You may have noticed that the cash back site Ebates is now Rakuten. So, you may be asking what is Rakuten and how does cash back work now?
Put simply Rakuten is the same cash back shopping site that Ebates always was. It’s just that Ebates is now Rakuten, named for the company that owns the site. From herein I will refer to the cash back site as Rakuten.
Cash back shopping with Rakuten for gifts
With the name change and gift shopping in full swing, now was a good time to revisit the topic of cash back shopping with Rakuten. Call it cash back hacks, if you will. The bottom line is how to earn money while you shop.
In addition to offering basic information on how Rakuten works, I wanted to share tips on using cash back stores on Rakuten so that you can earn money as you spend money on things you were going to buy online anyway–for the holidays, birthdays, anniversaries etc.
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten is an online portal where you can start your online shopping for most stores. Then, you’ll get cash back for a percentage of your purchase.
Using Rakuten makes the most sense if you had already planned on shopping on the sites that participate with Rakuten. Why? Because you’ll get cash back rebates for stuff you were going to buy anyway.
Founded back in 1998, it is one of the largest, free member-based savings programs in the U.S. To date, 12 million members in the U.S. have earned over $1 billion in cash back at their favorite stores.
I’ve been using this site since almost the beginning. First, it was called Ebates. Now it’s called Rakuten. Regardless of the name, I’ve earned a lot of money back by using Rakuten. To date, $2,831.56.
How does Rakuten cash back work?
Rakuten saves you money by using a simple business model: stores pay Rakuten a commission for sending shoppers to their websites. Rakuten then splits that commission with you, in the form of a cash back rebate.
You don’t have to pay to use the site–Rakuten is always free. And Rakuten makes its money through those commission fees that the stores pay to it.
In the past you needed to start all of your online shopping at the Rakuten website. Then, you would click through to the store where you want to buy. Now that’s not necessary.
Rakuten cash back browser extension
One of the great cash back hacks with Rakuten that saves you from this step is installing a browser button. I have the Rakuten cash back browser extension installed on my Chrome browser. When shopping online, it automatically pops up when I’ve landed on a site that offers cash back.
Even better the browswer extension can help you save money in two ways. One, when you land on a site. If you’re looking for a specific product, Rakuten will alert you if another site has that very product for cheaper.
How Rakuten works with Amazon
In fact, this is how Rakuten works with Amazon. Well, I guess it doesn’t actually work with Amazon. It works to help you find deals off of the Amazon platform, which can be very helpful.
For example, recently I wrote a blog post about how to deal with curly hair when you’re working out regularly. In that blog post I suggested products that can help with curly hair, such as a DevaCurl Towel.
Well, when I went to search for that product on Amazon, the Rakuten cash back browser kicked in. Look at the image below. It shows you that Rakuten alerted me to the fact that I could buy this product for cheaper on Macy’s. Fascinating, right?
Rakuten searchs for coupons on your behalf
Two, when you go to check out, Rakuten will search for coupons that you can apply to your purchase. Yes, that’s right. In addition to getting cash back when you shop, the Rakuten browser add-on can find coupons that will save you even more money.
Using Rakuten cash back in store
Rakuten’s primary business model is cash back for online shopping. However, since it’s founding more than 20 years ago, it has evolved.
Now you can use Rakuten for in-person shopping, too. You do this by linking your credit card to your Rakuten account via the Rakuten app.
Once you’re in store, you select the offer you want to cash in. As long as you pay with the credit card you’ve linked, you’ll get your cash back.
Another way to get cash back on in-store shopping is by using the Ibotta app. For that, though, you’ll need to scan your receipt after the fact. With Rakuten you don’t need to do any scanning after the fact.
But, on the flipside, it also means that you can’t apply Rakuten after the fact. Either you need to enable cash back on your browser before your start your shopping, or pay in store with the connected credit card. You can’t go back after you’re done shopping and try to get cash back you may have missed out on getting.
So, can you add or scan receipts to Rakuten like you can with Ibotta? No need. As I mentioned, if you’ve linked your credit card–VISA, Mastercard or American Express only–to the Rakuten app, you ‘ll automatically get cash back.
What is Rakuten cash back rebate?
A cash back rebate is basically money you get back on your purchase. It is very different from product rebates. That’s when you have to send in your receipt and maybe the barcode you cut out from packaging. I’m always getting product rebates on my dogs’ heartworm medicine from the vet.
Speaking of the vet, did you know you can get pet prescriptions and veterinarian prescribed foods from Chewy? Here is how I use Chewy Autoship so that my pups never run out of food or treats.
When does Rakuten send cash back payments?
With cash back rebates you are getting a percentage of your purchase back. Rakuten sends you your cash back statement every three months or every quarter. So, if you’re wondering where you Rakuten cash back payment is, be patient. Rakuten only pays out once a quarter or once a season.
Here is a chart that shows when Rakuten sends out cash back payments. FYI, you have to have earned at least $5 in the quarter to get a payment.
