So you’ve probably seen an Rakuten commercial and asked yourself:
 
What is Rakuten? How does it work?
 
…and then when you heard you could earn cash back on items you’d buy anyway, you probably thought it was too good to be true.
 
Or at least, I did.
 
I get cash back when I make a purchase? What’s the catch?
 
So in this Rakuten review, I’m going to answer all your burning questions.
 
Table of Contents
 
Spoiler Alert:
 
I love saving money, but I don’t love clipping coupons.
 
So Rakuten has been my secret sauce for saving money on everything I buy since 2013. 
 
I’ve gotten over $1,000 in cash back. No extra effort or time needed.
 
So my goal today is this:
 
I want to break down Rakuten and all its features so you can start saving money too. So let’s dive in.
 

 

What is Rakuten?

 
The business idea behind Rakuten is pretty genius, actually. 
 
Rakuten was created by two guys from California all the way back in 1998 (when the Internet was still a baby). They define themselves as a “cash back and shopping rewards company.”
 
So the biggest questions I had when I first heard about Rakuten was:
 
How does it work? and How does Rakuten make money?
 
Their business model is pretty simple:
 
They earn money from affiliate commissions.
 
So in a nutshell, when you shop through their site, you’re also shopping through their special affiliate link.
 
Meaning, they get paid a commission when you buy and split half of it with you. Aka, cash back.
 
Note: Don’t forget to go through the Rakuten site or app before shopping so you can activate your cash back.

 

Who is this for? 

The short answer is it’s for anyone who wants to save money. I started using it because it’s easier than clipping coupons.
It takes no extra effort or time. I just sign up and shop like normal.
 
I first started using Rakuten 6 years ago. Since then, they’ve created an app and browser extension that has some pretty cool features too. (But more on those later)
 

How Does Rakuten Work?

After you’ve created your account, you’ll use the search bar to find retailers you want to shop at.
 
Here’s what I mean: 
You’ll notice that each retailer tells you how much you’ll get in cash back (as a percentage).
So for this Rakuten review, let’s use an example:
 
Let’s say Amazon offers 5% cash back and BestBuy offers 6%.
 
If you spent $100 at Amazon then you’d get $5 back. With BestBuy, you’d get $6 back.
 
You’ll see the cash back percentage in red:
 
example of rakuten cash back
 
 
So in this example (above), Amazon pays up to 5%.
 
Other stores offer a cash discount, like Verizon for example:
 
cash back dollar amount of rakuten
 
So Verizon offers up to $75 cash back with qualifying purchases. This comes in handy when it’s time to upgrade your phone or service.
 
Granted, some stores offer better deals than others. For example, Target only offers a measly 1% on their purchases. 
 
But from my experience, most stores are in the 3% – 6% cash back range, which can add up.
 
Last year we replaced our kitchen appliances and got $63 back from that alone.
 
So if you have any large purchases coming up, then it’s smart to go through Rakuten to get the best deal.
 
And these days with things like Walmart’s Grocery Pickup, I’m also able to purchase my groceries online and earn cash back from that.
 
I figure I’m spending money on things I’d buy anyway, so why not?
 
But, don’t forget:
You have to go through the Rakuten website or app FIRST to activate the cash back.
 
(I’ll keep reminding you because I used to forget)

How long does it take for the cash back to show up?

example of rakuten cash back

According to their website, it can take a few hours or up to a few days. From my experience, it’s usually no longer than 48 hours.
 
Like when I did Christmas shopping last year, the cash back was in my account the next day. (Around the 24-ish hour mark)
 

How do they send the money?

Cash back is sent to you via PayPal or mailed to you directly – whichever you prefer.

(I have it sent via PayPal then I transfer it over to my bank)
 
rakuten payment details
 
As you can tell, my last Rakuten check was for $108.53
 
My first few checks were mailed to me, but I started having them sent to PayPal instead.
 

How often do they pay?

 
Rakuten has a payment schedule that sends checks every three months.
You’ll get paid by:
 
· Feb 15th
· May 15th
· August 15th
· November 15th
 
That’s according to their website’s payment schedule. I usually get my check a few days before the 15th.
 
And here’s something I wanted to point out about their payment schedule:
 
They pay net 65, so this means you’ll get your check 65 days after the quarter ends.
 
So if you shop from October to December, you’ll get paid 65 days after December ends. (February 15th)
 
When I first started using them, I just assumed they paid monthly but customer service cleared it up for me.
Here’s the official payment schedule from their website:
 
When you'll get paid from ebates

How do I join?

It’s simple and free. All you do is sign up here and create your account.
 
The site is easy to navigate. To find a certain store, just type it into the search bar at the top:
rakuten search bar example 
 
Once you find your store, you’ll land on the “Shop Now” page:
 
Amazon on Rakuten
 
And from there, you’re redirected to the retailer’s homepage.
 
I’ve tried several other cash back sites but haven’t found them to be as user-friendly.
 
There’s a lot of competitors popping up here and there, but I think Rakuten offers the best deals right now (I’ll let you know if that changes)
 

What stores are on Rakuten?

Part of what I love about Rakuten is their store selection. 
 
There are over 2,500 retailers to choose from, so I can’t list them all, but all your favorites will probably be there:
 
What stores are on ebates?
 
Other stores include:
 
· Ulta
· Target
· Apple
· Pier 1
· ACE Hardware
· Overstock
· Ebay
· Expedia
 
All the name brands are pretty much covered.

How does Rakuten work with Amazon?

 I’ve gotten this question from several readers, so I figured I’d address it in this Rakuten review.

