$259.53.

That’s our lifetime earnings so far from the free cashback app Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates). If you’re wondering whether it’s legit, our bank account says “definitely!”

If this has got you asking, “what is Rakuten,” then you’re in the right place because our Rakuten review guide will tell you everything you need to know about this awesome way to earn money from your online shopping.

In this post, we cover:

  • the Rakuten site, app, and browser extension
  • ways to earn cash back through Rakuten
  • how to earn a $10 welcome bonus with Rakuten

This post may contain affiliate links. See disclosure for more details.

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What is Rakuten?

Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, is a cashback site that pays you a certain percentage back on your retail purchases, absolutely free. They also have a bank of online coupon codes that you can apply to your orders to save even more!

The amount of cashback you can earn varies from store to store, and each retailer has their own set of terms & conditions. However, virtually every major chain or online seller you can think of participates with Rakuten, so you have the potential to save on nearly everything you buy.

Before Ebates was acquired by Rakuten, Ebates initially only offered rebates for online purchases. Not long ago, Ebates added an in-store cashback program that works with select retailers, which is still in place under Rakuten today.

Does Rakuten cost money?

rakuten app logo (formerly ebates)

Not at all. Rakuten is 100% free. There is no sign-up fee, no cost to download the app, no hidden costs…it’s literally free cash back with no catch whatsoever.

There is nothing different about what you see and can buy from the retailers you shop at, other than the fact that you’re pocketing back some of the money you spend by using Rakuten.

How does Rakuten make money?

So why would some random company pay you money to buy stuff without there being any funny business going on? For the skeptics that insist there’s gotta be a catch, here’s how Rakuten makes money.

Rakuten’s model for profiting is pretty simple: Stores pay Rakuten a commission to get shoppers to their sites. Rakuten then shares a part of that commission with you. Win-win!

Because of how popular Rakuten is (12 million users and growing), they can also charge retailers extra to get featured or highlighted on their platform.

rakuten ebates app review - double cash back

How does Rakuten work?

There are three ways to activate the cashback incentive when you shop online:

  • Visit Rakuten.com and click through to the website you want to shop at
  • Open the Rakuten app and tap through to the website you want to shop at
  • Install the Rakuten Cash Back Button extension for your web browser, which automatically shows you a cashback activation button anytime you visit a site that offers cashback through Rakuten

All three are pretty user-friendly, so which one you want to use depends mainly on which device you shop on most often.

As for in-store cash back, just register your credit card with Rakuten and select which offers or stores you want to link to your card. After you pay for your purchase at the store with the linked credit card, the cashback will be credited to your Rakuten account within seven days.

Check out our article on how Rakuten works to read our best tips on how to maximize your cashback earnings from Rakuten!

What stores are on Rakuten?

Rakuten works with over 2500 stores, so the chances are very high that the place you want to shop at online is part of Rakuten’s cashback network.

You can earn cashback at places like:

  • Amazon.com
  • Target
  • Macys
  • Walmart.com
  • eBay
  • Groupon
  • And more!

amazon logo

target logo

old navy logo

Can you use Rakuten in stores?

Rakuten does offer in-store cashback so now you can use Rakuten even when you’re shopping at a brick-and-mortar location rather than online.

To help Rakuten track your purchase so they can award your cashback, just do the following:

1.

Log in to your Rakuten account via a web browser or the Rakuten app.

2.

Click on the “In-Store” section.

3.

Find the store you want to shop at and click the button to link the offer to your account.

4.

Add the credit card you’ll be using to pay to your Rakuten account.

After you pay for your purchase at the store with the linked card, you should see the cashback hit your Rakuten account within seven days.

As of this writing, there are roughly 85 stores participating with the in-store cashback program. That’s far fewer than the number of retailers who offer cashback through Rakuten for online purchases, but the number of in-store offers is very likely to grow.

ebates app review - link credit card for in store cash back

TIP:

The cashback percentage offered for shopping in-store often varies from the percentage offered for purchasing from the same retailer online.

Since it’s inconsistent which way offers you more, be sure to compare the two and see whether, after considering shipping costs, you might earn more by buying online.

Our review of Rakuten

We’ve been using Rakuten & Ebates for years and don’t plan on quitting any time soon.

We honestly can’t find any reason NOT to use them, because it’s so easy to use and the money you save adds up fast. So far among all of us Changs, we’ve earned almost $450 from Rakuten & Ebates!

Why Rakuten is worth using

$10

$10 welcome bonus
We’ll be totally honest: this is the real reason why we even tried out Rakuten (when they were Ebates) in the first place (but once we started, we never stopped). Snagging the $10 is really easy – just visit Rakuten before you do your shopping and make a qualifying purchase.

