An Awesome Way to Get Cash Back When Shopping Online

I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience including the time I demonstrated how to do it, on location, live on TV from a large supermarket. It’s a great way to save money but it’s a lot of work and limited mostly to grocery and drug stores.

Imagine a world where you had the equivalent of a big stack of coupons for all the other places you spend money—like Target, Amazon and Kohl’s, Groupon, Old Navy, even LifeLock.

You do and it’s called Rakuten.

Young man using internet computer and counting coins at home. Asian man relaxed and sitting on sofa indoor.

What is it?

At Rakuten, instead of presenting a coupon, you have a digital account that earns you cash. Think of it as the grocery store clerk handing you that 25 cents when you bought the can of soup with a $.25 coupon and you putting that quarter straight into a savings account.

With Rakuten, you earn those small cash-back amounts by using the Rakuten online shopping portal, by adding the Rakuten button to your computer toolbar or the Rakuten app to your mobile device. It is so easy. You don’t have to search and clip, you don’t pay any fees. You don’t have to mail in forms or keep track of points to get your money.

Isn’t it a scam?

I must confess that for quite some time I mistakenly assumed Rakuten was something it is not—some kind of scam. Then I wised up. I looked into it. I asked the questions, did the research and hit myself in the forehead. Why hadn’t I been using Rakuten all along?

I shop online. I spend money at more than a couple of the 2,500 retailers that make up Rakuten. I can’t imagine how much cash-back money I’ve left on the table over the years since Rakuten (formerly Ebates, only the name changed) launched in 1999—they started out offering up to 25% cash back from about 40 online retailers.

Sign up

First, you sign up for Rakuten with an email address or Facebook or Google. Two seconds later you’re a member.

It’s free so no one will ask for a credit card number. You don’t give your Social Security number or any other personal information, either.

Now you’re set up to receive cash back from more than 2,600 online retailers—and in brick and mortar stores, too (more on that in a bit).  Next, you’ll see your sign-up bonus—$10 Rakuten cash in your account after your first purchase of $25 through Rakuten when you sign up using this link.

Last, you need to add a mailing address to your account so Rakuten knows where to send your “Big Fat Check,”—love that!—or you can opt to get your cash sent to your Paypal account. Personally, I’m old school and love to get a check in the mail. I like cash.

How it works

Instead of going directly to Amazon or Old Navy or the store where you want to shop, go to Rakuten and type the name of that store in the search bar. Or just click on a shopping category. Hit the “shop now” button and you’ll be at that site in a flash. When you check out, a percentage of your purchase will go to your Rakuten account—the percentage that retailer is offering on that day.

As I write, Macy’s is 6% cash back, JCPenney 10%, Kohl’s 6%, Amazon 5%, Sephora 8% and—hold onto your hat—LifeLock is offering 40% cash back (not a typo, yes 40%). That means, by way of example, if you grab my Best Inexpensive bed sheets from JCPenney for $67 (what I paid for Calif King size not long ago), $6.70 will be funneled into your Rakuten account. You won’t have to do a thing for that to happen.

Install the Rakuten Button

I can nearly guarantee that if you access cash back by entering Rakuten.com first before heading to Old Navy, JCPenney, Amazon etc., there will be times you forget to do that. Installing the Rakuten button on your computer toolbar will tell you if a site is connected to Rakuten and what the cash back percentage is. All you have to do is click it and any purchase will get credited to your Rakuten account

The Rakuten button is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. You can add it to your browser here.

Pro tips:

  1. Make sure you have created your Rakuten account first. Then install your browser’s extension to get the Rakuten button.
  2. Extensions only work on non-mobile devices—laptop and desktop computer browsers.

In-Store cash back

You can earn cash back when you shop in person at select Rakuten retailers. You will need to set this up either on your mobile device or computer by following these simple steps to link your credit or debit card to your Rakuten account.



Where’s my money?

You can watch your account grow because you can see your current balance right there at Rakuten.com. That’s kinda’ fun!

Once each quarter, in February, May, August, and November, Rakuten pays by sending you the entire balance with no fees deducted (did I say that already?). Coolest thing ever.

What’s the catch?

It doesn’t take a genius to wonder how Rakuten makes its money. Lots of people (OK, me) assume it’s a big fat scam to get our personal information and do us harm. We’re wary of stuff like that because we’ve been warned for so many years to maintain our personal privacy, right? Trust me, I steered clear of Rakuten for many years for that very reason. Dumb.

