Rakuten Review 2019: Scam or Money-Saving Opportunity?

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This article has been reviewed and deemed factual by our content auditor with 8 years of banking experience.

Article Approved By Banking Expert

This article has been reviewed and deemed factual by our content auditor with 8 years of banking experience.

Are you tired of searching for promo codes, clipping coupons and then still paying full price for most of your purchases anyway?

You can spend 30 minutes or more just searching for online coupons and codes, trying one expired code after another.

Your quest to save money is valid, but you need a more efficient way to quickly locate working promo codes, coupons and in-store discounts. Insert: Rakuten.com.

survey junkie reviewRakuten will give you a free $10 Walmart gift card just for signing up today. 

In 2019, Ebates became the newest online company to fall under the Rakuten enterprise (hence the “Rakuten review” title). While the name of the service changed to Rakuten.com, operations have remained about the same from the consumer side. Perhaps the main difference is that Rakuten is a Japanese company based in Tokyo, but still works smoothly for shoppers in the United States.

In Canada, Korea and Japan, Rakuten still operates under the original Ebates websites.

What Is Rakuten?

rakuten review

Rakuten is a shopping tool that helps you save money on every purchase you make. While paper coupons and promo codes may save you a few dollars off a purchase, Rakuten.com can connect you to cash back opportunities. In most cases, the cash back is calculated as a percentage of your purchase. That means that you save more with larger purchases.

Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, has saved users over $1,000,000,000 since 1999

You can use Rakuten to pay less at stores that don’t often have sales. In many stores, you can stack store sales prices, manufacturer coupons, store loyalty perks and Rakuten promo codes. The sales prices and coupons redeemed directly through the store will reflect in your balance due at the time of purchase. Your Rakuten.com savings will arrive quarterly.

While the money you save with Rakuten isn’t immediately delivered, it does add up quickly. If you shop a lot, you may receive a substantial check each quarter. Even if you just use the service for holiday shopping, the money you will later receive is worth the effort.

How Does Rakuten Work?

The original service, Ebates.com, started out as an online shopping tool. It later expanded to in-store cash back opportunities. We’ll discuss how you can save money with Rakuten when shopping online first. Scroll down to the next section of this Rakuten review to find step-by-step instructions for in-store savings.

Sign up for an account

You can do this through Rakuten.com or download the app. You only give basic contact and identification information. They do need your PayPal email address and mailing address to deliver your quarterly earnings.

Download the Rakuten Button

The Rakuten Button is a Firefox extension that makes using Rakuten simple. It downloads quickly and you will see the icon in the top right corner of your Firefox browser immediately. The icon is the letter “R” underlined.

With the button in place, you will automatically see alerts that cash back savings are available as you shop online. You may find that there are savings available for products and services that you would have otherwise purchased at full price. As soon as a website loads, you will know if cash back savings are available. You never have to go to the Rakuten website to shop.

You always activate the Rakuten icon at the top of your browser, so discounts are only applied with your knowledge. It happens when you simply click “apply cash back.” The page will refresh, and you’re ready to start shopping.

If you don’t want to download the button, you can start your shopping experience at Rakuten.com. Thousands of stores are listed on the site, and you can search by product, store name and other terms. When you find a store that you want to shop, click the link from the Rakuten website. That will automatically take you to the store’s website with the Rakuten cash back deals loaded. You’re ready to start shopping.

Complete your shopping trip

Shopping with Rakuten activated is just like shopping without it. You browse the store, add products to your cart and go through the checkout process when you’re ready to pay. The only difference is that Rakuten will help you find immediate discounts and promo codes before you pay.

When you reach the checkout page, look at the top right corner of your Firefox browser. The Rakuten button will present a box that tells you how many coupons, discounts or promo codes are available. Hit the button to allow Rakuten to automatically test each coupon or code on your order. It will apply the one that gives you the most savings.

If a discount code works, you will receive those savings as an immediate reduction in the amount owed for your order. You will still receive your cash back on the amount of your order when Rakuten sends out quarterly earnings.

