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Are you looking for an effortless way to make extra money from your daily habits? Rakuten is one of the easiest ways to put some money back into your pocket when shopping online, and this Rakuten review will show you how.
This online shopping tool is free and lets you earn cashback at over 2,500 retailers. You don’t have to spend time answering surveys or possess a unique skill. As long as you can shop online, you can earn cash rewards.
I have personally been using Rakuten (previously known as Ebates) since 2015. It’s my favorite shopping app because it’s easy to use compared to other online shopping apps.
And as of right now, you can get a $10 cash bonus with your first $25+ online purchase by joining Rakuten.
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten (pronounced rack-uh-ten) is a free cash rewards shopping portal. Perhaps you have seen their TV commercials about earning money from shopping rewards. Don’t worry. This is a legit way to earn cash rewards and not another “too good to be true” infomercial.
The only action you need to take is activating a shopping session for a retail partner. (Don’t worry, this is easy to do and I explain how a little further down.)
This unique shopping session allows Rakuten to calculate your cash rewards from your purchase amount.
Where Can You Use It to Earn Cash Back?
Stores offer between 1% and 40% back on your purchases. However, you can expect to earn between 1% and 10% at most retailers. Sale tax and shipping costs don’t earn cash rewards.
It’s possible to earn cash back for online purchases at retailers, including:
- Home Chef
- And so many more
Some stores offer cash back right away in the store, but in other cases you’ll get a cash or gift card payment quarterly. Either way, it’s money back in your pocket from things you’d buy anyway.
Using Rakuten doesn’t increase the product price. Your shopping experience and prices are the same, besides taking a few extra seconds to start the shopping session.
How You Earn Money Back with Rakuten
I use several shopping apps to earn cash rewards for online and local purchases. Some apps require you to activate offers before you shop and take a picture of your receipt.
But the process is a lot easier with Rakuten than most apps. Their customer service has always been quick to respond the few times I have had issues with getting credit for shopping trips.
You can earn cash back by starting a shopping trip from the Rakuten website, browser extension or mobile app. Next you put the items you want to buy into your cart and pay. Rakuten sends you a message within 24 hours for your rewards balance for most trips.
Here’s a quick example of how a shopping trip works:
- Start a Rakuten shopping trip
- Add items to your cart
- Pay for your purchase with your standard payment method
- Earn cash rewards on the items total (excludes taxes and shipping)
How to Start Shopping With Rakuten
There are three different ways to start a shopping trip. Here is a quick overview of each option so you can choose your best method. Rakuten states you must start the shopping trip before place items in your cart for these items to earn cash back. If you start the session after you already start shopping (this is possible with the browser extension), these items may not earn rewards.
From personal experience, I have started a session mid-stream and don’t have tracking issues. But it’s good practice to start a session before you start shopping to be safe.
Rakuten is easy to use. As long as you remember to start the shopping session, most purchases earn cash rewards.
You can do so three ways:
1. Using the Rakuten Website
You can start shopping sessions by going to the Rakuten website and signing in. The website can be a good option if you want to compare cash back offers for similar stores.
We recently bought a new printer from an office supply store. We decided to buy from Staples instead of Office Depot/Office Max because they had a higher cash back rate. Both stores were charging the same retail price for the printer.
2. With the Rakuten Button
If you shop online using a computer, the Rakuten Button is an add-on browser extension. A browser extension is a tiny piece of software that lets your browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc) do some extra things.
In this case, it adds a button that makes it easy never to miss a cash back opportunity. It lets you start a shopping trip right from the retailer’s website.
Also, the extension notifies you a store offers cash back upon arriving on the site. The extension also has a search bar so you can quickly see which stores offer cash back.
Once you’ve signed up for Rakuten, it’s easy to add the button by following the steps on the website. The button really makes shopping online with the Rakuten cash back app hassle-free.
The Rakuten Button is available for these browsers:
3. Using the Mobile App
Once you’ve signed up for Rakuten, Android and iOS mobile devices can download a free mobile app to shop from your phone or tablet. One benefit of the mobile app is Rakuten offers additional stores with cash back. These stores only offer the standard rate when shopping from a computer.
What Types of Cash Back Can You Earn with Rakuten?
You can earn several types of cash back.
In-Store Cash Back
Rakuten offers in-store cash back opportunities at select retailers.
