Ibotta vs. Rakuten: Which is Better for Cash Back?

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Ibotta vs. Rakuten

Cashback programs are extremely popular because you can save money or earn rewards for your necessary purchases.

The two biggest and most well-established programs are Rakuten and Ibotta. They both offer many ways to earn free cash back and other bonuses.

But how can you know which is the right one for you? And how much can you make with these two programs?

In this article, we’ll present an Ibotta vs. Rakuten comparison to help you make an informed choice.

Ibotta vs. Rakuten Overview

The main difference between Ibotta and Rakuten is that Ibotta has far more offers for in-store shopping, especially groceries, while Rakuten is better for online shopping. Both apps allow you to earn cashback for online and in-store purchases, but their strengths lie in different areas. Redeeming offers with Ibotta for in-store shopping requires a small effort, but the potential rewards are worth it.

The Ibotta Basics

Ibotta

Ibotta is an app and browser extension that allows users to earn cash back from the purchases that they make in-store or online. Many financial experts agree that Ibotta is one of the best money-saving apps because it’s accessible and the cashback offers are lucrative.

You can use Ibotta when you shop in-store by adding applicable offers to the app before you go shopping. After you pay, you’ll submit a receipt, and you get the rewards. You can link a store loyalty account (for certain stores) to your Ibotta account and access rebates without submitting a receipt.

Another option is to purchase gift cards via the Ibotta app, and you can get a cashback reward for those purchases immediately.

When you make purchases online, you can use the Ibotta browser extension or app to select the offers that interest you from various online retail outlets. When you’re ready, make a purchase, and you’ll earn cashback. At the time of writing, the Ibotta browser extension is only available for Google Chrome.

Ibotta User Experience  

Ibotta users need to submit a receipt to receive their rewards. In most cases, the account is credited with cashback within 24 hours after the receipt submission.

When you shop in a store, you can check the Ibotta app in advance to see if the items you intend to buy will offer you an opportunity for cash back rewards. The offers change regularly, so it’s a good idea to check back every time you make a grocery list.

After you’ve made an in-store purchase, select the offers that you want to redeem and upload the receipt to Ibotta to prove that you purchased the items. Ibotta will then review your receipt, and the cash back offer will be applied to your account.

Ibotta is also easy to use for shopping online. Open the mobile shopping app, redeem a cashback offer (click through the app to the website where you make the purchase), and Ibotta will add the cash reward to your account automatically.

The Rakuten Basics

Rakuten

Rakuten (formerly known as “Ebates”) is a popular cash back platform with a dedicated app and browser extension. You can earn cash back with select online retailers or for certain in-store purchases.

The Rakuten browser extension currently works with Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge browsers. The simplest way to use Rakuten is when you’re shopping online. When using the app or browser extension, you can easily see the cashback offers from an available store. Simply click on the store link via Rakuten, and you can earn cash back when you make an eligible purchase during that shopping session.

When shopping in-store, you need to select the in-store offer through the Rakuten app, and then link your debit or credit card to your Rakuten account. When you visit that store and make the eligible purchase with the linked card, you can earn cashback from your chosen offer. The linked offers are only valid for one purchase at a time, but you can relink to an offer to use it in the future.

There’s also a Rakuten Cash Back Visa credit card that earns 3% cash back on any qualifying Rakuten purchases. Any other purchases made with the Rakuten card offers 1% cash back.

Rakuten User Experience

The Rakuten user experience has been streamlined and simplified for ease of use. Simply sign up for a free Rakuten account on the site, and you’re ready to start earning cash back rewards.

Find the participating stores on Rakuten with the app or browser extension. You can log into the Rakuten website or use the browser to check that you’re receiving your cash back earnings.

The hardest aspect about choosing a reward is deciding whether you want a deposit to your PayPal account or a check sent through the mail. Cash back payments are sent every three months, and if the account has $5 or more, you get the funds. If the Rakuten account has less than $5, it will roll over to the next payment window and then be released if the minimum threshold has been met.

DetailsIbottaRakuten
Offers cash-back for in-store shoppingYesYes
Offers cash-back for online shoppingYesYes
Best forIn-store shoppingOnline shopping
Redemption optionsPayPal, gift cardsPayPal, check
Minimal redemption$20$5
Redemption frequencyWhenever you reach $20Quarterly

Participating Retailers

Both Rakuten and Ibotta have many well-known retail partners to improve the utility of their platforms and maximize your chance of receiving relevant offers. Let’s take a look at the partner stores for each cash back app in more detail:

The most popular Ibotta store partners are Walmart, GAP, Target, Lowe’s, Cabela’s, REI, Petco, Sephora, and The Home Depot. There are also cash back earning opportunities for airline ticket purchases, hotel bookings, event tickets, and much more.

It’s a good idea to check with Ibotta on participating retailers because new companies are added on a fairly regular basis.

The most popular Rakuten stores include Best Buy, Target, Nordstrom, Samsung, Adidas, Nike, Forever 21, and JCPenney.

It’s a good idea to check the offers regularly, and this is especially true during the holiday season. At certain times, Rakuten will offer triple cash back for early shoppers using certain stores. Check the Rakuten retailers’ list to learn where to earn the best cash back deals.

The Apps

Rakuten and Ibotta have dedicated smartphone apps for Android and iOS operating systems to simplify the cashback process. Let’s look at what you can expect when you use these apps.

