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.
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.
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.
- Make sure you have created your Rakuten account first. Then install your browser’s extension to get the Rakuten button.
- 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.
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
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