Rakuten Review: Earn Cashback When You Shop

If you’re a savvy online shopper, you probably already know to poke around the web for a coupon that applies to your order. But you’ve probably also found that more often than not, those coupon codes just don’t work. 

An easier way to save money on your shopping can be to use a cashback program like Rakuten. Your purchase amount won’t be lower, but you’ll get cashback later — kind of like a delayed discount. 

With Rakuten, all you have to do to start earning cashback is download the free browser extension (or mobile app) to use while you shop. Over 4,000 retailers are on Rakuten, so while there’s no guarantee you’ll get cashback on every purchase, at least some of your favorite brands are probably on on there. 

Quick Facts: Rakuten

  • Rewards rate: Varies depending on the retailer
  • Welcome bonus: Earn an extra 10% cashback for the first 7 days
  • Other bonuses: $30 referral bonus
  • Fee: None

. . .

Overview of Rakuten

Using Rakuten is fairly easy and signing up won’t cost you a penny. You can sign up for a free account in less than 30 seconds and there is often a welcome bonus, such as an extra 10% cashback for your first seven days. 

With Rakuten, you can shop and earn cashback at over 4,000 stores. And not just on physical goods — travel, dining, and groceries can qualify too. 

You can search for any retailer you like on the Rakuten website or app to see if they participate in the cashback program. Here are some popular ones that currently partner with Rakuten:

  • Walmart
  • Sephora
  • Nike
  • eBay
  • Sam’s Club
  • Chewy
  • Apple.com
  • H&M
  • Ticketmaster
  • Shutterfly
  • Banana Republic
  • Walgreens
  • Kroger
  • Ace Hardware

So, what’s in it for Rakuten? Well, they earn a commission when you make a purchase. They then give you a portion of that commission in the form of cashback. 

If you’ve heard of Ebates, that’s now Rakuten — they took over in 2014. 

Pros

  • Welcome bonus
  • Referral bonus
  • Cashback at over 4,000 stores
  • Exclusive deals and savings
  • Free to use

Cons

  • Not all stores are available
  • Some retailers offer very small cashback rates
  • Must earn $5 to cash out
  • Payments only come quarterly
  • Payments are only via physical check or Paypal

How to Sign up With Rakuten

To create an account with Rakuten, you’ll need to provide an email address and create a password. 

You can download the free browser extension if you want to make finding deals easier when you’re shopping, or you can skip the extension and just use their website. 

If you choose not to use the extension, you need to remember to pop onto the Rakuten website to check if the retailer you want is currently offering a deal. You will then use their custom tracking link to head to that retailer’s website where you will check out as normal. 

Rakuten also has a free mobile app that you can use to help you earn cashback on in-store purchases. You’ll just need to activate the deal you want in the app, and then it’ll direct you to the store.

How Does Rakuten Cashback Work?

How much cashback you can earn with Rakuten depends entirely on what’s offered by the retailer you want to shop with. 

Sometimes, cashback rates are as low as 1%, but they can also soar to 20%. More often, you will see rates on the lower side, but free money is free money. 

You can earn an unlimited amount of cashback, so if you do a lot of online shopping, you stand to earn a decent amount. Some retailers do limit how much cashback you can earn on certain purchases, so it’s always worth reading the fine print. 

Once a quarter, you will receive all of your cashback earnings in a single lump sum, as a physical check or PayPal deposit. 

Other Rakuten Perks

Besides earning cashback when shopping, there are a few other perks you can scoop up from Rakuten along the way. 

To start, there are often welcome bonuses depending on when you sign up. For example, an extra 10% cashback on purchases made within the first seven days. 

You can also earn a referral bonus any time someone creates a new account using your referral link. 

Also, Rakuten partners sometimes offer special discount codes.

How To Get the Most Out of Rakuten

Using Rakuten is a smart way to earn money for purchases you were going to make anyway. But with a little planning, you can get even more out of it. 

Compare prices

To ensure you're getting the best overall deal, compare the prices at different retailers. Sometimes, a store might offer higher cashback, but specific conditions or promo codes could cancel out those benefits. Crunch the numbers on which retailer offers the better overall deal. 

Use the browser extension

It’s easy to forget to check Rakuten for deals before shopping, so download and use the browser extension for reminders about available cashback offers. These reminders will pop up automatically while you are shopping online. 

Look for double cashback retailers

Keep an eye on stores offering double cashback on your purchases. Rakuten selects these stores daily, so these deals are always changing.

Use the app in-store

Most people think of Rakuten as an online shopping tool, but you can also save in-store. There are app-exclusive offers, hot deal notifications, and in-store cashback opportunities.

Refer friends

Friends help friends save. Recommend Rakuten to friends via email or your referral link. If they join and make a qualifying purchase, you'll earn a referral bonus once they meet a certain spending threshold.

Explore Rakuten's homepage

If you have a shopping list ready to go, but aren’t in a rush to make a purchase, regularly check the homepage for featured daily deals, double cashback stores, and opportunities to combine promo codes with cashback offers. You don’t want to spend just for the sake of earning cashback, so only apply this strategy if you need to make a purchase anyway. 

What We Like About Rakuten

We love that Rakuten is free and easy to use — there are no fees to sign up and you don’t need to meet any spending requirements to earn your cashback. Plus, since there are so many retailers on there, you’re likely to find a brand that you like to shop with.

The browser extension is a great feature too, since it’ll notify you when there are potential deals that you’re missing out on. 

