*This post may contain affiliate links, please see my disclosure
Update: Ebates.com has now rebranded as “Rakuten.” All the same benefits, just a new website (Rakuten.com) and new logos.
As someone who loves getting a great deal, I’m always on the lookout for ways to save more money! That’s why I mostly shop online, because the prices are almost always more competitive (Amazon, take my money!).
In fact, 96% of us shop online, and for millennials, 67% of ALL shopping purchases happen online!
Wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for all that shopping?
Ebates (now Rakuten) actually offers CASH BACK bonuses for shopping online. But is it a scam, or the real deal?
What Exactly Is Ebates / Rakuten?
Rakuten is a company that provides cash back (up to 40%) when shopping online. You simply sign up for an account, and search for your favorite store on their site. They will automatically apply the cash back to your Rakuten account.
Is Rakuten Some Sort Of Scam Or….?
I first heard of Ebates a few years ago. My Facebook friends were all excited to be making “cash back” for shopping and kept talking about it online.
As a skeptical person by nature, I immediately dismissed this as some kind of MLM or scheme that probably required a bunch of my time for very little return.
I chalked it up as a SCAM and moved on.
Fast forward a few years later, when Ebates rebranded as Rakuten, I finally decided that I should probably just take a quick look to see what it was about.
Yeah…..I was wrong.
Ebates / Rakuten is LEGIT, and I have missed out on (probably) hundreds in cash back (#facepalm!).
So I signed up. A few clicks later, I had an account, installed the browser extension, and was ready to start earning!
Grab your $10 Bonus cash by signing up today!
How Does Rakuten Work?
Rakuten gives you a few simple options for earning your cash back.
- Go to their website and search for your favorite online store.
- Install the Google Chrome web browser extension and when you are shopping online, it will pop up and tell you any time there’s a cashback deal
- Install the Rakuten (Ebates) App (Android or iOS) and search for your favorite store through their app.
Rakuten partners with over 2,500 stores, and some of the biggest online retailers such as:
- Bed, Bath & Beyond
They also partner with several discount travel sites to get your cash back on your vacation and travel purchases.
Considering the amount of stores they partner with (especially the HUGE online retail stores), I’m not sure there’s anywhere I shop online that would NOT give me a Rakuten cash bonus!
How To Shop Using The Rakuten Website
Using the website is pretty easy. Once you are logged into your account, just use the big search bar at the top of the page.
Or you can choose to browse stores by category, or in alphabetical order.
Once you find a store you were going to shop at, simply click “Shop Now.” It will redirect you to the site, and Rakuten will track your shopping trip.
Once you have completed your purchase, your Rakuten cash back will be added into your account within a week!
How To Shop Using Rakuten Chrome Extension
For those of us who will NOT remember to log into the Rakuten website for each and every shopping trip (me!), they have a Chrome browser extension that will automatically show you when cash back is available.
First, make sure you have you have signed up for your Rakuten account.
Then, simply install the browser extension (for Chrome only, unfortunately, not Safari, Firefox or Edge).
Sign the extension into your Rakuten account, and you’re ready to shop!
When you are browsing online, you will see the Rakuten button pop up on a participating site, and ask you to “Activate Your Cash Back“
Click the button, then simply finish your online shopping trip, and your cash back will be tracked and deposited into your account within a week!
How To Shop Using Rakuten (Ebates) App
Using the App is pretty straightforward. Once you have downloaded the app and signed into your Rakuten/Ebates account, you simply search for a store you want to shop at.
For example: We were looking for Duvet Covers, and using the Rakuten App, we found 8% cash back available at Macys.
I clicked “Shop Now”, it activated my cash back and took me to the Macys.com website.
Once you are on the site, you shop as normal.
Once the purchase is completed, your cash back will deposit into your account within a week!
Does Rakuten Help You Find Coupons?
A recent addition to the Chrome Extension (only), Rakuten will actually find site coupons for you at checkout!
As I was shopping on the Macy’s website, at checkout, a notification popped up on my screen.
Rakuten searched the web and found 3 Coupons that *might* work for my purchase. I simply hit “Apply Coupons” and it attempted to apply the 3 coupons at checkout.
Unfortunately for this purchase, nothing applied, but it’s good to know that before I complete any purchase, Rakuten will look to save me even more money!
How Does Rakuten Make Money?
It seems too easy, right? Simply shop at your favorite stores and earn money doing it.
What’s the catch? It’s actually pretty simple.
Rakuten partners with all the large companies, and gets a referral commission every time someone uses their service to shop at those companies. Then they split the commission with you.
Essentially, they are sharing their referral commission with you in the form of cash back. It’s a WIN for them and a WIN for you, paid for by the companies they partner with.
