Rakuten Review: How to Earn Cash Back or Amex Points by Shopping Online [Formerly Ebates]

Ebates is now Rakuten

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If you have shopped through Ebates recently, you might have noticed that it looks a little different. That’s because Ebates is now known as Rakuten.

In actuality, not much has changed; Ebates has been owned by Rakuten since 2014. The site still offers cash-back just by clicking through their portal, and the service is still free.

Here is what you need to know about Ebates/Rakuten including how it all works, how to earn cash-back, and some tips to supercharge your earnings.

Ebates/Rakuten History

Image Credit: Ebates.com

Ebates has been around since 1998 and is one of the biggest and most popular cash-back portals. Rakuten is a Japanese e-commerce and internet company based in Tokyo and has been around since 1997.

In 2014 Ebates was acquired by Rakuten, and in early 2019, the Ebates name was officially changed to Rakuten. If you have been using Ebates for a while, you shouldn’t have noticed much of a change. Your account will remain exactly the same, so there is no need to update anything or make a new account.

How Does Rakuten Work?

Rakuten is a shopping portal that allows you to earn cash-back for shopping at your favorite stores. When you click from Rakuten’s website to an online store, Rakuten earns a commission from that online store. Then Rakuten uses a portion of that commission to pay you.

While it might seem too good to be true if you aren’t familiar with this type of website, it’s totally on the up-and-up and a great way to help you save money.

How to Earn Cash-Back With Rakuten

If you are new to Ebates/Rakuten, here’s how it works:

  1. Visit Rakuten.com. Luckily, Ebates.com still works too, if you’re still in the habit.
  2. Find the store you want to shop. You can type a store’s name into the search bar, search by category using the drop-down menu under All Stores, search all of the Double Cash-Back Stores, or click on one of the featured stores on the homepage.

    Rakuten home page
    Image Credit: Rakuten.com
  3. Then click on any of the Shop Now buttons. This will take you to your selected store’s website. From there, simply complete your purchase as you normally would.

    Rakuten Shop Now button
    Image credit: Rakuten.com

Bottom Line: You must shop via the link through Rakuten.com to your chosen store right before you make your purchase. If you click through, then go back to the shopping site directly, you won’t earn cash-back!

Rakuten Cash-Back Button [Chrome Extension]

If you think you might not remember to click through Rakuten each time you make a purchase, you need the Cash-Back Button. This button is a browser extension for Chrome that alerts you to cash-back opportunities at over 2,500 stores.

Rakuten Button
Image credit: Rakuten.com

You may see a prompt to add the button at the bottom of your screen. If not, just go to any store’s webpage and scroll down. On the bottom, left-hand side of your screen you’ll see info about the button. Click Get the Button to install.

Hot Tip: As of March 20, 2020, you can no longer earn cash-back at Amazon. You can, however, still find Amazon coupons on Rakuten.

Double Cash-Back Stores

Double Cash Back Stores
Image credit: Rakuten.com

The amount of cash-back being offered by each store can vary day-to-day. Sometimes, stores will even offer double cash-back! You can find these great deals by clicking on Double Cash Back Stores in the main menu bar.

These double cash-back deals are usually featured on the home page as well.

Hot Tip: Before you use Rakuten to earn cash-back, be sure to check to see if that’s the best deal you can get. CashBack Monitor is a free tool you can use to easily and quickly check which shopping portal is offering the most cash-back or bonus points.

Cash-Back on Travel and Vacations

Did you know that with Rakuten you can also earn cash-back on your next vacation?

Rakuten Travel and Vacations
Image credit: Rakuten.com

Rakuten offers cash-back on many travel sites that you already use. You’ll find these under the “Travel & Vacations” tab:

Do note that the list above isn’t all-inclusive. For all partners, check out Rakuten’s website.

All you need to do is click through Ratuken to any of the travel sites listed and then complete your booking on the travel site.

You’ll notice a search box that looks like one you would find on an online travel agency. While you can input your destination and travel dates, Rakuten will just transfer your search to your chosen website, so it’s really unnecessary. Plus this search box doesn’t list all of your available options, so it’s probably best to just scroll down to the full list.

Right below the search box, you’ll be able to see the day’s featured deals. You can also search for travel companies by category or name.

Don’t forget to use a great travel rewards credit card for your purchases so you can earn points on top of your cash-back!

Hot Tip: If you aren’t sure which travel site is best, check out these guides to help you choose. Here’s a list of the best websites for booking flights at the cheapest prices and a list of the best websites for booking hotels at the cheapest prices.

Rakuten Refer-a-Friend Program

If you love earning cash-back from Rakuten, you can share it with your friends to earn bonus cash.

