I may receive compensation if you make a purchase using the links on this page.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret. You might be missing out on a small fortune in cash rewards when you shop online. No, I'm not talking about using a cash rewards credit card.
Instead, you can use the Rakuten shopping tool to effortlessly get cash back at over 2,500 online stores. You can even get cash rewards when at local stores. And the best part is that Rakuten is completely free to use.
How do I know? I've been using Rakuten for online shopping since 2015. By far, it's my favorite online shopping app. But I'll let you decide for yourself after reading this Rakuten review.
Check this out! Rakuten will even give a $10 cash bonus after your first $25 purchase.
What is Rakuten?
Rakuten is a free online shopping tool that pays you to shop at over 2,500 online retailers. It's no secret that the retail industry is very competitive. Brands offer these “hidden rebates” to entice you to shop at their store instead of a competitor.
You can visit Rakuten.com to start a shopping session, download the mobile app, or go directly to a store website and activate a shopping session using the browser extension.
I'm lazy so I use the Google Chrome browser extension to never miss a cash back opportunity. Some of the things I have gotten cash back on purchases including my favorite dark roast coffee at Walmart, booking a vacation rental on VRBO, and an Intuit QuickBooks subscription.
Once your rewards balance reaches $5, Rakuten gives you cash or gift card rewards when the current calendar quarter ends. Actually, it's about a month into the new quarter but you get the point.
Online Shopping Rewards
You can get up to 40% back at more than 2,500 online stores. Most partners offer between 1% and 10% back. Most stores give you cash back on the items and services you buy but not shipping or taxes.
In-store cash back is also possible at roughly 80 retail brands. Many partners offer between 1% and 3% back.
Whether you shop local or online, read the cash back terms. Some stores (Amazon and eBay in particular) only award cash back on certain categories like clothing or books but not electronics or videogames.
The best part is that you don't need to be rich to earn nice cash rewards. These are some of the best opportunities:
- AT&T Wireless: Up to $75 back
- Intuit QuickBooks Online: $5 back
- Amazon: Up to 5% back
- Rakuten Hotels: 5% back on hotel nights
Double Cash Back Stores
Rakuten is always offering at least double the usual rate at certain stores. You can get emails with the latest updates. Or you can visit the Rakuten website or mobile app to see the current bonuses in one place.
Here are some recent examples:
- Boxed: 4% back (normally 2%)
- Expedia: 10% back (normally 3.5%)
- Magazines.com: 42% back (normally 25%)
- Safeway: 10% back (normally 2%)
- Zulily: 5% back (normally 1%)
How to Earn Cash Rewards
Getting cash rewards is easy with Rakuten. It's really as easy as 1-2-3.
- Activate a shopping session through the Rakuten website, browser extension, or mobile app.
- Pay for your purchase in the special shopping session.
- Wait for the cash back notification to arrive (usually within 24 hours)
If you go directly to the retailer website without activating a shopping session first, you won't get Rakuten cash back.
Rakuten Button Browser Extension
Before I got the browser extension, I would sometimes forget to activate a shopping session. Not anymore!
Let's say I go to Vitacost to buy organic pantry items. The extension automatically notifies me with the current cash rewards rate. I can click the activate option before paying and Rakuten handles it from there.
You can also see if there are any discount codes you can use to get save money.
The free mobile app is also available for Android and iOS. This is your best option if you're at a store or restaurant that's offering in-store cash back. Also, the mobile app offers bonus cash back at certain stores that you won't get using Rakuten in your web browser.
In-Store Cash Back
By linking your payment card to your Rakuten account, you can get cash back at local stores and restaurants. Some examples include:
- 3% back at Under Armour
- 2% back at Jos. A. Bank
- 4% back at Lindt Chocolate Shop
I'll be honest and say that Rakuten is one of my favorite ways to make extra money.
It's relatively easy to get $5 in cash rewards if you shop online often at sites other than Amazon. I also use a cash rewards credit card, so I get an extra 2% back on each purchase too. But, it's cool if you use a debit card. Whatever it takes to buy what you need and protect your credit score. You're still saving money using Rakuten.
In most cases, you receive your cash back notification within 24 hours of paying for your purchase. However, some retailers (like eBay) can take longer as it takes the brand longer to track and properly report your purchase to Rakuten.
You have three fee-free payment methods:
- Gift cards
- Mailed paper check
I like PayPal personally. Rakuten covers the 3% merchant fees. So if your balance is $10, you see the full $10 payment on payday!
Gift cards are another option. With select merchants, you can get a redemption bonus. I've never done this as I don't shop at these stores often. I also like the flexibility of PayPal cash.
Rakuten pays you up to four times a year:
- May 15
- August 15
- November 15
- January 15
To get paid, your rewards balance must be at least $5.00 when the current calendar quarter ends (March 31, Jun 30, Sept 30, or December 31).
If your balance isn't $5 when the quarter ends, your balance rolls forward and pays on the soonest payment date once you reach the $5 rewards requirement.
One reason why I like Rakuten more than the other cashback shopping portals is their customer service. There are times when our shopping trips don't track. Rakuten has always quickly responded to our query. The correct cash reward shows in our account within 24 hours of us sending a copy of our e-receipt (usually).
With other portals (that tend to offer higher cash back rates), it can take days to get a response. In some cases, you may never see your money. This can be frustrating even if it is a first-world problem. If I'm making a big purchase, I use Rakuten because I have more assurance they will accurately track the cash back rate.
It's easy to join Rakuten. You can signup with your email, Facebook, or Google account.
Remember that Rakuten is always free to use. I've never paid a fee in the 4+ years I've been a member.
$10 Bonus Cash
You also get $10 bonus cash by making your first $25+ purchase using Rakuten. Your reward is either a Walmart gift card or cash payment.
Positives and Negatives
Rakuten is a legit shopping tool. Now let's decide if it's right for you. After all, they have a 4.5 out of 5 ConsumerAffairs rating.
- Get cash back at over 2,500 stores
- Get paid cash with a $5 rewards balance
- Brower extension and mobile app make sure you never forget a shopping session
- $10 bonus cash after your first $25 purchase
- It's 100% free to use
- Not every online store offers cash rewards
- Can only get paid 4 times a year
- Some cash back apps offer higher rates at some stores
Rakuten is an effortless way to get cash rewards on most online purchases. Most stores offer up to 10% back. It's free to join. And, hey, getting a one-time $10 cash bonus on your first $25+ purchase isn't too shabby either.
It's your turn? Are you going to shop online with Rakuten? Leave a comment and tell us why.
Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.