Wouldn’t it be nice if you can make money when you spend money? Sounds like a pretty nice scenario, huh? Well, cashback portals totally make that possible and today I’m going to be reviewing one of the most popular cashback portals around… but is it the best?
Rakuten is a free portal that allows you to earn cash whenever you shop. In this review, I’ll be covering how it all works, the pros and cons, and several tips to maximize earnings. Plus, stick around to find out how you can get started with a $10 bonus for signing up with Rakuten.
Table of Contents
- What is Rakuten (Formerly Known as Ebates)?
- How Does Rakuten Work and How Do They Make Money?
- How to Get Started Using Rakuten
- Earn Cash Back In-Store
- Additional Things to Know When Shopping Through Rakuten
- Rakuten Referral Program
- Tips to Maximize Success and Earnings on Rakuten
- Mr. Centsible’s Final Take
What is Rakuten (Formerly Known as Ebates)?
To understand where Rakuten came from, we need to go back in time to 1999 when Ebates was founded. You may or may not have heard of Ebates before, but it was a site that offered cashback rewards for its users. Through its lifetime, it has amassed more than 10 million users and paid out more than $1 billion in cashback rewards.
Rakuten is Japanese for “Optimism”
Ebates was acquired by Rakuten, a Japanese internet commerce company, in 2014 but it pretty much left Ebates untouched and operating as usual. They did eventually start branding themselves as “Ebates: A Rakuten Company” for a while, but in 2019 the Ebates name was officially changed over to Rakuten.
So has anything changed now that it is officially Rakuten? No, not really. The website looks nearly identical to the old Ebates website except for the name change. Everything is still business as usual when it comes to earning cashback at your favorite stores.
How Does Rakuten Work and How Do They Make Money?
Many people don’t believe it that you can make money when you shop, so they think cashback portals like Rakuten are a scam. That is far from the truth.
Rakuten partners with hundreds of retailers (mostly online) and earn a commission when they refer customers to shop on the stores’ website. Rakuten then splits this commission with their customers, allowing them to earn cash back.
Rakuten categorizes the stores they partner with into the following categories:
- Clothing & Accessories
- Travel & Vacations
- Health & Beauty
- Shoes & Handbags
- Electronics & Office
- Home, Auto & Pets
- Baby, Kids & Toys
- Sports & Outdoors
- Food & Entertainment
- Books & Media
- Gifts, Flowers & Occasions
As you can see, they cover nearly everything you can think of. It’s pretty amazing that you can even book hotels and flights through Rakuten and earn cashback.
You’re probably wondering why stores would go along with this kind of setup. Why would they pay a middleman a cut of their profits? Well, it’s all about referrals and customer volume.
By offering a certain amount of cash back to customers, Rakuten is driving more traffic to the store, allowing them to make more total revenue. In the end, everyone wins: the store get more sales, Rakuten receives a commission, and the customer gets cash back.
How to Get Started Using Rakuten
There are two main ways to use Rakuten, but first, you’re going to need to create an account. Sign up here by either logging in through Facebook or Google or sign up with a traditional email and password combo.
As a special offer, if you sign up through this link, you can get a $10 bonus when you make your first purchase through Rakuten.
Once you’re logged in, the first thing you should do is going into your Account Settings and enter your mailing address and Paypal account information. Rakuten pays out your cashback either through a check in the mail or through Paypal.
The minimum amount of cashback you must earn in order to get paid out is $5. Rakuten pays out the cashback you earn on a quarterly basis. Refer to the chart below to see when you can expect your Big Fat Check.
Shopping Through the Rakuten Website
Once you’ve set up your account, you simply search for the store you’re interested in buying from. Chances are good that Rakuten will be a partner with them.
As an example, Rakuten is currently offering 8% cash back when you shop at Macy’s. Once you’ve identified your store, simply click the “Shop Now” button and a new tab should open in your browser taking you to the stores’ normal website.
From here, you simply do the normal shopping process that you would do on the stores’ website. Browse or search for items, add things to your cart, checkout as normal.
How Does Rakuten Know You’re Shopping Through Them?
When you click through to the stores’ website from Rakuten, it uses your web browser’s cookies to track you. This allows Rakuten to know when you’ve shopped through them.
Because of this, it’s important that you have cookies enabled with your browser. Most of the time, this is automatically enabled, unless you have tinkered with your web browser’s settings.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you should disable any adblockers you might be using on your browser when you use Rakuten. This is because they prevent Rakuten from properly tracking you to the store’s website, and will, therefore, be unable to verify your purchase with the store.
