Of all the wonderful things that the internet has brought us, free cash back programs is one of our favorites.
Rakuten (formerly known as Ebates) and Ibotta are two of the biggest out there, both offering many ways for you to earn free cash back and other bonuses.
But how much can you really make? And how do you know which one is right for you?
We break it all down in this Ibotta vs Rakuten comparison.
In this post, you'll learn:
- How Ibotta and Rakuten compare in terms of key features
- Which cashback app is right for you
- How you can earn from both Ibotta and Rakuten on the same purchase
Disclosure: Opinions expressed are our own. If you buy something through any of our affiliate links on this page, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting our site.
Which is better: Rakuten or Ibotta?
Depending on what you’re looking for, each app has their own pros and cons. The table below summarizes the main criteria we looked at, and is followed by a detailed discussion of who won each category and why.
|Free to sign up||YES||YES|
|Requires mobile device||YES||NO|
|Welcome bonus||$10 (must redeem a brand name rebate within 7 days)||$10 (must purchase at least $25 online through Rakuten within 90 days)|
$5 per referral
(friend must meet welcome bonus requirements)
$25 per referral
(friend must meet welcome bonus requirements)
|Variety of stores||Not as many as Rakuten||Way more than Ibotta|
|Cashback percentage offered for online shopping||Varies||Varies|
|Minimum balance required to withdraw earnings||$20||$5|
Ibotta is the undisputed champ here, since their main platform is centered around grocery rebates. This means everyone can save money with Ibotta, because everyone has to shop for groceries!
On the flip side, even though online shopping is pretty popular, not everyone does it regularly, so there are less chances to qualify for a rebate with Rakuten than with Ibotta.
Unlike with some other grocery rebate apps, Ibotta doesn't even require you to buy items of any particular brand.
Even if you don’t buy the specific brands that Ibotta promotes, you can still earn cashback by redeeming their “any brand” rebates, which are regularly offered for very common grocery items like milk or eggs.
Heck, if you wanna get really technical, you don’t even have to buy groceries to earn from Ibotta.
Ibotta offers rebates that you can redeem regardless of what you purchase as long as it's from any participating store, which includes pharmacies like CVS or convenience stores like 7-Eleven.
We’ve gotten cash back for things like dental floss or greeting cards, just because we bought from a participating store.
Free to sign up
Both Rakuten and Ibotta are 100% free to sign up for, with a super simple registration process. So, there’s nothing to lose...except the free cashback you’ll miss out on if you pass on either.
Requires mobile device
Ibotta requires you to download their app and use it on a mobile device, which means anyone without a smart phone or having trouble with their data plan might encounter difficulties earning with Ibotta.
Even if you try to log on to your Ibotta account via their website using a desktop or laptop computer, all you'll see is your account profile but no earnings or rebate information.
On the flip side, Rakuten lets you use any web browser or their mobile app to earn back or access your account, giving them the edge here.
Ibotta and Rakuten both offer a standard cash bonus for you to try them out, but both have things you have to watch out for to ensure you don’t miss out on earning the welcome bonus.
To get your welcome bonus from Ibotta*, all you need to do is sign up as a new user and redeem at least one brand-name rebate.
You only have 7 days to do it, though, so it’s easy to miss the window if you don’t act fast. On the plus side, though, it’s really easy to find a qualifying product from a participating grocery store.
NOTE: Ibotta’s generic "any brand" or "any store" rebates DO NOT count towards qualifying for the welcome bonus.
If you can’t find a brand name rebate for an item you normally purchase, we recommend buying a yogurt or beverage that has a rebate offer, since it will only cost you $1-2 and you’ll still come out ahead.
Sometimes, Ibotta will offer a higher rebate amount such as $20, but you might be required to redeem more than one brand name rebate.
Always check the terms of your bonus offer to make sure you understand what you need to do to earn it.
Rakuten lets you shop at your leisure, giving you 90 days to meet the qualifications for your welcome bonus*.
However, you do have to spend a total of $25 between all your shopping trips by then to get the money credited to your account.
TIP: The easiest way to earn your Rakuten bonus is through our tutorial on how to use Rakuten, with our smartest shopping hack for stacking your cashback earnings.
Even if you don’t buy a single thing through either Ibotta or Rakuten, you can make some easy cash by recommending either site (or both) to your friends and family.
Anyone who designates you as their referrer and makes the required number of or amount of qualifying purchases (usually the same as the requirements for earning the welcome bonus) scores you free money.
Rakuten wins this category by a landslide because they offer a way bigger bonus: Rakuten shells out $25 per referral, while Ibotta only offers $5 per person you refer.
Variety of participating stores
This is no surprise, since Rakuten has been around a whole lot longer. They’ve built up a huge, loyal user base and have also proven that they know how to help retailers drive sales.
This translates to more stores willing to jump on this cash back bandwagon, which is great for us consumers!
Cashback percentage offered for shopping online
We compared several retailers on both platforms to see which side offered more cash back and found that it varied in terms who gave a higher percentage.
