I could teach you how to be an extreme couponer. I’ve had a lot of experience, including the time I demonstrated on location, live on national TV from a large supermarket. Couponing is a legit way to spend less, but it’s a lot of work and is mainly limited to grocery and drug stores. Earning cash rebates from thousands of retailers actually works 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, Macy’s, Lifelock, Walmart, Kohl’s; Groupon, Great Wolf Lodge, Old Navy, LL Bean, Lands End and thousands more. You do, and it’s called Rakuten.
What are cash rebates?
At Rakuten, you have a digital account that earns you cash instead of presenting a coupon. 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—it 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? Rakuten is not a scam.
I shop online—and I’ll bet you do too, even more so in recent months. I spend money at a handful of the more than 3,500 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 offering up to 25% cashback from about 40 online retailers.
First, you sign up here with an email address, Facebook, or Google. Two seconds later, you’re a member.
Rakuten is free and will never ask for a credit card number. You don’t give your Social Security number or other personal information.
Now you’re set up to receive cash back from more than 3,500 online retailers—and in their brick-and-mortar stores, too (more on that in a bit).
Next, you’ll see your sign-up bonus—$30 Rakuten cash in your account after your first purchase of $30 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,”—I 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.
- MORE: An Incredibly Easy Way to Save Money Shopping Online
How it works
Instead of going directly to JCPenney, Kohl’s or Old Navy websites—or the store where you want to shop—you will 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.
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 even if you fully understand that to get cashback, you need to start at 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 becomes a great reminder. Even if you forgot to enter through Rakuten, it would tell you if a site is connected to Rakuten and its cashback percentage. 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. Just make sure you have created your Rakuten account first. Then install your browser’s extension to get the Rakuten button.
NOTE: Extensions only work with desktop and computer browsers. If shopping by smartphone or notebook device, you must start at Rakuten.com.
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 $30 into your Rakuten cashback account for each person you refer when they open and begin using their Rakuten account. And your friends and family members who join will also get $30. That is a fantastic referral program, and absolutely 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. Many people (OK, me) assume it’s a big fat scam to get our personal information and harm us. 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 convinced that Rakuten is legit. Rakuten is huge and has an excellent 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 massive 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 rebate. Don’t do that. Buy only what you would buy normally.
Sign up now
Go ahead and sign up now so your $30 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.
Updated and Republished 9-16-22
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