Ibotta and Rakuten, formerly Ebates, are the two largest and most popular cash-back sites. Here’s your guide to the differences and how to use both.
This post contains links to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For more information, read Affiliate Disclosure.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September of 2019. It has been freshened up with new pictures and commentary on January 24, 2020.
How cash-back sites and apps work
A cash-back site or app returns a small amount of money to you when you shop via the app or site. You need to upload your receipt or meet other requirements to show proof.
Think of it as an online mall that’ll pay you a small portion when you go through their portal. You do your normal shopping and earn cash-back.
Related: 15 ways to make money now
Since they’re the middle-man between a consumer and the retailer, they get a commission when they refer people to the store. The following is an example of how cash-back sites work:
Instead of going directly to a store, use Ibotta or Rakuten to find the store that you want to shop at and make a purchase. The price will be the same as if you were to go directly to the store.
Since the store received traffic from the cash-back site, they give the site a commission for the referral.
The cash-back site will pay you a small percentage for shopping through them and not going directly to the store.
Note: You don’t get cash-back for the sales tax.
In the end, everyone is happy. The store sold an item, the cash-back site made a cut, and you get cash-back.
Ibotta is a Denver-based company that was founded in 2011 by Bryan Leach. It allows you to earn cash-back when shopping in-store, online or through an app.
Originally, Ibotta was a grocery rebate company. Now, Ibotta is partnered with more than 300 retailers and gives you cash-back for shopping at more than 500,000 locations.
For more information, see Ibotta’s full list of partner stores.
How to use Ibotta
To use Ibotta, take the following steps:
- Download the free Ibotta app and set up an account.
- Find offers to claim.
- To add an offer, click the plus sign.
- Shop and save the receipt.
- Take a photo of your receipt via the Ibotta app.
- Receive credit within 48 hours.
Note: Receipts must be submitted within 7 days of the purchase.
Once you’ve accumulated $20 worth of credit, you can withdraw the funds using Venmo, PayPal, or redeem for gift cards.
Rakuten Rewards, formerly Ebates, is a cash-back and rewards website based in San Francisco, California. They were founded in 1997 and have over 2,500 stores in their network. Rakuten is simply an affiliate link, meaning the store will pay them when you shop through their link.
How to use Rakuten
Take the following steps to use Rakuten:
- Download the free Rakuten app.
- Create an account.
- Search for stores or products through the app or website.
- Shop to accumulate cash-back.
- Get paid.
Note: Rakuten will automatically track your shopping for you so you don’t need to upload receipts.
Rakuten also offers a credit card to earn even more cash. The no-annual-fee Rakuten Cash Back Visa® Credit Card earns an extra 3% cash-back on Rakuten purchases, and 1% on everything else.
To ensure you don’t return a product after receiving the cash-back, Rakuten pays you four times per year: May 15, August 15, November 15, and February 15. You’ll receive payment via PayPal or a check.
Ibotta vs. Rakuten
The best cash-back app or site depends on your shopping habits. For groceries, Ibotta is the best option while Rakuten is better for online shopping.
That said, use both to maximize your savings and earn more cash-back. When you combine the two, you’ll earn from all of the different types of shopping that you currently do.
Coupons and referrals
With Rakuten, you get a $10 bonus after you spend $25 or more within the first 90 days of membership. By referring a friend, you can also earn $25 or more. Be sure to check out their website for current promotions.
With Ibotta, the welcome bonus can change and you also get a referral bonus for referring friends.
Both of these sites offer ways to save and earn money for shopping at places you already shop. If you’re looking for just one cash-back site to use, Rakuten will earn you the most money back. To maximize every purchase, it’s a good idea to use both of these sites to maximize savings and earnings.
Additional money resources
Want to learn how to save more or about different savings accounts? The following are a few more resources:
Featured photo by Clay Banks/Unsplash.