As I’ve written about before, I’m a huge fan of cashback websites. I mean who doesn’t love free money back on stuff you’d be buying anyways, right? In recent years, two sites have really distinguished themselves in my eyes. In terms of high cashback rates, and strong customer service, both Rakuten and TopCashBack have risen to the top of the “cashback world”. So I figured it was time to throw them in the ring and let them duke it out. Here’s my unbiased Rakuten review and TopCashBack review along with analysis of who wins this hard-fought battle.
TopCashBack started in the UK back in 2005 and has brought their awesomeness to the U.S. in recent years. Here’s the skinny on TCB…
- Free to register. Once you register for free, you simply start all of your online shopping via their website, browser extension, or mobile app. Important: Be sure to authenticate your account by clicking the link in your “Welcome Email” to make sure you get your cash back.
- They offer cashback at over 4,400 online retailers. Top merchants include Amazon (up to $10 back), Levi’s (10% back), Sam’s Club (up to 15% back), Gap brands (4% back), Macys.com (6% back), American Eagle (4% back), and Overstock.com (5% back).
- Coupons? Heck yeah, they offer a ton of coupon codes that you can use to stack your savings.
- Cashback Guarantee. They have something called a “Highest Cashback Guarantee”. So if you find that another cashback site is offering a higher rate for a particular retailer, they’ll happily match it.
- Click Smart. When using TCB, make sure you click through their site so a cookie is implanted on your computer and can correctly track your purchase. If you have cookies disabled, you won’t get cashback. Also, if you go searching for a coupon code on a different site before completing your purchase, your cookie will probably get erased by the coupon site. DON’T do it. Only use the coupons that TCB provides.
Also, they don’t have a minimum account balance required for withdrawals and you can take money out whenever you want. Once your cashback hits the pending status, you’re free to withdraw any amount.
Why TopCashBack Rocks:
- They give all their commissions to their users. TopCashBack rocks because they give ALL of the commissions they earn from your purchases back to you. So if Amazon pays them 8% on your purchase, you get 8% back. They’re the only cashback site that currently does that. They make their revenue on advertising and charging retailers to be “above the fold” on their site and app.
- Cash out with American Express or a Gift Card. When you’re ready to cash out your TCB account, consider the American Express Reward Card as payment. Why? Because they’ll add an extra 3% to your payout amount for doing so. Total no-brainer. They also offer special gift card payouts. For example, right now you can choose an Amazon gift card and get an extra 3%.
Here are a few ways TCB could even be more bodacious.
How TopCashBack Could Be Better:
- Rarely Offer Sign-Up Bonus. A few times a year they’ll give you a bonus for signing up, but not regularly.
- Make Cashback Guarantee easier to use. They give you 7 days after your purchase to file a claim if you find a higher cashback rate on another site. But…you must prove the rate was higher on another cashback site on the day of your purchase. This will require you to somehow take a time-stamped screenshot of some sort. For smaller purchases, this sounds cumbersome and more trouble than it’s worth.
OK, now let’s answer some of the concerns I’m getting in the comments section…
TopCashBack Tips For Success:
Some folks are having trouble getting their purchase to track properly with TCB.
So to help everyone out, here are the main reasons why your purchase was NOT tracked. Make sure you follow these rules SO YOU GET PAID.
- Not Logged In – Make sure you are logged into TopCashBack before you shop.
- Visited Another Site First – Do NOT click on another cash-back site before going to TopCashBack.
- Didn’t Complete Purchase in 1 Session – If you don’t add items to your online shopping cart (and make the purchase) in one shopping session, your order won’t track.
- Used Invalid Payment Method – Don’t pay with gift cards or reward points as they are NOT eligible for cashback.
- Browser Cookies Not Enabled – Make sure you enable cookies before you use ANY cashback site.
- Returned Items – Keep in mind that you won’t earn cashback on items you return.
Rakuten (Formerly Ebates) Review:
Since 1998, Rakuten has been giving money back to their registered users whenever they shop online.
Here’s exactly how it works.
- Free to register. Once you register for free (and get a $10 bonus), you simply start all your online shopping via Rakuten and start earning up to 40% cashback from over 2,500 online retailers.
- Stack your savings with coupons. They have a ton of coupons available, over 10,000 as a matter of fact, that you can stack on top of your cash back rates for extra savings.
- Sounds too good to be true? This is a common misconception of cashback sites. Rakuten works be receiving a commission of the retailer when a shopper makes a purchase, typically between 3% and 18%. Rakuten will then turn around and give a chunk of that commission to their user and keep the rest as profit.
- Do you have to shop via their website? No. You can also shop via their mobile app as well as through their browser extension which they call their “Cash Back Button”.
- Top Merchants: Nike (6% back), Kohl’s (2% back), Macys.com (2% back), Bass Pro (3.5% back), American Eagle (2% back), and Lowes.com (1% back).
- How do you get paid? Every 3 months you’ll get paid via a check or Paypal, your choice. A few times a year you’ll also get an option to redeem via an Amazon gift card. Your account must reach at least $5.01 to qualify for payment.
Here’s a breakdown of how Rakuten rocks and how it could be better.
Why Rakuten Rocks:
- Sign-Up Bonus: Get a $10 Welcome Bonus when you register and spend $25 or more via Rakuten.
- Cashback available on in-store purchases too. The in-store cashback option at Rakuten is exclusive to only them. Works like this: 1) Add your credit and debit card to your account. 2) Find an In-Store Cash Back offer you like and link it to your card. 3) Pay with your linked card in stores and get Cash Back added yo your account.
- Double cashback stores. Every week Rakuten rolls out a bunch of retailers offering 2x their normal cashback rate. For example, they’re currently offering Walmart (4% back), Dell (12% back), and Under Armour (8% back).
Get in the habit of always taking a look at their “double cashback retailers” to see if you can score twice the cash back in your Rakuten account.
How Rakuten Could Be Better:
No Rakuten review would be complete without some analysis of how their service could be better.
- Missing some stores. They’re missing a few big name retailers. After some research, the biggest names that don’t offer cashback include Home Depot, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Adidas, Apple Store, and Durham Sports.
So Who Wins This Cashback Battle?
Rakuten has less retailers overall that offer cash back, but they have the cool in-store cashback feature that’s lacking with TCB.
Rakuten has fantastic cashback rates via their limited time “Double” cashback offers. TCB will match those high Rakuten rates, but they require you to fill out an online form in order to get the cashback rate match.
Because a combination of both sites would equal the PERFECT cashback site, I recommend signing up for both Rakuten and TopCashBack. That way you can check both sites regularly to find the highest rates available, score in-store cashback (with Rakuten), and utilize favorable payout bonuses (with TCB).
In other words, play one site against the other and come out a winner every time you shop.
Ask the Reader: What cashback site is your favorite? Or do you like paying full-price for some reason?
By Kyle James
Disclaimer: While all opinions are 100% my own, I do get paid a small commission if you sign up with either site. Money I use to keep this blog rolling and research more fantabulous content that can hopefully help you save.