Rakuten vs. Ebates — What’s Changing With the Cashback Tool
Lately you may have seen commercials teaching you how to pronounce “Rakuten.” Of course these spots aren’t just about phonics but about earning cash back. This is driven home by the tagline, “Rakuten: A more rewarding way to shop.” If that’s the case, how does Rakuten compare to established cash back tools such as Ebates?
Well, spoiler alert: they’re actually one and the same. Although Rakuten purchased Ebates back in 2014, the company is now in the process of rebranding the site — hence the new marketing campaign. Thankfully, while the name may be changing, there are several elements of Rakuten/Ebates that are staying the same. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what we know so far about the change from Ebates to Rakuten.
The Switch From Ebates to Rakuten
My experience moving to Rakuten
According to a frequently asked questions article on their site, Rakuten notes that they’ll be moving users over from Ebates to Rakuten “one group at a time.” Out of curiosity, I headed over to Rakuten.com to see how much it mirrored the Ebates site I was familar with (for the record, it’s very similar). However, before I could look around, I was greeted with a message saying that I had been “upgraded” to Rakuten. I’m guessing this was because I was logged in on Ebates and so it was able to identify me.
After this, whenever I go to Ebates now, I’m automatically forwarded to Rakuten. Similarly, the next time I opened the Ebates app on my phone, I got a similar message and the icon on my phone was updated as well. Funny enough, when I open the app, it still displays “Ebates” at the top for a second or two before the Rakuten banner takes over.
Finally I also noticed that the ‘E’ icon that resided on my browser bar had changed to an ‘R.’ Not surprisingly, the same is true for the icons that show up next to cash back eligible search results in Google. And the Chrome Extension will now show you Rakuten cash back deals when you arrive on a participating retailer’s page. I guess what I’m saying is they’ve covered all their bases here.
What happens to cash back I’ve earned on Ebates?
The first thing I noticed once my conversion to Rakuten was complete was that my cash back total remained the same. Not only could I see how much I had in pending earnings but could also look at my lifetime total and individual transactions. It also still shows my next payout (AKA “Big Fat Check”) date will be on May 15th — the same as it was under Ebates.
Will my Ebates referral links still work?
I have to admit that, when I first heard about the rebranding to Rakuten, there was definitely some concern over whether referral links would still be valid during this roll out. Thankfully, according to the site itself, the answer is “yes.” They write, “You’re eligible to earn referral bonuses whether the members you refer purchase through the Ebates or Rakuten service.” Considering that these referrals can earn you $25 when a new user joins using your link and makes $25 in qualifying purchase in their first 90 days, it’s definitely a relief to know you won’t be getting hosed out these funds due to the name change.
Are the Rakuten retailers different than Ebates?
Since Ebates retail participants and the cashback amounts they offer can fluctuate anyway, this is a bit hard to answer definitively. That said, as far as I can tell, there have been no major shakeups to the brands you can earn cash back from. Moreover some of the staples of Ebates such as Double Cash Back events seem to be continuing under Rakuten. For example I see Macy’s is currently offering 6% cash back compared to the normal 3%.
Not only does Rakuten’s roster of online retailers look as impressive as ever but their in-store slate looks largely the same as well. A quick look in the app shows 2% in-store cash back at Bed Bath & Beyond, 4% back in-store at Sephora (which happened to be home to my triple cash back dip with Dosh and Visa Local Offers last November), 1% back at Best Buy, and many many more. Obviously all of this is subject to change but, for now, there’s a good chance your favorite retailers from Ebates are still on Rakuten.
Is there anything I need to adjust to accommodate this change?
As you can probably see by now, the switch from Ebates to Rakuten is really just a name change and little more. At the same time, the company does note a couple of small things that may affect you. For example, while I mentioned that Ebates currently forwards me to Rakuten, they advise that you update any bookmarks to Ebates once you’ve been switch over. Simiarly they suggest that, if you whitelisted Ebates in a pop-up blocker or an e-mail spam filter, you may also want to update those settings.
If you never got around to joining Ebates, there are plenty of reasons you should give the now-named Rakuten a shot. While this whole rebranding business may be a bit confusing, the site itself makes it incredibly simple to earn cash back on items you were (hopefully) going to be buying anyway. Plus, with the Rakuten browser extension, you don’t even need to visit the site to find deals as they’ll be presented to you as you search the web.
Rakuten site and browser extension
There a couple of ways you can earn cash back with Rakuten. On your desktop computer, these include visiting the Rakuten site and using their retailer links to shop or installing the Rakuten browser extension. Starting with the site itself, the homepage will feature some of the best offers currently available, including some limited-time deals where the percentage of cash back increased. If you don’t find what you’re looking for there, you can also search for specific retailers to see if they participate. In either case, be sure to click the “Shop Now” link on the site to ensure that you earn cash back for your eligible purchase — if you don’t use these links, Rakuten may not register your purchase and you won’t be able to claim those rewards.
While the Rakuten site itself is a great way to earn cash, their browser extension makes the whole process even easier. Installing the plugin for your browser will do a couple of different things: 1) it will alert you to cash back deals on sites you visit and 2) it will highlight offers in search results on Google, Bing, and others. This way you can ensure you’re not missing cash back deals and can also factor these savings in when comparing prices.
The Rakuten app and in-store offers
As I alluded to earlier, Rakuten offers both online and in-store cash back deals. While you view these offers on the desktop website, I’ve found it easier to browse them via the Rakuten app. By the way, you can do your online shopping on-the-go using the app as well.
In-store offers work a bit differently than online offers. Since there’s obviously no links to click in real life, you’ll instead take advantage of these deal by first linking a credit card to the app. From there you can tap “Link offer” from the “In-Store Offers” tab to activate the promotion. Then just use your linked card at a participating retailer and your promised cash back should show up in your account shortly.
Rakuten’s cash back payouts
One important thing to note is that, while you will see cash back pop up relatively quickly in your Rakuten account, the site only pays out earnings on a quarterly basis. Moreover users must have at least $5 in their account to qualify for a payout. Luckily, if you do fall short of that threshold, your earning will rollover to the next quarter and will continue to rollover until you accrue more than $5.
Incidentally, while Rakuten refers to these payouts as “Big Fat Checks,” you don’t have to take your money in paper form. Instead you can link a PayPal account and have your earnings direct deposited. Here’s a look at the current Rakuten’s “Big Fat Check” payout schedule:
Sign up bonus
If you’re still on the fence about Rakuten, I should probably let you know that they offer a $10 sign-up bonus that you can either claim as a Walmart gift card or apply toward your first Big Fat Check. To earn this bonus, you’ll need to (of course) sign up and then spend at least $25 on cash back-qualifying purchases within your first 90 days. Personally, when I first took advantage of this offer, my Walmart gift card arrived much more quickly than I was expecting and I was able to redeem the card without issue. So, even if you don’t think you’ll use the service much after the fact, it may be worth giving it a shot and getting this free money.
More on Rakuten
Since Rakuten is just the new name for Ebates, if you want to know more about the service — including a few minor quirks I’ve discovered while using it for several months now — be sure to check out my full review.
If you’ve been confused by the recent Rakuten commercials and what it means for Ebates, wonder no more. With the company officially dropping the Ebates name and transitioning to Rakuten, there are sure to be plenty of users asking questions in the coming months. Hopefully this helps clear up at least a few things — but the bottom line is that Rakuten is still a great and easy way to earn cash back whether you’re shopping online or in-stores.
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Also published on Medium.