Rakuten offers an easy cash back program where referral commissions from brands and retailers are split between Rakuten and its members. It has several different ways for members to interact with the services, aiming to make cash back earning simple.
Rakuten is undoubtedly one of the more popular cash back apps in the world, you should be aware that cash back is only paid out every three months. This is a big drawback for most people and is why apps like Fetch Rewards may be better options for some.
If you’re on the constant lookout for great cash back apps that let you save on all your purchases, then you may have heard of Rakuten, one of the most popular loyalty programs in the world. In this Rakuten review, you’ll learn what Rakuten is, how it works, what features it offers, and whether or not it’s the right choice for you.
What Is Rakuten?
Rakuten is a loyalty rewards company that offers partner stores and merchants access to a large pool of clients, and offers its users cash back rewards for purchasing with those merchants. Rakuten is a Japanese word that means optimism. In 2014, Rakuten took over the rewards company Ebates. Based in San Francisco, California, it’s available in the U.S. and has sister sites in Canada, Japan, and France. Describing itself as a cash back shopping companion, it claims to have given an average cash back of $63.50 per member during 2020. Since its launch in 1997, it has paid over $3.7 billion to its 17 million U.S. members alone. It’s accredited by the Better Business Bureau, but it only has a rating of B.
Rakuten works by referring its members to select partner brands and stores and it then returns part of the referral commission in the form of cash back. Its services can be accessed online through the website or a browser extension. There is also a smartphone app. The Rakuten app has a Google Play Store rating of 4.0 out of 5 stars. The Apple Store rating is 5/5 but there are only 3 reviews.
Features Of Rakuten
Rakuten has several different ways of rewarding customers with cash back, whether shopping online or in-store. Here, we’ll review those features as well as how to cash out and other benefits.
#1 A $10 Signup Bonus
Rakuten currently has an offer for new members to earn a bonus of $10 once they have spent a minimum of $25 through the app or website.
#2 Mobile App
The Rakuten app is available for iPhone and Android smartphones. Once downloaded and logged in, customers begin a ‘shopping trip.’ The app gives notifications if cash back is available at the chosen stores. If you prefer to shop through your Chrome browser on your phone, notifications can be set to alert you when cash back is available at a particular store.
#3 Cash Back At eBay
Rakuten offers cash back on eBay orders, depending on the category. Purchases made through both winning bids and Buy it Now are eligible and the purchase must be completed and paid for before cash back is awarded. There is a limit of $50 cash back available for a single order.
#4 In-Store Savings
By linking a credit or debit card to the Rakuten account, members can earn cash back when shopping in physical stores. You can find and activate offers on the app and you'll receive cash back once payment is made with the linked card.
#5 Shopping Online
Customers have a couple of options to earn cash back when shopping online.
Shopping At Rakuten.com
By exploring and finding purchases through the website, customers automatically create a shopping trip. Once a link is clicked, a new window will open that shows the chosen store. By completing the purchase through this portal, you automatically earn cash back.
Using The Browser Extension
You can add the Cash Back button to your Chrome browser, which enables you to earn cash back and find coupons easily. This means you don’t have to open rakuten.com to find deals.
When you visit an e-store or website that has coupons or cash back available, the extension will notify you and activate the offer.
Rakuten may send you details of offers through email. By clicking on links in the email, you begin a new shopping list as a window to the store opens. Cash back is activated and you can shop as normal.
By searching for stores through Google Maps or Yelp, the cash back button will notify you if there is a Groupon deal available. You can claim this as well as any eligible cash back offers.
#6 Rakuten Shopping Trips
When shopping through any of the available methods (rakuten.com, mobile app, or browser extension), you create a Shopping Trip. Rakuten assigns this trip a unique number and uses it to trace the order and award the appropriate cash back. All purchases must have this number in order to qualify for cash back. Completed shopping lists can be viewed through the member’s account.
#7 Rakuten Dining
A new initiative from Rakuten is the dining program. Over 10,000 restaurants across the U.S. are participating and offering cash back to customers who choose them. This extends to delivery services like Grubhub, Caviar, and MealPal.
#8 Coupon Magic
As you use Rakuten by shopping on the website, clicking a link, or with the Cash Back Button, money-off coupons and promotional codes are automatically searched for and added to your shopping cart. At the checkout, an option to view them appears and the app then applies the best discount available.
#9 Savings On Travel
The travel options at Rakuten are extensive and you can find them on the Travel & Vacations page on the mobile app or at rakuten.com. Customers can stack any cash back offers with other reward programs available to them. It is important that members check carefully the cash back amount available as they do vary across different areas of travel. Cash back is only awarded after the trip is completed and it can take up to three months to process.
#10 Refer A Friend
Rakuten offers a very good refer-a-friend program, awarding you $30 each time you sign someone else up. Once they spend $30, they’ll also receive a $30 bonus. There is no limit to the number of referrals members can do.
#11 Rakuten Influencers
Rakuten encourages social media users to spread the word about their services. They will pay an undisclosed amount for every referral and an extra $50 for every 10 qualified sign-ups. Influencers can also receive promotional information early, giveaways, and sponsorship opportunities.
