Is Rakuten (Ebates) Legit?

Note: This post is not sponsored by Rakuten – I simply enjoy using their service, and wanted to share more information and my experience using Rakuten for cash back on purchases.

You’ve likely seen Rakuten’s TV ads by now – perhaps their Super Bowl clip or this Ebates is now Rakuten ad to really drive the point home. As a long time user of Ebates, I was sad to see the name go – but glad to see that much of the core cash back functionality remains the same.

How does Rakuten Work?

It’s simple –

  • Step 1: Sign up on the Rakuten website
    • You can use my link to sign up and earn an extra $10 cash back on your first purchase over $25
  • Step 2: Browse their brands for retailers you normally shop at
    • The next time you are thinking of making a purchase, go to the Rakuten website first and click on the “Shop Now” button on that retailer’s page. This tags you as starting a shopping “trip” through Rakuten, and once you make a purchase you should be able to see the cash back reflected in your account shortly after.
  • Step 3: Once a quarter, Rakuten will issue you a Big Fat Check via Paypal or check.
    • It’s truly cash back in the sense that you get actual cash deposited into Paypal vs shopping credit like you might elsewhere. Score!
Rakuten Example Home Page

I typically use Rakuten to supplement my shopping. By now, I’ve made it a habit to check if a store is on Rakuten before making a purchase. A retailer can win me over by providing more cash back than a competitor, for the same product. It’s easy to get hooked into the savings, so I try not to browse too much on their website unless I know exactly what I want to buy!

My Go-To Shops on Rakuten

Retailers will typically run promotions and boost their cash back percentage during peak seasons. You’ll most likely find the best deals around holidays, such as right now. I’ve listed some of my go-to spots below with their regular cash back rate and their current, promotional one if applicable.

These are all live as of November 25, 2019. I imagine they will fluctuate over the next few weeks, with the holidays in full swing.

  • Rothy’s – normally 3% cash back
  • Backcountry.com – normally 4% cash back – currently 7%
  • Moosejaw – normally 4% cash back – currently 9%
  • Neiman Marcus – normally 2% – currently 10%
  • Smartwool – currently 4%
  • Lululemon – normally 2% – currently 8%
  • Groupon – normally 4% – currently 6%
  • LL Bean – normally 2% – currently 2% and 25% off bean boots with code FLASH25
  • Amazon – varies between 0 – 5% on category, currently 2 – 5%

While single digit percents don’t seem like much, I certainly don’t mind as it’s better than nothing. Note that not all retailers on here. For example, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Nordstrom advertise via Ebates or Rakuten.

How does Rakuten make money?

It may seem too good to be true, but Rakuten most likely uses a standard affiliate marketing model. That is – retailers will pay Rakuten X% or $Y for every referred purchases, and Rakuten passes some of those on to us. For example, Rakuten provides 3% cash back on Rothy’s purchases, so Rothy’s is probably paying Rakuten 5 – 6% per purchase referred. Note: I have no idea what Rothy’s is paying them, this is just a guess as an eample!

Hope this post helps assuage any concerns you have about using Rakuten. As always, happy to answer any other questions you may have below.

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