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2021 Best Rakuten Review and How Does Rakuten Work

by Leigh Oates
Rakuten Review and How does Rakuten work

Last Updated on December 30, 2020 by Andrew Shih

Are you curious about how does Rakuten work? Maybe you have heard it is an excellent way to earn a little extra beer money or even make it a side hustle. Perhaps you are wondering, is Rakuten legit? In this Rakuten review, we take a closer look at how it all works and share our experience.

Disclaimer:  Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to register or make a purchase, we may earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. While we do our best to pick the most relevant products and services for our audience, please do not register or purchase the service if it does not benefit you.  Please review the full affiliate disclaimer

EBate Rakuten - How does Rakuten work
EBate Rakuten – How does Rakuten work

What is Rakuten?

Rakuten is an online rebate program that offers cashback on purchases from over 2500 online retailers. It used to be known as Ebates. They have formed relationships with major brands and retail stores to provide you with discounts in the form of cashback bonuses. The rebate company has done its best to make the process simple for the consumer. The simplicity is reflected in the company’s motto – Shop. Earn. Get Cash Back. The simple motto reflects just how easy the process can be.

Rakuten cashback from featured stores
Rakuten cashback from featured stores

How does Rakuten work?

Rakuten works by tracking the purchases you make when you go to certain websites from their page. They earn a commission from sending customers to the stores, and they pass part of that commission back to the consumer.

There are three ways to use Rakuten and save money – shop from the Rakuten website, shop with Rakuten Chrome extension, or use the Rakuten app on the mobile device.  In order to get credit for the percentage cashback, you must begin your shopping trip from the Rakuten website or have the browser extension installed on your computer.

The information about your purchase is sent back to Rakuten.  The percentage will be automatically calculated and tracked by Rakuten.  Your reward will appear in your account, usually within 1 or 2 days. You will receive payment of your rebates quarterly by check or Paypal. It’s an easy way to earn cash back on purchases! They even offer some extra perks like special promotions, a signup bonus offer, and a friend referral bonus.

Rakuten cashback steps
Rakuten cashback steps

How to earn Rakuten cashback

Step 1: Start with Rakuten

To start with Rakuten, you will need to create an account and complete the necessary personal information. When you sign up, Rakuten will even give you a Welcome Bonus gift card for $10 after you spend your first $25 using the site.

Step 2: Shop as usual

Depending on your personal preference, Rakuten offers three ways you can shop and earn rewards.  You can start shopping on the Rakuten website.  If you are a mobile person, you can use the Rakuten app.  Or, you can use the Rakuten Chrome extension.  We will discuss each of the methods in more detail below.

Step 3: Get Paid

Earning Rakuten cashback is easy.  Once your reward is more than $5, Rakuten will deposit your Paypal or send you a big fat check on a quarterly schedule.  There are no hidden fees or transaction fees; what you earn is what you get.

Rakuten site homepage
Rakuten site homepage

Shop from Rakuten website

On the Rakuten website, you can search for cashback stores, coupons, and products. Special offers and promoted stores will also be visible on the home page.

If you find a deal that appeals to you, then you can click on it to learn more. Each store is shown with the cashback offer that is currently available.

Rakuten Shop Now
Rakuten Shop Now

For example, this week at Clinique, shoppers will earn 8% cashback on any purchase. When you click the Clinique offer, you will be directed to a page that tells you about any special terms and offers. You will also see a “Shop Now” button. When you click the “Shop Now” button, you will see a Rakuten pop-up telling you that you are about to receive 8% cashback. Then it will take you to the store’s website. You will do your shopping and make your purchase. That’s pretty much it!

Rakuten all stores and categories
Rakuten all stores and categories

All Stores

Under the “All Stores” category, all stores are well organized into popular categories – closing, travel, health & beauty, shoes & handbags, electronic & office, home, auto, pets, baby/kids, toys, sports, food & entertainment, and more.  Under each category, you can see the eligible stores and savings.

Rakuten double cashback offers
Rakuten double cashback offers

Double Cash Back Stores

Double cashback stores are featured stores with special seasonal discounts for a limited time.  It means extra savings for you if you happen to need to purchase items in the store. 

Rakuten hot deals with Rakuten coupon code
Rakuten hot deals with Rakuten coupon code

Hot Deals

Under the hot deals section, you will find time-sensitive Rakuten coupons, promo codes, and daily deals.  You can get great savings here if you can apply additional coupon codes on top of regular Rakuten cashback.

Rakuten travel and vacation
Rakuten travel and vacation

Travel and Vacation

If you book travel and vacation through Rakuten, you can get extra savings too.  During our Rakuten review, if you book your trip with Priceline through Rakuten, you can get up to 4% savings.  A typical travel package will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars, so a small percentage of savings can yield a good chunk of cash.  Be sure to read the offers in detail and know the exclusions.

Rakuten Chrome extension
Rakuten Chrome extension showing 3% cashback at Walgreens.

Shop with Rakuten Chrome extension

Using the Rakuten Chrome extension has been my favorite method of Rakuten shopping.  All you have to do is install the Rakuten Chrome extension, make sure it is not blocked by a popup blocker, and let it do all the savings for you.

All you have to do is head straight to your favorite online stores, and the Rakuten Chrome extension will display a popup for you to activate the savings if it is a Rakuten affiliated store.  If you plan to shop the online store, simply activate the savings.  You don’t ever have to worry about missing out on savings.

Rakuten Chrome extension on Google search
Rakuten Chrome extension on Google search

The Rakuten Chrome extension will let you know the savings directly from your Google search.  You will see Rakuten eligible stores and rebate percentages in the Google search. It’s a convenient way to let you know what you could be saving without having to visit the site or discover it directly from the Rakuten website.

