Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) is a website and app that sends you money when you shop at their affiliated stores.
Confused? I was too.
You’re probably wondering how this is legit.
In this post, I’ll show you how Rakuten works, answer common questions and show why you should use it each time you shop online.
I’ve been using Rakuten (Ebates) since 2011 and have made over $800 in cash back during that timespan.
My cash back from last October:
How does Rakuten work?
- You (the shopper) go to Rakuten.com.
- You search to find the store that you want to shop at.
- You click the “Shop Now” button on Rakuten.
- You shop at the store (as you normally would).
A few days after you’ve made a purchase, your Rakuten account gets credited for a percentage of your purchase.
Example: If Rakuten offers 10% cash back for shopping at Target and you buy something for $500, you’ll get $50 in cash back.
If you’re still confused, check out the walkthrough video I made on how to use Rakuten.
How does Rakuten make money?
You’re probably asking yourself, “How can Rakuten give you money for free? What’s in it for them?”
You need to understand how affiliate marketing works to understand Rakuten’s business model.
Affiliate marketing is a business model where companies (e.g., online stores) pay people a commission for referring them sales.
Rakuten has affiliate partnerships with over 2,000 stores. When someone clicks on a Rakuten link that leads to an online store, Rakuten gets a commission if a purchase is made.
Rakuten gives you a portion of their commission (via cash back). This is a win-win-win. The store gets more sales. Rakuten makes a commission. You make free money just for shopping.
Example: You go to Rakuten.com and click through to the Best Buy store. You buy a MacBook from Best Buy for $1,000. Rakuten gets a 4% ($40) commission from Best Buy for referring the sale. Rakuten gives you half of their commission ($20) in the form of cash back.
Does this approach actually increase the stores’ sales? The stores would opt out of their deal with Rakuten if they didn’t think it helped their sales. While customers would make purchases regardless of Rakuten’s existence, it’s definitely incentivizing people to spend more money.
How long does it take Rakuten to register a purchase?
Once you make a purchase via a Rakuten link, the cash back shows up in your Rakuten account within seven days.
Once your cash back has been in the account for 60 days, you’ll get paid via PayPal on the following dates: February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15.
Five Tips to Maximize Earnings:
- Check Rakuten for coupons before you check out. Not only do you get cash back from Rakuten, but they also have coupons for most of the stores too. Coupons help you double down on your savings.
- I used to forget to go to Rakuten before a purchase. If you don’t go to Rakuten first, there’s no way for Rakuten to track your order and you won’t get cash back. This is where the Rakuten browser extension comes in. The Rakuten button will sit at the top of your window, and when you visit an eligible store, a message will pop up that says “Activate Up To __ % Cash Back”. Click on the button, and you’ve created the tracking ticket needed to track your order. You don’t even need to visit Rakuten.com.
- Rakuten introduced offline cash back. You go to the offline cash back page and link your credit card. After you link your credit card to your Rakuten account, find a store you want to shop at and click “link offer.” When you tie the offer to your card and buy something at the store, the cash back posts to your Rakuten account.
- If you’re using an ad blocker, you should whitelist Rakuten.com. Rakuten doesn’t work well with ad blockers enabled.
- Try to make your purchase within 24 hours of clicking the Rakuten link. You’re normally given 30 days, but play it safe and click the link again.
Things I Love
- Rakuten is free. I’ve been a loyal user for eight years (back when it was called Ebates). Ebates.com moved and been rebranded to Rakuten in the spring of 2019. Nothing changed (confirm for yourself). All the previous Ebates accounts were moved to Rakuten.com with the same interface and features.
- I love that you get cash back for doing almost nothing. You shop online like you normally would and buy the things you normally would. The only difference is clicking a link before you shop and making some extra cash. I normally make around $200 a year in cash back. (To be clear: you can’t make a living off Rakuten and shouldn’t buy things they don’t want on the site.)
- We’ve all scoured the internet for coupons before checking out online. But Rakuten streamlines the process so you don’t have to waste time testing coupons that may or may not work. Their goal is to be the one-stop-shop. You can search for coupons and get cash back at the same time, allowing you to get double the savings.
- You’re still eligible for cash back with your credit card if you use Rakuten. Cash back on top of cash back.
- They have a refer-a-friend program (I’m in it). They give $5 for every new member who signs up for Rakuten and makes a $25 purchase. This gives their diehard fans a chance to make more money, a smart marketing tactic.
Things I Hate
- Amazon is where I buy everything and all my products to review. For years, only a few categories on Amazon were eligible for cash back, but now no products on Amazon are cash back eligible. I would love to get cash back for all my tech purchases, but this is an Amazon issue, not Rakuten.
- The cash back percentages are always changing. I’m not sure if Rakuten does it for marketing purposes (to promote certain stores), deception, or because their affiliate deals with the stores change often. It’s annoying to see to see a different cash back amount every time you sign in.
- Sometimes the tracking tickets (the thing created when you click a Rakuten link) don’t always work like they’re supposed to. If this happens to you, fill out this form and your cash back will automatically appear in your account. It’s an annoying extra step, but it’s not a huge deal.
- The cash back is posted in your account within a week, but you’ll only get paid out via PayPal every three months (February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15). Rakuten does this to avoid someone buying an item, claiming the cash back, then returning it to the store.
Who is this for?
Rakuten is free and won’t ever cost you anything. You can only benefit from using it.
Rakuten isn’t for you if you don’t shop online often. Let’s say you only spend $20/month online. With an average cash back rate of 5%, you’re only looking at $1 cash back. Is it worth your time? Nope.
Rakuten is well worth my time because I spend thousands on electronics for my reviews and buy lots of web hosting accounts (hosting accounts give around $20 in cash back). As I mentioned, I’ve received over $800 from Rakuten (via PayPal) just for clicking through their links.
See the annoying green “use my link” buttons on this post? If you register on Rakuten through my link, you’ll get a $10 bonus from Rakuten.
What’s in this for me? If you sign up via my link and make a purchase of $25 (through Rakuten), I’ll get a $25 commission from Rakuten. This decision costs you nothing yet provides me with a commission. Don’t want to use my link? That’s cool, but I appreciate it if you do.
I wrote this post because not enough people understand how cash back works, and I want to change that. It’s a great system that benefits everybody.