Rakuten works the same with Amazon as they do other retailers. (That’s why I’ve been using Amazon as my primary example in this article)
 
Amazon offers 3% on home services and up to 5% on everything else. And I’m pretty sure Amazon was the first retailer I shopped with through Rakuten back in 2013.
 
 So it works just the same as when I shop with Walmart, BestBuy, or any other store.
 

The Rakuten App

rakuten app

You can get the app for IOS and Android, so you can shop from your phone or tablet and still get rewards.
 
The app offers a few extra perks too:
 
· There are exclusive offers for mobile users – these are “app only” deals.
 
· You can earn cash back on Lyft rides, which is pretty cool.
 
· You can use the app in-store to scan for coupons.
 
· You’ll be up to date with their notifications.
 
If you find yourself shopping from your phone or tablet often then the app is the way to go. 
 

Rakuten Browser Extension

 I like the browser extension because it scans the web for coupon codes and applies them to my orders:

 
Ebates Browser Extension
It actually “nudges” you when it finds better deals.
 
Yep, you know what that means. Never look for coupon codes again.
 
Who else hates searching to find coupon codes and then realizing they’re expired? It sucks.
 
Sorry, let me rephrase.
 
Really sucks.
 
They’ve also added a feature called Price Magic.
 
 
rakuten price magic
 
With price magic, if they find a product that’s cheaper at another store – they’ll let you know that, too.
 

Rakuten Credit Card

 
rakuten credit card

 

If you’re looking for extra ways to earn cash back, you can apply to get the Visa card.

The card has these features:

  • Extra 3% cash back on qualifying purchases
  • $10 first purchase bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 3% extra cash back on travel when you book hotels, flights, and car rentals through Rakuten with the card
  • Fraud Protection

I’m not much of a credit card person, so I don’t use the Rakuten visa card.

If the credit card is something you’d like to get, I always recommend you to have enough money saved to pay off the bill each month. 

(So you’re not stuck with interest)

How does Rakuten work in store?

 When I first started using Rakuten in 2013, you couldn’t get cash back in the store.

(So this is something I’ve been waiting for them to do for a looong time.)
 
At the time of this Rakuten review, you can only use the in-store option at certain retailers. 
But according to their website, they’re working on adding more in the future. (No word on how many yet)
And here’s how the in-store option works:
 
· Step 1: Click the “In-Store” tab in the app
 
· Step 2: Find the store you’re shopping at and click “Get Deal”
 
· Step 3: Click the “Link Offer” button and link your credit or debit card (if it’s your first time)
 
· Step 4: Shop with your linked card!
 
They currently accept linked cards from American Express, Mastercard, and Visa.
 

Rakuten Returns

 Anything returned, canceled, or exchanged will void the cash back.

Here’s the policy directly from Rakuten Website:

 

Returned or canceled orders may void Cash Back and be deducted from your Cash Back Balance. Exchanged orders may void Cash Back and be deducted from your Cash Back Balance, depending on the store’s policy. If a store processes your exchange order as a cancellation and a new transaction is created, it will be treated as a canceled order.

To ensure you will receive Cash Back on exchanged orders, you can return the order and place an entirely new order at that store, starting a new Shopping Trip with Rakuten.

Does Rakuten sell your information?

 I almost forgot to add this one, but then I remembered someone might have this question.

The answer is simple:
 
No, Rakuten does not sell your information.
 
You don’t have to worry about receiving random spam emails or phone calls. They don’t share your credit card information or personal address.
 
You CAN sign up to be a part of their email newsletter, though.
 
I don’t like email newsletters. But, if you want to get the latest promotions and deals then the newsletter is a good option.
 

How can I maximize my earnings?

 
Before I go, I wanted to give you a few final tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck:
 
1. Shop Double Cash Back Stores: Rakuten offers double cash back on certain stores. New stores may come and go from this section, so it’s always smart to check back!
 
2. Shop During Promotions: I love shopping during the holidays because they offer special promotions and discounts. Black Friday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day offer some great deals.
 
3. Don’t Forget the Browser Extension: I can’t tell you how many times I’d forgotten to visit the Rakuten site first and left money on the table! The browser extension alerts you and reminds you to go through Rakuten.
 
4. Refer Your Family/Friends: Rakuten is offering $25 for every person you refer who makes a $25 purchase. So do what I did and refer your mom! (Or someone else)
 
5. Use Their Visa Card: The credit card lets you double dip on your earnings. You’ll get an extra 3% on each qualifying purchase through Rakuten and 1% back everywhere else.
 
It works with Apple Pay, too.
 
But again, as a personal finance website, I want to encourage you to use the credit card responsibly. Don’t go racking up a large balance!
 
If you can’t avoid the temptation, don’t go with the credit card.
 

Final Thoughts

Rakuten has been around for 20 years, and they’ve been my secret sauce for saving money on everything I buy since 2013.
 
I’ve tried several other cash back sites, but I’ve ultimately stuck with Rakuten.
 
It’s quick, easy to use, and free.
 
I’m already shopping at these stores, so it’s a no-brainer for me. So I definitely think you should try it out.
 
Alright guys, this concludes our Rakuten review. 
 

Do you have any questions? Ask them below.

Adele Alligood obtained her Bachelor’s of Accounting and Business Management from Valdosta State University. She received her Chartered Financial Consultant certification (ChFC®) from the American College of Financial Services. She’s been featured as a personal finance expert in several publications, including NBC NewsBusiness News DailyThe Simple Dollar, QuickbooksFinance BuzzThe Best CompanyFitSmallBusinessChime BankingReviewed.com, and The Active Times. Connect with Adele on LinkedIn.

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