Let's look at Rakuten, a review of how it works, its features, the pros and the cons of using this site to get cash back, or rebates on your online shopping.

When I first came upon it, this was Ebates, and one of the first rebate portal type of site. I was not totally sold on it right away. But that was because of small personal peaves. For instance, when I first wanted to explore it, the site went dark with a window that insisted on taking my email address before it would let me even have a peek at the default index page. Why should I be forced to sign up before I can check it out?

Another day I took a good look at their Terms of Service, and was struck by how defensive it sounded, as if it were assuming the worst from everyone in the world. I know there are other sites and software programs that sound like that when you read them, but nowadays many are writing their Terms in more readable and less legal tones. No doubt they hired someone else to write it for them, and it may have nothing to do with their own eager-for-business attitude, but some of us hesitate and turn away before we get far into their door.

However, I overcame my hesitation and explored Ebates as impartially as I could. With some prowling around, I discover some tiny links at the bottom of the page that allow me to read their history and how it works.

Ebates - the First Cash-Back Site

Apparently this was the very first such a cash back site, started in 1998 by two Deputy District Attorneys who used to prosecute online fraud and identity thefts in the Silicon Valley of California. (That explains why they were so security conscious!) They make their money from the rebates of the stores they were affiliated with, so they are able to share some of that cache with members without having to charge membership fees, or anything else. Every three months they sent out, what they call, the Big Fat Checks to their members. The size of them, of course, depends on how much shopping members had done, entering Ebates first, and then clicking on the stores of their choice.

And yes, Ebates did make some deposits of cash into my PayPal account. Nice surprises as by then I'd forgotten that I had gone shopping from there.

However...Now it is Rakuten!

So I've explored it and become more familiar with the way this multi-national global company is running it.

Rakuten Offers a Number of Ways to Get Your Cash Back!

1.The Rakuten Mobile App - download it to your mobile device, and then activate a Rakuten Shopping Trip, by clicking the Rakuten link. A window opens to let you know your CashBack is activated. You can start shopping. If the store you are at online does not offer Cash Back in that instance, it will notify you.

2. The Cash Back Button for Your Browser - this is an automated tool that proactively finds discounts and lets you earn Cash Back - without visiting Rakuten first. (As we did with EBates). First visit your browser store, search for the Rakuten Cash Back Button and download it. Once you’ve downloaded the Cash Back Button, you’ll see it in your browser bar.

Then, when you visit a store’s website, you’ll get a drop-down notification of the Cash Back and coupons offered at that store. Simply click on that drop down to start earning Cash Back, without interrupting your shopping.

You can also activate the Cash Back Button icon that appears on your browser bar by clicking on store cards, coupons and more. In both cases, you will be notified that Cash Back has been activated. If for any reason, the store does not offer Cash Back through the Cash Back Button, the notification will not appear.

3. The Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card - optional, but you can use this to earn unlimited additional Cash Back rewards - with no annual fee! Use it online and where ever Visa credit cards are accepted. Qualifying purchases made online through Rakuten and Ebates are eligible to earn an extra 3% Cash Back, while all other purchases are eligible for 1% Cash Back. (Check their website for some Exclusions and Limitations with this card.)

4. In a Physical Store too! - link any credit or debit card you have already to your Rakuten account. When you find an in-store Cash Back offer, simply activate it, and pay with your usual credit card. Just like online Cash Back, In-Store Cash Back must be confirmed by the store. This could take a few hours or days. Once the store confirms your purchase, you’ll see the Cash Back in your account. We’ll also send you an email letting you know your Cash Back is on its way.

Important: If you’re using a debit card, select “Credit” when paying. That means you’ll sign a receipt instead of entering your PIN. This is the only way we can track your Cash Back.

By the way, our Cash Back is only paid out to us once a quarter. There are also Exclusions & Limitations to this method; you should check those on their website.

5. Follow Links in Rakuten Emails - activate a Rakuten Shopping Trip by following links from their company emails. If that link sends you shopping online, a window will open to let you know that Cash Back has been activated for you.

6.Refer-A-Friend Bonuses! - For USA & Canadians only - you can invite friends to join by sending them your link. If your friend signs up and spends $25, you get $25 bonus, and they get $5.

Since I began with Ebates (in USA) I still have a Rakuten account on the .com site, but now that there is a Canadian Rakuten site, I also have an account here. Here is my Refer-A-Friend link for Canadians: rakuten.ca/r/shopper-bee To sign up for the USA Rakuten is USA Rakuten Portal

Extra Notes:

If you don't really need or want your rebates, you can designate them to be sent to your favourite charity. (Nice!)

Confirming that your purchase is properly credited to you in Rakuten can happen as quickly as 48 hours, or it may take as long as 30 days because some stores wait until the return period is over, in case the customer returns the purchase.

For that reason, Rakuten waits until the 15th of the second month after the quarterly period of shopping, to send you the rebates. It helps to know this in advance, so you don't panic.

Your rebate comes either as a Big Fat Check in the mail, or a deposit in your PayPal account. It depends on what setting you choose in your account settings.