This Is The Best 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 national 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. Earning cash rebates actually works so much better for me.

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

You do and it’s called Rakuten.

James Z-Computer Guy sitting at a table

What are cash rebates?

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.

You earn those small cash rebate (cashback) amounts by using the Rakuten online shopping portal, 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—Rakuten is not a 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—and I’ll bet you do too, even more so in the past months. 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—when they started out offering up to 25% cashback 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 Rakuten will never 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 Kohl’s 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 4% cashback, Kohl’s 6%, Sephora 8%, Groupon 6%—hold onto your hat—LifeLock is offering 40% cashback (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, plus $6.70 got funneled into my Rakuten account). You won’t have to do a thing for that to happen. Just know that things change quickly at Rakuten, so these details could have changed by the time you are reading this.

Install the Rakuten Button

I can nearly guarantee that if you access cashback by entering Rakuten.com first before heading to Old Navy, JCPenney, 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 cashback 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 cashback

You can earn cashback 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.

Earn referral cash

Don’t shop online much? You can still earn a lot of money from Rakuten by referring by your friends and family. You will earn $25 into your Rakuten cashback account for each person you refer, when they open and begin using their Rakuten account. That is an amazing referral program, and super legit.

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 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 your first purchase. You have 90 days to use 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 current information: 8-7-20

Up Next:

Cheap, Yes, But Never 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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7 replies
    • Mary Hunt says:

      You are right … Rakuten lineup changes frequently. Post updated to reflect this disappointing development, which also could change in the future. Rakuten is a fluid situation!

      Reply
  1. Deborah R Ball says:

    Can you use Rakuten with Amazon if you are using Amazon Smile? Thanks for always keeping us updated and all these great ways to say $$! And earn $$!!

    Reply
  2. Amy says:

    Yes! I love Ratuken, retailmenot, and topcashback. They literally give me free money for shopping I am already doing.

    I just wish I could get cash back for Amazon and for purchasing gift cards online.

    Reply
    • Mc says:

      You can get cashback on purchasing giftcards. Raise.com sells discount giftcards and they have 1% cashback on Rakuten. However, for Raise, I use Topcashback since they give me 2% back. Raise will email you the egiftcard in minutes, and they have a 365 day guarantee so you can refund your order if the card doesn’t work or if you changed your mind.

      Reply
  3. 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

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