When you refer a friend who joins Rakuten (or Ebates) for the first time and makes at least $25 in purchases through the site in the first year, you will receive a $25 bonus. Plus your friend will get a $10 bonus.

How To Refer a Friend to Rakuten

To invite friends to Rakuten, click on Refer & Earn link in the main menu. Then, you will be able to invite your friends in a few different ways:

  • Enter your friends’ email addresses to send an invitation email
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Copy your personalized link to send to friends

You can earn multiple bonuses if you refer multiple friends. If your friend already had an Ebates account, you can’t earn a bonus by referring them to Rakuten since they’ll already have a Rakuten account

Bottom Line: You can refer your friends and family to join Ratuken. When they make their first $25+ purchase, you will earn a $25 bonus and your friend will earn a $10 bonus!

In-Store Cash Back

If you prefer to shop in-store, Rakuten has got you covered. You can earn cash-back in stores, as well as online! Here’s how it works:

  1. Add a credit card to your Rakuten account. Go to your account and click on My Wallet. Then click on Add a New Card and input your credit card information.

    Screenshot of Rakuten account
    Image Credit: Rakuten.com
  2. Find in-store offers. On Rakuten.com, click on In-Store Cash Back in the main menu.

    Rakuten in store cash back
    Image Credit: Rakuten.com
  3. Link in-store offers to your credit card on file. Next, you’ll see all of the available in-store cash-back offers that are available. You can sort this list alphabetically, by cash-back offer, or by using a map. Click on Link Offer to add the offer to your account.

    Rakuten In Store Cash Back
    Image Credit: Rakuten.com
  4. Shop in-store. Simply use your linked card to make a purchase in your selected store to earn cash-back.

Hot Tip: Rakuten in-store cash-back offers are only available in the U.S.You can link as many Visa, Mastercard or American Express credit cards as you wish. Rakuten encourages you to use the physical card and not a mobile payment service like Chase Pay, Apple Pay, or Android Pay because Rakuten doesn’t always receive mobile wallet transaction details, so you may miss out on cash-back.

Be sure to look at each offer’s details. Offers will have a limit to the number of times they can be used and will have an expiration date. Most links are only good for one redemption. So, if you want to use the offer again, you will most likely need to re-link the offer.

Hot Tip: You can double up your rewards; both online cash-back offers and in-store cash-back offers from Rakuten can be used along with any Amex Offers or Chase Offers you may have.

Rakuten Mobile App

Rakuten offers a mobile app so you can earn cash-back on the go. To download the app, go to the App Store, Google Play, or enter your mobile number on the Rakuten’s sign-up page to receive a link.

Rakuten Mobile App
Image credit: Rakuten.com

Once you download the app, you’ll have access to Rakuten’s mobile-only deals — look for these in your notifications. To access notifications, click on the bell icon in the upper right-hand corner of the app.

The Rakuten mobile app has the same functionality as the website. You’ll be able to access cash-back offers online, in-store cash-back offers, and links to refer your friends.

If you click on My Account in the lower right-hand corner, you’ll be able to see your transaction history, cash-back balance, add a credit card, or change your payment method.

Hot Tip: Look out for the new offer of 5% cash-back at restaurants — only available through the Rakuten mobile app!

Rakuten’s Big Fat Check

If you are used to getting a Big Fat Check from Ebates, don’t worry, you’ll still be getting the same Big Fat Check from Rakuten. If you aren’t familiar with the Big Fat Check, this is just the fun name that refers to your cash-back earnings.

You can choose to receive a physical check, or you can have your earnings deposited to your PayPal account. To set up your preferences, go to your account in the upper right-hand corner and click on Account Settings. From here, you can enter your mailing address or link your PayPal account.

Big Fat Check settings
Image credit: Rakuten.com

Payments are sent every 3 months.

For Purchases Posted Between These Dates:Your Big Fat Check Will Be Sent On:
January 1 – March 31May 15
April 1 – June 30August 15
July 1 – September 30November 15
October 1 – December 31February 15

How to Earn Amex Membership Rewards Points on Rakuten

You can now earn American Express Membership Rewards points in lieu of cash-back through Rakuten. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign in to your Rakuten account and go to Account Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the How would you like to get paid? section and select Switch to Membership Rewards points.
  3. Then you’ll be prompted to sign in to your American Express online account. Once you verify your account, you’ll be all set up to earn Membership Rewards in lieu of cash-back.
How to switch from cash back to earning membership rewards on Rakuten
You’ll be able to switch your earning preference to Amex Membership Rewards in your Rakuten online account. Image Credit: Rakuten

Once you’ve set up your account to earn Membership Rewards points, you’ll earn 1 point per $1 for each 1% cash-back. So, if a store is offering 2% cash-back, you’ll earn 2 Membership Rewards points for each $1 you spend.

