Rakuten Canada is an online loyalty program that offers its 5 million Canadian members cash back offers, deals and rewards at various online retailers. The platform shares purchase commissions paid by retailers for sending its members to shop at their online and walk-in stores.
You can get cashback rates that go from as little as 1% to as high as 20 or 30% on many everyday purchases. Being a free membership, there’s no risk in joining today, and you only stand to gain awesome cashback rewards at over 750 retail partners in Canada alone.
With so many promotions available for online shoppers, staying home can save us not only time but money. It’s no wonder that many prefer skipping the hassle of physical stores. In Canada, online shopping is now a fast-growing 40-billion-dollar industry that is changing the retail business for good.
Just as in the brick-and-mortar retail industry, some online retailers compete so fiercely for sales that they are willing to give a commission to those who send them clients. Cashback websites have a long tradition of at least 20 years. Many of them have made this opportunity a lucrative business. Their growth has accompanied that of online commerce and, due to their worldwide reach, these sites have become a multi-billion-dollar business that is now even expanding into walk-in retail stores.
Rakuten is one of the most popular and largest cashback platforms in the world and, given that Canadians love getting paid to shop, the company has a branch devoted exclusively to this country. In this Rakuten Canada review, we’ll tell you what’s the deal with this platform, how it works and whether it’s worth joining it or not.
Rakuten.ca, Formerly Ebates.ca
Ebates Inc. was founded in 1998, in Menlo Park, California, by two deputy district attorneys. In 2012, they expanded the business to Canada. In 2014, The company was purchased by a Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing conglomerate for $1 Billion, and ebates Canada became Rakuten Canada.
Rakuten.ca is an online affiliate revenue-sharing platform that helps consumers save money on everyday purchases (i.e. the things they’re already buying.) Their business model is simple: sharing with its members the purchase commission paid by retailers.
The service operates through a website, a browser extension and an app that offers cashback before checking out at online retailers and even physical stores. It even offers special deals for customers, such as free shipping, 2 for 1, or free gifts with purchases.
Rakuten Canada’s headquarters are in Toronto. The company claims to have over 5 million members to whom they have paid $70 million in cash back. It has partnered with over 750 retailers in Canada, including big names such as:
How Does Rakuten Work?
The way Rakuten Canada operates is pretty similar to affiliate marketing strategies:
- Major online stores advertise coupons and deals on Rakuten.ca.
- Rakuten.ca directs its internet traffic to them.
- Customers directed by Rakuten.ca hyperlinks make their purchases.
- Rakuten.ca gets paid by the stores for the sales they generated.
- Instead of keeping the commission, Rakuten Canada splits it with the customers making the purchases.
This way, Rakuten Canada members effectively get cash-back on their purchases.
This is not, however, the only way in which Rakuten operates. Since 2018 (as ebates), they’ve been working with brick-and-mortar stores as well. In this case, instead of clicks, they use credit cards registered by their members.
In order to get your cashback, there are only a couple of easy to follow steps:
Step 1: Sign Up To Rakuten.ca
First of all, access Rakuten.ca through your browser and sign up for an account.
Signing up is pretty easy. Use your Facebook account, or enter your email address and a password to get started. Canadians can become members of Rakuten U.S. as well by making online purchases from U.S. based stores. The two accounts (Canada and U.S.) will track cash backs separately, which some times can lead to a bit of confusion, but more on that later.
Step 2: Choose How To Receive Your Cashback
After signing up, you’ll be ready to earn cashback. However, before shopping, you must choose how you will receive your cashback between three options, if you ever want to receive the money:
- Cheque: mailed to your postal address on file.
- Paypal: deposited in your Paypal account.
- Charity: sent to your charity, friend or family member of your choice.
Step 3: Shop In 4 Different Ways
Once you have set up your account and payment options, there are several ways you can use Rakuten Canada: through the website, the browser extension, gift cards or going to walk-in retailers.
