Ebates recently announced it has been purchased by Rakuten. Not much is changing other than the name. As someone who has been a member of this service for many years, I wanted to give you an update and a review of what Rakuten has to offer.
This service has been around since 1998, which is forever in Internet years. They’re a free website – and committed to always remain free—that allows you to earn cash back on your online purchases (and some made in store; see below!) without having to sign up for another credit card. Using Ebates, now Rakuten, is as easy as clicking on their link for the retailer you’d like to shop, whether Amazon, Kohl’s, Walmart, or Groupon (and many more), and then completing your qualifying purchase.
I have been a member of the site since 2011 and people ask all the time, “Is Rakuten legit?” Frankly, it is one of my favorite ways to earn a little extra income, stash away some extra cash in my savings account, and finance my holiday shopping.
How Does Rakuten Work?
Most of you are probably familiar with affiliate marketing. Basically, businesses partner with individuals or other businesses to give kickbacks for customer referrals. If I tell you that there is a great deal over at Amazon today and you click through my affiliate link and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission from Amazon. Rakuten has created a system where they partner with over 2,000 online retailers to refer customers via these links; Rakuten gets a commission for your qualifying purchases made through their links, and they then give a portion of that commission to you.
When you’re about to make an online purchase, just visit Rakuten and click through their link to your favorite or preferred retailer. They will advertise up front how much cash back you will receive from your qualifying purchase. Most often, it’s around 3% to 6%. I occasionally spot offers up to 25% off or more, so it’s well worth your time to take the extra Rakuten step.
A few of my favorite stores that are Rakuten-eligible:
- America's Best Contacts & Eyeglasses
It’s important to pay attention to category restrictions on some retailers for earning cashback, which is why I keep saying “qualifying purchase.” For some retailers, like Amazon, you can only earn from Rakuten if you’re shopping for certain things – for example, right now, you can only earn on purchases in the Amazon Devices, Prime Apparel, clothing, and several other departments.
Your earnings through Rakuten accumulate on a quarterly basis, meaning they only pay out on fixed dates throughout the year. Those payment dates are February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15. To qualify for a payout, you must have a balance of at least $5.01. They let you choose whether to receive your Big Fat Check (as they put it!) as an actual check or via Paypal.
How Can I Increase My Earnings?
1. Install the Rakuten button: I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to visit Rakuten first—and left money on the table because of that oversight! They now have a browser extension that will alert you when a site you’re shopping on is eligible for cashback through Rakuten. It will also tag your Internet search results—whether through Google or Yahoo! or Bing—to show you which merchants will allow you to earn cashback through Rakuten. No logging in or clicking through Rakuten required! It’s been a game changer. You can download it here. This is my top tip for making more money with Rakuten!
2. Refer your friends: Rakuten is right now giving you $25 for every friend you refer who makes a $25 purchase. That's big money! And if you are worried about those friends you referred before the name change, don't be. They will transfer over to your new account if you haven't yet been paid for those referrals.
3. Get the Rakuten app: Rakuten now has a smartphone app as well! You can get it for Android, iPhone, or iPad. It lets you access your account on the go, so you’ll always know where you stand on pending rewards. It does much more than that, however! You can also get in-store coupons, scan barcodes to compare product prices, discover last-minute deals and more.
4. Shop Double Cash Back Stores: Rakuten features a section of affiliate stores offering double cash back percentages; new stores may come and go from this section, so it’s a great idea to check back regularly! There are usually other special promotions available during the holiday shopping season as well, especially on Black Friday.
5. In-Store Cash Back: You can even earn cash back from Rakuten shopping in stores now, too! You simply add a credit card to your Rakuten account (works with most American Express, Mastercard or Visa credit cards). When you find a Rakuten deal you love, you click “Link Offer” to connect it to the credit card of your choice and you’re done. Use that credit card to make your purchase in-store and earn cash from Rakuten as usual! You can even do this on the fly from their app.
6. Rakuten Cash Back Visa: Rakuten also allows you to “double dip” on your earnings when using their cash back Visa credit card. You will earn an additional 3% cash back on every qualifying purchase you make online using Rakuten. You can earn 1% cash back everywhere else you can use your Visa card. They’re also offering a $10 bonus on your first purchase for a limited time. And it works with Apple Pay!
How Do I Sign Up?
Just visit Rakuten to get started. It doesn’t cost anything to join and, with the new Rakuten button on your browser, no additional work is required! This is one of the easiest ways on the planet to make money online. And, for a limited time, you’ll get a $10 Welcome Bonus for signing up and making your first qualifying purchase!
Originally published December 30, 2015. Updated May 2019.