Rakuten (Formerly Ebates) Review: Is Rakuten a Scam or Legit?

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If you’re like me, you like saving money and getting free cash. One website that promises free money is Rakuten. But is Rakuten a scam or is it legit? 

Rakuten
4.5

Summary

Rakuten is a reward program that gives customers cashback of between 1% and 40% on almost anything they buy when they purchase it through their Ebates account.

We’re going to show you exactly how Rakuten works and if it really gives you free money. We’ll go over the pros, cons and other details of Rakuten so you can see if it’s right for you. 

What is Rakuten? 

Rakuten was founded in 1998 in Menlo Park, California. For over 20 years, the company has been giving customers cashback of between 1% and 40% on almost anything they buy. The catch? You have to purchase items by shopping through your Rakuten account.

How Does Rakuten Work?

Rakuten is easy to operate. All you have to do is sign up for a Rakuten account. Once you log in using your member login, you find the name of the store(s) you wish to shop.

You can use the alphabetical list Rakuten provides, or find a store with their search bar. Once you find your desired store, you click on it.

The link will bring you right to the store website (via the Rakuten portal), and you can start shopping. 

Because you are directed from the Rakuten site directly to the store website, shopping through Rakuten is no different than if you’d gone straight to the store site. The only difference is that you’ll get cashback on qualifying purchases because you accessed the store through your Rakuten account.

Your other option for shopping via Rakuten is to use the Rakuten browser extension. When you install the browser extension, you can skip the step of visiting the Rakuten website. 

The extension will show a popup whenever a website you visit is eligible to earn you cashback on your purchase. All you have to do is click the button in the popup to active Rakuten and earn cashback.

Getting Your Cashback

Each store link on the Rakuten website or browser bar will show you the percentage of cashback you’ll get from purchases. The cashback percentage varies with each store – and also depending on what you purchase. 

For example, Walmart might give 2% back on regular purchases but 20% back on home and garden purchases. Also, the cashback percentages vary and change from time to time, depending on store deals. 

Why Does Rakuten Give You Cashback on Purchases?

You might wonder why Rakuten is giving you cashback on purchases. It’s pretty simple. The stores give Rakuten money for referring you to buy from them. 

Rakuten chooses to split the cash with you. It’s a win-win for you, for Rakuten and the store. 

Which Stores Partner With Rakuten?

The number of stores you can shop through Rakuten is impressive. In fact, they have partnerships with over 2,500 stores. 

Some of those stores include:

  • Nordstrom
  • Kohl’s
  • Macy’s
  • Walmart
  • Amazon
  • Turbotax
  • Ace Hardware
  • Aeropostale
  • Barney’s
  • Bath and Body Works
  • Cabela’s
  • Justice
  • Target
  • Several Travel Sites

The sheer number of stores that partner with the program assures that there are rebates available at stores for almost every person who likes or needs to shop.

I have to say that this is my favorite part of using Rakuten. When I first considered looking into the program, I have to admit that I didn’t think it would do our family much good. As we work on our journey to get out of debt, we are keeping non-necessity shopping to a bare minimum.

However, Rakuten offers rebate discounts at the stores we shop at for all of our everyday items. Plus, there are specialty and gift stores. So this means I can save money on everyday purchases, and when I need to buy Christmas and other gifts too.

Next, we’ll go over the main pros and cons of Rakuten.

Rakuten Pros

There are several good things about Rakuten. Some of my favorites are as follows:

  • The vast quantity of stores that are available to shop through Rakuten

Some of the more popular stores currently on the site’s rebate list include Amazon, Walmart, Target and Best Buy. As I mentioned earlier, they provide cashback from purchases at over 2,500 stores.

  • The ease of using the system

Using Rakuten is simple. You just sign-in on the Rakuten website, click on the store you wish to shop at and shop as you usually would.

  • Cashback

Even as little as 1% cashback can add up when you’re shopping. However, many stores offer 10%, 20%, 30% and 40% cash rebates.

  • Rakuten boasts a referral program for members

Rakuten also has a referral program for members. We’ll talk more about that in a bit. 

Rakuten Cons

There are a few things that can be considered cons when it comes to Rakuten.

  • The company only pays out cashback accrual checks quarterly 

You can’t choose to get your cashback from shopping when you wish. Instead, Rakuten will mail you a check each quarter, provided you’ve met the minimum withdrawal requirement (currently $5.00). In other words, you shouldn’t expect a monthly payout on your shopping excursions.

  • The Impulse to buy things because they are “on sale”

For those not in control of their spending, it can be easy to buy things that you weren’t planning on buying because you got it “on sale.”

I’d recommend committing to staying with your original shopping plans and try to avoid impulse buys. 

