Update Nov. 2019: Ebates is now called Rakuten. This article has been updated to reflect the name change. Read more here.
When my mom first told me how to use Rakuten (Ebates), I was skeptical. Surely there was some kind of catch. How was she earning money, completely for free, just by doing her regular online shopping?
But when she sent me an Rakuten (Ebates) invitation link that came along with a free gift card, I figured I could trust her enough to give it a try. Sure enough, I received a $10 gift card to Kohl’s plus cash back after making my first Rakuten (Ebates) qualifying purchase. I was hooked. Now, less than four years later, I have earned about $500 cash through Rakuten (Ebates).
Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Rakuten (keep reading to find out how you can become one, too!), and I will earn a small commission if you sign up using my referral link and make a qualifying purchase. I have included the link numerous times throughout this post.
What is Rakuten (Ebates)?
Rakuten (Ebates) is a referral service for about 2,500 online retailers. For example, if you often use online shopping to purchase kids’ clothes, you will recognize many of the participating retailers, such as Kohl’s, Carter’s, Gap, and Old Navy.
Pro tip: Here is an easy link to bookmark and access all the kids’ clothes retailers that participate in Ebates. Similar links exist for other categories you might shop regularly.
If you make a purchase using the Rakuten (Ebates) referral link for that store, Rakuten (Ebates) will pay you a percentage of that sale.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Use Rakuten (Ebates)
Step One: Open your Rakuten (Ebates) account here
Use my referral link to open your Rakuten (Ebates) account. (I will delve deeper into referral links later because once you have your own account, you will want to use your own right away!) Once you click through the link, click the Join Now button in the top righthand corner.
Create your login information or connect via Facebook or Google. Now you have your own Ebates account!
Step Two: Install the Rakuten (Ebates) Cash Back button in your browser
Although you are able to use the Rakuten (Ebates) website directly to click into the stores’ websites, I find it is much easier to use the Rakuten (Ebates) Cash Back button. Once you have signed up, you can install the Cash Back button for your browser through this link.
Now, every time you go to your favorite online retailer, your Cash Back button will highlight how much cash back that store is offering. As a bonus, it will also search for any online coupon codes available to you and allow you to quickly apply the ones you want to use!
Pro tip: Rakuten (Ebates) offers new members a welcome gift for making a qualifying purchase when they first sign up. This usually has a timer attached to it and needs to be a certain purchase amount (usually $25). Don’t miss out!
Step Three: Make your first qualifying purchase
From now on, be sure to click the cash back button before you make a purchase on a participating website. The button appears when you navigate to a website that is offering cash back through Rakuten (Ebates).
Once you click the button, you have opened a “shopping trip” and are all set to earn 3% from that purchase. So, for example, if you spend $100 during this online shopping trip, Rakuten (Ebates) will pay you $3.00. This holds true as long as you do not navigate away before purchasing. The button needs to be active at the time you make your purchase in order for you to get your cash back.
Pro tip: If you do navigate away from the website, make sure to re-activate the Rakuten (Ebates) cash back button so that you do not lose out!
As a bonus, when you activate the button, available coupon codes appear as well! Yes—you can earn cash back on top of other discounts!
Step Four: Check your account for your cash back
Each retailer has its own timeline for how quickly your cash back will appear in your account. You have several ways of confirming that you did earn Rakuten (Ebates) cash back. You can check the “My Account” section of the website, set notifications via email or the app, and see your cash back confirmation via the Rakuten (Ebates) cash back button in your browser.
Pro tip: If you do not see your cash back, you can open a ticket. I have had remarkable customer service experiences with Rakuten (Ebates). They usually give their customers the benefit of the doubt and credit you any missing cash back!
Step Five: Receive your Rakuten (Ebates) Big Fat Check!
Some people receive their “Big Fat Checks” (as Rakuten calls them) as a physical check in the email. Personally, I opt for a PayPal deposit.
Rakuten (Ebates) pays out their commissions once every three months. This is essential to understand up front because if you are looking to make quick cash, you need to realize that you will earn it quickly but will not necessarily be paid quickly. You can find the Rakuten (Ebates) payment schedule here.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to pay for shipping, many retailers will offer the option to order online and pick up in store. Why not do this just to earn the extra money via Rakuten (Ebates)?
Here is a list of some of my most recent cash back earnings. I earned the $43.87 at WalMart when they were offering 10% cash back on furniture and I ordered bunk beds for my son’s room! What is interesting is that the order was actually fulfilled by Hayneedle.com using WalMart’s website, but because I ordered through WalMart, I got the 10% cash back! I also received a large sum when I purchased our dishwasher using Rakuten (Ebates).
Step Six (the big one!): Refer your friends
This is the true secret of how to use Rakuten (Ebates) to earn hundreds of dollars.
If you are only earning cash back, you will not see an enormous payout. Yes, you should still use Rakuten (Ebates) because it’s free money. But you will only ever earn a small percentage of what you spend.
Once you sign up, tell your friends! You will receive a unique referral link. You can email your contacts, post through social media, text the referral link to your friends, or include it in a blog post like I’m doing now.
Rakuten (Ebates) will reward you with extra cash back when each friend who signs up during the current referral period makes his or her first qualifying purchase. Right now, you receive $25 cash back for each friend who signs up and makes a qualifying purchase, with no limit.
This means that if ten friends sign up using your link and make qualifying purchases, you will earn $250.
Do not leave this money on the table if you have friends and family who also shop online and could benefit from Rakuten (Ebates)!
Other Rakuten (Ebates) Tips and Tricks:
Rakuten (Ebates) app: If you like doing your shopping on your phone, the Rakuten (Ebates app)is another way to earn cash back. Often, Ebates will add extra incentives if you shop through the app, such as flash sales or higher cash back percentages.
This Rakuten (Ebates) video provides a snapshot of how to use the mobile app and the added benefits you receive.
Know the exclusions and category percentages. Sometimes you will see that a store is offering “up to” a percentage in cash back. This likely means that only some categories qualify for cash back. It may also mean that some categories qualify for higher percentages of cash back than others.
The Cash Back button in your browser will break this down for you. For example, here is what Walmart is offering today:
Check regularly for deals. The website and app provide many different ways for you to discover ways to earn extra cash back. For example, they will sometimes highlight stores that are offering either double or triple cash back or add special Bonus Offers in the “My Account” section of the website.
Let Rakuten (Ebates) help you decide where to purchase. I often factor Rakuten (Ebates) into the final price of an item when I am comparing prices for an item across multiple retailers. Sometimes, the extra cash back through Rakuten (Ebates) will give one retailer the edge over another.
I truly can’t think of a single reason why anyone who does online shopping would not choose to take advantage of using Rakuten (Ebates) to earn extra! Get started by using my link to sign up. Please comment on this post if you have any questions or additional tips and tricks for Rakuten (Ebates)!
Photo credit: Vladimir Solomyani