Shop Using Your Web Browser
If you prefer using the website, it is very important that you remember to log in to Rakuten.ca prior to visiting the online retailers:
- Log in using your username and password.
- Find the name of the store(s) you wish to shop using the alphabetical list Rakuten provides, or with their search bar. Each store will show the percentage of cash back you’ll get from purchases.
- Click on the store’s ad.
- Start shopping.
Shop Using The Rakuten Express Cashback Extension
Another other option is through the browser extension:
- Download the Rakuten Express Cashback browser extension that you will find in the Rakuten website.
- Go to the affiliated online store.
- A popup will inform you whether the website you visit is eligible to earn you cash back on your purchase and the percentage.
- Click the button in the popup to activate Rakuten and earn cashback.
- Start shopping.
In both previous cases, all your purchases will be registered and your account will be credited with the published cashback within 48 hours after eligible purchases.
Rakuten.ca Gift Card Shop
One of Rakuten Canada’s unique features is its gift card shop. Here you can buy plastic and electronic gift cards and also add them to the same account as the shopping portal.
- Access Rakuten.ca with your browser
- Log in using your username and password.
- Access the Rakuten.ca gift card shop.
- Check the gift cards available. The list of merchants offering Cash Back on gift card purchases changes daily.
- Pick a merchant, choose an amount and pay using your credit card or PayPal.
- Receive your e-gift card by email (within 48 hours) or by mail (within 2 business days).
The list of gift cards offered includes Air Canada, Canadian Tire, Cineplex, Esso, IGA, Loblaw, No Frills, Petro Canada, Safeway, Shell, Shoppers, Uber, Walmart, and Indigo, among many others. Within their strategy to partner brick-and-mortar retailers, the Gift Card Shop recently added 30 malls nationwide including Yorkdale Mall (ON), Crossiron Mills (AB), Montreal Eaton Centre (QC), Mayfair Shopping Centre (BC) and Mic Mac Mall (NS).
Rakuten.ca Credit Card Cash Back
You can also get cashback with Rakuten on purchases made in brick-and-mortar walk-in stores using your credit card of choice. All you have to do is:
- Access Rakuten.ca with your browser.
- Log in using your username and password.
- Add one or more valid credit cards to your Rakuten.ca profile
- Link available In-Store Cash Back offers to cards.
- Shop and pay with an eligible linked card. You don’t have to present coupons, vouchers, codes or anything extra at the store.
- Earn Cash Back on qualifying purchases. It will be credited to your account within 7 days.
How Much Cashback Can You Earn?
There are several ways to earn cashback with Rakuten.
Once you become a Rakuten Canada member, you’ll get a $5 welcome bonus on sign-up, which is credited to your account after you have made your first purchase of $25 or more within 30 days of signing up.
You can also get a $5 commission per each person you refer, as long as they actually use Rakuten at least once to buy something over $25. Referral bonus promotions may change seasonally or depend on offers. Sometimes, they can pay you $25 for each person you refer for up to 3 people; others, you get an extra $40 bonus for referring 2 people, earning you a total of $50.
Cashback Rates On Purchases
The amount of cashback you can get for actually shopping with Rakuten.ca will vary from store to store. Some will offer as little as a 1 or 2%, while many others offer 10%, 20%, 30%, and higher cash rebates. Daily promotions can make these deals even juicier, so you should always check to see if there are any additional promotions running.
Keep in mind that Rakuten.ca cashback will generally be a rebate you can add to coupons, promotions, and credit cards’ reward points, so you can combine Rakuten.ca with cash back credit cards that, by themselves, allow you to earn 2% – 5% cashback on your purchase.
Finally, Rakuten Gift Cards are also a good way to continue racking up rebates. Rakuten.ca members can earn up to 5% Cash Back on more than 100 gift cards across categories like gas, grocery, restaurants, and travel.
