Rakuten Review 2020: What is Rakuten and How Does it Work?

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If you’ve stumbled upon this post it’s likely you’re interested in reading a Rakuten review before you sign up or just want to find out what is Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) and how does it work.

Rakuten Review 2020: How To Save More Money

If like me, you’d dismissed it as something that sounded too good to be true (free money, what’s the catch??) I’m here to tell you that Rakuten/Ebates deserves a few moments of your time.

Figuring out how to use Rakuten could save you a lot of money on purchases you were already going to make anyway – that’s my frugal take on it, anyway.

Plus, you get $10 towards your first $25 purchase if you use my link so it’ll save you at least $10 just to give Rakuten a try.

Want to sign up? Use my link to join now and get your first $10 free: Join Rakuten Today.

Want more info? Keep reading for my honest Rakuten review.

What is Rakuten (formerly Ebates)?

Rakuten is a cash rebate website, which refers you to online stores and services, similar to Ibotta.

Rakuten is paid for referring you to these stores, and in turn, they share referral fees with their customers (that’s you).

According to their website Rakuten has been in operation since 1998 and since then have paid out a whopping $325 million dollars to their customers.

It’s US-based but they also have country-specific sites in Canada, Korea, China, Singapore and Japan.

If you’re using Rakuten from elsewhere, I would recommend visiting the US site (rakuten dot com). 

Just some of the stores Rakuten has cash back offers with. We go into more detail throughout this Rakuten review.
Just some of the stores Rakuten has cash back offers with. We go into more detail throughout this Rakuten review.

How does Rakuten Work?

It’s really simple. Before you start shopping you visit the Rakuten site (or app) and start a new ‘shopping trip’.

You must click directly through to the retailer from Rakuten, so the cookie tracks you as an Rakuten customer and you get your cash back.

I’ve created a series of screenshots below showing how to use Rakuten.

1. Firstly, you’ll need to sign up as a member of Rakuten . Join using this link and you’ll get $10 towards your first $25 purchase: Join Rakuten now and get your FREE $10 bonus.

After you’ve signed up, visit the homepage to get started.

2. Next, you’ll need to find the store you want to shop at. You can search under ‘All Stores’ in the navigation bar to find the store you want.

When you find the store, click on the orange ‘Shop Now’ button to activate your shopping session. 
3. If you’ve clicked on the orange ‘Shop Now’ button, a screen just like this containing the potential cash back amount and your shopping trip number should pop up before you are redirected to your selected retailer. 

4. Shop as usual. Complete your purchase through the retailer’s online store.

To check that Rakuten have your shopping trip recorded, you can go to the ‘My Account’ section of the website and check out your list of shopping trips.

5. Check your Rakuten account in a week or so (longer for travel bookings) to see your cash back. Rakuten will also email you when cashback is credited to your account.

How does Rakuten make money?

Rakuten has affiliate relationships with over 2000 stores. An affiliate is simply someone who is paid for referring others to a product or service.

For example, Rakuten has an affiliate relationship with Company A. Company A agree to pay Rakuten 10% of the sale for anyone they refer.

Rakuten offer their customers (as in you and me) 5% cash back when purchasing with Company A. I buy a $100 item with Company A via an Rakuten link – (remember, you must start your shopping session with Rakuten ), Rakuten gets 10% of that purchase which is $10.

Rakuten then credits me with 5% of the purchase amount which is $5. Rakuten makes money by retaining 5% of my purchase.

Percentages here are just used to illustrate how Rakuten works and vary by store.

Is Rakuten legit?

I have to admit that I initially dismissed Rakuten when I first heard about it, as it sounded too good to be true.

But after some digging around into the legitimacy of the service it became clear that Rakuten is a legit company offering a win-win for themselves and their customer.

What’s the catch with Rakuten?

In my experience, there isn’t really a catch. Like all companies, they want to make money so they do send a lot of emails with deals they think you’ll be interested in.

You can choose to opt out of those type of emails. My take on it is that I only purchase things I really need, so I may as well get some money back if I can.

For that privilege, I’ll happily endure and delete (or unsubscribe) to sales emails.

Remember, Rakuten make money when you purchase via their links, so they want you to keep them front of mind whenever you are shopping.

You can’t apply for Rakuten credit if you forgot to use their link, so you really need to visit Rakuten before you shop, every time, in order to get your cash back for every possible shopping trip.

Is Rakuten safe?

According to their website, Rakuten was set up by two former district attorneys.

As a website geek, I can tell you they use SSL (Secure Socket Layer) internet connections, which gives you an extra layer of security if you are providing them with any personal or payment information.

In my experience with Rakuten , I have only provided credit card details to the online stores I am transacting with.

However, Rakuten do have my email and PayPal info (so they can pay me) so it’s nice knowing that information is stored safely.

Is Rakuten worth it?

It depends. If you’re searching for Rakuten reviews because you’re a frugal mom who wants to get money for jam, then yes, it’s totally worth it.

Rakuten is worth it to me as I’m all about optimising every purchase and making sure I get the most bang for my buck.

It takes about 10 seconds to go to the Rakuten site and start a new shopping session with my chosen retailer, which is totally worth it for me.

But if you’re a millionaire and you don’t need or want to penny-pinch, maybe Rakuten is not for you.

Although, if you don’t need the money, you could be super generous and gift your cash back to a charity or a family member or friend in need.

Can you use Rakuten in store?