About 60 stores are offering in-store cash back. You will need to activate the offer before paying with a linked credit or debit card. Most in-store partners are department stores including Under Armour, Levi’s and Vera Bradley.
Shopping supercenters like Walmart, Target and Costco don’t offer in-store discounts. You will need to make an online purchase to get a cash back from Rakuten at these stores. But online is often easier anyway.
Grocery stores don’t offer in-store Rakuten discounts either but you may find coupon codes.
Double Cash Back Offers
Many retailers offer extra cash back for a limited time. You can quickly find these bonuses in one place on the Rakuten website or app. A good example is during Black Friday. But there are always plenty of stores offering bonus rewards.
Participating stores usually offer double cash back. For example, you can earn 7% back instead of 3.5% back.
Online Discount Codes
Many retailers offer discount codes you can enter at the checkout. These codes reduce your total purchase amount. Without Rakuten, you may have to spend time searching the web for the same codes.
If you’re a loyal shopper to a particular store, the retailer may send you a personalized code. These codes tend to have better discounts than those available to the public. However, Rakuten may not award cash back on purchases where you use these targeted discount codes.
Read the Store Cash Back Terms
Most stores award cash back on the item price for every item you buy. You won’t earn cash back for the sales tax and shipping portion of your order.
Also, some retailers only award cash back on select purchase categories. Some of the most notable examples are Amazon, Walmart, Target and office supply stores.
Some of Amazon’s bonus categories include furniture, Amazon devices, pet supplies and baby and nursery. Like any store, the cash back terms can change at any time.
You can quickly tell which stores offer discounts on select purchases by comparing the cash back rate for similar stores. If a cash back rate is stating, “Up to 5.0% cash back” likely earns rewards on select categories.
A store stating “3.0% cash back” typically earn rewards on the net purchase price. Recurring auto-ship orders and discount codes not listed on the Rakuten website can disqualify your purchase.
How Does Getting Paid Work?
Rakuten offers cash and gift card payment options with a $5.01 cash back balance.
Two payment options are PayPal or a paper check. Either option is free.
It’s also possible to get a gift card to select stores and restaurants. Some partners offer a redemption bonus. Gift cards can be worth it if you regularly shop at these stores.
The cash payment is the better option for most people because of the gift card selection is relatively small.
Rakuten sends cash or gift card payment quarterly. Your minimum cash back balance must be $5.01 at the end of a calendar quarter (i.e., January- March) to receive payment.
Below are the four quarterly payment dates:
- May 15 (Quarter ending on March 31)
- August 15 (Quarter ending on June 30)
- November 15 (Quarter ending on September 30)
- February 15 (Quarter ending on December 31)
Your current balance doesn’t expire. Only being paid quarterly is a tiny drawback but the $5.01 minimum is lower than other cash back apps. If you make several online purchases a month, you can quickly meet the minimum payment balance.
Missing Cash Back
Tracking errors don’t happen often, but sometimes Rakuten doesn’t correctly track every purchase you make. If you’re missing cash back, visit your Rakuten account and send a copy of your order confirmation.
The Rakuten support team is pretty quick to respond and correct the tracking errors.
Before submitting a ticket, see how soon Rakuten states you can expect to receive a notification email for your shopping trip. Rakuten posts your cash earnings within one day for most stores. But a few stores may take up to seven days to report.
You can notify Rakuten of the missing cash back after the average notification period.
Positives and Negatives
Here’s a quick recap of why you might consider using Rakuten.
- Get cash back at more than 2,500 online stores
- Free to join
- Cash payments with a minimum $5.01 cash back balance
- Receive a $10 cash bonus with your first $25+ online purchase
- Quarterly payments
- Some stores only award cash back on select purchase categories
- Discount codes not listed on the Rakuten website may not earn cash back
- Limited in-store cash back offers
Who Should Use Rakuten?
Rakuten is an easy way to save money on most online purchases and it’s free to use. It’s a good option if you regularly shop at Rakuten’s retail partners. Only having to earn a $5.01 cash back balance makes it easy to receive regular payments so you can celebrate “small victories.”
In short, Rakuten is one of the best ways to save money at most online retailers. You can earn cash rewards from your computer or mobile phone on items you already buy. Ready to get started? Sign up here!