Rakuten Review [2021]: How to Make Bank Just by Shopping

Rakuten (formerly Ebates) makes it possible to earn cash back for shopping at more than 2,500 retailers.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel
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If you shop online at places like Amazon, Macy’s, and Kohl’s without using a cashback app, you’re missing out on free money. Sure, you might get 2% back from your credit card, or 5% back when you use a store credit card, but why not earn even more than that by shopping with the Rakuten (formerly Ebates) website or app?

Most retailers have affiliates, like coupon sites, blogs, and other websites, which earn a commission from stores for sending customers their way. Rakuten works the same way, except that they share some of the commission they earn with you, the customer. That means you could earn up to 40% back from more than 2,500 retailers with your Rakuten account. Shopping apps and budgeting apps can help when you're learning how to manage your money.

In this article

What is Rakuten?

Rakuten is an excellent way to earn some extra money from the shopping you do anyway. The company was founded back in 1997 and started as an online shopping marketplace. In 2014, Rakuten acquired Ebates, a rebate website designed to provide cash back to customers for shopping online. Since then, Rakuten has grown to over 12 million members and has provided $1 billion in cash back.

Rakuten is the largest savings program for members in the United States. The company is totally legitimate, membership is free, and there’s no limit to how much you can earn.

What’s more, Rakuten is trusted and loved by its members as an easy way to receive cash back for everyday purchases. The company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and several glowing reviews on TrustPilot. Many members have been using Rakuten for years and comment on the great customer service provided. Rakuten is simple to use, but if you ever have issues or questions, help is readily available from a friendly Rakuten customer service representative.

How does Rakuten work?

When you’re getting ready to make a purchase online, head to Rakuten.com first. When you click on the store you want to visit through the Rakuten website, Rakuten will get commission, and share that commission with you as cash back. Every three months, if you have at least $5 in cash back, you can get paid via check or PayPal.

You can also earn cash back in-store with the Rakuten app. Just search for in-store offers, link the credit card you plan to use, and pay with that card at the register.

You can even use Rakuten to find coupons and deals that will save you even more money when you shop at the stores you love. And since it’s totally free to use, you’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try.

Who can use Rakuten?

To become a member, you must be at least 18 years old and provide an email address and password to create an account. Rakuten is a great tool for shopping online at popular retailers and booking travel online. Whether you’re buying apparel for the new season at Macy’s or using Orbitz to book a flight, you can earn cash back by heading to Rakuten first. Any adult can use it, but frequent shoppers will reap the most rewards.

How much can I earn on Rakuten?

You can earn up to 40% back when shopping through Rakuten, but the amount you earn will depend on where you shop and how much you spend. At most stores, you’ll earn at least 2% back, which means you’ll get $2 in your Rakuten account for a $100 purchase. That money can add up fast!

Sometimes, Rakuten features special offers, with stores offering a higher rate of return than typical. Check the Rakuten site frequently for these offers to maximize your rewards.

In addition, you’ll get a $10 bonus just for signing up! You can choose a $10 Walmart gift card or $10 Rakuten cash bonus. Just create your account to get access to an extra $10 off the bat.

Every three months, Rakuten sends you cash back if you’ve earned at least $5, either via PayPal or a check in the mail.

Maximizing your earnings with Rakuten

If all you do is visit Rakuten before shopping normally, you’ll come out with more money in your pocket. But there are some tricks to use and mistakes to avoid if you want to get the most out of shopping with Rakuten.

  • Avoid visiting other sites while shopping. If you visit another coupon site before completing your purchase, you won’t earn cash back from Rakuten.
  • Look for bonus offers. Visit your account to see bonus offers available for shopping at select retailers.
  • Refer your friends. If you tell a friend about Rakuten and they join and make a qualifying purchase, you and your friend will both earn a reward. The details of the promotion change, but the current offer can be found on the Refer-A-Friend page.
  • Add the Rakuten Cash Back Button. To ensure that you never forget to shop through Rakuten, install the Cash Back Button as a browser extension. It will automatically show you coupons and cash back opportunities when you visit your favorite stores.
  • Link a credit card. This makes it easier to earn cash back in-store and at restaurants.
  • Apply for the Rakuten Cash Back Visa credit card. With this card, you can earn 3% cash back on qualifying Rakuten purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Common questions about Rakuten

Is Rakuten a good company?

Rakuten is a legitimate company that has helped 12 million members earn more than $1 billion in collective cash back. The company has excellent reviews on TrustPilot.

How much does it cost to join Rakuten?

It’s free to join Rakuten! You’ve got nothing to lose by signing up for an account, and you’ll earn cash back for every purchase made at a participating retailer.

Is Rakuten like Ebates?

Rakuten acquired Ebates in 2014. If you used Ebates before it was acquired, you can expect a very similar experience using Rakuten.

How does Rakuten cash back work?

When you start a shopping trip by visiting Rakuten first and clicking on your favorite store, Rakuten gets commission. They share that commission with you in the form of cash back. Your rewards are deposited into your Rakuten account, and you can cash out every three months via PayPal or check.

How to sign up for Rakuten

Simply sign up with your Google account, Facebook account, or an email address and password. Signing up is easy and free and takes just a few minutes.

After that, you’ll want to download the app, so you can use Rakuten on the go, link a credit card, which you’ll use on dining and in-store purchases, and choose your payment method (PayPal or check). You may also want to install the Cash Back Button to make sure you don’t forget to use Rakuten when you shop.

Other cash back apps to consider

If Rakuten doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, there are plenty of other apps that can save you money. Or, if you want a legit way to earn extra cash without shopping, consider a side hustle.

If you spend more money at grocery stores than you do shopping online, Ibotta might be a better choice for you, since you can easily link your grocery store loyalty account or upload a photo of your receipt to receive cash back. You can compare Rakuten vs. Ibotta side-by-side and see which best fits your shopping habits. 

Or, if you want to earn rewards for visiting your favorite stores even when you don’t make a purchase, give Shopkick a try. It lets you earn digital gift cards for walking into stores, scanning barcodes, and other shopping-related activities.

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with having more than one money-saving app on your phone! If you use them strategically along with your rewards credit card as part of your plan for how to save money, you can rack up some serious cash back to fund travel or major purchases in the future.

Rakuten Benefits

  • Get a $10 bonus gift card when you spend at least $25 at a participating store
  • Earn cash back for shopping at your favorite stores
  • A quick and painless way to save money on your usual shopping trips

Author Details

Lindsay Frankel Lindsay Frankel is a Denver-based freelance writer who specializes in credit cards, travel, budgeting/saving, and shopping. She has been featured in several finance publications, including LendingTree. When she's not writing, you can find her enjoying the great outdoors, playing music, or cuddling with her rescue pup.