Rakuten app exclusive cashback
Rakuten app exclusive cashback

Shop using Rakuten mobile app

If you do most of the shopping on phone or mobile device, you can install the free Rakuten app for Apple and Andriod devices.  The shopping experience is similar to shop on the Rakuten website but more personalized with your favorite and recently visited stores, similar stores, double cash stores, popular and trending stores.  There is also app-exclusive cashback only available on mobile apps.

More ways to save with Rakuten

Rakuten credit card cash back offer
Rakuten credit card cash back offer

Rakuten Credit Card

If you want even extra savings when you shop on Rakuten, you may want to consider getting a Rakuten credit card.  You can earn an extra 3% cashback with Rakuten Cash Back Visa credit card with Rakuten eligible online and in-store purchases.  You will also get 1% everywhere else Visa is accepted.  Also, you will get a $10 bonus when you make your purchase using the credit card with no minimum purchase requirement.

Rakuten in-store cashback offers
Rakuten in-store cashback offers

In-store cash back

You can also get savings when you shop in-store that are affiliate with Rakuten.  However, you will need to do a bit of homework before you visit the store.  You will need to browse the In-Store Cash Back offer from the Rakuten website and link offers to your credit card before you shop in the store.

Rakuten friend referral
Rakuten friend referral

Refer a friend

Your friends will most likely enjoy getting cash back just as you do.  If you refer a friend who makes $25 eligible purchases on Rakuten, you will get $25, and your friend will get $10.  Rakuten will provide you a personal link that you can share with your friend via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Rakuten Influencer Program

Are you a social butterfly with plenty of followers on social media such as Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube?  Or do you own a website?  If so, you can apply and join the Rakuten influencer program and be compensated.  Rakuten will review your application and let you know if you are eligible.

How much can I earn with Rakuten?

Rakuten doesn’t cap your earning. However, you should check the retail’s exclusion which may limit the amount of cashback. Make sure to check the offer details for each store. There is a wide variety of stores and brands partnered with the cashback program, so potentially a person could earn a lot of money cashback.

It is hard to call the money earnings, as it is more of a rebate program. If a person ends up buying things he or she does not need to get the cashback, you really aren’t earning or saving money. So be sure that you are only using Rakuten for things you need. That being said, I see Rakuten as an excellent way to reduce the cost of many everyday personal and household needs and even big item purchases.

How do I receive my Rakuten cashback?

You will receive your Rakuten cashback either via Big Fat Check or Paypal payout. Make sure you have a valid mailing address, even if you pick the Paypal option.  If your cashback reward is less than $5, it will be carried over to the next period.  Rakuten pays out cashback payment on a quarterly schedule on the 15th of February, May, August, and November.

Rakuten cashback payment schedule
Rakuten cashback payment schedule

Rakuten Dos and Don’ts

Do

  • Do install the Rakuten Chrome extension. Instead of remembering to shop from the Rakuten website, the savings will be more seamless with the Rakuten Chrome extension.  All you have to do is continue your normal shopping activity on Chrome and let it do the saving for you.  Once you are in a Rakuten eligible store, the popup will appear and ask if you to activate the saving.
  • Do allow Rakuten popup on the Chrome browser.  If you use a popup blocker, you may have to allow Rakuten popup to activate the savings.  If you are not sure, the steps are available in Google support.
  • Do activate the saving.  If you plan to purchase from a Rakuten eligible online store, make sure you activate the saving from the Rakuten popup. 
  • Do try to qualify for the welcome bonus – it’s even more free money! It is free to join.  Rakuten partners with many reputable stores, and you will most likely get some cashback easily from online shopping and earn the welcome bonus too.

Don’t

  • Don’t buy things you don’t really need, with money you don’t actually have just to save a couple of bucks. Frugality is key.
  • Don’t leave the site and come back. Don’t jump around from page to page. When you are ready to make the purchase through Rakuten, try to maintain a smooth connection from the rebate site to the end of the transaction. This will increase the likelihood of your purchase being counted by the website.
  • Don’t forget to shop around. Although Rakuten partners with over 2500 stores, you still may be able to get a better deal somewhere else. Do your due diligence.
  • Don’t neglect to read the terms of the offer. Not all items in the store are eligible for cashback, and certainly the store’s e-gift card will not be eligible. In some instances, using a coupon code that isn’t one of the coupon codes suggested by Rakuten may void the cashback offer. Be sure to look at the fine print to avoid surprises.
Rakuten cashback terms
Example of Rakuten cashback terms

Reselling with Rakuten as a Side Hustle?

If you are really into the concept of the side hustle, there is a possible way to earn money with Rakuten. Some individuals use the strategy known as retail arbitrage, where they buy goods that are marked down or on clearance and resell those goods on other platforms like eBay, Poshmark, and Amazon.

A reseller using retail arbitrage could increase profits by using the Rakuten rebate program to make the price of the inventory even lower. Disciplined use of a cashback credit card, combined with the rebates from the site could slash costs even further.

Rakuten Review – is Rakuten worth it?

If you need quick cash, Rakuten probably isn’t for you. But, if you look at it as a way of keeping costs low and getting a reliable flow of money back into your pocket, then Rakuten is a highly recommended way to shop online.  After it was all said and done, we feel that Rakuten can help shoppers maximize the savings from your online shopping.

Rakuten is a reputable site, and our experience with Rakuten was positive. It was a reliable and easy method to get an additional discount for the purchases I already intended to make. The concept of getting a big fat check in the mail every so often is pretty exciting, and Rakuten can make the purchase of everyday necessities a little cheaper. The checks came on time and as promised.

You may also want to check out more great savings and make money online from home ideas. Do you have any experience with Rakuten? Please feel free to share your thoughts with us. Happy shopping!

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