What is Rakuten (Ebates)? Rakuten offers cash back, coupons and deals for shopping at their affiliated stores. Ebates launched in 1999, but it rebranded to Rakuten in 2019. Aside from the name change, Rakuten.com is virtually the same as Ebates.
In addition to earning online cash back at over 2,925 stores, you can earn in-store cash back when shopping in person at participating retailers. This can be convenient when you’re on the go and need to pick something up from a physical store.
If you’re used to shopping through Ebates, you’ve likely seen their rebranding. Since Rakuten isn’t as familiar a name as Ebates, you might be wondering: is Rakuten legit?
This Rakuten (Ebates) review will show you how Rakuten works and answer the question: Is Rakuten a scam?
How does Rakuten (Ebates) work?
Rakuten has a legitimate and simple business model. To pay you cash back, the company refers customers to its online partner stores. And in return, those businesses pay Rakuten (Ebates) a commission which they share with you as cash back.
Here’s how their cash back works in 5 simple steps:
First, sign-up with Rakuten, click the link of the store where you want to shop, and make your online purchase as you regularly do.
Example: Let’s say you want to buy supplies at Staples. As a first step, you’d go to Rakuten’s website and search for “Staples” to find out its available cash back rate.
On the results page, click the store’s logo to visit its page within Rakuten. The store page is where you’ll find all current available offers.
The store page has a sidebar with ‘recommended stores’. Scroll down to see competing brands and their available cash back rates. There, you may find better deals and get more cash back.
You’ll know you’re earning cash back if you click on a Rakuten link on their site, app, browser button or an email, and get a confirmation pop-up that cash back at that store is now active.
2. Make a purchase at your favorite store
Whenever you click on a store link within Rakuten.com, you start a ‘shopping trip’. Your account will show a history of your shopping trips by store, date and cash back amount when you make a purchase.
This information comes in handy if you ever need to track your cash back or have follow-up questions.
After you complete your purchase, the merchant will report it to Rakuten, confirming that they owe a commission for your transaction.
3. Rakuten posts the cash back to your account
Once Rakuten gets confirmation from the store that you made a purchase, they’ll post your cash back to your account and you’ll be notified. Depending on the store, this can take from a few hours to several days.
You’ll also see your total cash back balance in the upper right hand corner of the Rakuten website. If you use their mobile app, tap on the menu icon on the top left of your device to see your total cash back balance.
4. Accumulate more than $5 in cash back
When you’ve accumulated $5.01 or more in your cash back account, you’ll get paid according to Rakuten’s quarterly payment schedule. If you have less, the amount will carry over to the next payment period.
Example: Imagine it’s March 1st, you make a purchase that earns you $15 in cash back and it posts to your account on March 3rd. When will you get your $15 payment?
Answer: You should get your payment sent May 15th, according to the payment schedule below.
Here’s Rakuten’s cash back payment schedule:
|Purchases Posted Between||Payment Sent|
|Jan 1 - Mar 31||May 15|
|Apr 1 - June 30||Aug 15|
|July 1 - Sept 30||Nov 15|
|Oct 1 - Dec 31||Feb 15|
As you can see, there’s a period of about 6 weeks between the last post date and the date when your payment is sent. They do it this way to allow for potential product returns and cancellations, which may impact the cash back you receive.
5. Get paid through check or PayPal
You can get your cash back through either PayPal or a check. But regardless of the payment method you choose, you’ll need a physical address to get your cash.
If you choose to receive a check, it’ll be issued to the name and address in your account settings. If you select a PayPal payment, it too will be issued to the account associated with the PayPal email address in your account settings.
How does Rakuten (Ebates) make money?
You may still be asking yourself: Is Rakuten (Ebates) a scam? It isn’t. They’re a legit business that relies on affiliate marketing to make its money (and share it with you as cash back).
Affiliate marketing is based on the idea of paying a commission for referred business. And it’s been used in e-commerce since the mid-1990’s. In fact, sites as well-known as Amazon have relied on affiliate marketing since 1996.
If you’re concerned with how Rakuten will work for you, consider the following:
- Rakuten has been a Better Business Bureau accredited business since September 2016 and is rated A+, which is the highest rating that the BBB assigns.
- The company has a rating of ‘Excellent’ with Trustpilot. Over 85% of their more than 12,650 reviewers rate them great to excellent. Just as important, the company regularly asks members for reviews, whether good or bad.
- They have over 12 million members and $1 billion in cash back paid out.
So you should definitely try Rakuten and get cash back from the purchases you already make.
How long does it take Rakuten to report a purchase?
After you make a purchase, Rakuten will add cash back to your account as soon as the store reports your order to them. Stores can take a few hours or up to a week to confirm your purchase, depending on the store you choose.