We figured out a genius hack on how to use Rakuten if you want an easy step-by-step walkthrough of the smartest way to earn with Rakuten.

2500+

Huge number of participating retailers
If you’re shopping from a store that most people would recognize, chances are it’s probably on Rakuten. Thanks to Rakuten, we almost never pay full price for anything we buy online.

amazon logo

RAKUTEN & AMAZON

One site that people often ask us about is Amazon. You can earn cashback for Amazon through Rakuten, but it is very important to understand the terms:

  • Only select categories on Amazon earn cashback.
    To view the categories, click on the Amazon logo from Rakuten and look at what specific categories will qualify for cashback
  • You CANNOT stock your cart before going through Rakuten.
    This means, you have to add the item to your cart after you’ve clicked to Amazon from Rakuten.

2x

Double cash back days
Rakuten regularly features stores that will give double their normal cash back for a limited time, which can make your cash back earnings go from great to fantastic. Imagine a store offering 10% cashback that’s suddenly giving you 20% off!

$25

Generous $25 referral bonus
There are very few sites of any kind that offer this high a referral bonus for you to tell your friends & family. If you can find four people to sign up and meet the requirements, that’s a cool $100 in your pocket!

Rakuten gives such a big referral reward because they’re confident that once someone starts earning cashback and scores the $10 welcome bonus, they’ll be hooked. From our own personal experience, we can tell you they’re totally right!

Rakuten site vs app vs browser bar

 

ebates rakuten review - screenshot of stores in ebates app

In terms of which method we use to access Rakuten, we tend to gravitate towards using the website itself rather than the app or the browser bar.

There’s nothing wrong with the app and we found it easy enough to use the few times we tried it, but we prefer to do our shopping on a bigger monitor screen rather than a small mobile device.

As for the browser bar, we loved how it automatically notified us every time we were at a site where we could stand to earn cashback.

We did, however, find the browser bar’s coupon code element a little buggy. 

The browser extension would try to apply any Rakuten-approved coupon codes automatically at checkout, but on a few occasions, it got stuck in a loop because our purchase didn’t meet the requirements for any of the available coupons.

It was easy enough to exit out of the coupon applicator, but it was a weird quirk you might encounter too.

Overall, the browser bar is pretty great if you are too lazy to check Rakuten each time you are ready to make a purchase.

CAUTION:

With the browser bar, you don’t get a chance to see the store’s terms and conditions before the cashback is activated.

That’s why we prefer going through the actual website Rakuten.com, so we can check out the fine print beforehand and be crystal clear on what we’ll earn cashback on.

How to earn a $10 welcome bonus with Rakuten

Start off your Rakuten experience with a $10 welcome bonus by following these steps:

Pretty easy, right?

TIP:

You don’t have to meet the spending threshold all at once if you aren’t ready spend that much just yet. As long as your total purchases within 90 days totals the designated dollar amount, that $10 bonus is yours!

ebates review app welcome bonus

How do you get your money from Rakuten?

Rakuten automatically sends your payment according to a set schedule, as long as you’ve reached the minimum balance of $5.01 by the designated date below.

If you have over $5 by this date……your payment will be sent on this date
March 31May 15
June 30August 15
September 30November 15
December 31February 15

If you haven’t surpassed the $5 threshold yet, your balance will keep carrying forward until you meet the threshold for a cashout.

When it is time for you to get your moolah, you can choose to receive your money by check or by Paypal.

ebates review earnings check

Can you use Rakuten after your purchase?

Unfortunately, getting cash back after the sale is not an option. To earn their commission from a retailer, Rakuten has to track the sale and prove that they guided you to the retailer’s online site or physical store.

If you go buy your item without going through Rakuten first, the retailer has no reason to believe that Rakuten helped influence your decision to shop there. Since they won’t pay a commission to Rakuten for your sale, there is nothing for Rakuten to split with you.

Conclusion

Our Rakuten review answers all your burning questions about what is Rakuten is, is Rakuten legit, and how to earn cashback. We’ve compared the Rakuten app, site, and browser extension to make it easy for you to decide how you can make extra money with Rakuten. Don’t forget to snag your $10 welcome bonus!

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stacy trinh aka aunty chang headshot

AUTHOR BIO

STACY, aka AUNTY CHANG, is a personal finance blogger set on a mission to show people that there's more to money than just the numbers. With two rental properties and a six-figure 401k by her 30's, she's on track to retire early without sacrificing work-life balance to get there. She wants to teach others how to identify their goals and use money to make them happen. Dual income, no kids, based in Hawaii.

Hangs out on Keeping Up with the Changs: Facebook | Twitter