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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). As one of the oldest shopping portals on the internet, it provides an unmatched level of consistency and value.
Plus, American Express cardholders can earn 3,000 bonus points for creating a new Rakuten account and selecting Membership Rewards as their earning preference. If you get 2¢ in value from your Membership Rewards points, that means you can get a $60 bonus for as little as one purchase!
3,000 Point Rakuten Sign-up Bonus
To earn an increased bonus, you'll need to follow these steps:
- Open a new account with Rakuten
- Add your Amex Membership Rewards earning card to your account under the My Wallet menu
- Switch your account's earning preference to Membership Rewards points
- Spend at least $25 on Rakuten Shopping Trips within 90 days of opening your account
Unlike some of Rakuten's previous sign-up bonuses, this deal is available even if no one referred you.
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)
- 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, if you were going to make purchases at Walmart or through PayPal, you should consider using the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or Chase Freedom® to earn 5% cashback through December 31, 2020.
- 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® 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 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.
As far as we're concerned, 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 have a Membership Rewards earning card and haven't created a Rakuten account yet, this promotion makes it a great time to sign up.
Have you signed up for a Rakuten account yet?
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