We also love that there are so many bonuses of brands offering increased rates of 3%, 5%, 10%, or more. If you can jump on those deals when they come up, you can earn a fair chunk of cashback. 

What We Dislike About Rakuten

With Rakuten, you’re automatically opted in to have your non-sensitive personal data (such as your browsing history and IP address) shared with third parties. If you don’t want this, you have to go into your account and manually opt out.

Now, this isn’t surprising given that Rakuten is a funnel that feeds you into whatever brand you’re shopping with. That brand wants to know about you (and needs to know some things about you to customize your shopping experience). But if you’re concerned about privacy, you’ll want to review your settings.    

(Note that Rakuten says it doesn’t sell your sensitive personal information, like your gender, age, income, and location.)

You also need to make sure to use Rakuten at least once a year — otherwise, your account goes dormant and you’ll owe a “maintenance fee” of $5 per month. While 12 months is a long time, if you don’t shop very often, a year could go by without you realizing it.

Who Should Use Rakuten?

Since it won’t cost you a penny to sign up or use Rakuten, anyone can benefit from using it. But the people who will get the most value out of it are those who do a lot of shopping (especially online) and who are patient to wait for bonus offers for specific brands or products. 

Also, if you have a cashback credit card in your wallet, you could use it to earn even more money back — a percentage from Rakuten and another percentage from your card. Just remember to pay off your credit card bill each month to avoid racking up interest charges that would counteract the cashback.

READ MORE: Best Cashback Credit Cards

Who Shouldn’t Use Rakuten?

Rakuten may not be a good fit if you’re easily tempted to spend money. The cashback bonuses might encourage you to buy things that you don’t really need. Even just browsing the app or website might be too tempting if you’re trying to save money.

If you are an impulse shopper, have credit card debt, or don’t want any distractions while you work towards meeting your financial goals, you may want to avoid Rakuten. 

Alternatives to Rakuten

If you’re on the fence about whether Rakuten is the right fit for your shopping, there are other cashback rewards programs. 

Rakuten vs. Capital One Shopping

Capital One Shopping works similarly to Rakuten, but also heavily focuses on finding you discounts and automatically applies relevant coupon codes. 

Best of all, you don’t need a Capital One credit card or bank account — anyone can use this rewards program. 

With Capital One Shopping, you earn a percentage of your purchases back in the form of rewards, which you can redeem for gift cards at major retailers like eBay or Walmart. 

So, you won’t end up with cold, hard cash, which makes Capital One Shopping less flexible than Rakuten, but a free gift card is nice, too.

Rakuten vs. Ibotta

Ibotta takes a bit more work than Rakuten but also makes it easy to take advantage of retailer-specific loyalty programs with major brands like Whole Foods, Petco, and Target. 

Ibotta is good if you prefer to make in-person purchases, as you can upload photos of your receipts to Ibotta to earn rewards. 

There’s also an app and a free Chrome extension. 

Rakuten vs. Upside

Not a big shopper? You can still save money on essentials like transportation and food by using a tool like Upside. 

With this app, you can earn up to 30% cashback at grocery stores, 25 cents back on every gallon of gas, and up to 45% cashback at restaurants. These deals mostly apply to large national chains, but sometimes you can find deals with local small businesses. 

There is no welcome bonus, but you can earn rewards by participating in the referral program. When you refer a new user, you will earn 1 cent per gallon every time your referrals buy gas.

FAQs

Is Rakuten safe?

Yes, Rakuten is a legitimate cashback program that follows international standards for online security. 

Rakuten is an affiliate network, which means Rakuten earns a commission from everything you buy through the app. Your cashback is a portion of that commission.

Does Rakuten sell your information?

Rakuten says that it does not collect or sell your “sensitive” personal information, and only uses that information to provide its services to you. Sensitive information includes things like your gender, age, household income, marital status, and geo-location.

However, Rakuten does use cookies to track your purchase and shares your non-sensitive data with third parties that it partners with. Non-sensitive data includes things like your browsing history, IP address, pages viewed, and links clicked.

You can opt out of third-party data sharing.

The Bottom Line

Rakuten is a free, easy-to-use cashback program that you can use for shopping both online and in-person. There are over 4,000 brands included in Rakuten’s network, so you’re likely to find some of your favorite stores on there!

If you’re easily swayed into spending, Rakuten may be too much of a temptation. But if you only use it to buy things you would have bought otherwise, you can earn a nice bonus of cashback.

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I'm an award-winning lawyer and personal finance expert featured in Inc. Magazine, CNBC, the Today Show, Business Insider and more. My mission is to make personal finance accessible for everyone. As the largest financial influencer in the world, I'm connected to a community of over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. I'm also the host of the podcast Erika Taught Me. You might recognize me from my viral tagline, "I read the fine print so you don't have to!"

I'm a graduate of Georgetown Law, where I founded the Georgetown Law Entrepreneurship Club, and the University of Notre Dame. I discovered my passion for personal finance after realizing I was drowning in over $200,000 of student debt and needed to take action-ultimately paying off my student loans in under 2 years. I then spent years as a corporate lawyer representing Fortune 500 companies, but I quit because I realized I wanted to have an impact; I wanted to help real people and teach them that you can create a financial future for yourself.

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Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our aim is to help you make financial decisions with confidence through our objective article content and reviews. Erika.com is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as MileValue.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers. This in no way affects our recommendations or article content.