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Shopping portals are one of the best ways to supercharge your earnings for online purchases. You'll earn bonus points, miles, or cash back just by clicking through a shopping portal before making a purchase. Few shopping portals 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. And new members can use a Rakuten referral link to get a new member bonus of $40 (or 4,000 Amex Membership Rewards points).
Here's a closer look at this offer.
- Rakuten Referral Bonus for New Members
- Earning Amex Points Instead of Cash Back
- What Is Rakuten?
- How Does Rakuten Work?
- Earn More Points by Stacking Offers
- Final Thoughts
Rakuten Referral Bonus for New Members
If you aren't a Rakuten member yet, you should sign up through a referral link. That's because you'll only get a $10 welcome bonus if you join without a referral link.
But you'll get a $40 welcome bonus through a referral link:
How to earn a Rakuten referral bonus
To earn your $40 Rakuten sign up bonus, all you need to do is:
- Sign up for Rakuten through a referral link (If you need a referral, here's mine).
- Spend at least $40 on Rakuten Shopping Trips within 90 days of opening your account.
The $40 bonus will appear under the “Earnings Balance” section of your Rakuten account within a couple of days of completing eligible purchases. But point maximizers may want to opt to earn American Express Membership Rewards instead. If you select “Membership Rewards points” as your earning preference, the Rakuten referral bonus will be paid in the form of 4,000 Membership Rewards points instead for cash-back rewards.
Earning Amex 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 Amex points through Rakuten
If you'd like to change your payment option from cash back to Membership Rewards, start by making sure you've added a qualifying Membership Rewards-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 points
Choosing between cash back and Membership Rewards comes down to the value you can get afterward.
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.
Here's an example: At a store offering 10% cash back, a $100 purchase will provide $10 cash back or 1,000 Membership Rewards points. Consider that AwardWallet users redeem Membership Rewards at an average of 2.15¢ per point when deciding which to earn.
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 1.1¢ per point. That means you'll earn 10% more cash back by earning Membership Rewards and redeeming them this way than directly through Rakuten.
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.
How does Rakuten make money?
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.
These sites are free for consumers to use; the ability to earn extra rewards while shopping online (and do so without a cost) means you should always use portals when shopping online.
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 earnings appear in your account.
Earn More Points by Stacking Offers
Using shopping portals is one of the easiest methods of maximizing your online purchases by ‘stacking' point earnings on a purchase. Navigating through a link is all that's required to use Rakuten. Thus, you can use the same purchase for several other cash back or point-earning strategies, including:
- Meeting a minimum spend requirement
- Taking advantage of a rebate or bonus points, such as Chase Offers
- 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 a related bonus category
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 everyday 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% cash back on rotating bonus categories each quarter.
- Cards with elevated earnings for 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 Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express.
- Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card: The Rakuten Visa (previously called the Ebates credit card) earns an additional 3% or 3X Membership Rewards (based on your earning preference) on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten. This makes it a great card for anyone who 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 (available in the 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 many 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, it's not possible. Dining programs and Rakuten operate utilizing a card-linked offer, meaning you have to choose one or the other. The restaurant will only pay out the commission once.
Everyone should use a shopping portal when shopping online. It's free, it takes only a few seconds to use, and the savings rack up fast. If you haven't joined Rakuten yet, feel free to use my referral link to sign up and claim your $40 new member bonus.
What's your favorite Rakuten deal you've claimed?
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