You can relax. I’ve done my due diligence and am fully convinced that Rakuten is legit. Rakuten is huge and has a great reputation. Retailers spend much of their advertising dollars with Rakuten.

All of those retailers pay Rakuten a commission every time you go to its portal to reach a retailer and then make a purchase. Rakuten then shares that commission with you. Think of Rakuten as your personal salesperson who arranges the contract, collects the commission and puts your share right into your cash-back account. Granted, your commissions won’t be huge amounts, unless you are a huge shopper (Rakuten does have a $50 cap for how much you can earn on a single purchase). But all those small amounts add up. It’s a great way to build a cash stash.

Should you?

I can’t be certain that Rakuten is right for you. I can assure you it is not a scam. If you’re an online shopper, you might as well get paid a commission on the things you are buying anyway. Just be careful. It’s so much fun to earn a commission, you could find yourself buying things just because you’ll get that cash-back rebate. Don’t do that. Buy only what you would buy normally.

Sign up now

Go ahead and sign up now so your $10 bonus is ready to jump into your account when you make a purchase. You have 90 days to your Rakuten account the first time to get the bonus.

One last thing: You may discover that you don’t really shop online enough for this to work well for you. But there is no harm or penalty at all for giving it a test run.

Do you have a Rakuten account? How is that working for you? Let us know in the comments area below.

First published: 3-07-19; Republished  with correct and current information: 11-27-19

UP NEXT:

Cheap, Yes, But Not at the Expense of Others

11 Ways to Get the Best Online Deals and Discounts

19 Hobby Lobby Money-Saving Hacks, Tips, and Tricks


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22 replies
  1. Melody S
    Melody S says:

    Just signed up. Was disappointed to discover that I can’t use cash back on Amazon for books, also walgreens, cannot use for household items.

    So not sure this will be of much use to me. But will give it a try

    Reply
  2. Don
    Don says:

    I joined a year ago ($10 free), and convinced a friend to join as my referral ($25 free). I have the Rakuten “button” on my computer, so I don’t have to go to the Rakuten site each time I shop online. I love getting free cash, but that button can be annoying! Example: I got an email from Walgreen’s this morning advertising advertising 25% off. I went to Walgreen’s site, and typed in what I was looking for. As Walgreen’s started to search, the Rakuten box popped up, asking me if I wanted to activate free cash back. I clicked on yes. That froze the Walgreen’s screen and a Rakuten box popped up for several seconds. When Rakuten finished activating, their box disappeared, and Walgreen’s kicked back in, but my search request was gone. I had to type in the item I’m searching for again. Then another Rakuten box popped up telling me that free cash back has been activated. Now I have to click on the Rakuten box to close it and get it out of my way, or I have to wait about 5 seconds for it to close on its own. After going through all of this, Walgreen’s told me that they don’t have the item I searched for. So I went to Walmart’s site, and repeated the entire process — open site, search for item, Rakuten pop up, click yes, another Rakuten pop up, wait for it to close, search for item again, another Rakuten pop up, wait for it to close. Whew! Finally, I can shop for the item I want.

    Another annoying Rakuten popup sometimes shows up when I go to non-Rakuten websites. It says that this isn’t a Rakuten affiliate, and I should shop at these other three stores instead. Once again, I have to click on this box to close it and get it out of my way. Listen, Rakuten, I love getting free cash back, but if I can find a better deal overall on a different site, that’s where I’m buying, whether you offer cash back there or not. I always comparison shop on several sites before making a final decision, and all these pop ups and clicks really get to me.

    And the emails… you can choose which notifications you want Rakuten to send. I’ve chosen the least amount I feel will keep me informed of the deals for my needs, and I still get 3 to 5 emails a day. Sometimes they send an email in the morning, a reminder in the afternoon, and another reminder at night — all for the same thing! That’s way too much.

    Right now, the hassle is worth it, but it may not be worth it to me forever.