Cashing Out With Rakuten
Cash back is paid either as a check in the mail or through PayPal. The amount accumulated can be seen on the Cash Back Balance page of your account. This also shows all the individual amounts earned on orders and is updated once a purchase is completed, usually within a few days.
Cash back awarded can also be sent as a notification to your device. By installing your bank's mobile app, you can opt to have your check deposited quickly by photographing both sides of it and endorsing the top part.
Cash back is approved if an account has all relevant profile details such as a current address (even for PayPal payments). Once the cash back balance is over $5, it can be released according to the following schedule:
|Purchases completed between
|Check or PayPal payment issued
|January 1st to March 31st
|April 1st to June 30th
|July 1st to September 30th
|October 1st to December 31st
Donating To Nonprofits
Rakuten offers members the ability to donate part of their cash back balance to Cash Back for Change. You must opt into the program in your account settings. When your quarterly cash back payment is due, the change portion is automatically donated. For example, if your cash back balance is $45.86, then you will receive $45, and the 86 cents are donated. The nonprofits benefiting from the program are:
- Direct Relief—a humanitarian organization supporting those affected by natural disasters.
- Eat. Learn. Play—supports underprivileged children to succeed.
- Girls Inc. of Alameda County—helps girls develop into successful women.
Credit Card Points
Rakuten has partnered with American Express to allow eligible members to earn membership reward points on their purchases through the program. Cash back earned is converted into points and added to their American Express account. Members can sign up for this feature by linking their American Express card to their Rakuten account.
For every $1 spent through the Rakuten portals and paid for with the linked card, members will earn an additional one point that can be transferred to the American Express Rewards Program. Points balances are transferred each quarter as the schedule above shows for normal cash back. The donation of change to nonprofits is not available in this program.
The Rakuten Blog
Rakuten has a Blog called The Smart Shopper. It includes posts under Lifestyle and Tips & Tricks categories. The posts are informative and include healthcare advice, how to shop for bargains, and our personal favorite: Store Secrets.
The Blog also includes a Winners page showing the results of giveaways and sweepstakes. Rakuten encourages members to monitor its social media pages to keep informed about these events. There are also other special offers like Live Nation Concert Cash where Live Nation gives new Rakuten members $30 off their next concert ticket.
Pros Of Rakuten
- When booking travel through Rakuten, customers can still make use of other loyalty programs and offers. These include air miles or hotel rewards.
- By assigning every shopping trip with a unique number, orders become easy to trace. This can be very useful if an order is not completed. Members can return to that order at a later date and finish the purchase if they wish. It also makes any queries to Customer Service smoother as orders are easier to find.
- Membership is free and there is no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn.
- There is no points system, cash back is awarded in dollars so customers know straight away what they are earning.
- There are different options to choose from when shopping to earn cash back.
Cons Of Rakuten
- The Amazon program has been discontinued so no cash back is available for purchases at their store.
- It can be tricky to shop around as all purchases must be made by clicking a Rakuten link. If a product is viewed and added to a basket but not purchased and the window is then closed, a new shopping list and purchase must be started in order to earn the cash back.
- The cash out system is terrible. Cash is only given 4 times a year and you still have to wait 6 weeks after the cut-off to receive the money.
- The cash back program with Visa has been discontinued. The only available credit card program is with American Express.
Rakuten is free for members to join and use. It makes money by earning a commission from retailers when they send customers to their stores. Rakuten then shares this commission with members in the form of cash back.
Rakuten Review In Summary
Rakuten is a successful cash back program that benefits its members because it is so accessible. Whether you prefer to shop online, through an app, or just have deals sent to you, Rakuten can work for you. The rates of cash back vary, so members need to check carefully every time they look at offers. However, they’re typically very good compared to other platforms.
That said, while the potential for earning cash back is good, the cash-out system is very poor. You can only access your cash back every three months, which is not ideal. Other good cash back apps like Fetch Rewards allow you to access your money more conveniently, while also offering competitive cash back rates.
Rakuten Review FAQs
Does Rakuten actually save you money?
Yes, Rakuten can save you and make you money. As you can see in this Rakuten review, it’s a ‘low lift’ way to earn and save money. The cash back rates are good, particularly in the travel area.
Is Rakuten safe?
Yes, Rakuten is safe to use. It is a well-established cash back company and has a good reputation, with a 4.2/5 rating on Trustpilot. That said, you can choose to link a credit card to your account, which can sometimes be risky. If in doubt, check with your bank, or simply don't do it.
Is Rakuten legit?
Yes, Rakuten is legitimate. However, there are reported incidents of referral bonuses not being paid. Users should monitor their accounts to ensure they receive everything they are entitled to—just as with any cash back app.
How much can I earn with Rakuten?
The cash back amounts you can earn with Rakuten vary greatly. The percentage amount might be only 1% for bigger brands and retailers but could be as much as 20% for other less-known brands. It’s up to you to check each cash back rate and decide if it’s worth it for you.
Why is the cash-out process so long?
We could find no answer to this. Perhaps it’s a way of maximizing the commission investment possibilities before having to refund it to customers, or a way to avoid making multiple smaller transactions and therefore save money on transfer commissions.