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 Jun 17, 2021 | By Lindsay Frankel
Smiling woman with smartphone

FinanceBuzz is reader-supported. We may receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

If you shop online at places like Amazon, Macy’s, Sephora, and Walmart 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.

Quick Summary

Earn cash back every time you shop at a participating store

  • Get a $10 bonus gift card when you spend at least $25
  • Earn rewards for referring friends
  • Save money on your usual shopping trips effortlessly
In this Rakuten review:

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 a B 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 service provided by its member services team. 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 Expedia 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 the cashback offers you redeem. 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 welcome bonus when you spend $25 within 90 days of becoming a member. Every three months, you'll get cash back if your Rakuten cashback balance has reached $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 online 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.
  • Get referral bonuses. 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 Rakuten browser extension for Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Safari. A helpful pop-up will automatically show you coupons, promo codes, and cashback 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 the Rakuten Cash Back Visa, you can earn 3% cash back on qualifying Rakuten purchases and 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Common questions about Rakuten

Is Rakuten legit?

Rakuten is a legitimate company that has helped 12 million members earn more than $1 billion in collective cash back. Rakuten offers cashback deals from over 2,500 participating retailers and has excellent reviews on TrustPilot.

How much does it cost to join Rakuten?

Becoming a Rakuten member is free! 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. It's a win-win.

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 receive cash payouts every three months via your PayPal account or a "big fat check," as Rakuten calls it.


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 for Apple or Android, 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

Cashback apps like Rakuten can be valuable tools for how to save money. But if Rakuten doesn’t sound like the right fit for you, there are plenty of other cashback sites and apps out there.

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. 

Or, if you want to earn rewards for online shopping or taking surveys, give Swagbucks a try. It lets you earn cash and gift cards for shopping-related activities, sharing your opinion, and more.  

And remember, there’s nothing wrong with having more than one money-saving app on your phone! If you use them strategically along with the right credit card, you can rack up some serious cashback rewards 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.