Neither one seemed to consistently offer a higher percentage, not even within specific categories like travel or clothing.
The differences were sometimes significant, especially if there was a promotion going on like a flash sale.
So, there isn’t a clear winner on this one.
TIP: Because the cash back percentage offered can vary greatly between Ibotta and Rakuten, we recommend checking both to see who has the better offer before deciding which one to make your purchase through.
Minimum balance required to withdraw earnings
You only have to hit $5 with Rakuten to reach the minimum payout, which means you’ll already qualify for your first check after you earn your welcome bonus (see the next section to find out the exact dates you get paid).
With Ibotta, you can only withdraw your earnings once you reach $20, so even if you earn the initial welcome bonus you’ll still need to keep using it a little longer to reach your first payout.
TIP: Even though you can withdraw your entire balance on Ibotta after hitting $20, we like to withdraw only $20 at a time. That makes it easier to reach the $20 benchmark again.
If you’re like us, we want our cash back and we want it now! With Ibotta, that’s totally okay because you can withdraw any time as soon as you’ve hit the $20 minimum required to cash out.
Rakuten pays on a fixed quarterly schedule, which means you get your payment on the next pay date after you’ve hit the minimum payout amount of $5. Here are their exact payout dates:
|If you have at least $5 by this date...||...your payment will be sent by this date|
|March 31||May 15|
|June 30||August 15|
|September 30||November 15|
|December 31||February 15|
When it comes to cashing out, we prefer Rakuten because they give you the option of getting your earnings via check.
That means you don’t have to sign up for or link any other accounts to Rakuten if you don’t want to. If you’re not a fan of checks, you can transfer out your Rakuten money to Paypal instead.
Ibotta’s cash out options include Paypal, Venmo, or redeeming your cashback balance for an e-gift card from one of their many partners.
Can you use Rakuten and Ibotta together?
You’d think that you can’t earn from Rakuten for grocery store purchases since Rakuten doesn’t partner with grocers, but you’d be wrong.
One way that you can score something from Rakuten for grocery store purchases is to go through Rakuten to Raise.com, a gift card marketplace*, and buy a gift card for the grocery store you shop at.
Rakuten offers cashback for any purchase you make at Raise, so even if you buy a gift card at face value from Raise, you’re still ultimately getting something back because of the Rakuten cashback.
Even better, most of Raise’s gift cards are sold at a discount, so it’s like you’re getting two discounts stacked together.
CAUTION: Be sure to read the Raise terms for the specific gift card you are buying to ensure you can use it in-store.
Once you have the Raise gift card, pay for your groceries using that card, then you can scan your receipt like normal with Ibotta to redeem any rebates you were going for.
As for online shopping, when you want to click through to a retailer and earn cashback, you have to choose which site or app to use and can’t earn from both Rakuten or Ibotta for the same transaction...or so you’d think!
Again, buying a discounted gift card from Raise first makes it possible in many cases for you to earn something from both Rakuten and Ibotta for the same online purchase.
Here’s how it works:
- Buy a discounted gift card from Raise for the store you want to shop at, going through Rakuten to get cashback on your Raise transaction
- Go to Ibotta and click through to the store you want to shop at, to activate cashback from Ibotta
- Use the discounted gift card you bought from Raise to pay for your final purchase
By doing this, you save money in three ways:
- Discount on the Raise gift card
- Cashback from Rakuten for purchasing from Raise
- Cashback from Ibotta for purchasing from the retailer you made your purchase from
TIP: The steps we outlined above should be used if Ibotta offers a better cash back percentage than Rakuten for the retailer you want to shop at.
If Rakuten's cash back offer is higher than Ibotta’s, go back through Rakuten instead of Ibotta in the last step when visiting the site you want to buy your item from.
Which app should I use?
Ultimately, both apps cater to a different primary audience:
- Grocery shoppers: Ibotta
- Online retail shoppers: Rakuten
Those who handle the grocery shopping for the family should definitely download Ibotta, whereas those who do all their shopping online won’t want to miss out on the easy cashback from Rakuten.
Depending on what motivates you, you might find yourself gravitating to one over the other thanks to the extra features.
If, for example, you’ve got plenty of friends and family who you can convince to give free cash back a try (not a hard sell, if you ask us), Rakuten might be your app of choice since they offer such generous referral bonuses.
If teamwork is the name of your game, Ibotta’s team challenges and goals are a fun way to earn alongside the people you know.
For a better idea of how to earn money using each app, be sure to check out our how Rakuten works and how Ibotta works posts for all the various ways to earn so you can decide on the perfect cashback match.
We don’t discriminate against any form of cash back, though, so we say, why not rake in the dough with both?
If you’re wondering whether you should use Ibotta vs. Rakuten, our answer is: use ‘em both!
We’ll also show you a smart way to save money by using Rakuten and Ibotta together to get cashback twice!
Continue Reading: Save & Make Money posts →