Rakuten started allowing new members to earn Membership Rewards Points in 2019. They then took it a step farther and started allowing current members to change their account from earning cash back to Membership Rewards Points following a few easy steps.
The good thing about this is that the amount of Membership Rewards Points you earn is equal to the amount of cash back you would normally receive booking through Rakuten. This allows you to earn a significant amount of Membership Rewards Points just for doing what you were planning on doing anyway... shopping online.
How does Rakuten work?
Rakuten is a free-to-use online cash back portal that hosts thousands of affiliate links. When you click on these links to make a purchase, Rakuten receives a commission. They then share part of that commission with you, the user.
Here's the rundown on how it works:
- You start your online shopping session at rakuten.com.
- Find the retailer of your choice and click Shop Now to be taken to that retailer's website.
- Shop the retailer as normal and be sure to sign into your loyalty account if the retailer has one.
- Once you make a purchase with the store, Rakuten will be notified.
- Rakuten will pay you a portion (or in some cases all) of the money they made off the affiliate sale.
The big plus to Rakuten Rewards over other cash back portals, is that Rakuten allows you to earn Membership Rewards points instead of cash back if you have at least one Membership Rewards credit card.
This allows you to easily build up tens of thousands of additional points shopping online with literally no downside.
The ability to double and triple dip on rewards using Rakuten Rewards combined with the Membership Rewards programs can offer exceptional returns.
For instance, lets say you were to book travel with Avis as an Avis Preferred members through Rakuten Rewards. You would earn:
- Membership Rewards points through Rakuten Rewards.
- Points from the credit card you used to pay for the rental.
- Avis Rewards points as an Avis Preferred member.
Going directly to Avis would just earn you the credit card rewards and Avis Preferred Points. It costs you no extra money and very little effort to use a cash back portal. Not using portals is leaving free money and (what you're about to learn) free points on the table.
How many Membership Rewards points can you earn with Rakuten Rewards?
When surfing the Rakuten Rewards website, you'll see thousands of retailers along with the current cash back offers.
The most important thing to note is that Rakuten does not change the lingo on their website to reflect that you've switched your account to Membership Rewards Points. After switching, Rakuten will occasionally remind you that you're earning points, but the offers throughout the site will always reflect cash back.
The cash back to Membership Rewards point ratio is 1% to 1 point. So if a retailer is offering 10% cash back (which they do quite often) this would be equal to earn 10 Membership Rewards points per $1 spent.
For example, look at this deal for Saks Fifth Avenue:
If you were to spend $500 with Saks Fifth during this promo, you would earn a whopping 5,000 Membership Rewards points. At our valuations, this is equal to anywhere from $50 to $100 in value which is insane.
On top of that, you would also earn rewards with the credit card you use to pay for your purchase and rewards with Saks Fifth if you were signed into your Saks Fifth account.
Do you have to use a Membership Rewards credit card?
Rakuten and AMEX does not require you to use a Membership Rewards credit card in order for you to earn Membership Rewards Points through your Rakuten account. This means you can use whatever rewards credit card you want, meaning that you to earn points across multiple rewards programs.
For example, let's say IHG is offering 3% cash back on purchases through Rakuten and you wanted to use a credit card that earns a high return on travel such as the Citi Premier Card. If you were to book through Rakuten and complete your stay through IHG, you would earn:
- 3 ThankYou Rewards points per $1 spent with the Citi Premier Card.
- 3 Membership Rewards Points per $1 spent through Rakuten.
- Up to 20 IHG Points per $1 spent based on your membership in the IHG One Rewards program.
That's a lot of valuable points which is why I heavily recommend booking travel using cash back portals regardless of whether you're earning cash back or points.
How do you get paid your Membership Rewards points?
Rakuten pays its members four times per year depending on when you earned your rewards. Generally, you'll earn 3 months worth of rewards and then get paid for those three months about a month-and-a-half later. This is different from most other portals which allows you to cash out your rewards as you earn them.
|Earning Period||Date Paid Out|
|January 1 - March 31||May 15|
|April 1 - June 30||August 15|
|July 1 - September 30||November 15|
|October 1 - December 31||February 15|
When your Membership Rewards Points are paid out to you, they will be deposited into your Membership Rewards account for you to use as normal. So if you use Rakuten for everything under the sun, you'll receive a large amount of Membership Rewards Points each quarter.
How to switch to your Rakuten account to Membership Rewards points
Once you sign up for a free Rakuten Rewards account, you'll be asked how you want to receive your rewards. You'll be given the options of Big Fat Check (paper check mailed to you), PayPal, or Membership Rewards Points.
If you already have a Rakuten Rewards account, you can switch to earning Membership Rewards points following these steps:
- Head to Rakuten.com.
