Rakuten Review: What It Is and How It Works

|
Advertisement

Rakuten is a free app and browser extension that helps you find coupons and earn cash back on your purchases by shopping through its affiliate link.

In this article, I’ll take a close look at four things to know about Rakuten before you use it. I downloaded the app and browser extension to check out Rakuten myself and compared it to other cash back apps to see if it’s worth it.

4 Things To Know Before Earning Cash Back With Rakuten

Whether you’re dining out, booking a hotel, shopping for new clothes or ordering groceries, Rakuten may be able to help you save. To begin earning cash back on eligible purchases, you can visit Rakuten.com, download the app or install the browser extension. 

Once you activate a cash back offer and make a qualifying purchase, you’ll be able to see what you’ve earned in your Rakuten account. As long as you earn $5 or more, you’ll get a check or a PayPal deposit on the next quarterly payment date.

If you’re ready to start earning cash back with Rakuten, here are four things to know:

Below, you’ll find more detailed information on Rakuten including what to expect once you’ve created an account and how to start earning cash back.

What Is Rakuten?

Rakuten was founded in 1998 and took over Ebates in 2014. Rakuten says you can earn cash back at more than 2,500 by using it. You can check out a full list of stores here

In addition to online stores, you can earn cash back in stores, on travel, groceries, dining and more. According to the website, Rakuten has paid members over $1 billion in cash back so far. 

It’s free to create an account with Rakuten and begin earning cash back. The company gets a commission from stores when you make a purchase through their website. Once the purchase is verified by the store, Rakuten earns its commission and gives part of it to you in the form of cash back. 

When I checked out Rakuten myself, I downloaded the app first. At the time of writing, the app had a 4.8 rating on The App Store from 130.7K reviews and a 4.2 rating from 67.8K reviews on Google Play. Then, I visited the website and installed the browser extension. While you don’t have to have the app or browser extension to save with Rakuten, these are great ways to make sure you don’t miss any exclusive offers. 

Advertisement

If you’re looking for ways to save money on purchases ranging from online shopping to grocery delivery to travel to dining out, earning cash back with Rakuten is a resource worth checking out.

How Does Rakuten Work?

Rakuten works by earning a commission from partnering stores in exchange for sending them customers. Rakuten then shares part of that commission with you in the form of cash back. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be able to shop at stores online directly through Rakuten’s website, app or browser extension while earning cash back. You can also link your credit or debit card to earn cash back on eligible in-store purchases. 

You can browse available offers online and claim the ones you’re interested in redeeming. Once you activate the offer and make the purchase, your cash back will accumulate in your Rakuten account. Then, you’ll receive a check or a PayPal deposit quarterly with your earnings. 

Here, you’ll find more detailed information on each step of the process from registering with Rakuten to claiming offers to earning cash back. 

Get Started

The first step is to create an account. You can register online or download the app for iOS or Android. When I signed up for Rakuten, I used the iPhone app. 

Rakuten app log in screen

When you first register, you’ll need to provide an email address and create a password. You won’t have to enter any personal information beyond that, but I recommend immediately choosing a payment method and setting that up before you start shopping. 

To do this, click on the “Account” tab in the app or click “My Account” on the website. If you’re using the app, click “Choose How to Get Paid.” From the website, click “Account Settings” and scroll down to “How would you like to get paid?” Then, you can add an address to get paid via check or link your PayPal account for direct deposit. 

Rakuten payment methods: check and PayPal

Once you’re logged in, you can begin browsing cash back offers from the website or app. 

Claim Offers

After you have your preferred payment method set up, you’ll be ready to start earning cash back from Rakuten. To get started from the app or website, simply search for stores, products or brands. If you install the browser extension, you can shop online just as you would normally. If a retailer that you visit is eligible for cash back through Rakuten, the extension will alert you and redirect you to the cash back link.

From Rakuten’s homepage, you can browse featured deals and double cash back stores. Double cash back stores change daily and offer double the normal amount of cash back for 24 hours. 

Advertisement
Rakuten's website homepage with featured deals

In addition to double cash back stores, Rakuten’s homepage also features holiday deals, featured daily deals and e-gift cards. When I checked out the e-gift card section, I saw offers for 3% back on a Grubhub gift card, 7% back on an REI gift card and more. 

Below that, the daily “hot deals” show you store sales, coupons and promo codes with additional cash back offers. At the time of writing, there was a trade-in/cash back deal from Verizon for an iPhone 12 Pro 5G. And Fossil was offering 30% off select bags and wallets plus an additional 3% cash back. 

Once you find a cash back offer you’d like to activate, you can click on it to see additional terms and details. From the website, click “Shop Now” to begin shopping at the retailer’s website. From the app, you’ll automatically be redirected once activating an offer. As long as you make your purchase through Rakuten’s website or app, your cash back will be credited once the purchase has been verified by the retailer. 

Some cash back offers are eligible for in-store purchases. This includes Rakuten’s dining program. From the website or the app, click “In-Store” to see these deals. 

Rakuten's in-store cash back offers

From there, you’ll see in-store dining and retail offers. To claim and use these offers, you’ll need to add one or more eligible American Express, Mastercard or Visa cards to your Rakuten profile and link available in-store cash back offers to your card. Then, when you shop at participating local stores and pay with your linked card, you’ll automatically earn cash back on qualifying purchases. The cash back will be added to your Rakuten account within a week, according to the website.