You can use Rakuten in stores to get cash back.

To do so you need to register the credit or debit card you plan on using for your in-store purchase in your Rakuten account.

You must have a US billing address to use in-store cash back.

Rakuten sign up bonus

As an incentive to become a member of Rakuten , they offer a $10 sign up bonus which is paid out when you make a qualifying purchase of $25 or more.

By signing up to Ebates using this link you’ll be sure to qualify for the Rakuten sign up bonus: Join Rakuten and Get My FREE $10 Bonus

Rakuten payment schedule

Rakuten pays four times per year, once for each quarter starting in January. Payment is made May 15 for cash back earned between January 1 to March 31.

Further payments are made August 15, Nov 15, Feb 15.  You must earn over $5.01 to receive a payment, anything less will be rolled over to the next payment date.

How does Rakuten pay you?

Rakuten offers two payment options, PayPal or Big Fat Check. If you choose PayPal, your payment will be sent on the above date.

If you choose to receive a Big Fat Check, mailing fees are covered by Rakuten . You can also choose to credit your cash back to a friend or even a charity. Check out your account settings to choose this option.

Cash back from Ebates I earned for a 1 night hotel stay. Not too shabby!

Rakuten tips for maximum cash back

  1. Shop around first. Make sure you compare prices for goods before visiting Rakuten. Their interface is not set-up as a price comparison site so it’s best to know where the deal is before you start your ‘shopping trip’ in Rakuten . There’s no point in getting a few bucks in cash back when you could have saved a larger amount by shopping around first.
  2. Tell your friends! Seriously, you get $5 for referring a new friend after they make a qualifying purchase. If you choose to sign up using my link (which is here: Join Rakuten Today) I’ll get five bucks for referring you (you’ll also get my eternal gratitude). Then you can tell everyone you know and get loads of bucks.
  3. Keep an eye out for double cash back days. You’ll have to visit the site regularly but if you’re a conscious shopper and know what you want to purchase, monitoring the site for double cash back should be a cinch.

One thing I don’t love about Rakuten

The relentless emails.

I’m really trying to simplify my life and reducing email is a big part of that.

When I first joined Rakuten I was getting multiple emails per day, so I unsubscribed from all of the marketing and promotional emails and chose to keep getting the email about cash back or refer a friend incentives.

Because I like getting emails about making money, who doesn’t?

So there it is, my honest to goodness Rakuten review. I think Rakuten is a fantastic service.

It makes shopping online even more appealing, knowing I can save money on every purchase and be rewarded by referring friends and readers to an awesome service.

One of the best things about Rakuten is that I can use it to save money on travel, read how I do that below.

How We’re Using Rakuten to Save Big on Our Travel Bookings

Since I don’t buy a lot of stuff (I’d rather spend my money on travel) I initially dismissed Rakuten but I’ve since discovered I can get cash back via Rakuten for booking travel online using all my favourite sites.

I use booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia – pretty much all my travel bookings are online!

Here’s how Rakuten works for travel:

Did you know you can get cash back on travel bookings with Ebates? You don't even have to be in the US, as long as you have access to Paypal you can use Ebates. This is going to save me so much money on my next overseas trip, I'm so excited that I can use Ebates from New Zealand!
Look at all those travel brands! You can use Rakuten to get cashback with Expedia. Rakuten also works with booking.com and Hotels.com. This is huge for saving money on travel!

Rakuten gives up to 40% cashback on your purchases, so it’s definitely worth your time to check the Rakuten site before shopping.

If you’d prefer to skip this step you can add the Rakuten browser extension (if you’re using Chrome) and it will automatically tell you if the store you are visiting has cash back available.

ebates5
Click on the name of the online store you want and make sure the cashback screen – example below – pops up.

ebates expedia
You can use Rakuten on Expedia!

Shop as normal.

Did you know you can get cash back on travel bookings with Ebates? You don't even have to be in the US, as long as you have access to Paypal you can use Ebates. This is going to save me so much money on my next overseas trip, I'm so excited that I can use Ebates from New Zealand!
You’re not going to get rich but you’ll definitely keep more money in your own pocket!

Wait a few days and check your Rakuten balance. If you’re travelling, Rakuten won’t credit until after travel has completed, which makes sense given you could cancel your booking.

Is this a scam?

No. It does sound too good to be true, but it’s how the internet works these days. Think of your favorite celebrities and bloggers.

If they mention a product and link to it from their website, they get paid every time one of their readers makes a purchase from their link. It’s called affiliate marketing.

Rakuten does the same thing, except it’s so much better for the reader (you) because they share the commission they get paid with you!

Things to be aware of

  • Not every purchase will be eligible for cash back, you need to read the conditions on the Rakuten website before making your purchase.

Here are just some of the websites where you can claim cash back with Rakuten:

Booking.com
Expedia
The Book Depository
Accor Hotels
Old Navy
Norton
Shutterfly

You’re probably not going to get rich, but this is a great way to optimize the way you spend and keep more of your money, in your pocket.

So what do you think? Has this Rakuten review convinced you to Rakuten a try?

I recommend it for those of you that spend up big at Book Depository and for traveling.

Don’t forget to use the link below and you’ll get a $10 Welcome Bonus when you make qualifying purchases totaling $25.

Click to join Rakuten and start saving today.

Happy shopping!

About Em

I'm a mom of two, who loves to make money from home so I can have more time with my family.