    Reply
  3. Robin Disney
    Robin Disney says:

    I do most of my shopping online and have been an Ebates/Rakuten member since November 2011. My lifetime cash back as of today is $2,610.42!! I totally do any Christmas shopping for the grandkids through Rakuten and not only do I get the cashback, but at this time of year retailers are putting out promo codes for free shipping or percent off total order discounts, not to mention there is usually a higher cash back percentage available. When we remodeled our kitchen and bath a few years ago I shopped for all our new accessories, pots and pans, towel’s etc. and I really racked up the cashback that year. My daughter shops through them too. Thanks for stressing the fact that it is free and legit. I find in telling others about it they look skeptical and act as if I’m suggesting they join a Ponzi scam or something. As you are saying – it is totally legit and anyone who shops online and doesn’t go through Rakuten is just doing themselves out of some sweet deals and cash back. I designate all my cash back checks to our ‘vacation fund’. If you are planning to shop and make a purchase anyway, don’t do yourself out of free money in the process!!

    Reply
  4. Patricia O
    Patricia O says:

    I joined Ebates years ago but never used it. I wasn’t big on online shopping at the time. Close to a year ago I saw it advertised on tv and thought I would have to rejoin it but I was still a member. I use it frequently now and after all that time they still gave me the $10 for the first $25 I spent. I think I will now set it up to receive my cash back even when shopping in the stores as I still sometimes like to see an item before I purchase it.

    Reply
  5. Katie Wilkes
    Katie Wilkes says:

    Mary, Thank you for writing continually about the benefits of Rakuten. After I read something about it in your column earlier this year, I remembered I had an account and have been faithfully using it all year. We earned almost $150.00 this year with our online purchases and booking a vacation. This is an easy way to make some extra money!

    Reply
  6. Michelle S.
    Michelle S. says:

    I installed the Rakuten button on my desktop and laptop computers and I have found that you don’t even have to click on it to find out if a store participates. When I go directly to the site I want to purchase from, a bubble pops up prompting me to click on the cash back offer for that company. This is great for me because even though I have the button installed, I still forget to use it.

    Reply
  7. Beth
    Beth says:

    I have an ebates account and have earned over $500 back since I joined a few years ago. I like that I am in control and that if I only slowly earn ebates it still accumulates and they pay it to you once you hit the lowest amount required (I think $10). I get mad when I forget to use it. I hope they continue to add more stores because I love it.

    Reply
  8. Sherie
    Sherie says:

    Is there an easy way to use ebates on your iphone when ordering things? If I use my laptop it automatically comes up and has me order through the ebates, but not on my phone.

    Reply
    • Lisa Wilson Reichard
      Lisa Wilson Reichard says:

      Download the Ebates app on your iPhone. Go through that app first then search the store you want to shop at. It will take you directly to the store site. You will get your cash back credit just as you would on your laptop.

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      Browser extensions that power the Rakuten Button are available only on laptop and desktop computers. The Rakuten app is what you need for your mobile device.

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt
      Mary Hunt says:

      You have to actually use the account to get the bonus … and you will! Use it to buy anything and that qualifies. You have 90 days to do that …

      Reply
  9. Meledstick
    Meledstick says:

    Love Ebates!! I have a button installed on my toolbar that tells me if a site is connected to Ebates and how much the days rebate percentage is. All I have to do is click it and any purchases I make get credited on Ebates. I have earned over $950.00 over the past few years!

    Reply
  10. lisamolina
    lisamolina says:

    I love Ebates! I use online & in-store. And, another app I love is Ibotta (in-store coupons)…. helps pay for Christmas gifts 🙂

    Reply
  11. Mindy Sames
    Mindy Sames says:

    If your using a fundraiser through a site, can you still shop that site? For example, my amazon acct gives a % to a fundraiser I am supporting – I have a special link to it.

    Reply
  12. Deb Westmoreland
    Deb Westmoreland says:

    Don’t know if you have seen it, but you can now download an app and add your credit cards and when you shop in the stores that they cover (actual stores, not online) it automatically give you cash back, just like online.

    Reply
  13. Rhonda M
    Rhonda M says:

    I have used ebates for years! Love it! I also want to mention that during certain times of year, ebates will double or triple the cash back percentages. Very nice, especially during the Christmas shopping season.

    Reply
  14. Johnna Richardson Matthews
    Johnna Richardson Matthews says:

    I love Ebates and don’t forget to mention that you also have the option to register a credit card and use Ebates on in store purchases at certain retailers. I’ve done this a few times and it has put some extra cash in my Ebates account for something I was going to buy anyway!

    Reply
  15. Honeywest
    Honeywest says:

    I love Ebates, too. I’ve earned over $1100 over the last few years. And to think without Ebates I would have left all of that on the table! It may seem like a tiny amount with each purchase that you receive back, but it sure adds up over time.

    Reply

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