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Online shopping portals are one of the best ways to supercharge your points-earnings on regular purchases. Considering many of us have been doing a bit more online shopping than usual, Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) has devised a promotion to reward its current customers for spreading the word.
For two weeks only, Rakuten is increasing the welcome and referral bonuses to $30. While it's not being advertised as such, you have the option to convert that referral bonus to 3,000 Amex Membership Rewards Points. This is a fantastic opportunity to start earning cash back or points while shopping from home.
- Increased bonus available between April 20 – May 11, 2020
- Refer-A-Friend to sign-up for Rakuten using your unique link or email address
- New member must make purchases of at least $30
- Both members will receive $30—or 3,000 Membership Rewards Points—as a bonus
- Members who sign up without a referral will earn the standard $10 bonus after a $25 purchase
The standard Refer-A-Friend bonus is $10 to new members and $25 to their referrers after the new member makes purchases of at least $25. This promotion triples the bonus for the new member and adds five dollars to the referrer's reward, while only increasing the minimum purchase amount by five dollars!
How Rakuten Works
Founded in the late 1990s, Rakuten is one of the first—and largest—online shopping portals. 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”.
To earn Cash Back, start by navigating to Rakuten.com. 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 began a partnership with American Express, giving Amex customers with a Membership Rewards (MR) earning card—such as The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express or American Express® Gold Card—the ability to earn Membership Rewards Points instead of cash back.
Effectively, the “Cash Back” percentages listed for a vendor are the equivalent to how many Membership Rewards you'll earn for every dollar spent. This means that if a vendor lists 15% Cash Back, you can opt in to receive 15X Membership Rewards points from your purchase.
How To Earn Membership Rewards
If you'd like to change your payment option from cash back to Membership Rewards, first make sure that you've added a qualifying MR-earning card to the ‘My Wallet‘ section in your account settings.
The Membership Rewards option will appear in the main section of your account settings, under the ‘How would you like to get paid?' heading. You can toggle between any of the payment methods. Note that your selected payment method will apply to all future purchases, not to purchases you already made.
Why You Should Consider Earning Membership Rewards
If you choose to earn Membership Rewards, you're earning 1 MR instead of 1¢ of cash back. If you value MRs higher than 1¢ a piece, then you're immediately earning a better return. For example, if a store is offering 10% Cash Back, that means that if you spent $100, you'd earn either $10 cash back or 1,000 Membership Rewards Points. If you value Membership Rewards at 1.7¢ a piece, then the MR option now represents a 17% return on your spend instead of 10%.
If you hold an American Express Platinum Card® by Charles Schwab, then you 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.
Stacking Credit Card Earnings
One of the great things about shopping portals is that any cash back or bonus points earned can be stacked with the points from your credit card. This means that in order 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 Everday Spending Card — These are cards that earn a solid return on all non-bonus spending, like the Blue Business Plus, 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 purchase a subscription to Hulu or Disney+ (both currently available on Rakuten), you should consider using your Chase Freedom®, since it earns 5X points from April 1 to June 30, 2020.
- Cards that Bonus Online Shopping — There are some cards that specify—or give you the ability to specify—online shopping as a bonus category. A couple of examples include Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and AT&T Access Card from Citi.
- Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card — The Rakuten Visa earns either an additional 3% or 3X Membership Rewards on qualifying purchases made through Rakuten. This makes it an excellent card for anyone that uses Rakuten regularly.
This is a perfectly timed promotion! With everyone stuck at home in self-isolation, more and more people are turning to online shopping to avoid unnecessary trips into potentially crowded places. Additionally, with so many people unable to work, it's more important than ever to make the most out of each purchase.
Everyone should be using a shopping portal when shopping online. It takes seconds to do, and the savings and earnings rack up fast. If you're new to Rakuten—or shopping portals in general—now is a great time to get started.
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