- Click on your name in the upper right hand corner and go to Account Settings.
- Choose Switch to Membership Rewards Points as your method of payment.
- Rakuten will notify you that it will payout any cash back you've earned.
- You'll be asked to log into your American Express online account to verify if you're eligible.
- If eligible, Rakuten will email you a 6-digit code. Enter that code into the box asking for it.
You can go to your My Account page to see any important notifications that you may have pertaining to the switch to Membership Rewards.
When looking under My Account, you'll now see Membership Rewards Points reflected under Lifetime Earnings along with any cash back you may have earned since you've had the account opened. It will also keep track of how many points you've earned during the pay schedule period and gives you the date in which those points will be transferred to your account.
As previously stated, any cash back you had will be paid out to you via either PayPal or Big Fat Check depending on how this was set up before you made the switch. This page will notify you of the date you'll receive that cash back. So if you have a preference, you'll want to select it before switching over to Membership Rewards Points.
Can you switch back to earning cash back?
If at anytime you decide you do not want to earn Membership Rewards, you can always switch back to Big Fat Check or PayPal as your payment method. This is done the same way by going to Account Settings and selecting a different method of payment. You'll be notified that you will not be able to switch back to Membership Rewards if you do so.
Any Membership Rewards Points you earned will be converted to cash back. So if you had 2,500 Membership Rewards Points in your balance, it will now say $25.
The Membership Rewards Points that were converted to cash back will not be paid out to you. You'll continue to earn cash back as you normally would with Rakuten. Just note that the ability to select Membership Rewards will be gone from your account:
If you ever wanted to earn Membership Rewards again, you would have to create a new Rakuten account. So be aware of that if you decide to switch back to earning cash back.
Credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points
If you're looking to earn Membership Rewards points using Rakuten Rewards, you'll need to have a Membership Rewards credit card. There's a total of 9 credit cards that are eligible—one even with no annual fee! Listed below are our top picks.
All information about the American Express EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card, American Express EveryDay® Credit Card, and Business Green Rewards Card from American Express has been collected independently by The Point Calculator and has not been reviewed by the issuer.
American Express EveryDay® Credit Card
- Earns 2X points on the first $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets and 1X points on everything else.
- Earn 20% more points in a billing period when you make 20 or more purchases on the card. Terms apply.
- No annual fee.
- Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
American Express EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
- Earns 3X points on the first $6,000 spend at U.S. supermarkets, 2X points at U.S. gas stations, and 1X points on everything else.
- Earn 50% more points in a billing period when you make 30 or more purchases on the card. Terms apply.
- Earn 15,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $2,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
American Express® Green Card
- Earns 3X points on travel, transit, and at restaurants and 1X points on all other purchases
- $189 in annual CLEAR membership credits and up to $100 in annual LoungeBuddy credits. Terms apply.
- Earn 40,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $3,000 in eligible purchases on your American Express® Green Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
American Express® Gold Card
- Earns 4X points on restaurants purchases worldwide, 4X points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year), 3X points on airfare booked direct, and 1X points on everything else.
- Up to $120 in annual Uber Cash and up to $120 in annual dining credits. Terms apply.
- Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Earns 5X points on airfare purchased direct or through American Express Travel (on up to $500,000 per year) and 5X points on prepaid hotel bookings through American Express Travel.
- Global airport lounge access, over $1,400 in annual credits, complimentary elite status with several loyalty programs, top-notch travel insurance, and much more. Terms apply.
- Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $8,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
Business credit cards that earn Membership Rewards points:
If I have cash back pending in my Rakuten account, what will happen to it if I switch?
Rakuten will pay you your cash back via PayPal or Big Fat Check and all future earnings will be Membership Rewards Points.
Who is eligible to receive Membership Rewards Points?
Anyone with a valid Membership Rewards account that is in good standing can opt to receive points instead of cash back.
Are there any restrictions on the points I receive from Rakuten?
No. Rakuten rewards points will be deposited into your Membership Rewards account and you'll be able to use them as normal.
Is there any reason I shouldn't switch to earning Membership Rewards Points?
If you redeem Membership Rewards Points for less than 1 cent, earning points will not benefit you and you would be better off earning cash back.
Who benefits the most from earning Membership Rewards Points with Rakuten?
Those who transfer their Membership Rewards Points to airline and hotel partners will benefit the most from this benefit.
Will I need to enter my credit card information to sign up for this benefit?
No, but you will be prompted to log into your American Express Membership Rewards account.
Can I switch back to earning cash back?
Yes. Just note that you will not be able to eligible to sign back up to earn Membership Rewards on that account.
Will I earn a bonus for signing up for Rakuten?
You can earn additional cash back on your first purchase signing up through The Point Calculator.