  • Each store has some excluded products that do not qualify for cash rebates

Nearly every store featured on Rakuten has some excluded products. For instance, at Walmart, there is no rebate given on cellular phone purchases, prepaid phone cards, pharmacy purchases, travel center purchases, financial center transactions, tires, optical purchases and gift cards.

While the exclusions may be a deterrent for some, I found it a great deal that they offer cashback on the items we buy most at Walmart: personal toiletries and clothing.

Each store has some excluded items, so before you shop at your favorite stores on Rakuten, look through their lists of exclusions before you make your purchases.

A Real-Life Story About Using Rakuten

Well Kept Wallet founder Deacon Hayes started using Rakuten several years ago. He shared a cashback success story with us. 

“When my son Finn became a toddler, we knew that we needed something for him to do outside, but we were not sure what to get him. I researched outdoor toys and found a playhouse that looked awesome, but it was a couple of hundred dollars. I decided to search in Google for a better deal and found it at Kmart for a lot less.

I could have just bought it and called it a day, but here is the kicker:

I decided to open up Rakuten and see if Kmart was one of their store options and it was. Not only that, but they were paying 6% cashback for these type of purchases! So I got $9 cashback on something that I was already going to purchase, and I got it for a much lower price than what I initially saw on Amazon.”

Note: it is important to note that not all purchases through a retailer will get you cashback. For instance, in this case, it was for ‘kids toys’ or ‘outdoor items.’ 

Some stores give cashback for all purchases, but not all of them do. For this reason, it’s essential to double-check that the item that you want to purchase is relevant to the category the retailer is offering cashback on.

Rakuten Referral Program

Another cool thing about Rakuten is their referral program. Rakuten is willing to pay you cold hard cash for referring your friends. Currently, they will pay you $5 per person that you refer as long as they actually use Rakuten to get cashback.

Signing up is not enough; they have to use Rakuten at least once to buy something over $25 for you to get the commission.

Also, sometimes Rakuten will run an additional promotion. For instance, they will give you $25 for each person you refer for up to 3 people. I don’t know about you, but that is motivation enough for me to start telling my friends about it. They get $10 for signing up, and you get paid as well…not too shabby!

Summary

Rakuten is not a scam – it really does give you free money when you shop. And with over 2,500 stores to choose from, nearly everyone can earn cashback. 

Just remember to read the fine print regarding what items stores are giving cashback on. And be wary of the urge to spend just because you get something “on sale.”

When used wisely, Rakuten can help you keep more cash in your pocket and save money on the things you buy every day.

If you want to learn more about the Rakuten rewards program or if you’d like to sign up, simply go to the Rakuten website and get $10 from them for using this link.

Did you find this Rakuten review helpful? Is this a site you’d use regularly? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section on our Facebook page.

31 COMMENTS

31 responses to “Rakuten (Formerly Ebates) Review: Is Rakuten a Scam or Legit?”

  1. Kenny says:

    I’ve used it, but I’ve actually settled on BeFrugal.com, whose cash back rates are usually higher. Once you reach the minimum threshold, you can request your cash back at any time. It is my default portal, except when trying to earn frequent flyer miles.

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      That is interesting, I am familiar with Be Frugal, but I did not know that they had better cash back rates. I started using Ebates because we were not currently getting any cash back at all. I will look into Be Frugal as we do a lot of shopping online these days.

    • Laurie Blank says:

      Thanks for sharing, Kenny! I wasn’t aware of that site!

  2. Latoya @ Life and a Budget says:

    I love the ease of use. My only complaint is that sometimes if a new tab opens on your browser, you have to make sure that the ebates icon on the toolbar is still active for the session.

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      That is good to know. I wondered how I can tell if it is going to count the purchase for the cash back. I will definitely keep an eye out for that!

    • Laurie Blank says:

      That’s interesting! Thanks for pointing that out, Latoya. I haven’t had that happen before.

  3. DC @ Young Adult Money says:

    This is yet another reminder that I NEED to start using Ebates! I keep hearing about it and I keep putting it on my “to check out” list, but I never get around to actually getting my account set up. Today is the day!

    • Deacon Hayes says:

      Haha. That is exactly what I told myself: ‘it sounds like a great idea, so I will sign up for it one day.’ Well, I signed up for Ebates recently and earned cash back on something I was already going to buy – checks for my business. I’m glad to hear you are ready to give them a shot. So far I am very pleased with the results.

  4. Rosemary says:

    Thank you for the information on eBates. I chose the cashback program offered at moneybackplus.com because it pays more in the long run. There’s an amazing video on the compensation page of the site comparing it with eBates.

