Cash back apps are a great way to earn money while you shop, whether it be in-store or online. These savings can be for groceries, gas fill-ups, clothes shopping, vacation rentals and more.
If you’re someone looking to lower your expenses and stay on track with a savings budget, then apps such as Rakuten and Ibotta are worthwhile to check out.
Ibotta vs Rakuten
Many of these rebate apps offer the same features, but differ when it comes to cash back deals geared to one type of shopper vs another. This makes it particularly important to know the differences of each app, so you can earn the most in cash back rewards.
Whether Ibotta or Rakuten is the better choice for you depends greatly on your shopping habits. For a quick breakdown of each, here’s a chart comparing each cashback app side-by-side.
|Merchants Accepted||3,500+ retailers and brands including|
Macy's, Nordstrom Rack, Adidas, Best
Buy, Hotels.com and more
|300+ preferred retail chains including|
Grocery stores, restaurants, movie
Theatres, convenience stores, pet stores
|Type of App||Mobile app (iOs and Android),|
and browser extension
|Mobile app (iOs and Android),|
and browser extension
|Redeem Rewards||Get paid via Paypal, Big Fat Check mailed|
to you, or American Express Member
|Money transfer to PayPal, bank account,|
Gift cards or donate to charity
|Referral Program||Yes. Earn $20 – $40 per referral||Yes. Earn $10 per referral|
|Best Used for||Online Shopping||In-store Shopping|
|Go to Rakuten||Go to Ibotta|
A quick glance shows that both free apps offer rewards that can be redeemed in cash. This Is a huge plus considering other rebate apps, such as Fetch Rewards, only allow you to cash out in gift cards.
How Does Ibotta Work?
The Ibotta app offers cash back deals on popular grocery store brand name items. The way it works is you add offers to your Ibotta shopping list and then go about your regular shopping.
Once you’ve completed your in-store or online grocery store purchase, upload your receipt to Ibotta. Ibotta will reward you cash back on all eligible offers within 24 hours. Cash back rewards can be redeemed to PayPal, bank account, gift cards, or donated to charity.
You can also download the Ibotta browser extension to Google Chrome. The extension window will pop up every time you visit a supported website. Click “Activate” in the extension window to activate cash back.
While Ibotta is mainly known as a grocery savings app, they do offer cash back deals across various other retailers, not just grocery stores.
Read more in my Ibotta review.
How Does Rakuten Work
Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, is a rebate website that offers daily deals and cash back rewards at over 3,500 retailers and brands.
The way it works is you open the Rakuten app on your mobile phone or use it on desktop. Activate your cash back offers by clicking over to the retailer you plan to shop from the Rakuten site. Then do your shopping as usual.
Rakuten will create a ‘shopping trip’ ticket each time you shop. These tickets will track your orders on partnered sites, and you’ll be rewarded cash back within 24 hours. The exception to this is if you booked lodging or flight tickets. These rewards are issued after you complete your travel stay or flight.
There’s also a Rakuten browser extension that works similar to the Ibotta extension. Use the extension for online price comparison shopping to get the best deals at supported retailer stores.
Additionally, you can earn in-store rewards with Rakuten. Though the stores are limited and rebate offers are smaller compared to online shopping.
Read more in my Rakuten review.
Difference Between Rakuten and Ibotta
The key differences between Rakuten and Ibotta revolve around a few select features. Some of these may be deal breakers when it comes to deciding which rebate app is best to use. I’ve broken these differences down for you below.
1. Cashback Offers
Ibotta is best known for being a grocery savings app, and as such their offers revolve around grocery bought items. There are plenty of offers to choose from that can be purchased at big box stores such as Walmart, Kroger, Whole Foods, Wegman’s and other stores.
Rakuten on the other hand is less focused on these types of offers. Instead, they lean more towards clothing stores, fashion accessory brands, vacation booking websites and similar sites. For holiday shopping, I find that Rakuten is one of the best places to find great offers, including Black Friday deals.
2. Sign Up Bonus
In addition to earning free cash back money using these apps, both will offer you a worthwhile sign up bonus when you register as a new user. These can make a big difference when it comes to meeting the minimum cash out thresholds and redeeming your first reward.
The caveat here is that in order to get the highest sign up amount, you must use a promo link to register. For example, Rakuten will offer you a bonus anywhere from $10 – $25 when signing up directly on the website or app. Though when you use a Rakuten promo link, you’ll earn a bonus between $30 – $40 as a new user. Ibotta offers a $10 new user bonus when signing up with an Ibotta promo link.
3. Minimum Cash Out
There’s a big difference when it comes to how much you need in your account in order to cash out your rewards. Ibotta has a cash out threshold of $20, while Rakuten only requires you to have $5.01 to cash out. So it may surprise you to hear that out of both apps, it’s Ibotta I use more often.
When you think about it more, it makes sense. I do grocery shopping every two weeks as do other families. So the cash back rewards pile up much faster. Rakuten on the other hand offers only 1% cash back at my favorite clothing store, Nordstrom Rack. And since I don’t shop for clothes that often, it makes it much harder to reach the minimum cash out threshold with Rakuten.
4. Redemption Options
One of the best features of both Rakuten and Ibotta is that you get to redeem your rewards in cash. That way, you get to spend it anywhere your heart desires. As mentioned before, not all cash back apps offer this, so it’s a nice treat to see that these rebate apps do.
One main difference here is that Rakuten offers additional cash out options to American Express cardholders. You can enroll in the American Express program that allows you to shop Rakuten to earn Membership Rewards points on eligible purchases. 1% cash back is equal to 1 additional point for every $1 spent through Rakuten.
Is Ibotta or Rakuten better?
When you take into consideration that both apps give you free money for doing your regular everyday shopping, it’s hard to say that one is better than the other. Ultimately, it comes down to your shopping behavior to determine which app suits you best.
Not just that, comparing both apps is like comparing apples to oranges. They are not the same. In my case, I use both apps, but I do so very differently. Ibotta is my go-to app for grocery shopping, while Rakuten I mainly use for holiday and gift shopping deals.
Who's to say you can’t use both anyway?
Use This Rebate App to Stack Rewards
Recently, I discovered a gift card rebate app to use with Rakuten and Ibotta to stack my rewards. It’s another way I use to earn more money when it comes to in-store and online shopping.
The rebate app is called Fluz. They offer boosters (formerly known as vouchers) that can be used at select stores for up to 25% cash back rewards. The app can be used with Rakuten and Ibotta to stack rewards.
Read more about it in my Fluz app review.
Ibotta vs Rakuten Final Thoughts
The Ibotta vs Rakuten debate may continue as people search for the best cash back app. But for this comparison review, the clear winner is the rebate app that suits you the best.
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