How Do You Get Your Cash Back With Rakuten?
Rakuten prides themselves on giving cash back to their users, and calls this cash back your “Big Fat Check.”
Once your account balance is over $5 (which will happen quickly with your $10 BONUS), they will send you a Big Fat Check.
If getting paid via check, make sure you have a VALID ADDRESS in your account settings to receive your check!
You can also sign up to get paid via Paypal (recommended). This is what we do, especially since we travel full time!
These payments are sent quarterly, using the schedule below:
It’s a bummer that it takes 3 months, but it’s a nice treat when that money shows up!
Pros and Cons Of Using Rakuten
Rakuten isn’t perfect, here’s my take on what they do WELL, and what could use some work:
What I Like
- Rakuten is a low-risk way to get cash back. They make it REALLY simple with 3 ways to activate your cash back (website, Chrome extension, App)
- Rakuten has been free since the Ebates days, and always will be free
- Rakuten now will search for online coupons for you, so you can save money while earning cash back
- Rakuten has a referral program that gives you MORE cash back when you refer friends to their service
- Rakuten partners with ALL the big companies (over 2,500) so you can earn cash back for almost anything
What I Don’t Like
- There are some excluded categories on Amazon (most of the electronics) which is a bummer. It’s not Rakuten’s fault, but I’d love cashback on those items……*cough*-Amazon-*cough*
- The phone App doesn’t look for coupons for you, it’s only available if you install the Chrome extension or if you search around the site for “Hot Deals“
- Sometimes the Chrome extension doesn’t pop up and ask you to activate your cash back (Amazon again…). No activation, no cash back! It would be nice if it just auto-applied
- (P.S. If you DO activate cash back but it doesn’t show up later, you can simply submit a CLAIM form)
- Quarterly Payouts. It’s annoying to wait 3 months for a payout, but you can also think of it as a forced savings plan. Which maybe isn’t such a bad idea after all…
What Is The Rakuten Referral Program?
One of the other great things about Rakuten, is their referral program. Once you sign up for an account, you can get a Referral Link to share with friends. They get a $10 Bonus, and you get $25!
To get your bonus, here’s how it works:
- Click the “Refer and Earn $25” link at the top of the website (or the “Earn $25” button in the App)
- Enter your friend’s email address, or “Share Your Invite Link” with them
- They click your link, sign up, and spend at least $25 shopping online using Rakuten cash back, and you both get your bonus!
For example; if you click my link (thank you if you choose to!), signup, and spend at least $25 with Rakuten, I receive $25 and you get a $10 bonus. Then you can share YOUR referral link, and start making money too 🙂
I’ve already received my $10 bonus within a week of signing up (bought something for $31), plus some extra cash back as well!
I think it’s genius marketing, but also a no-pressure way to share this tool with others. You win, your friends win, and Rakuten gets more people using their FREE tool. Win-Win-Win!
BONUS: Date Night Savings Hack!
I’m all about savings hacks, and if you’re looking to same some SERIOUS money on date night (and make some cash back), check out my Rakuten/Groupon savings hack below.
This is perfect for a night out!
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up for Rakuten, install the Chrome Extension, and make sure you sign into your account.
- Go to Groupon Local and find a nearby date night activity.
- When it pops up, “Activate Cash Back” using Rakuten
- Find a great local deal (mini golf and happy hour?) and add it to your cart
- At checkout, Rakuten will pop up, select “Apply Coupons” to get additional discounts on top of your cash back!
- Complete transaction, and you will get your cash back within a week!
I was able to do a quick search and find a deal on Mini Golf for $7 per person ($14 total). I activated my cash back, applied the coupons, and in the end, it was only $11.20 total, and I could earn $0.67 cash back!
Without this hack, we could have paid $20 for mini golf.
Instead, we paid $11.20 AND earned $0.67 cash back. HALF OFF DATE NIGHT!
Then just add in a half-off happy hour coupon, and date night is under $50!
Rakuten: Is It Worth It?
There’s no hiding it, I am loving Rakuten/Ebates. I only wish I’d listened to my online friends year ago; I could be sitting on some Benjamins right now!
I’ve installed the Chrome extension on both our computers, and I now have the App on my phone as well. There’s no way we’re shopping online without it, IT’S FREE MONEY!
With thousands of places to shop and millions of members, Rakuten is definitely the top-rated cash back platform today. It’s a low-risk, lazy way to put a few dollars in your pocket this year.
Is It Worth It? It’s easy. It’s free. And you make ACTUAL MONEY using it on stuff you’re buying anyway. Yes…..it’s worth it!
What are your favorite savings hacks?
Let me know in the comments below!