Getting Your Money
Your cashback accumulates and is paid out four times per year, as long as your account has $5.01 or more in it. It is worth noting that sign-up and referral cash backs are considered “bonus rewards” that do not count in said minimum. The payout schedule is divided in four trimesters and you get the cashback one and a half months after the end of each period as follows:
- For cash back earned between January 1 and March 31, the Payment is sent on May 15.
- April 1 – June 30: Payment sent August 15.
- July 1 – September 30: Payment sent November 15.
- October 1 – December 31: Payment February 15.
So, don’t forget to set up the payment form. If you miss the date, you’ll have to wait for a whole quarter!
Rakuten.ca is completely free, super easy to use and safe. You just have to sign-in on the website and it will tell you what rebate percentage you will earn at each particular store; then you click on the store and shop as you usually would.
If that were not enough, Rakuten’s benefits actually add up to others, so you can supersize your savings, including your credit card’s cashback earning potentials.
Another important advantage is the number of stores that are available to shop through Rakuten, which, combined with the fact that it is supported by a global company, will allow you to enjoy discounts and save money not only in Canadian retailers but in many places around the world.
Last but not least, Rakuten’s customer service is pretty decent and, in case of doubt, the whole platform actually gives you clear instructions for avoiding technical problems.
Related: AIR MILES loyalty program.
Are There Any Drawbacks To Rakuten?
Rakuten sounds great and it is. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, though, and there are a couple of things you may want to consider before jumping in:
Drawback #1: Payments
As we just explained, Rakuten.ca only makes quarterly payments provided you’ve met the minimum withdrawal requirement ($5.01). To make things worse, said payments are spaced out so that you have to wait almost two months after your purchase deadline to get your cashback. This can be frustrating for true regular customers or for those who are used to getting rewards immediately.
Drawback #2: Restrictions
The obvious one is that you can only get rebates from purchases at affiliate stores. However, you’ll find that, even for these, some fine print may apply to the deals, such as exclusions and/or having to shop in specific departments.
Drawback #3: Rewards For Spending
It might be challenging for those who have problems with overspending. To be honest, Rakuten makes it so easy to see these offers and shop, that you could feel tempted by the impulse to buy things you don’t need, just because they are “on-sale”.
Drawback #4: Technical Quirks
Since Rakuten requires you to shop through its website in order to get cashback, some technical privacy-related issues may accidentally prevent the platform from working properly on your devices. Although this is a very minor problem, some users who don’t know how to deal with pop-up blockers, browser add-ons, etc. might find it somewhat difficult to overcome.
It is also worth mentioning here, that Rakuten.com Cash Back Balances are displayed and payments are made in U.S. dollars, not Canadian dollars, so the conversion and fees associated with it might confuse some users.
An Alternative To Rakuten For Students: The SPC Card
If you are a student in Canada, you may want to consider joining the Student Price Card loyalty program by buying and SPC card. For only $10 per year, you get access to discounts that go from 10% to 60% in over 450 retail partners. These partners span anything from food&drink and college supplies to automobile accessories and travel. It’s a better choice than Rakuten since you get the cashback as a discount immediately when paying for your purchases. This means you won’t have to wait a single day to get your cashback.
If you think that the $10 annual fee is a downside, it doesn’t have to be. There’s also the fact that by opening a BMO or CIBC student bank account (which is free), or by applying for their student credit cards (also free), you’ll get the SPC membership free of charge.
If you’re a student in Canada, read our review of the SPC card and decide for yourself if it’s right for you!
The Bottom Line
If you prefer online shopping and don’t want to spend your valuable time looking for coupons and promotional codes, you’ll find Rakuten very useful. This is especially true if you are capable of sticking to a shopping plan and avoiding compulsive shopping sprees.
On the other hand, if you’re a Canadian student, we recommend you to join the SPC program instead. For everyone else, Rakuten will prove to be a great tool for your routine, everyday purchases, that will allow you to save both time and money.