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Rakuten Review: Cash Back App That Rewards In-Store and Online Shopping

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

Bottom line: Rakuten is a solid free app with great rewards for both in-person and online shopping at over 2,500 retailers.

Rakuten
Best for: Cash back app for online shoppersRakuten

Full Rakuten review

Pros

  • Free and easy to use
  • High cash-back rates
  • Partners with many stores
  • Referral rewards
  • Welcome bonus
  • Get paid by PayPal or check

Cons

  • Quarterly cash back payments
  • You must activate offers
  • Not all stores are available
  • Some purchases are exempt

At a glance

Rewards 1% to 10%, or more
iOS app rating 4.7/5 stars
Android app rating 4.2/5 stars
Cost Free

What is Rakuten and how does it work?

Rakuten is an easy-to-use app that can help you earn cash back on everyday purchases. Each retailer sets its own cash back amounts. You can expect to earn at least 1%, but it's not unheard of to earn upwards of 8% or 10%. The app will also show you special dates with even higher cash back earnings at eligible retailers. Formerly known as Ebates, Rakuten has more retail partners than other cash back apps, making it a cash back enthusiast favorite.

If you also use a rewards credit card, you can maximize your earning potential as you'll earn rewards in both ways.

Download the app and sign up for an account to get started. You can also install the Rakuten browser extension to shop from your computer. You'll see offers from each partner store, usually as a cash back percentage. Rakuten works with over 2,500 stores, but you'll need to activate available offers before you can use them.

Here's how it works:

  • Activate the offer before you shop, whether online or in-store.
  • Shop online and your cash back will be credited to your Rakuten account.
  • To earn rewards when you shop in-store, first link your credit or debit cards to your Rakuten account. This is how your purchases are tracked.
  • It may take a few days for earnings to appear in your account.
  • Cash back is paid out quarterly by check or via PayPal.

You may be wondering how this cash back app works. Rakuten is an affiliate marketing company, so it receives a commission from each order made through its retail partners. Rakuten then splits that commission with you.

Top perks

Below are a few of our favorites features of Rakuten spelled out in more detail.

Free and easy to use

It doesn't cost anything to be a Rakuten member. It's free and easy to set up an account. Once you've done that, all you need to do is activate the offers and shop as you normally would. It's that simple. There are no confusing steps to go through to earn cash back rewards.

One thing that makes Rakuten stand out is its wide range of partners. In contrast with other cash back apps which have limited retailer options, the Rakuten app features a variety of stores. You'll find grocery stores, clothing stores, home improvement stores, electronic stores, pet stores, travel agencies, and many others. Popular retailers include Macy's, Nike, Bed Bath & Beyond, Chewy, Expedia, and Old Navy. Look for your favorite stores on the Rakuten site.

Shop online or in-store

Some cash back apps only allow you to earn in-store or online -- not both. Rakuten rewards you for both types of shopping. This gives you more opportunities to increase your cash back earnings. Just make sure you link your credit and debit cards to your Rakuten account before you shop in-store.

Earn referral rewards

Rakuten will currently pay you $20 if you refer a friend and give another $20 to the friend if they spend at least $20 within 90 days. If you find Rakuten saves you money and helps you meet your personal finance goals, why not share it with your friends and family? The exact referral bonus may change, but your friend will normally need to make a minimum purchase within a set amount of days to qualify.

Welcome bonus

There's a $10 welcome bonus for new Raktuten users. You must sign up for a new account and make an order of at least $25 through Rakuten within 90 days to qualify. You can track your bonus in your account.

Multiple ways to get paid

Rakuten gives you more than one way to get paid. Sadly it won't deposit your money directly into your bank account, but you can receive your cash back rewards by check or to your PayPal account. Check payments will be mailed to you for free.

What could be improved

We haven't found a cash back app that has achieved perfection. Below are the areas we believe that Rakuten has some room for improvement.

Cash back is paid out quarterly

You'll need to wait a while to receive your Rakuten cash back earnings. The payout schedule is quarterly and you get paid about six weeks after each period ends. There's a minimum redemption of $5 -- if you earn less, the money will remain in your account until the next payment date. If you're looking for instant cash back or want to receive your earnings more frequently, Rakuten may not be for you.

The schedule is as follows:

Purchase period Payment date
Jan 1 - March 31 May 15
April 1 - June 30 Aug. 15
July 1 - Sept. 30 Nov. 15
Oct. 1 - Dec. 31 Feb. 15

Offers must be activated

Some cash back apps allow users to earn cash back automatically. With Rakuten, you must first activate an offer. This is easy to do -- but if you forget, you won't earn those rewards.

Not every store is available

Rakuten partners with many stores, but it doesn't have deals with everybody. You may find you can't earn cash back at some of your regular stores.

Some store purchases are exempt from rewards

When you use Rakuten, you'll notice that some offers have exemptions. Certain items may not be eligible for cash back rewards -- meaning you won't always earn cash back on your entire shopping trip.

Alternatives to consider

If you want an app that offers quicker payouts: The Ibotta app also allows you to earn rewards for online or in-store shopping, pays you for referrals, and features a variety of retailers -- though many are grocery stores. It's also free and you can request your earnings as soon as you reach the minimum $20 threshold. But you may want to stick with Rakuten if you plan to shop a lot at non-grocery store retailers.

If you want an app that earns automatically: Fetch Rewards is a free alternative app that works automatically with various physical retailers, including restaurants and convenience stores. It's an excellent option if you often shop in-store because you don't have to activate offers beforehand. But you may want to stick with Rakuten if you need a cash back app that works in-person and online.

What are the costs?

Like many cash back apps, Rakuten is completely free to use. All you need to do is spend money with eligible retailers to earn cash back rewards. The only cost to watch out for is overspending -- it can be easy to justify unnecessary purchases when you're presented with a sea of special offers.

This app is right for:

Anyone who wants to shop in-store or online and earn cash back rewards from a variety of retailers. Rakuten has a good reputation and more partners than many other apps out there. If you use Rakuten for spending you would have done anyway, it's free money.

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