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How does Rakuten work to give cash back online? Plus a $10 sign up bonus!

Maybe you’ve heard of Rakuten? It used to be Ebates when I started using it! Here is the scoop on how Rakuten works to save you hundreds of dollars every year just buy clicking a button when you shop online! How much you earn depends on how much you already shop online and if the stores you shop at participate. I earned almost $300 cash back shopping online as I normally would my first year, without purchasing anything extra.

This post contains affiliate links.

How does Rakuten work and is it a scam?

It’s 100$ legit. Not a scam at all and I tell all my family and friends to sign up too.

You sign up, install a “cash back” button that will appear on your screen to remind you to click at each site, and you will earn anywhere from 1-25% cash back at one of the thousands of stores that participate.

Rakuten works as a middleman getting a cut for “referring” you to your shopping destination.  They pass on a percentage of that cut to you, and pay you via PayPal or check. It’s just a bonus way to get a few bucks back for each purchase (which could be hundreds of dollars) depending on how much online shopping you do.

A screenshot of different stores Ebates Cash back amounts

Does Rakuten cost any money?

No, it’s free!

Rakuten makes money from online retailers for “referring” you to shop, and then they pass part of that money back to you!

It is very similar to how you might receive cash back if you have a Costco card, or any kind of a credit card. And, just for signing up here, you will get $10 cash back after you make a $25 purchase.  By using my affiliate link, I will also receive a bonus from Rakuten as a thank you for referring you. So thank you if you end up loving it like I do!

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Is Rakuten convenient and easy to use?

Yes! Literally one click of a button before each purchase.

But you must buy as you normally would in the same browser that you click the “activate cash back”. Because after you click the button, Rakuten assigns a tracking code to the store. So if you were to close that browser and start a new one later, you would need to click the button again or you would not earn cash back.

Do I have to sign in to Rakuten every time?

Nope! They make it super easy on us.

When I was figuring out how to use it, it was easy for me and I’m NOT tech saavy!

Once you sign up they’ll give you instructions to install the Rakuten button on your computer.  You will not need to sign in really ever.  Simply click the “Activate Cash Back” button and bingo, it will notify you right away how much you have earned after the purchase.

You will be able to see if it’s “activated” because the little R (used to be an E for “Ebates”  before the name changed) will change to have a green checkmark next to it.  See mine below, just prior to clicking “activate”. FYI, The message below stating I just earned cash back was from a previous purchase. screenshot of the Ebates button activated on a computer browser showing how does Ebates work

How do I know what percent I’ll be earning before I purchase?

The button tells you what percent cash back that store offers as well as any coupons you can automatically apply. You can opt in to receive emails when your selected favorite stores do double cash back. Sometimes, like this week, there were 300 stores doing 5X cash back!

Any cash back is on top of store sales too.  So if I’m shopping at JC Penney and use a 30% off coupon, I will still get Rakuten cash back on top of that.

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How to sign up for Rakuten?

  1. Sign up for a Rakuten account here!
  2. Install the Rakuten button in Chrome or whatever browser you are on. This allows a very small popup in the corner of your screen to remind you to click “Activate Cash Back” at any retailer you are using that they accept.
  3. When you shop, before purchasing, click that “Activate Cash Back” button and you are set!
  4. They will send you money via PayPal or  a check in the mail.

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Does Rakuten really pay or is it a scam?

It’s not a scam, it pays!

My first check cashed was $1.53 from one online purchase, and my largest check was $87.89.  That is too awesome considering it’s FREE money and I would have purchased those things anyway!

The only added step was clicking the button in the top corner of my computer to “Activate Cash Back” before purchasing. It’s free, it’s not a scam, and they do pay!

Does Rakuten include any online store?

They boast over 2,500 stores, ranging anywhere from 1% cash back to 40% cash back, and you can see a list of eligible stores here.

This week I got an email saying it was “flash cash back week”, with 300 stores offering up to 5X cash back. I’ll leave the cash back amounts next to some of the stores below reflecting this offer, which is not unusual at all.  They are often doing “big” cash back weeks. Any holiday is similar, too.

  • Nordstrom Rack (1%)
  • Lululemon (4.5)
  • Amazon (up to 5%, select categories only)
  • World Market (12%)
  • JCPenney (9%)
  • Lands End(10%)
  • Etsy (3%)
  • Groupon (6%)
  • Walmart (up to 10%)
  • Old Navy (6%)
  • Travelocity
  • Priceline (up to 7%)
  • Best Buy
  • Carters (7.5%)
  • Melissa & Doug (20%)
  • Lillebaby (4%)
  • Bobbi Brown cosmetics (12%)

Why you need Rakuten installed for the holidays

In my opinion, it’s still worth joining for the holidays, or for travel. My largest cash back purchases have been at Snapfish (always 10-20% cash back), JCPenny (usually between 6-15% cash back), Blendtec, Priceline, and Groupon.