  5. Darrell W Wright says:

    I have been an Ebates subscriber for 3 years, and the last 4 months it will not let me open or log in. It tells me that my server is not allowed. I have had the same online account forever. I tried to contact Ebates online, by email, and by phone with no response from any of my attempts. I have money in my account, but no checks. I’m frustrated!

    • Deacon says:

      That stinks. Have you tried reaching out to them on Facebook or on Twitter? Sometimes doing so publicly will elicit a response from them.

  6. Bob says:

    I found it was a scam. I make a lot of business purchases and was scheduled to get a large check. They cancelled my account without explaining why despite repeated customer service emails. The customer service representatives were rude in responses and inconsistent. I’m very disappointed!

  7. Rhonda Lugenbeel says:

    I must have hit the right pay out period for Ebates, because I received my check within a week of my purchase. I am new to Ebates and curious about using the “in Store” Ebates app. I see that it requires you to enter your method of payment, either a credit or debit card. Then, from my understanding, you make your purchase through Ebates using that information. How Safe is this? Aren’t we suppose to limit this information, or not give it out at all? I would love to use in store Ebates, but……

  8. Phạm Công Hoan says:

    I’m drop shipping and make money by Ebates. Ebates made a payment to me one time. When I was working, I made $300-$400, but now my account is BLOCKED.
    I cant login. I have read the terms through Ebates. The message I got was: “Termination – We reserve the right, at any time, to modify or discontinue offering the service at our sole discretion. If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the service at any time, your sole and exclusive remedy is to cease using the service. You agree that we will not be liable to you or to any third party for any modification, suspension, or termination of the service.”

    • Deacon says:

      You did not mention whether you contacted them about this or not. If you haven’t already, I would contact them and ask why they terminated you. Perhaps you could make whatever changes they suggest to modify your account, or what you’re selling, to meet their requirements. Then they might re-establish your account so you can go on selling. Good luck!

  9. LT says:

    Is ebates using/saving your credit card information when you go through this site? I would be nervous that it is taking your information and then if they were to terminate your account unexpectedly, do they save any information of yours?
    If not, then I’m definitely going to sign up and use this.

    • Deacon says:

      One way to find out some of those types of questions is to check out their policies, terms, and conditions pages as well as FAQ’s (frequently asked questions). This may tell you what you want to know. If not, try contacting them directly via their contact information to ask before signing up. Good luck!

  10. Joshua Macain says:

    Ebates is kind of fake. Cashback is randomly guaranteed, particularly for the expansive order like the Bloomingdales’ one. I almost never got back the money that was originally guaranteed. Also, there are many exceptions, so I encourage you not to waste your time logging in via Ebates.

  11. Sherry says:

    Most people fail to read the “fine print” when they go to Ebates for online purchases. For example, when you go to Amazon through Ebates, it will pull up a list of “exclusions” as well as what percentages you can (or not) expect on your purchase. Once you start checking the “exclusions” you will know whether or not you qualify for the cash back. I have been a member for a couple or so years now and have been perfectly satisfied with the service (& checks) I have received. Ebates does pay quarterly and, if you search your account, you can find what you “made” on each purchase. Also, if you know you made a purchase & didn’t get credit, you just send them the required info from your receipt. I love Ebates!

  12. Terry Ann Sadowski says:

    Could someone hack into eBates and get your information?

  13. Tim Blue says:

    They exist, but it’s almost impossible to get paid. They have since joined or completed some joint venture with Rakuten. Many people that had accounts with both companies are finding out that their accounts were canceled. We have found that in almost every purchase there is a seller that offers the product at a lower price and you don’t have to mess with points or waiting for a quarterly check that may never arrive.
    If you do have a problem, good luck getting it resolved with either company, Ebates or Rakuten. If you do get a complaint to a person, the reply is many times rude and surly. I wouldn’t recommend Ebates or Rakuten to my worst enemy. We use BeFrugal, as someone mentioned above, and mostly TopCashBack for us works flawlessly and they have great customer service. Good luck saving however you can, but do not waste your time with Ebates or Rakuten!

  14. G R Lietzke says:

    My last rebate check (around $15) was from May 2019 and was returned (at an online bank) as expired. Well, it clearly wasn’t. So, I deposited it to a brick and mortar credit union by mobile deposit. Unfortunately, it was returned. I was charged a return fee of $35. I am not happy.
    Rakuten online help (couldn’t help) referred me to a link on Rakutin’s site, but there’s no category for check problems. The only category I could write in was Rakuten feedback. I just wrote them today about the bad check.
    One new plus I did find out while scouring my issue on their website is that they now will let you get paid by PayPal. So, I signed up for that. Hopefully, there will be no more bad checks and missing rewards.

    • Deacon says:

      That sounds like a very frustrating and upsetting experience. I’m glad you followed up to see what you can do about the situation. I hope you get it resolved. 🙂

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