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Shopping portals are one of the best ways to supercharge your cash back or point earnings for online purchases. Few are better than Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates). It's one of the oldest — and remains one of the best — shopping portals on the internet.
Even better, Rakuten will periodically offer special promotions. And that's the case again this week with up to 15X earnings! Plus, now is a great time to signup for a new account, if you don't already have one. Rakuten is offering a new member bonus of $40 (or 4,000 points) for signing up through a referral link.
Rakuten “Big Give Week” Promotion
From May 9-16, Rakuten is offering a promotion that could get you up to 15% cash back (or 15X points) on your purchases from hundreds of stores. You can order either through Rakuten.com, the Rakuten browser extension, the Rakuten app, or even in-store at select stores.
This includes brands like Nike, Bose, VRBO, Samsonite, Canon, The Container Store, Gamestop, Walgreens, Michaels, PetSmart, Levi’s, Ray-Ban, iRobot, Blue Apron, Vivid Seats, Sunglass Hut, Uniqlo, Zappos, Lenovo, UGG, Belk, and hundreds more!
4,000 Point Rakuten Sign-up Bonus
If you aren't a Rakuten member yet, you'll want to sign up through a referral link. That's because you'll only get a $10 welcome bonus when joining without a referral link.
But you'll get a $40 welcome bonus (or 4,000 points) through a referral link:
To earn your $40 bonus, all you need to do is:
- Create a new Rakuten account via an existing member's referral. (If you need a referral, here's my referral link.)
- Spend at least $40 on Rakuten Shopping Trips within 90 days of opening your account.
Once completed, the $40 bonus will appear under the ‘Earnings Balance‘ section of your Rakuten account within a couple of days.
Alternatively, if you have an Amex Membership Rewards earning card, you can add it to your Rakuten account and select ‘Membership Rewards points' as your earning preference. Now, the bonus will be paid in the form of 4,000 Membership Rewards points.
What is Rakuten?
Originally founded in the late 1990s, Ebates was one of the very first online shopping portals. In 2014, it was acquired by Rakuten (pronounced RACK-uh-ten)—a Japanese e-commerce and online retail company founded around the same time.
Like any shopping portal, Rakuten earns a commission for referring customers to its affiliated merchants. This commission is then shared in part with its members in the form of cash back. Since the commission is processed entirely on the vendor side, it's free to use for members like us.
How Does Rakuten Work?
To earn cash back, start by navigating to Rakuten's website. After confirming that you're logged into your account, search for your desired store.
If the store is eligible for Cash Back, you'll see the percentage displayed with its name. Simply use Rakuten's link to navigate to the store and complete your purchase as usual. Once the store has notified Rakuten of your purchase, you'll see the Cash Back appear in your account.
Earning Membership Rewards Points Instead of Cash Back
Starting last year, Rakuten launched a partnership with American Express, giving Amex customers with a Membership Rewards earning card the ability to earn Membership Rewards points instead of cash back.
The cash back percentages listed for a vendor are the equivalent to how many Membership Rewards you'll earn for every dollar spent. So, if a vendor lists an offer of 15% cash back, you can earn 15X Membership Rewards points from your purchase instead.
How To Earn Membership Rewards
If you'd like to change your payment option from cash back to Membership Rewards, start by making sure you've added a qualifying MR-earning card to the My Wallet section in your account settings.
The Membership Rewards option should then appear in the main section of your Rakuten account settings, under the ‘How would you like to get paid?' heading. You can toggle between payment methods, but note that your selected payment method will apply to all future purchases—not to purchases you've already made.
Why You Should Consider Earning Membership Rewards
Choosing between cash back and Membership Rewards comes down to what value you can get from the points.
If you choose to earn Membership Rewards, you're choosing to receive 1 Membership Rewards point instead of 1¢ of cash back. If you value Membership Rewards higher than 1¢ a piece, then you're immediately earning a better return.
For example, say a store is offering 10% cash back. If you spent $100, you'd earn either $10 cash back or 1,000 Membership Rewards Points. If you value Membership Rewards at 1.8¢ a piece (my baseline valuation), then the points option now represents an 18% return on your spend instead of 10%.
Taking that a step further, if you hold an American Express Platinum Card® by Charles Schwab, then you also have the option of cashing in your Membership Rewards Points at a rate of 1.25¢ per point. That means you'll earn 25% more cash back by earning Membership Rewards and redeeming them this way than directly through Rakuten.
How to Earn More Points by Stacking Offers
One of the beauties of using shopping portals is that it represents one of the easiest methods of maximizing, or ‘stacking' point earnings on a purchase. Navigating through a link is all that's required to use Rakuten shopping. So, you can easily use the same purchase for several other cash back or point-earning strategies, including:
- Meeting a minimum spend requirement
- Taking advantage of a Chase Offer
- Taking advantage of an Amex Offer
- Utilizing a card-specific credit (such as the $100 annual Saks credit offered to The Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders). Enrollment is required for select Amex benefits.
- Earning bonus points for travel, like with the current Choice Privileges or IHG promotions.
- Using a credit card with an appropriate bonus category
For a fantastic example of the savings possible through extreme stacking, check out Joe Petrovic's post about buying brand new $299 Bose headphones for under $90.
Stacking Credit Card Earnings
To maximize your earnings, you need to choose the right card for the purchase. For Rakuten, this means narrowing down your choice to one of four categories:
- Great Everyday Spending Card — These are cards that earn a solid return on all non-bonus spending, like The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, Citi® Double Cash Card, or Chase Freedom Unlimited®.
- Applicable Rotating Category — Certain credit cards earn a bonus based on quarterly rotating categories. For example, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom® earn 5% cashback on rotating bonus categories each quarter.
- Cards that Bonus Online Shopping — Some cards specify (or give you the ability to specify) online shopping as a bonus category. A couple of examples include the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card and AT&T Access Card from Citi.
- Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card — The Rakuten Visa (previously called the Ebates credit card) earns either an additional 3% or 3X Membership Rewards on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten. This makes it a great card for anyone that uses Rakuten regularly.
Rakuten and Dining Programs Can't be Stacked
In addition to the online shopping portal, Rakuten also offers a myriad of in store-offers, including several dining options available through the Rakuten app (App Store / Google Play). After applying these offers to any of the registered cards in the My Wallet menu, any transaction made at that merchant made will trigger cash back.
In the case of restaurant purchases, this operates much like a dining program. In fact, you may notice that a lot of the Rakuten cash back offers at restaurants match the respective dining program offers. On the surface, this seems like it'd make restaurants an incredible sweet spot—earning cash back from Rakuten and the dining program.
Alas, this is too good to be true. Since dining programs and Rakuten both operate utilizing a card-linked offer, you'll have to choose one or the other. The restaurant will only pay out the commission once.
Everyone should be using a shopping portal when shopping online. It's free, it takes seconds to do, and the savings rack up fast. If you haven't started yet, now is the perfect time to start earning cash back for your online purchases. If you haven't joined Rakuten yet, feel free to use my referral link to signup and claim your $40 bonus.
Have you signed up for a Rakuten account yet?
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