Earn Cash Back

Once you’ve activated the offers you’d like to claim at Rakuten, you’ll be able to shop as you would normally through Rakuten’s website or app. If you’ve redeemed an in-store cash back offer, be sure to use the same card that you linked to your Rakuten account to make your purchase.

Unlike many cash back apps, you won’t have to upload a picture of your receipt as proof of purchase with Rakuten. Instead, you’ll either make your purchase through one of Rakuten’s affiliate links or with your linked credit or debit card. Either way, Rakuten will automatically pick up eligible transactions, and your cash back rewards will accumulate in your Rakuten account until “payday.” 

According to Rakuten’s website, cash back payments are sent every three months based on this schedule

Purchases Posted Between:Payment Sent:
Jan 1 – Mar 31May 15
Apr 1 – June 30Aug 15
July 1 – Sept 30Nov 15
Oct 1 – Dec 31Feb 15

A mailing address is required for any payment method, including PayPal. For this reason, I recommend adding your address when you create your account. You’ll also have to earn at least $5 from Rakuten in order to receive a payment. If you earn less than $5, the total will carry over to the following pay period. 

If you need help locating a check or payment, you can track it here. For more information about getting your Rakuten cash back payments, visit the company’s website.

Advertisement

How To Get the Most Out of Rakuten

If you mainly shop in brick-and-mortar stores, think of Rakuten like clipping traditional coupons. It’s important to check out the available cash back offers before you go to the store. Even if you’re shopping online with the website, app or browser extension, having an idea of what you’re shopping for, seeing what cash back offers are available and knowing if you can get a better price elsewhere can help you save big. For this reason, the best way to maximize the cash back you earn with Rakuten is by planning ahead. 

It’s also important to comparison shop so that you know you’re getting the best deal overall. For example, Walmart was highlighted as a double cash back store at the time of writing, which meant I could get up to 6% back. When I looked at the fine print, I saw that the 6% was only for the photo center while there were no cash back offers in the groceries category. In this example, placing a grocery pickup order at Walmart wouldn’t necessarily be a better deal than another store based on the Rakuten cash back offer alone. For this reason, it’s always important to compare prices and read the fine print.

In addition to planning ahead, comparing prices and knowing the details of a cash back offer, here are a few more ways to maximize the cash back you earn with Rakuten: 

  • Download the browser extension. Even if you forget to check Rakuten cash back offers, the browser extension will alert you when they’re available as you browse the web. The extension works similarly to Ibotta. When you visit a website, you’ll get an alert if an offer is available. If you activate it, you’ll be redirected to Rakuten’s affiliate link. Then, you can continue shopping like normal and earn cash back when you check out. 
  • Shop at double cash back stores. Rakuten picks at least one store every day to offer double cash back on purchases for 24 hours. Shopping at these stores is a great way to maximize your earnings.
  • Get app-only savings on iOS & Android devices. According to Rakuten’s website, the app will send you “hot deal notifications” and app-exclusive offers. You can also use the app to earn cash back by shopping online or in-store, taking Lyft rides and dining out.
  • Refer your friends. You can recommend Rakuten to your friends by sending them an email or sharing your invite link. If a friend uses your referral to join and makes an eligible purchase within 90 days, Rakuten will pay you $30 according to the website.

Finally, know that Rakuten displays double cash back stores, e-gift card offers, featured daily deals and more on its website homepage. Under “Hot Deals,” you’ll find some of the best ways to save including deals that let you combine promo codes with store sales and cash back offers. While you shouldn’t make impulsive purchases based on these offers, it’s good to keep an eye out for this kind of great deal on something on your shopping list.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Rakuten is a great way to earn cash back on everything from regular purchases to travel to dining out. I was impressed by the number of categories that offer cash back and how easy the website, app and browser extension are to use.

Since I’ve signed up for Rakuten myself, here are a few of the biggest pros and cons I’ve found:

Pros:Cons:
Variety: There’s a wide range of categories for saving including clothing, travel, health/beauty, books, food, subscription services and more.Payment: Cash back is accumulated over the course of three months and paid out quarterly. You can’t get your earned money any sooner than the scheduled payment date.
Convenience: You don’t have to upload receipts to provide proof of purchase; instead, you’ll either shop through Rakuten’s affiliate links on the app or website or link your credit/debit card before making eligible purchases.Planning: You have to link your credit/debit card before an eligible purchase or make your purchase from Rakuten’s affiliate link. Any other purchases cannot be redeemed for cash back even if you have the receipt and product barcode.
Welcome Bonus: Rakuten offers a cash bonus or gift card to new members who spend $25 or more within 90 days of signing up by shopping at any store on Rakuten.com, on the Rakuten mobile app or at participating in-store cash back merchants. At the time of writing, the welcome bonus was $10.Fine Print: Not all cash back offers are eligible for every purchase in the store. If you see a cash back offer that says “up to 6% back” at a retailer (or something similar), many products and/or categories are likely exempt. Be sure to read the details of an offer before you spend money.

For more ways to save money and earn cash back, be sure to check out other apps such as Ibotta, Fetch Rewards and Checkout 51

What are your favorite tips for earning cash back? Let us know in the comments below!

More Clark.com Content To Help You Earn Cash Back:



Advertisement
  • Show Comments Hide Comments