Rakuten Review: What is it? How Does It Work? And is it Legit?

Updated: 9th Dec 2020
Written by Drew Cheneler
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Consumer habits are changing and evolving at an unprecedented speed. But one thing will always remain the same: our inherent nature to seek out the best value for our hard-earned money.

Modern companies like Rakuten are paving the way for consumers to save more than ever by earning cash-back rewards.

Who does not like saving money? Clipping coupons for groceries, taking advantage of discount sales, and even seasonal money-saving traditions like Black Friday are almost impossible to resist. Why?

Saving money feels just as good as earning it. As we all know, coupons, discounts, and sales create a mutually beneficial relationship between consumers and merchants.

Rakuten Review. Save and earn money with Rakuten.

Consumers get reduced prices on valuable goods and services, while merchants generate new customers and encourage repeat business.

However, since the mainstream adoption of the internet, the game is changing. It is both easier than ever to make money online and save money.

Ideas like affiliate marketing and cash-back rewards are certainly not new, but the rise of e-commerce has created more opportunities than ever before.

It may sound too good to be true, but Rakuten will give you cash-back on everyday goods and services you purchase.

Regardless if you are a college student, a full-time parent, or an adult, Rakuten certainly has cash-back rewards for you.

In this article, we will find out once and for all, if Rakuten is, in fact, too good to be true. Stick around to read our in-depth review of Rakuten.

What is Rakuten?

Rakuten Rewards is a service that offers cash-back rewards for the average consumer.

Formerly known as Ebates, the company was acquired by Japanese based, Rakuten, Inc. in 2014. And in 2019, Ebates was officially renamed Rakuten.

Rakuten is by far, one of the leading cash-back rewards programs in the world.

The company has partnerships with some of the largest retailers and brand names in the world and has recently started putting more effort into cash-back rewards on services like ridesharing and food delivery.

But perhaps the most exciting thing about Rakuten is that they provide so many options for their members to save both online and in-store.

How Does Rakuten Work?

Rakuten provides its members with recurring cash-back rewards in the form of either physical checks or PayPal payments. With that, you are no doubt wondering how this is possible. What is the catch, right?

Well, it’s hard to get more precise than this statement taken directly from the Rakuten website:

“Stores pay us a commission for sending our members to their websites, and we share it with you. It’s that simple!”

So, there you have it. Rakuten is not some magical site that just sends you checks for doing your regular shopping.

They are a company that gets paid by leading brands and mega-corporations to send them your business.

And in return for you using their network of merchants, they share those profits with you in the form of cash-back rewards.

All you have to do is become a member and Rakuten pretty much takes care of the rest. You can earn cash-back rewards for your everyday purchases.

Is Rakuten Worth it?

In our opinion, Rakuten is 100% worth it! Though, it is understandable that certain doubts will surface when considering a service like Rakuten. There is no such thing as something for nothing, right?

You probably think that there is a long-term commitment or obscure service agreement to use Rakuten. But Rakuten is simple, free, and reputable.

Rakuten makes its money from the stores and merchants they partner with. It does them no good to use tricks and gimmicks to profit from their members.

The easier it is for members to join and earn cash-back, the more trust Rakuten gains.

And the more trust they gain among their members, the more traffic they can send their merchants, which is the only way Rakuten is profitable.

How to Earn Cash-Back Rewards with Rakuten:

Earning cash-back with Rakuten is so easy, it is practically automatic. As a member of the Rakuten platform, you have multiple ways to track the best deals and earn your rewards based on your shopping preferences.

Whether you are an avid online shopper or prefer to shop in-store, you can take advantage of a Rakuten membership.

Browser Extension

In the past, Rakuten members would use the website to track the best deals and make purchases online.

But it can be a hassle to continually refer back to the Rakuten website every time you want to make a purchase.

The Rakuten Cash Back Button is a browser extension that has eliminated the need to make your purchases through the Rakuten website.

When you add the Rakuten browser extension to a web browser like Chrome or Safari, you will be alerted of cash-back rewards as you do your online shopping.

As you enter a site that is affiliated with Rakuten, such as Walmart or Amazon, the browser extension produces a pop-up window that alerts you of the latest cash-back rewards, coupons, and promo codes.

Just shop online as you usually would, then all you need to do is click the button to apply your rewards as they appear. Yes, it is that easy. Makes me wonder, why don’t more people use this hidden gem?

In-Store Purchases

For those of you who enjoy shopping in-store, Rakuten offers a lucrative in-store cash-back program as well. The process is straightforward and simple.

As you can see, Rakuten wants you to save money, which is why we recommend them. They place their customer before their profit mindset.

All you have to do is securely store your credit or debit card information in your Rakuten account, then browse the in-store offers and simply link your card to the offers that you’d like to redeem.

Whenever you link an offer to your card, simply use that card to make your in-store purchases, and Rakuten will track your card and apply your cash-back rewards for you.

It is important to note that offers are only good for a single purchase. If you want to make that same purchase again in the future, you must relink the offer.

And for convenience, you can link purchases to your debit and credit cards right inside the Rakuten mobile app as well.

Can You Use Rakuten In-Store and Online?

Yes, you can take advantage of your Rakuten membership, both in-store and online. This makes Rakuten one of the most convenient methods of earning cash-back on all of your purchases.

While similar sites only cover online shopping, Rakuten provides you with more ways to save.

