Easy Way To Maximize Rakuten New Member Bonus

Filed Under: Great Deals
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Through December 25, 2020, Rakuten is offering the best refer-a-friend-bonus I ever recall seeing:

  • If you refer a friend to Rakuten and they spend $40, then both the person referring and the person being referred receive $40
  • In order to be eligible, the person being referred needs to make a purchase within 90 days

While I’ve written about this promotion before, in this post I wanted to highlight the easiest way to take advantage of it, as it’s an option that a lot of people overlook.

Easiest way to make a Rakuten purchase

Rakuten is an online shopping portal that partners with hundreds of retailers, offering cash back or bonus points for purchases you’d make anyway.

Getting $40 back on a $40 purchase is awesome, though I get that a lot of people might be thinking “well I can’t think of anything I need to buy right now that costs around $40.”

In this post I wanted to highlight the easiest way to earn this bonus — buy a $40 gift card and you’ll get $40 back. Below I’ll outline the process, for anyone who may not be a Rakuten member yet.

Note that the below example is from when Rakuten was offering a $30 bonus rather than a $40 bonus, so the screenshots will reflect $30, but you should be making a $40 purchase (this bonus is ~33% better).

Step 1: Sign-up for a Rakuten account

The first step is to sign up for a Rakuten account through a refer a friend link. You can sign-up through my link (thanks for your support!), or others are free to leave their links in the comments section.

The process of signing up should only take a couple of minutes.

Once you’ve signed up for your account you can choose to select Amex Membership Rewards points rather than cash back as your earnings preference. Note that this change won’t apply to the sign-up bonus, but will apply to everything else. See this post for details on how to do that.

Step 2: Buy a $40 gift card

While logged into your Rakuten account, you’ll need to make an eligible purchase. There are several websites dedicated to selling gift cards that partner with Rakuten, including raise.com, giftcards.com, and giftcardmall.com.

You’ll want to buy a gift card specifically through one of these websites because the terms allow you to earn credit for gift card purchases, which isn’t the case when buying gift cards through many of their retail partners.

I’ve had issues with raise.com (they often cancel orders, for whatever reason), but giftcards.com works fine, in my experience.

So enter giftcards.com in the search bar at the top of Rakuten’s website.

Then click the “Shop Now” button, which will take you to giftcards.com. All your purchases while on that site will automatically be tracked.

They sell a variety of gift cards with popular retailers, ranging from DoorDash to Airbnb to Hulu to Dominos to Uber to Netflix.

For example, you could buy a $40 DoorDash gift card at face value, and the code will be delivered by email within minutes.

Step 3: Wait for your credit to post

Once the purchase is complete, you should see Rakuten automatically tracking the purchase.

Within an hour the purchase should be fully reflected — the Rakuten account will show a $40 credit (the sign-up bonus), plus 40 Membership Rewards points (since the earnings preference had been changed to points, and you get 1% back on giftcards.com purchases, equal to 40 Membership Rewards points).

The one major catch here is the delayed payment period. You’ll only be paid once quarterly, and there’s a cutoff for payments.

Is this really worth it?

Essentially new Rakuten members will get $40 cash in over three months if they spend $40 now. Based on that, I’d say:

  • This is a great deal and no brainer if you were going to spend $40 with a merchant that you could buy a $40 gift card from anyway; if you’re going to spend $40 with DoorDash anyway, why not earn $40 in cash back a few months down the road in the process?
  • This could be especially lucrative if you can refer a friend or family member, since between the two of you you’ll be getting $80 in value (or potentially $40 and 4,000 Amex points, which is even better)

Bottom line

Rakuten is offering $40 to both the person referring and the person being referred through the refer-a-friend program. I’m a huge fan of Rakuten in general, and there’s lots of value to be had here.

If you’re looking for the easiest way to complete this offer, purchase a $40 gift card to a retailer of your choice through giftcards.com. You’ll then get $40 in cash with your next payout.

If you would have spent money with a retailer anyway and aren’t yet a Rakuten member, then this is a no-brainer. Best of all, it’ll get you into the habit of using Rakuten, and earning rewards for all your online purchases.

  1. Did Ford’s status change on your rakuten page from “signed up” to “qualified”? I referred someone and they made a purchase a few days ago but I am concerned it didn’t work since they are still listed only as “signed up”. Will be annoyed if they wait until after May 1 to let me know since then I will no longer be eligible.

  2. Hi,
    i am a non-US citizen. Would like to take advantage of this offer.
    Problem is that giftcards.com only accept credit cards with US billing address.

    Anyone has any idea how to solve the problem?

  3. Every single referral I have gotten through Rakuten they have tried to claw back. My wife, mother, and father. Every one. All referrals were legit and within the T&C’s. Eventually after a few emails back and forth spanning 2 weeks for each individual referral, they reinstated it. A hassle nonetheless. They make you work for that free money

  4. I actually think posting a Rakuten link here isn’t looks good, since I am then posting something that Lucky is used to get a living with this blog,
    However I would like to provide an alternative that Topcashback (TCB) always have a better cashback rate, even the sign up offer isn’t as lucrative. (Of course you can register both since they ain’t mutually exclusive)
    -Macy’s offers 12% on TCB while 2% on Rakuten,
    -Gift Cards typically earns you 3-5% on TCB, but only 1% on Rakuten
    -not to mention Expedia, Orbitz or Airlines
    You can use my link to TCB here and you earn $10 for signing up:
    I am posting this because Lucky isn’t posting any from TCB, I will delete if he does anytime.

  5. I ended up referring a family member and then we used the link to make a purchase at Saks using our $50 platinum card credit. Pretty easy $30 plus 3,000 Amex.

  6. Is anyone else having issues with not being able to switch to AMEX earning because it can’t link my accounts due to an “incompatible browser”?

  7. I referred 3 people, only received 1 bonus. I helped all three so they all joined and made at least a $40 gift card purchase. They were all new to rakuten. They haven’t received their bonus either. I’m getting the run around from customer service. At this point BEWARE, I’m thinking it works some of the time but mostly it’s a scam. If anyone has any ideas to assist I’m open to suggestions.

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