|Cash Back Rating:
|1.7 / 5
|Annual Percentage Rate:
In a Nutshell:
Stacking the Rakuten Cash Back Visa with Rakuten’s cash back offers could get you double-digit cash back when you shop online, but the card is far from the only way for Rakuten users to score big savings.
Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
Other Notable Features: Price protection, purchase protection, extended warranty, travel and emergency assistance services, travel accident insurance, auto rental collision damage waiver, return protection
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The Rakuten Cash Back Visa Credit Card may seem like a deal-hunter’s dream come true. You’ll not only rack up big savings via Rakuten’s cash back offers, but also stack an additional 3% cash back bonus on top of them.
But don’t let the promise of huge cash back rewards fool you: Since anyone can sign up for a Rakuten account and take advantage of the site’s cash back offers, the Rakuten Cash Back Visa is far from your only option for scoring deals on online shopping. In fact, a number of cash back credit cards offer comparable value and greater flexibility.
That said, the card comes with a number of useful perks, including the possibility of earning 3X American Express Membership Rewards points on Rakuten purchases. If you’re a diehard Rakuten fan or looking to boost your Membership Rewards earning rate, this may be enough to justify its limitations.
How does Rakuten work?
In case you’re not already a Rakuten user, here’s how the program works: Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, uses an affiliate model, which sees companies paying Rakuten to send them shoppers.
If you follow a link from Rakuten.com to an online store and make a purchase there (or link a Rakuten offer to your credit card and buy in-store), the store pays Rakuten a referral fee. Rakuten then takes a percentage of that fee and passes it on to you in the form of cash back.
Rakuten partners with over 2,500 affiliate stores, including giants like Amazon, Target, Walmart, Walgreens and Macy’s, as well as hotel, airline and travel-booking websites like Orbitz and Travelocity. Rakuten also features cash back offers on in-store purchases, though these tend to be significantly less lucrative than their online offers.
Sign-up is free and there’s no limit to the amount of cash back you can earn.
Rakuten features cash back offers from a variety of popular online retailers like Amazon and Macy’s
Rakuten also features coupon codes and special promotions
|Tip:While you can earn unlimited cash back through Rakuten, individual merchants may have their own Rakuten cash back limits, so be sure to read an offer’s terms carefully.
Stack Rakuten Cash Back offers with the Rakuten credit card
The Rakuten Cash Back Visa gets you 3% cash back on all purchases made through Rakuten.com, Rakuten In-Store Cash Back offers, Rakuten Hotels and Rakuten travel, as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases (the card can be used anywhere Visa credit cards are accepted).
Since Rakuten regularly features cash back offers of 5% or more at its affiliate online stores, stacking these offers with the Rakuten Cash Back Visa can easily get you double-digit cash back on your purchases.
But keep in mind: Rakuten’s cash back offers are not exclusive to Rakuten Cash Back Visa cardholders. Anyone can sign up for a Rakuten account, link their card and take advantage of the site’s promotions and discounts.
This means that if you have a decent flat-rate cash back card or a card that offers bonus rewards on online shopping or purchases made with a specific retailer, the cash back you earn could rival the rate you’d get with the Rakuten Cash Back Visa while also offering more flexibility.
Take the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card as an example. The card lets you choose from a variety 3% cash back categories – including online shopping – and get 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 in combined spending in 2% and 3% categories per quarter, then 1%). If you choose online shopping as your 3% bonus category and combine with a Rakuten cash back offer, you’d match the Rakuten Cash Back Visa’s earning rate. In addition, you’d have a chance to earn bonus cash back in other areas and change your 3% cash back category once per calendar month to suit your spending habits.
Similarly, the Citi Double Cash® Card offers up to 2% cash back on all purchases, regardless of where you make them (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off those purchases). If you used the Double Cash Card at Rakuten.com, you’d not only get up to 2% cash back on top of your Rakuten cash back offer, but also have the flexibility to earn up to 2% back anywhere and everywhere else.
See related: How to stack rewards to save big on purchases
Amex cardholders may be able to earn 3X Membership Rewards
A little-known perk of the Rakuten platform is that it allows you to earn your cash back in the form of Membership Rewards points if you have an eligible American Express card. For every $1 spent, you can earn 1 point.
If you’re new to Rakuten, you can sign up for an account at www.rakuten.com/american-express, enter your email address and link your Amex card.
If you’re already a Raktuen user, you can switch from earning cash back to earning points by linking an Amex card that earns Membership Rewards to your Rakuten account, after which American Express will appear as a redemption option in the “How would you like to get paid?” section of your Account settings page. Note, however, that any cash back already present in your account will not be automatically converted to Membership Rewards points.
This is where things get interesting. In theory, after you’ve switched your account to earning points instead of cash back, you won’t need to pay with your linked Amex card to earn Membership Rewards. This means that you may be able to pay with the Rakuten Cash Back Visa and earn 3X Membership Rewards points on top of those earned through a Rakuten Cash Back offer. This could be a big plus if you’re interested in travel, since Membership Rewards can offer inflated value when redeemed for travel.
While multiple sources have reported success in earning 3X Membership rewards points with the Rakuten Cash Back Visa, Rakuten Member Services notes: “To make sure that you earn Membership Rewards points, use your American Express card for all your purchases with Rakuten. If you use other credit cards, we can’t guarantee that you’ll earn points.”
Tiny sign-up bonus
After you make your first purchase with the Rakuten Cash Back Visa, you’ll get $10 deposited to your Rakuten cash back account. While this is tiny compared to the sign-up bonuses offered by many rewards cards, it comes with no minimum spend requirement or other tricky restrictions.