And if that is not enough, you can even combine your Rakuten rewards with other cash-back programs like you would get through a credit card company.

Earn cash-back from your credit card and Rakuten at the same time! Cha-ching!

Rakuten Pricing: How Much Does Rakuten Cost?

Believe it or not, a Rakuten membership is available at no cost to you. That’s right. It’s 100% free to join.

As we alluded to earlier, Rakuten makes its money from the stores and brand names that pay to have Rakuten send you to their sites.

So, the more members Rakuten has, the more profits they make from merchants.

And the only thing better than a cash-back rewards program is a free cash-back rewards program.

How to Sign Up for Rakuten

Signing up for Rakuten is a straightforward process. Click Here and head to their website. Sign up for a free account right on the homepage.

You can sign up with your email and a password of your choosing, or use one of your existing accounts through Facebook, Google, or Apple.

Then once you create your secure account, it is a time to start shopping and earning cash-back!

The Rakuten App

In this day and age, it seems as if a service like Rakuten would be incomplete without a mobile version.

As you would expect, their mobile app is just as easy and convenient as the other Rakuten platforms.

Available for both Android and iOS, the Rakuten app allows you to check offers anytime, anywhere.

Search or browse for specific retailers, and you can find online and in-store deals on the go. You can even link your in-store offers to your credit or debit cards as you wait in the checkout line.

Rakuten Referral Program—Earn $25 Per Referral

The cash-back rewards are enough to pique your interest in Rakuten. But on top of the incredible deals and offers you receive as a member, Rakuten will also pay you for referring your friends.

You can earn up to $25 every time someone signs up through your referral link, which you can share online, via email, or even on your social media pages.

Pros of Rakuten

  • Earn cash-back on everyday purchases you already make regularly
  • Earn money for referrals
  • Easy and 100% free to sign up
  • Receive offers for both in-store and online shopping
  • The browser extension and mobile app make it simple and convenient to keep track of all available offers

Cons of Rakuten

  • Payouts are only available once every quarter
  • The only way to earn rewards is by spending money
  • May increase a tendency towards impulse shopping

Rakuten Security

As e-commerce becomes more and more common, the issue of online security is becoming a grave concern.

While credit card and payment information are at the top of the list, other matters such as how Rakuten uses your data may be an issue as well.

Rakuten is undoubtedly a secure site that is certified by the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI).

But even more important is the fact that Rakuten does not require credit or debit card information to start an account.

The cards you link to your Rakuten account are only utilized for taking advantage of in-store rewards and offers.

On the other hand, Rakuten does admit to tracking location data from its users that is then sold as marketing data to third party operators.

Even though this is a fairly common practice these days, it is essential to know that your data is safe.

Remember, as a consumer, always verify and research how companies use your data.

Alternatives to Rakuten:

  • Honey Browser Extension – This neat browser extension and mobile app will automatically find coupon deals for you. If you are looking to save money, then Honey is worth considering. If you are interested, read our Honey Review where we highlight the benefits, downsides, and details.
  • Ibotta Cash Back – As Rakuten’s main competitor, Ibotta is a powerful cash-back rewards app and website, that helps you score more from your purchases. Turn to our Ibotta Review to find out why we love it.

Addressing the Elephant in the Room: Is Rakuten Legit?

Here is the deal, Rakuten is 100% legit, secure, easy, convenient, and worth your time.

Hearing about a free cash-back rewards program for online and in-store shopping does seem too good to be true and may even send up the scam alerts for some of us.

Fortunately, Rakuten has been in business for a long time.

They are now one of the most trusted and secure rewards sites available to date. Not to mention, more than 1 million consumers turn to Rakuten for lucrative cash-back rewards.

Three Reasons Why We Like Rakuten

It certainly appears that Rakuten has far more upside than down. But here are the top three reasons why you should consider using Rakuten:

  1. It Puts Money Back in Your Pocket—This may come as a shock, but people like saving money. And while spending money is unavoidable for all of us, Rakuten is a perfectly safe and legit way to get some of that money back.
  1. It Makes You More Popular—A good deal is always in style and can help you start an exciting conversation. Think about all the new friends you will make as you introduce people to your cash-back deal-seeking secrets.
  2. It Pays You for Referrals— Remember the $25 referral we discussed earlier? I do. Take advantage of that and share it with other consumers in line! Since you are already talking about Rakuten to all your friends, relatives, co-workers, and acquaintances, you might as well put a little more money in your pocket by encouraging them to sign up through your referral link.

Wrapping Up: Rakuten Review

Rakuten is by far one of the easiest ways to save money and earn cash-back on things you buy most. Or, for that matter, even on the things you only buy occasionally.

If you are not already using this powerful cash-back rewards service, what are you waiting for?

You are already spending money shopping online, and in stores, so you might as well get some of that money back.

And in doing so, you can feel just a little bit better about your spending habits.

Best of all, it is free to use, and there are no commitments or contracts to sign. You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars with minimal effort on your part.

Interested in making money? Check out our article on the best money making apps around.

Drew Cheneler
Drew Cheneler
Drew is a recognized Credit, Small Business, and Personal Finance Expert. He has been quoted in CNBC, Fox Business News Section, The Huffington Post, Business.com, Moneyunder30, US Chamber of Commerce, and more. He is known for breaking down complex personal finance topics into action-oriented advice, so you can make the most of your hard-earned money.