Years ago, I was a spokesperson for a brand that gave you cash back for purchases you were going to make anyway. While this describes Rakuten (formerly Ebates) to a tee, Rakuten was not my client.
Nonetheless, I’ve got the Rakuten cash back Chrome extension on my browser so that I’m always earning cash back whenever I shop. Also, that browser extension lets me know when there might be a better price at another store. It’s been showing up a lot on Amazon recently.
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Cash back shopping with Rakuten on Black Friday for gifts
With 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.
So I’ll explain how Rakuten works and how it can work for you–to put extra money back in your bank account. But first: Rakuten Black Friday offers, which will probably flow over into Cyber Monday, too.
So, what are some of the stores offering the highest percentage of cash back on Rakuten this holiday season?
So, if you haven’t yet signed up for Rakuten, do it today before you start doing your gift shopping. This is my referral link to Rakuten.
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 it. Why? Because you’ll get cash back rebates for stuff you were going to buy anyway.
Founded back in 1998 as Ebate3s, 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 this service.
To date, $3,317.34. Again, this was on stuff I was going to buy anyway. So why not earn cash back, especially when doing Black Friday or Cyber Monay shopping, or really any shopping throughout the year.
How does Rakuten work?
So, how does Rakuten? Well, stores pay them a commission for sending shoppers to their websites. Then, Rakuten splits that commission with you, in the form of a cash back rebate. You don’t have to pay to use the site–it 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.com. Then, you would click through to the store where you want to buy. Now that’s not necessary.
Rakuten cashback 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 cash back browser extension installed on my Chrome browser. It shows up as a little R.
When shopping online, it automatically pops up when I’ve landed on a site that offers cash back. Even better, the browser extension works to help you save money in two ways. One, when you land on a site. And two, when you check out.
Let me explain how all of this works.
How Rakuten works with Amazon
I discovered this Rakuten hack and it works with Amazon by accident. 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 the alert that I could buy this product for cheaper on Macy’s. Fascinating, right?
Rakuten works to find coupons on your behalf
OK, the second way that Rakuten works to save you money. 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 browser add-on can find coupons that will save you even more money. So no need to memorize coupon codes or copy them to your clipboard. Rakuten does the heavy lifting for you.
Getting cash back in store
Rakuten’s primary business model is cash back for online shopping. However, since its founding more than 20 years ago, it has evolved. Now you can use it for in-person shopping, too.
You do this by linking your credit card to your Rakuten account via the Rakuten app on your phone. Once you’re in the 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.
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 you 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.
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. They come in the form of a pre-loaded debit card.
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 your Rakuten cashback 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.
How does Rakuten payout cash back
You have two options for how you get your big fat Rakuten check. That’s what the company calls its cash back payments.
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.
FYI, you cannot get a gift card to your favorite store as your cash back payment. It’s either a paper check or a direct deposit into PayPal
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 to 2010. Wow, that’s a long time.
As I mentioned, to date, my Rakuten lifetime cash back is $3,317.34. That’s more than $3,300 on things I was going to buy anyway.
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. You’ll often find these double cash back deals on Rakuten during big shopping holidays, like Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
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 cashback
As far as what stores you can shop at with Rakuten, it 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. On the other hand, Ace Hardware and Lowe’s each offer 2% cash back.
Even Apple and Amazon have cashback deals from Rakuten from time to time.
On Black Friday or during the holidays, however, you can expect many popular stores to triple their cash back offerings.
Recently, people have written to ask if there is a Rakuten Walmart grocery deal. Unfortunately, no. I mean, you can get coupon deals through Rakuten for your Walmart grocery order.
Here is my Walmart grocery pickup review, in case you want to do your food shopping at Walmart.
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. During the holidays or big shopping times of the year, you can earn much, much more. For example, between now, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can earn as much as $40 for each person you refer.
So, if you haven’t signed up for Rakuten yet, please use my referral link here. Then, once you’ve signed up, you can share your referral link with friends and family so you can earn extra money referring people. It’s a win-win.
Rakuten rewards you with this referral fee the first time anyone you directed to the site makes a purchase. Having them just sign up for Rakuten doesn’t count.
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 mentioned, 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 cashback 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.
Three, 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.
Also, if the people you refer DON’T MAKE A PURCHASE, then you don’t get your referral bonus. So, if you share your referral code with people, do encourage them to install the Rakuten browser button and then do their shopping so you qualify for the referral bonus.
What if I’m missing cash back from Rakuten
As I just mentioned it is possible that you’re not seeing the cash back that you expected because you returned something. Another reason that cash back didn’t show up was that you abandoned your shopping cart.
That is, when you click through with Rakuten or fire up the browser extension, it’s likely that Rakuten attaches a cookie to your shopping trip. If you abandon your shopping cart or visit another website, it’s possible that the cookie may expire.
So, if you continue your shopping trip at a later time, there’s no guarantee that the Rakuten “cookie” is still active. You can double check that using the Rakuten browser extension from the website where you were shopping.
Here’s how you do it. One, click on the Rakuten browser extension in your browser bar. Two, look at the dropdown window that appears. On the top will show your latest shopping trip through Rakuten, which shows the “cookie” is still active.
Or, it will show a button asking you to activate Rakuten. This shows that the “cookie” did expire. So, be sure to click on that reminder button to make sure Rakuten will become active and work for you.
Final thoughts on Rakuten and how it works
I hope this overview answers the question “What is Rakuten cash back” for you. Also, that I’ve explained why Ebates is now Rakuten as well as how Rakuten works. Definitely use these cashback hacks whenever you’re buying something so that you can always earn money while you shop.