You can also get a $25 referral bonus for each new Rakuten member you refer who spends $25 on the platform within a year of joining. However, you don’t have to be a Rakuten Cash Back Visa cardholder to get this bonus – any Rakuten member can take advantage of the offer.
You’ll have to wait to get your cash back
One major shortcoming of the Rakuten Cash Back Visa is its inflexible redemption scheme. You must have at least $5 in your Rakuten cash back account before you get a check or PayPal payment, and Rakuten will only send you cash back on a quarterly basis.
Rakuten’s cash back schedule should give you an idea of how long you may have to wait to claim your rewards:
|Cash back posted to account
|Cash back sent
|Jan. 1 – Mar.31
|Apr. 1 – Jun. 30
|Jul. 1 – Sep. 30
|Oct. 1 – Dec. 31
Adding to the program’s restrictiveness, you can only request your Rakuten account cash back balance in the form of a check or PayPal deposit. You cannot link your bank account directly to your Rakuten account or redeem cash back for travel or gift cards.
Additionally, if you close your Rakuten.com account for any reason, your card will no longer earn cash back, even outside of Rakuten.
Watch out for the high APR
The Rakuten Cash Back Visa carries a variable APR of 19.99% or 24.99% depending on your creditworthiness, both of which are very high compared to the average APR for a cash back credit card (around 17%).
The card also offers no 0% introductory APR on new purchases, so it’s a poor choice if you need to finance a larger purchase.
If you have any doubt about your ability to pay off your purchases in full each month, or if you suspect the draw of big cash back “wins” will lead to overspending, you may want to look for another cash back card with a lower regular APR or a long 0% introductory offer on new purchases.
Cardholder perks a pleasant surprise
Rakuten Cash Back Visa cardholder perks include:
- Price protection – If you purchase an eligible item with your Rakuten Cash Back Visa and find a better price in the next 60 days, you can get reimbursed the difference up to $500 per item and up to $2,500 per year.
- Return protection – If you’re disappointed in an item you purchased, but a retailer won’t accept a return, you can file a claim within 90 days to be reimbursed for the purchase price (up to $250 per item and up to a maximum of $1,000 per year).
- Extended warranty protection – You can get your manufacturer’s warranty doubled up to one additional year on eligible warranties of three years or less. For example, if you bought something with a warranty of three months, the Rakuten Cash Back Visa would get you an additional three months of coverage on top of that.
- Purchase Security – If something you bought is damaged or stolen within 90 days of the purchase date, you can get reimbursed up to the total purchase price of your item for a maximum of $1,000 per claim.
- Auto rental collision damage waiver – You can get reimbursed for damages to your rental car caused by theft or collision. If you already have insurance that covers this, the waiver can reimburse you for the deductible portion of your insurance as well as towing charges.
This list of perks is very fair for a no-annual-fee card and could prove especially useful if a store’s return, price matching or price adjustment policies fall through. Next to the bonus cash back you’ll get on purchases made through Rakuten, this card’s perks are its main appeal.
How does the Rakuten Cash Back Visa to other cash back cards?
You could score big savings by using the Rakuten Cash Back Visa at Rakuten.com, but the card’s value is severely limited if your spending doesn’t line up with the site’s cash back offers. A number of more flexible cash back cards offer rewards in a variety of bonus categories like online shopping. Here’s a quick look at a few of our favorites:
|Other things to know
|Other things to know
|Other things to know
One of the best flat-rate cash back cards on the market, the Citi Double Cash card is a great choice if you want to earn rewards on every purchase without the hassle of tracking spending or enrolling in bonus categories. In addition to its 2% cash back rate on all purchases (1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off those purchases), the card comes with a 0% introductory APR offer for 18 months on balance transfers (19.24%-29.24% variable thereafter), which can help you save on interest and pay off debt.
The Prime Visa card doesn’t charge an annual fee, but requires an Amazon Prime membership. The card’s 5% rewards rate on Amazon.com purchases could offer a lot of value if you don’t mind doing most of your shopping through Amazon.com, especially when you stack it with Rakuten’s cash back offers. You’ll also enjoy a 5% rewards rate on Whole Foods purchases and a 2% rewards rate at gas stations, making it a decent option for everyday spending.
A great choose your bonus category rewards card, the Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card offers 3% cash back in a category of your choice and 2% cash back on grocery store and wholesale club purchases (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, then 1%). Along with online shopping, 3% bonus category choices include gas, dining, travel, drug stores, furniture stores and home improvements. You can change your bonus category choice once per calendar month, making the card ideal if your spending habits change from month to month.
Why get the Rakuten credit card?
- You use Rakuten frequently and find its cash back offers line up with your spending habits.
- You’re looking for a cash back card that offers price protection and return protection benefits.
- You can’t qualify for a flat rate cash back card or another card with a similar cash back rate on online purchases.
- You don’t anticipate needing to carry a balance.
- You don’t mind waiting to get your cash back (sent once per quarter).
How to use the Rakuten credit card:
- Be sure to check Rakuten.com for new cash back offers frequently
- Be sure to link in-store cash back offers to your Rakuten Cash Back Visa to get bonus cash back on in-store purchases
- Use an app like Capital One Shopping to track store prices and take advantage of the Rakuten Cash Back Visa’s price protection benefit if something you bought drops in price.
- Don’t assume Rakuten’s affiliate stores always have the best price on an item.
Is the Rakuten credit card worth it?
You can score some terrific deals when you combine the Rakuten Cash Back Visa with Rakuten’s cash back offers – especially if you’re an Amex cardholder earning Membership Rewards points – but unless you’re a diehard Rakuten user, you’ll probably be better off in the long run with a more flexible cash back card.
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