Any cash-back you have earned at the time you switch to Membership Rewards will still be paid via check or PayPal.

Hot Tip: American Express Membership Rewards points are valued at about 2.2 cents each, so opting for points instead of cash-back more than doubles your return.

American Express Membership Rewards Transfer Schedule

In order to have your Membership Rewards points transferred from your Rakuten account, you need to have earned at least 500 points in an earning period. If you haven’t earned at least 500 points, they will carry over to the following earning period.

Points are transferred every 3 months.

Rakuten purchases postedPoints transferred to Amex account
January 1 – March 31May 15
April 1 – June 30August 15
July 1 – September 30November 15
October 1 – December 31February 15

Bottom Line: You can now earn Membership Rewards points in lieu of cash-back for your purchases made through Rakuten. You’ll need a valid Amex Membership Rewards earning credit card, and you’ll need to switch your earning preferences to Membership Rewards in your Rakuten online account. 

Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card

You might be surprised to know that Rakuten has its own branded credit card. The Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card is the new version of the Ebates Cash Back Visa® Credit Card. It’s a new name but the benefits are the same.

Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card
Image Credit: Rakuten

The Rakuten Cash Back card is issued through Synchrony Bank. If you’re new to the miles and points world, don’t even think about getting this card. There are simply so many better options out there! Start with at least 1 Chase credit card because these are harder to get once you have opened 5 or more cards. You can read more about Chase’s 5/24 rule for details.

But, if you have been around the (credit card) block a few times, you might be wondering if this card has any useful benefits. Here’s a look to see if the Rakuten Cash Back card should be in your wallet.

Benefits of the Rakuten Cash Back Card

  • $10 bonus after your first purchase
  • Extra 3% cash-back on qualifying Rakuten online and in-store purchases plus Rakuten Hotels and Rakuten travel purchases
  • 1% cash-back on all other purchases
  • Price protection and return protection
  • No annual fee

Other Cash-Back Cards to Consider

So, while all of that sounds good, there are really so many better options out there. Even if you just want to maximize cash-back and don’t really care about earning miles or credit card points, there are lots of better choices. Here are 2 that might be a better fit for you:

Bottom Line: The Rakuten Cash Back card doesn’t really offer anything that you can’t get somewhere else. To check out all of your options, take a look at a list of other great cash-back cards.

Final Thoughts

Ebates is now known as Rakuten. Rakuten is a Japanese company that has actually owned Ebates since 2014. Because of this, nothing is really changing except the name.

Rakuten still offers cash-back deals online and in-store. All of the functionality of Ebates will remain the same and you will still be earning the same Big Fat Check. All of your account information will stay the same too.

Using Rakuten to earn bonus cash-back on purchases you were going to make anyway is a great way to maximize the value you get from every dollar you spend.

The information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please click here.

Frequently asked questions

What is Rakuten?

Rakuten in a Japanese e-commerce company that has owned Ebates since 2014. In early 2019, the company officially dropped the Ebates name. However, the site still has all the same functionality and account settings as Ebates, it’s just now known as Rakuten. As a user, you shouldn’t notice much difference.

How does Ebates work?

You might be wondering how Ebates/Rakuten works? How can they afford to pay out so much cash-back for a free service? The answer is affiliate marketing. Ebates/Rakuten will earn an affiliate commission from a store for referring you. They then give part of their commission to you in the form of cash-back.

Is Rakuten the same as Ebates?

Yes, Rakuten and Ebates are the same company. Rakuten acquired Ebates in 2014. In 2019, the Ebates name was dropped in favor of Rakuten. So, Ebates is now known as Rakuten, but everything else has stayed the same. Your account will be the same and will still include all of your Ebates history. There shouldn’t be any difference from the user perspective.

Does Rakuten work with Amazon?

As of March 2020, you can no longer earn cash-back at Amazon through Rakuten. You will, however, still be able to find Amazon coupons on Rakuten.

How can I earn Amex Membership Rewards points through Rakuten?

You can now choose to earn Membership Rewards points from your purchases through Rakuten in lieu of cash-back. To change your earning preferences, go to your account settings and select Membership Rewards instead of a check or PayPal. You’ll be prompted to sign in to your American Express online account and verify your account, then you’ll start earning points instead of cash through Rakuten.

