I can see why the service has become so popular. In turn, this popularity has also allowed it to improve its product by adding retailers, upping its offers, and still dishing out bonuses to new users and those that refer them. With a convenient browser extension that not only leads you to deals but reminds you about them, it’s also easy to take advantage of Rakuten offers without having to make much of an effort.
If there’s any real downside to Rakuten it’s simply that you will have to wait for your money, unlike other cash back apps that allow you to cash out as soon as you reach a certain threshold. Then again, such restrictions are understandable since any returns made on items that resulted in cashback would negatively impact Rakuten if they had already paid out on those earnings.
Additionally, looking on the bright side, this arrangement does give users something to look forward to.
Ultimately, it’s hard for me to come up with a reason why you shouldn’t at least sign-up for Rakuten. Even as someone who doesn’t shop online with super frequency, I was still able to easily earn my $10 welcome bonus. Of course, even if you don’t rack up much, it’s also nice to know you can leave it sitting there in waiting until you do earn enough to get your “Big Fat Check.”
For all of those reasons, I recommend checking out what Rakuten has to offer and seeing if this cash back-earning service is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. Rakuten has not only been Ebates’ parent company since 2014 but the name is now also used for the service itself. Ebates users will have their accounts automatically rebranded.
Using cash back tools such as Ebates/Rakuten will require customers to enter some personal information and allow the service to monitor their purchases. This is something that certain users may be uncomfortable with.
Rakuten (formerly Ebates) allows users to earn cash back on purchases they make from select retailers. By clicking offers on the Rakuten site, app, or using their browser plugin, customers can earn a percentage of their purchases back. These cash back balances are then paid out via a “Big Fat Check” on a quarterly basis.
Yes. However, not every Amazon purchase is eligible for cash back. Instead Amazon offers different cash back amounts for various product categories, ranging from 1% to 5%.
Yes. Rakuten (AKA Ebates) is a legitimate cash back tool and holds an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
Typically Rakuten offers will rebate users a certain percentage of their eligible purchases. This cash back will then be added to their balance. As long as your balance exceeds $5, Rakuten will either mail you a check or transfer funds to a linked PayPal account according to a quarterly schedule. Balances under $5 will be rolled over to the next quarter until breaking the $5 threshold.
Per FTC guidelines, this website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. (Note: advertising relationships do not have any influence on editorial content. Advertising compensation allows DyerNews to provide quality content for free. All editorial opinions are those of the individual author and/or Dyer News.)
Also published on Medium.