Shopping with the Rakuten Browser Extension
One of the great things about Rakuten is that they have a special browser extension you can install that makes the cashback shopping process even easier! Rakuten currently offers the Cash Back Button on Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari browser. To simply install the Cash Back Button, get started here.
The Cash Back Button is great because it is multifunctional. First, if you are on a store’s website and Rakuten offers cashback at that store, a popup will appear that allows you to activate cashback directly from the button without having to visit the Rakuten website.
Secondly, the browser extension also keeps a repository of known coupon codes for the particular store you are shopping at. So when you are checking out, you can hit the Cash Back Button and see if there are any valid coupon codes to bring the price of your shopping cart down even further.
Lastly, if you are shopping on a site that Rakuten doesn’t offer cashback to, the button will alert you if there is a store that has it for a cheaper price with cashback.
Earn Cash Back In-Store
Up until now, we’ve been primarily discussing earning cashback through shopping online.
However, one of the things that makes Rakuten a unique cashback shopping portal is that it can allow you to earn cash back while shopping in physical stores as well!
In order to do this, you must first link a payment card to your Rakuten account.
Then, simply link the offer you’re interested in to the payment card. It’s important that you link the offer before you go shopping.
Finally, go shopping at the store like you normally would, but make sure you pay with the payment card that you have linked to Rakuten.
Once you’ve made your purchase, Rakuten will be notified of your purchase and issue your cashback appropriately.
It’s important to be aware that each linked offer is only valid for a single purchase at a time. This means that if you make a purchase and want to buy something else, you must link the offer again to your payment card. This can easily be done with the Rakuten mobile app if you are away from your computer.
Additional Things to Know When Shopping Through Rakuten
Cash Back Percentage Variation
The cashback percentages Rakuten offers can change at any time. There is usually a baseline percentage that the store usually sits at, but sometimes Rakuten will increase (or rarely decrease) the cashback percentage.
Additionally, Rakuten offers Double Cash Back promotions to certain stores every day. So check out these stores for even greater savings.
“Up To” Cash Back
What is the most popular shopping store in the US? Amazon, of course. Wouldn’t it be great if everything we bought on Amazon could earn us cashback through Rakuten?
Alas, it’s a little too good to be true.
One thing to be aware of when browsing stores on Rakuten is when they specify “up to X% Cash Back”. This means that only certain items purchased at that store will earn that amount of cashback, while other items purchased may earn a smaller percentage of even no cash back.
This is more of an exemption on Rakuten, as most stores earn a flat percentage across the entire store. But I just need to mention it because this applies to popular stores like Amazon and Walmart.
Another thing to keep an eye out for is store exclusions. Before you click through the “Shop Now” button for a store, take a look if that store excludes certain items from earning cashback.
As an example, Macy’s has exclusions regarding gift certificates, Apple products, mattresses, and furniture.
Rakuten Referral Program
Rakuten offers a great referral bonus for telling anyone you know about Rakuten. It’s one of the reasons Rakuten is so popular and one of the best cashback portal sites around.
For every person that you refer, as soon as they complete their first purchase (minimum $25 spend) through Rakuten, they will receive a $10 bonus and you will receive a $25 bonus.
Referral bonuses are paid into your Rakuten account and as far as I know, there is no cap to the amount you can earn.
If you’d like to get started with Rakuten now and earn a $10 bonus, feel free to sign up through my referral link here.
Tips to Maximize Success and Earnings on Rakuten
- Make sure browser cookies are enabled and any adblockers are turned off (or whitelist Rakuten) when shopping through Rakuten
- Don’t go through Rakuten until you are sure you will be making a purchase. This ensures you will be on the right browsing session and be properly tracked.
- Download the Rakuten Cash Back Button browser extension to never forget about activating cashback. Also, access coupon codes easily.
- You can stack Rakuten cashback with coupon codes as well as any credit card reward earnings. Triple savings!
- Use the Rakuten mobile app to easily access in-store cashback wherever you are
- Refer friends and family to earn $25 for each referral
Mr. Centsible’s Final Take
As I’ve covered comprehensively in this review, Rakuten offers a lot of savings for people that shop. Along with that, it is completely free and anyone can sign up. In my opinion, it is one of the best cash back portal sites around.
While their minimum payout amount is fairly low ($5), my biggest gripe with Rakuten is that they only payout your earnings quarterly. I wished they would payout monthly.
In the end, if you want to get paid to shop and like saving money in a very easy way, I highly recommend getting started with Rakuten today.