Katie Seemann

About Katie Seemann

Katie is an Ohio native who caught the travel bug after spending a semester in college in Nottingham, England. In addition to exploring England, she visited Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands during that time and loved every minute of it (everything except the hostel in Scotland – that’s an experience she doesn’t intend on repeating!) In 2015, Katie discovered the world of points and miles, and since then she’s earned countless points and has an embarrassingly large number of credit cards in her wallet (which she needs a spreadsheet to keep track of!)

Travel prices are about to surge from pent-up demand.

Use this points strategy to lock in pennies-on-the-dollar pricing in 2021, all without being a frequent flyer...

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Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.


  1. You forgot to mention that people signing up for new accounts have the option of getting paid in Amex Membership Rewards points instead of cash.


    • Hi Daren,

      Thanks for reading! That’s a great piece of feedback we’ll incorporate into our piece. Thanks again.


      • I don’t believe they are distributing funds back to customers that they’re getting from the vendors. I personally recently checked my account and only showed 4 transactions for 2019. I am missing a lot transactions from over the holidays. So I feel that they are a fraud and keeping the funds.


        • Hi Peter. You should simply file a missing cash report. It is super easy. Just go to the Rakuten website, click on HELP in the upper right corner, and select MISSING CASH. There are just
          4 boxes to fill in and you’re done. I submitted 2 of these and both were corrected quickly.


  2. I have an ebates account, but I cannot sign in to Rakuten with my password. If I try to create an account with Rakuten, it states my email is already linked to Rakuten. Help!


  3. Do you get 1099 for taxes on the cash back you get?


    • Rhonda,

      These cash back programs are generally not taxable as they are treated as rebates. However, this may change, and we advise you to contact the company and/or your tax professional. Thanks for reading.


  4. If I used a store card (Neiman Marcus, Saks, etc.) for my payment method for an online purchase through Ebates, can I still receive cash back from Ebates?


    • Hi Sue. Yes, you will receive the cash back regardless of the payment method. You just need to go through the Rakuten website first and be directed to the merchant site to make your purchase.


  5. Pamela Smith November 25, 2019

    I purchased $230 of items from Walmart using Rakuten. As far as I could tell, it said that on furniture, clothing and other items I would receive 5% cashback. I paid for my order and put it through and it is showing that I have $3.99 cash back when it should be $11.50. I thought I purchased items that were eligible for 5% cash back. How do I dispute this so that I can get the rest of my money and it onto my account?


    • Hi Pamela. In your Rakuten account, under the HELP button, you can click on “Missing cash back” and submit a request. You will need to have your order number, and other order details ready to complete the request but it is quite easy. Hope this helps.


  6. Does the cash back in your account expire? Or can you build it up and receive a check whenever you want?


  7. When using Rakuten with Amazon, how do you know what category or category id an item belongs in? For instance, a low-cost surge protector. Thanks!


    • Hey Beth, you can see the product category next to the “Best Sellers Rank” box underneath the “Product information” header on a product’s page. It will show the category (example: electronics) and subcategory (example: power strips). Thanks!


  8. Thank you for the article! It’s really useful! Can you say where I can read more reviews for Rakuten?


  9. Kelley Legault March 28, 2020

    Thanks for the great info on this page… I just thought I would add some current info regarding Amazon, and Walmart, Canada – since the onset of this COVID-19 (stuff LOL) – Walmart.ca and Amazon.ca have stopped allowing Rakuten to provide cash back. The standard message is, “we are working on resolving this quote – however, when Rakitin is contacted via Twitter (or otherwise) they elaborate with the message, Stores “reserve the right to withdraw At any time… We hope they return to us soon.”
    I feel this is a pretty insensitive time for them to withdraw themselves… Considering how much more reliant people are on filling their needs via online shopping.
    I have reached out to both Amazon.ca, and Walmart.ca, to get ‘their side’ of it – neither has contacted me back.
    Just thought I’d pass that information along – as a Canadian, I don’t know if Amazon.com, or Walmart.com are playing by the same rule book…
    Everyone stay safe… Best wishes to all!
    ~ Kelley


  10. Haig Panoyan January 2, 2021

    Can someone send me a link to a list of stores in the U.S. where I can link my card before shopping, and earn cash back?


  11. I think an easier way to explain membership rewards conversion is “1 MR point for each $0.01 in cash back”. Sounds much more enticing too. This is a primary reason I have the AMEX Platinum, I get oodles of points through Rakuten at a faster rate than spending on the card. Case in point, I got $44 in Rakuten cash doing absolutely nothing more than regular online shopping this past quarter. That’s 4400 MR point. I’d have to spend $880 on a flight or hotel through the Amex store to get the same return. This is a GREAT perk.


Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

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