If no immediate discounts apply, complete your transaction as normal. You will still earn cash back.

Watch your savings accumulate

Rakuten sends out quarterly payments for all cash back earned. The Rakuten Button will show you how much you’ve earned overall and for the upcoming payout. You can also find that information on the website. Have fun watching your savings build as you anticipate that big check.

How to Save Money with Rakuten In-Store

There aren’t as many in-store cash back offers as there are online shopping deals. This is the newest service offered for Rakuten, so you may see an increase in participating stores in the future. Start by signing up for an account and downloading the Rakuten app to your smartphone. Then follow these additional steps to make in-store discounts work for you.

Find the offer that you want to apply

You can find in-store discount offers at Rakuten.com or through the Rakuten mobile app. Make sure you find the in-store offers because most of the cash back offers on the site are for online shopping only.

If your store has an in-store offer available, continue with these steps. If it doesn’t, consider buying online if cash back is available for virtual orders.

Link the offer to your credit card

You can link offers through the Rakuten website or mobile app. Underneath the store logo and details of the offer, you will see a “Link Offer” button. Click that to enter your credit card number. Use the credit card that you will use to make the in-store purchase.

You can link offers in real time while standing in a store. Before you buy anything, you should check the app to see if you can get cash back or perhaps save a few dollars immediately.

Complete your transaction

Go through the in-store checkout process like normal. Just make sure to pay with the linked credit card to receive your Rakuten earnings. Each offer applies only one time, so it will unlink itself from your credit card after the transaction is complete.

Rakuten Payment Options

All of your online and in-store cash back savings will accumulate over time. Regardless of how it’s earned, it all pays out in one lump sum at the end of each quarter. There was an option to redeem the savings in virtual gift cards when the service was Ebates, but you now have only two options:

  • PayPal deposit
  • Paper check

If you don’t specify that you prefer PayPal, you will receive the paper check each quarter. Make sure that your PayPal email and home mailing addresses are up to date in your account details.

Maximize Savings with Rakuten

Signing up for Rakuten is a good idea. But, when you sign up with a strategy in mind, you’ll really maximize your savings. Here are our top tips for maximizing your savings:

  • Refer your friends to Rakuten. You’ll earn a $25 credit to your next quarterly payout for every friend who follows our referral and joins. Your friends will also receive $10 credits to get started.
  • Follow the double cash back opportunities. Different stores are listed for double cash back every week. If you can hold back on an expensive purchase, you could save double by timing the purchase wisely. The only catch is you never know what stores will appear in this category. Some may never appear.
  • Look for Rakuten-exclusive deals. Some companies are now partnering with Rakuten to offer discounts that aren’t available through any other coupon or savings service. For example, you can now earn cash back for every Lyft ride you take. You won’t find that deal anywhere else.
  • Install the Rakuten Button for your browser. (Even if you don’t intend to shop online). When you search Google for products and services, you’ll see the cash back rate offered by Rakuten in the search results. It appears right about the search result listing for any store included in the Rakuten network.
  • Reload your in-store discount to your credit card for multiple purchases. While each discount applies to only one transaction, you can reload the savings to your credit card while standing in the store. That allows you to make multiple purchases for additional savings without making two trips to the store.
  • Download the Rakuten app to your smartphone (even if you don’t intend to use the in-store savings features). You’ll receive notifications of new savings opportunities, ensuring that you never miss a chance to save money.

Rakuten Review Summary

Rakuten is definitely a money-saving opportunity and absolutely not a scam.

Our recommendation? Sign up for Rakuten today. It takes just a second to sign up–and you might as well save money on purchases you’re going to make anyway.

Really want to maximize your savings? Visit our latest post on the best money making apps and apps to make money for PayPal use. Or, check out our Survey Junkie review to see how to earn money online doing surveys.

Brian Roberts

Brian Roberts

Editor at CarefulCents
Featured in The Washington Post and published in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Business Insider, Time, Inc., CNBC and others.