The Ibotta App

The easiest way to earn the maximum cashback is via the Ibotta mobile app. You get a notification every time an offer comes through, ensuring you won’t miss opportunities for extra money.

The Ibotta account is free to set up using your Facebook profile or a relevant email address. You will earn a welcome bonus when you sign up and install the Ibotta Chrome extension. You can request your earnings via the app. If you hit the $20 minimum threshold, your rewards will be deposited to your designated bank account.

Referring friends and family will also give you extra bonuses if they choose to sign up and use the Ibotta platform.

The Rakuten App

To maximize the potential earning opportunities, it’s important to know the available retailers. This is simple. Set the Rakuten app to send a notification to ensure that you won’t miss an offer on the things that you were going to buy anyway.

The Rakuten browser extension will also search for relevant coupon codes that can be applied during checkout. In some cases, you’ll save a lot of money thanks to this feature.

The app allows you to send a referral code to your friends and family to join the Rakuten platform, and you’ll get $30 if they decide to participate. When you sign up for Rakuten, you automatically receive a $30 welcome credit that you’ll see in the account after you’ve made a qualifying purchase over $30 within the first 90 days.

Ibotta vs Rakuten: Similarities 

When you’re comparing Rakuten vs. Ibotta, it’s easy to notice some areas where the platforms overlap with each other.

1.   Free to Use

Both Ibotta and Rakuten are legit platforms with apps that are free to use. Consumers can earn cash back, and there are no hidden costs to consider. The only investment is the time you spend browsing the offers and clicking the cash bank links. In many cases, it only takes a couple of seconds to earn cash back with both apps, and it’s generally worth your time.

2.   Redemption Options

Some cashback apps only allow you to redeem your earned rewards with gift cards, and this can be frustrating. This isn’t the case with Ibotta and Rakuten. They both allow users to redeem their rewards for extra cash.

3.   Earning Potential

Both Rakuten and Ibotta are linked to thousands of retailers, far more than we can cover here, and this boosts the earning potential significantly. In fact, it’s unlikely that you wouldn’t find an earning opportunity that would align with your next shopping trip.

4.   Referral Bonuses

These two cashback apps offer generous referral bonuses when friends and family join the platforms. All you need is a referral code to share, and you get cash back when they sign up and meet the referral offer requirements.

Ibotta vs Rakuten: Key Differences

Now that we’ve explored the similarities, let’s look at four key differences between Rakuten and Ibotta.

1.   The Minimum Cash Out

The cashback may not accrue quickly because you’re getting a small percentage on each purchase made. So, if no promotional offer or deal is running, it can take a while to get your cashback earnings.

With Rakuten, you need $5.01 to cash out. After you hit that threshold, the rewards are issued automatically using your preferred payment method.

Ibotta users have a higher cash-out earning threshold set at $20. But, Ibotta does offer more opportunities to earn welcome bonuses on certain purchases, and they can help users to hit this threshold earlier. That said, there’s no getting around the fact that the Ibotta threshold is higher, and this can be frustrating when you want a payout.

Rakuten may seem like the obvious winner, but remember that their cash out intervals are three months apart, and this may not be a good fit for everyone. Withe Ibotta, you can redeem your rewards once you meet the $20 threshold, rather than waiting as much as 3 months.

2.   Redemption Options

The Rakuten and Ibotta redemptions options are similar, and both can be redeemed for PayPal cash. But Rakuten also has the option to redeem your rewards in exchange for Amex Membership Reward points, which slightly improves their utility. American Express points can be used for travel, gift cards, online shopping, and transfers to Amex partner programs.

There are no comparable redemption options with Ibotta, making Rakuten the winner in this area.

3.   Offers

Ibotta tends to have a lot of offers to use with retail partners, such as Walmart, Kroger, and others. This can include free items on certain eligible offers, and this is especially true during the holidays.

Rakuten can have good offers, but free items are less common, and you’re usually restricted to buy one get one (BOGO) offers. The inherently free nature of free items makes Ibotta a winner in this category.

4.   Earning Cash Back In-Store

Earning cash back with an app can be helpful, but if it takes too long to use, you will earn less than a dollar searching for offers and scanning receipts. This is why Rakuten and Ibotta have tried to streamline the process to save the user valuable time.

The process to earn cash back from online purchases is very easy for both apps, find the store, click on it with the app, make the purchases and claim the cashback. But, when it comes to earning cash back in-store, it’s fair to say that Rakuten is easier to use. You can add the in-store offers within the app and then use your linked card to make your purchase.

Ibotta is more involved. You need to choose the offers, add them, scan the receipts and then link your loyalty card to the Ibotta account. This is more complicated. You may need to take receipt pictures and scan the barcodes of the purchased products.

Rakuten is the clear winner for easily earning cash back in-store. However, it’s equally important to recognize that Ibotta offers far more offers for in-store purchases, including staples like groceries. For this reason, Ibotta is better than Rakuten for in-store cashback, even if it takes slightly more time.

Final Thoughts

Despite their similarities and differences, both Rakuten and Ibotta are solid cash back apps that are worthy of your attention. It would be difficult to choose between them even though they offer slightly different experiences. The good news is, you don’t have to choose one or the other. You can use both!

Rakuten is a good option if you use it for everyday purchases and online shopping. You tend to get more coupons and saving opportunities for household items, and this app is easy to use.

Ibotta is a good choice if you want cashback on grocery purchases and you’re looking for free products during peak promotional periods. Ultimately, you may want to consider downloading both and using their various strengths to access more earning opportunities.

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