Also, you can’t cash out of Rakuten early. You have to wait for the end of the three-month period to get your payment.
Finally, you have two options for how you get your big fat Rakuten check. One, you can receive it as a paper check. Or, two, you can have it direct deposited in your PayPal account. I prefer the latter option. You cannot get a gift card to your favorite store as your cash back payment.
What is lifetime cash back Rakuten?
Your lifetime cashback Rakuten is the amount of money you’ve received during your “lifetime” of using Rakuten. For me that goes back almost 10 years.
As I mentioned, to date, my Rakuten lifetime cash back is $2,831.56. That’s more than $2,800 on things I was going to buy anyway.
Most recently I got cash back on purchases from Fabric.com, Staples.com and my Wantable subscription box. Yup, you can even earn money while you shop for a clothing subscription service like Wantable.
Even Trunk Club is participating in Rakuten cash back these days. Look at the image I’ve shared, below. It shows how the Rakuten cash back browser extension gives me a popup to remind me to activate my cash back.
How can I get maximum cash back?
One of the best ways to get maximum cash back is to choose to shop at stores that offer the best cash back offers. Rakuten usually lists stores under the heading “double cash back offers” which is pretty obvious what the benefits are. You’ll get double the cash back that you normally would on the site.
Sometimes getting maximum cash back might mean shopping at stores you’re not the most familiar with or have never shopped on before. But don’t worry: just because you’re not familiar with a store doesn’t mean the cash back won’t work.
Stores that work with Rakuten cash back
As far as what stores you can shop at with Rakuten, it’s is pretty much every store on the planet. Some offer better cash back deals than others.
For example, Best Buy only offers 1% cash back, as of this writing. Ace Hardware and Lowe’s each offer 2% cash back. On Black Friday, however, you can expect many popular stores to triple their cash back offerings.
Recently, people have written to ask if there is Rakuten Walmart grocery deal. Unfortunately, no. I mean, you can get coupon deals through Rakuten for your Walmart grocery order.
However, at one time there was a cash back offer on Ibotta. If you started your Walmart grocery order in the Ibotta app, you’d get $3 back.
Here is my Walmart grocery pickup review, in case you want to do your food shopping at Walmart.
Can you use Rakuten and Ibotta together?
This is a great question: can you use Rakuten and Ibotta together to get the most cash back? To be honest, I’ve never tried it, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.
For example, Walmart participates in Rakuten. And I know Walmart participates in Ibotta.
So, if you install the Rakuten app, connect a credit card to it and then use that credit card in person at Walmart, you should earn cash back through Rakuten. Then, when you got home, with the physical receipt, you could conceivably upload it to Ibotta and get cash back, too.
In fact, I’m going to try this the next time I shop at a store that works with Rakuten and Ibotta. I’ll let you know how it goes. If you try this before I get to it, post a comment and let me know about your potential double cash back went. Did it work?
What is Rakuten referral code?
Here’s one of the things I love about Rakuten: it offers every shopper a referral code. What that means is this: when you make a Rakuten referral–that is, you send a friend, family member, colleague or anyone else to the site–you can earn extra money for yourself. Actually, you earn $5 for every referral.
Rakuten rewards you with this referral fee the first time anyone you directed to the site makes a purchase. From time to time the site bumps up the referral fee. Therefore,you can make incrementally more with each referral you make.
You’ll usually find this referral bonus during the holiday season or back to school shopping, like now. Refer more people using your unique referral code, and you’ll earn more money.
You get this money from the referral code when you get your cash back payment. You get those payments every three months. Layering referrals with your money back for your shopping is one of the best ways to get the most cash back.
Can you get cash back using a credit card?
As I explained earlier, the best way to earn money while you shop in person with Rakuten is to link your credit card. It’s the only way the site allows getting cash back when you shop at a brick-and-mortar store. However, there are other ways to earn cash back.
When shopping Rakuten or any other store online, for that matter, I always pay using my credit cards with rewards and cash back. So it’s like I’m getting double the cash back or the maximum cash back that I can. If you have credit cards that offer similar benefits, definitely use them to double your cash back potential.
Does Rakuten cash back expire?
As far as I can tell, Rakuten cash back does not expire. That is, you have a three-month period to earn your cash back, and then you get your payout.
However, there are three instances where you will not get the cash back you expected. One, if you don’t earn more than $5 in cash back or referrals. Then, you won’t get any payment.
Two, if you return the item that you’d previously gotten cash back for. This only makes sense. You can’t cheat the system.
Two, when Rakuten is promoting referral bonuses for signing people up, it may have a threshold you need to reach in order to get the cash payout. Usually, there is a certain amount of time you need to reach the threshold. So, if time expires and you don’t meet the minimum referrals, you won’t get that added bonus. Therefore, it might feel like the money has “expired” but really just the opportunity has.
Final thoughts on Rakuten cash back
I hope this overview answers the question “What is Rakuten cash back” for you and explains why Ebates is now Rakuten. Definitely use these cash back hacks whenever you’re buying something so that you can always earn money while you shop.