Rakuten also gives crazy amounts of double cash back during the holidays and especially around black Friday. You can also “favorite” the stores that you typically shop at the most and get alerts when those stores have big bonus cash back days.

On the flip side, if you cannot spend much at all during the holidays, read Christmas on a budget: How to make it special with less.

Does Rakuten offer cash back on Amazon purchases?

I’m a little sad about this one, because I buy everything on Amazon these days. Not every category will get cash back here. In fact, not many. On any normal day cash back is 0% for Amazon.

On weeks where they boast double cash back or like this week in July (up to 5X cash back) there are only a few categories. Here’s a screen shot of what’s available and what’s not.categories with cash back on Ebatescategories without cash back on Ebates

The downsides

There are a few, though not really considering it’s essentially a discount for you.

I think the saddest part is that Amazon only offers cash back on certain categories.

Another down side is when I finish a purchase and realize I forgot to press the button to “activate” a tracking code.  Because I cannot retroactively get cash back if I didn’t have a tracking code.

How to request cash back if it’s missing

On that same note, you CAN retroactively get cash back if you DID activate it and were not paid. This has happened to me at times and I don’t know why. Occasionally there is a glitch and it doesn’t get added to your account.

Simply google “where’s my cash back Rakuten”.  You will see a page pop up to their site where you can go enter some info from your order confirmation.  Then, it will allow you to request the cash back.  Sometimes they add it instantly and other times it takes a day or so.

Hypothetically that should never happen but I’ve noticed many times they have forgotten to grant it. Maybe a glitch? But I always get it if I request it.

What are you waiting for?!

Go Sign up Here, it’s free and takes about 2 minutes to set up!




Mara Lane

Thursday 21st of September 2017

Hello Liz. This sounds great. Thank you so much for this info. I will definitely be signing up through you!


Friday 22nd of September 2017

Hi Mara, Thanks so much! I hope you will like it and you will get $10 after you make your first purchase which is great!


Thursday 21st of September 2017

I've seen other people mentioning Ebates, but I've never tried it myself. I just couldn't decide whether it was worth the effort and whether I'd actually get much from it in the end. And there are other similar sites that do this type of thing too, I believe. I just looked over the eligible stores you mentioned here though and that was helpful, as I didn't realize there were so many. I think I may give Ebates a try. Thanks for the info.


Thursday 21st of September 2017

Hi Mary!

Hope this helps you save some $ if you online shop already. Ya, once you sign up just be sure to get the beats button it lets you download.  That way, if you are ever just shopping normally it will pop up and tell you what percent you could save at that store.  The big thing to remember is to stay in the same tab because that's the tab that will track your Ebates number and give you cash back. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Lauren Kinghorn

Friday 1st of September 2017

Hi Liz, great post, thanks. I've been looking into Ebates for a while but I'm not sure if it will work for me in South Africa. Do you know whether any of these stores ship to South Africa or do any of the 2000 stores on Ebates specialise in digital downloads such as e-books or e-courses? It sounds like such a good idea if you live in the States, just not sure if Ebates has a global reach.


Thursday 21st of September 2017

Hi Lauren, 

Sorry for the late reply! I don't believe Ebates serves South Africa unfortunately.  I think this site it is just USA as I also saw there is an Ebates Canada, China, Korea, and Japan. I couldn't find anything about Digital Downloads though, which I would think you could do.  Ebates has tons of audio books, digital downloads, music sites, ect that don't require shipment, so it may be worth just signing up and trying your first digital download through them.  Best case, you get $10 towards it via Paypal, worst spent money on something you were already going to buy. Hope this helps! 


Friday 13th of January 2017

Hey Liz,

Thanks for the review and all the information. Looks like a great idea and I couldn't see a reason why not to sign up. Being free, there's really nothing to lose. I used your link and signed up! Thanks again for the advice, hopefully I can make a little money back!


Friday 13th of January 2017

Thanks Jamie! I hope you love it too, and in the future I'd love to hear what your biggest "Big Fat Check" comes in at! Feel free to ask if you have any questions in the future. And, if you ever know you have cash back coming your way from a purchase, and it does not pop up in your inbox saying you earned it, contact Ebates and they will add it to your account. I've had that happen a couple times for some reason but they always pay.

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