Each store has its own independent set of reporting policies, which Rakuten doesn’t control. So you won’t find a consistent reporting time across stores.
Most of the time, the store reports your order shortly after it ships. And service purchases usually are instant since the store processes the order right away.
Travel purchases may take longer than a few days to post, though. That’s because the merchant waits until after you complete your trip to approve your cash back.
Tips to maximize cash back
Here are our favorite ways of making the most cash with Rakuten:
1. Use a cash back credit card for your purchases. Increase your cash back even more by using a cash back credit card for your purchases. You’ll be taking advantage of cash back from the store, cash back from the card, plus savings from available coupons and special offers.
2. Double your cash back by visiting the double cash back stores. Rakuten has a menu item called ‘double cash back stores’. Check it out before visiting your favorite store to compare cash back rates, You’ll usually find several stores offering 10% cash back in it.
3. Use the Rakuten button. This cash back button is a browser extension that finds cash back as you browse stores on the web. You don’t need to go back to the Rakuten.com website, and it’ll apply any available coupons automatically at checkout, saving you time and increasing your savings. The button is available in desktop and laptop browsers.
4. Make $25 with every friend you refer. You can earn unlimited bonuses by referring friends to Rakuten through your referral link. When they sign up and make a purchase of $25 or more, you’ll earn your bonus. Here’s a tip: time your invites a few days before big shopping holidays and 3-day weekends.
5. Check that your browser settings aren’t preventing cash back. If you’ve installed ad-blocking software, disable it when shopping online and then re-enable it when you’re done. This way, you’ll make sure Rakuten can keep track of your shopping trips and cash back.
What we like about Rakuten (Ebates)
- Plenty of stores to choose from. We like the fact that Rakuten has partnered with over 2,925 stores. Yeah, that’s a lot more stores than you’ll ever care for, but it’s nice to know that your favorite brands are likely to be part of their cash back program.
- Great customer service. We found Rakuten’s customer support top-notch. Their email support is thorough, on-point and respectful. Their replies didn’t seem cookie-cutter or rushed. We found their live chat reps equally helpful and responsive.
- Attractive welcome bonus. As a new member, you’ll get a $10 welcome bonus. To claim it, you’ll need to make at least $25 in purchases through the site within 90 days. Another way to see this bonus is as a 40% discount on your first $25 spent on the site. Not bad.
- Automatic coupon-clipping. If you’ve ever googled for coupons, you’ll appreciate Rakuten’s cash back button. After installing it, you’ll be able to visit your favorite online stores and it’ll apply all available coupons automatically at checkout, And you won’t need to start your shopping at Rakuten.com to activate your cash back.
- In-store cash back. I love buying apparel in person. So it’s convenient being able to link cash back offers directly to your credit card and earn in-store cash back. If you don’t have a credit card, no problem. You can use a debit card too. Just select “credit” at checkout.
What can be improved
- Limited number of in-store cash back stores. You currently have a choice of about 88+ stores that offer cash back on in-store purchases. While it’d be nice to see more stores in this program, it’s unlikely to be much of an issue for most people.
- Their automated assistant is still learning. Rakuten’s chat bot is a work-in-progress. It sometimes has trouble understanding complicated questions. However, it can handle simple requests such as: “What’s the cash back at Crate and Barrel?” for example. If it can’t answer a question, it’ll offer to transfer you to a live rep.
- Unique cash back payment schedule: Rakuten makes cash back payments only once every three months. Is that a deal breaker? We don’t think so. A calendar quarter is long enough to accumulate a useful amount of cash back, if you’re an average shopper.
- Ad-blocking can interfere with cash back tracking: Ad blockers can interfere with your cash back tracking. If you have one installed, you’ll need to add Rakuten to its filter list.
- Popular stores like Amazon and eBay have cash back tiers: The amount of cash back you can earn from these stores varies by category and changes frequently. The upside? You’re still getting cash back.
So, is Rakuten for you? If you love making easy money and being reminded to take advantage of your cash back when you’re shopping online, then you should definitely use Rakuten.
I’ve looked at my shopping habits and it amazes me how much of it I do online. I signed up with Rakuten in early 2018. My only regret is not having discovered it years ago. Rakuten is easy to use and their service is great. Give it a try.
Aside from the new name and logo, Rakuten is still the same Ebates under the hood.
If you choose the gift card option, you’ll receive it in the mail as a physical gift card.
A high percentage of five-star customer reviews on Trustpilot mention a positive experience with their customer support.
If you signed up and missed the 90 day deadline to claim your bonus, contact customer support and they’ll gladly reset it. Reps are available until 9 pm CST.
The button is available on Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Edge.
The program works with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards.