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How Does Rakuten (Formerly Ebates) Work?

I've been using Ebates (now Rakuten) for over 10 years and love to get rebates back whenever I can.

Here's a screenshot of my personal earnings for one quarter.

Here's a screenshot of my personal earnings for one quarter.

How Does Rakuten Work?

Maybe you've heard of Rakuten/Ebates and aren't sure what it is, how it works, or how to use it. I recommend learning all about it before making purchases, or you could miss out on having your purchases tracked for cash back. I've used this website for over 10 years, and I want to share with you what I've learned over the years.

This article will cover the following:

  1. An overview of Rakuten, including how to sign up (link below)
  2. An FAQ section that offers more detailed info on using Rakuten, including my experience
  3. How to receive your cash back!

What Is Rakuten (or Ebates)?

Rakuten is a free program (click on the free link below!) that lets you earn cash back on internet purchases. It doesn't affect any other part of your purchase—you are now simply going to get a little bit of cash back for every dollar you spend online. You sign up, click on a link to your favorite store, make your purchase as usual, and you're done. Rakuten then puts a percentage of that purchase into your Rakuten account. You will receive that money back three times a year. I share step-by-step instructions on how to make a purchase further down in the article.

How to Use Rakuten

Here's a quick version of how to use Rakuten.

  1. First: Sign up with Rakuten (formerly Ebates). It'll ask for your email, name, etc. It will also ask you to pick a gift card for signing up. (Note: If you sign up through this link, I'll earn a small commission—and so will you! I have no other affiliation with the company).
  2. Next: When you're ready to shop online, go to Rakuten first and click on the link to your favorite store. Don't leave your online store until you have made your purchase! I'll explain this in more detail later.
  3. Finally: Make your purchase as usual. That's all!

FYI: Rakuten tracks your purchase. This all takes place in the background. You will not see any notice that your purchase was tracked. Don't worry! It did happen, and you will see money from your purchase in your Rakuten account in a few days.


Is Rakuten free?

Yes, it's absolutely free.

Is it some sort of scam?


Do you recommend Rakuten?

Without hesitation. I use it every time I make an online purchase.

How can Rakuten offer cash back on purchases? Aren't they just giving away money?

This was my first question, and now that I know more about internet marketing, it all makes perfect sense. Think of the internet as a huge marketplace. Every purchase has a click path that was followed to make that purchase. Frequently, the site you click from earns a commission for the referring site. Well, some smart folks had an amazing idea. Why not offer a large selection of links that earn commission and share the commission with the people making the purchases? Enter Rakuten.

Do you get a discount at checkout by simply clicking through Rakuten?

No. You will not get a discount from the store you're shopping at simply by clicking through Rakuten. You will earn a percentage back into your Rakuten account. It's important to note here that you may be able to save additional money on purchases with coupon codes.

Can you use coupon codes while using Rakuten?

Scroll to Continue

Yes. Again, nothing about your purchase will change. Enter any discount codes you have as usual.

How do you get the money you've earned?

Rakuten sends you your money three times a year (by way of PayPal, check, etc.—you choose) to its members who have earned $5 or more. If you earn less than $5, your money will stay in your account until you break the $5 threshold.

Which store links have you earned cash back from?

Here are a few I use regularly: Walgreens, Foster & Smith, Magazines, Target, Snapfish, eBay, and more.

Does Ebates Link to Amazon?

Yes, they do (for select categories).

What happens if I forget to click through Rakuten? Will I still get cash back?

No. Don't forget to click through Rakuten.

What if I click through Rakuten to make a purchase—Walmart, for example—but get distracted and visit another site? If I return to Walmart to check out, will I still get cash back?

No. Do not navigate away from your purchase before you complete the transaction. Otherwise, your cash back will be lost.

Why are you telling me about this cash-back service?

Because I am a rebate woman (according to my family anyway), and I don't see a reason why anyone would not use this cash-back tool to earn a little cash for themselves and their families.

How long have you used this website?

I've been using it for over 10 years.

When is the best time to use Rakuten?

I always use it for online purchases, but the very best time is around Christmas. Do not miss the double cash-back deals at that time! Rakuten will send you emails about exactly which days are double cash back.

What's the best deal you've gotten through Rakuten?

Each year, I purchase a magazine subscription for my uncle. He used to live in Alaska, so he loves to receive the Alaska Magazine. The regular price was $18.00/yr at my favorite online discount magazine website. For the best deal possible, I waited for the double cash back day (I think it was on Black Friday last year), clicked through Ebates, and earned 42% back! Not only that, since I had ordered from them before, the magazine website had recently sent me a $5 off coupon for any magazine purchase. So, all in all, I paid $7.54/yr when I factored in the cash back.

When Can I Expect a Payment From Rakuten?

Purchases Posted BetweenCheck Sent

Jan. 1–March 31

May 15

April 1–June 30

Aug. 15

July 1–Sept. 30

Nov. 15

Oct. 1–Dec. 31

Feb. 15

Here is a copy of a check I've received from Ebates.

Here is a copy of a check I've received from Ebates.

Here is a screenshot of one of my payouts. It took me a while to get to the $5.00 threshold for this payout.

Here is a screenshot of one of my payouts. It took me a while to get to the $5.00 threshold for this payout.

This payout example included my Christmas-time spending, which adds up fast.

This payout example included my Christmas-time spending, which adds up fast.

You will see a message similar to this when you click on your store link (Target, for example).

You will see a message similar to this when you click on your store link (Target, for example).

After the purchase is made, you will see this in your account. Sometimes it takes a day or two.

After the purchase is made, you will see this in your account. Sometimes it takes a day or two.

Here are some examples of what you can earn at stores.

Here are some examples of what you can earn at stores.

Don't Forget to Use This Awesome Cash Back Service!

My recommendation is to sign up now! If you are a super-shopper like me, think about all the stacking you can do by making your final purchases using a cash-back credit card. There are good deals to be had! Earn some fun money for yourself.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Thanks for Stopping By! Do You Have Any Questions About Ebates?

Alexander James Guckenberger from Maryland, United States of America on January 11, 2018:

This looks awesome!

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on December 10, 2017:

Well this was good timing. My wife had just stumbled upon a mention of Ebates yesterday and has been talking about it. I just told her about this article and she is going to read it when she gets out of the shower.

Kwamakhe Olatunji on December 02, 2017:

Thanks for this information

June on June 03, 2017:

Great explanation-now I will start using Ebates! on December 10, 2016:

I can't figure out how to change my ebate to paypal instead of big fat check. Can you walk me through it?

Andrea Parker from Florida on March 10, 2016:

Ebates is a great site, yes it absolutely is. In fact, you have given a very thorough definition and description of it here. I am glad to have found your article and I do appreciate your writing. Ebates is a good way to get some money back.

Kristy on January 24, 2016:

I have a question how are you earning money if you only get a percentage if someone goes shopping after your review? How do you make money if you buy something for $500.00 and only get 5.01? So in reality you are losing lots more money than you are making!

suzyjahi on December 24, 2013:


puzzlerpaige (author) on February 19, 2013:

@anonymous: I opted to get my payments via paypal, but before that did get them mailed to me. I don't recall there being a long time lag. Seems like it wasn't a very long time.

anonymous on February 19, 2013:

How long does it approx take from the time the checks says it has been sent til the time it arrives in the mail?

anonymous on January 23, 2013:

When Ebates says "No Discount" on whatever site it may be I want to shop on. What exactly do they mean? Or does it mean exactly what it says? Thanks.

AlexiaLynn on December 25, 2012:

I just joined ebates not to long ago! I wish I would have went through you! I am definitely bookmarking and sharing on Facebook!

puzzlerpaige (author) on December 07, 2012:

@anonymous: I've been thinking about your question a bit more. And want to add more info. SOME stores are now offering a "Pick up in store" option. This is where you make your purchase online, then actually go to the store IN PERSON to pick up the item. No shipping involved. This is an instance when you MAY be able to earn cash back and still pick up the item right away in store. BUT, let me say, I'm not 100% sure on this. I will test it with a local store and post the results here. If anyone else gives this a try, please post your results so we will all know. Thanks!!!

puzzlerpaige (author) on November 30, 2012:

@anonymous: Well that depends on the store you are buying *from*. Let's say you are buying from Kmart. 1) Go to Ebates 2) Click on the Kmart link 3) Select what you want to buy at Kmart 4) When you check out at Kmart, look for a PayPal payment option. (I have no idea if Kmart allows payment from PayPal, this is just an example.) If you see it, then yes, you can use it.

In a nutshell, it all depends on the site you are buying from, not Ebates at all.

Very good question. Thank you!

anonymous on September 08, 2012:

Hey Can I use Paypal as a payment option on ebates?

puzzlerpaige (author) on July 07, 2012:

@anonymous: I'm not familiar with this. Best thing to do is call ebates or send them an email. I've had good luck with emails to them - their responses are always quick.

puzzlerpaige (author) on July 07, 2012:

@anonymous: No it is only for online purchases...

anonymous on July 07, 2012:

Question: Is Ebates only for online purchases? I don't like to shop online, I make in-store purchases. So can I still use Ebates?

anonymous on July 02, 2012:

Question....i wanted to buy some tickets through they are through ebates but when I go to that website it directs me to to another website to purchase the tickets would I still get the percentage back i am wondering cause the tickets are quite expensive and ebates gives 17 perc. for this. thanks

puzzlerpaige (author) on June 12, 2012:

@anonymous: Hi Sallie,

Not a silly question. But, no, you don't get the $ back you spent, only a percentage. So if you spend $10.00 on a shirt (through ebates) and that store is offering 3% cash back, you will earn $.30 into your account. For $100 you would earn $3 etc. etc. Every little bit adds up.

Thanks for asking.

anonymous on June 12, 2012:

Silly question maybe but I'm just wondering if this means that I get the money back I spent plus the percentage?

puzzlerpaige (author) on January 04, 2012:

@anonymous: Thanks Michelle! I am looking forward to my Christmas Big Fat Check too. I even ordered some things for my mom through my acct. Should be a nice one.

anonymous on January 03, 2012:

I use ebates but had some questions about it that the sight its self was not answering. This answered all my questions and also gave me some great tips.. can't wait to get my big fat check... I already have 27.31 from christmas shoping and I just signed up in november! Wish they would add amazon!

ruraldweller on December 03, 2011:

Wonderful detailed presentation!

julieannbrady on December 16, 2010:

Well wow-weee! You've done quite a presentation that is quite convincing.

Heather Burns from Wexford, Ireland on June 11, 2010:

thanks for explaining it so well! I will use it for sure.

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