Use Rakuten for travel (and get cash back)

(Last Updated On: November 25, 2022)

Are you familiar with Rakuten, the online shopping app that gives you cash back when you make a purchase?

Did you know you can use Rakuten for travel bookings?

Well, you can! It’s a good way to nibble away at rising travel costs.

photo of a beach with text "Book travel with Rakuten - get cash back"

Rakuten returns a portion of what you spent back to you after you make and “fulfill” a purchase. (More on fulfillment later, as it determines when you get your cash back for hotel and other travel-related bookings.) Your up-front cost is the same, but down the road you’ll get some cash back.

I’m not much of a shopper, so I didn’t think Rakuten was something I would use. However, a friend convinced me to try it, and I’m glad she did.

I’ve used Rakuten off and on over the past couple of years now, but I’ve really made a point of using it over the past 6 months or more — and using it does make a difference. You only get back a small percentage of what you spend, but if you were going to spend that money anyway, you are definitely coming out ahead.

(This post contains affiliate links that pay me a commission at no cost to you. Learn more here.)

How Rakuten works

Once you sign up for Rakuten, you can sign in to make online purchases that give you cash back. You can set it to notify you that a business participates in Rakuten as you surf the web or you can log in and search right from the Rakuten website. (Tip: Set it to tag sites that participate in the program as you search. It’s way easier than searching from Rakuten’s website.)

Join using this affiliate link and complete at least $40 in purchases of any type before mid-November to get both your regular cash back AND an extra $40! (And I also get $40 credit.) 

Usually people use Rakuten to buy clothes, electronics, home furnishings, and other goods online through major brands and retailers, but you can also using it on purchases made through Groupon, Ebay, and AbeBooks.

And it’s a great way to get cash back for travel! And not just for buying a new suitcase or backpack.

Use Rakuten for travel bookings

Use Rakuten for travel by booking with participating companies. These range from familiar third-party booking sites to hotel chains, car rental companies, and even Princess Cruises! Independent travelers will find a lot of options that offer cash back through Rakuten. There are fewer advantages for travelers who like package tours, as there aren’t a lot of tour companies in the program.

Participating travel businesses currently include:

  • Third-party booking sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking.com, Agoda, and more.
  • Hotel chains like Best Western, IHG, Hilton, Choice Hotels, and many more at all price points. (Marriott is listed, but seldom has a Rakuten discount.) Rakuten lets you get some of your booking cost back without missing out on hotel program points like you would if you booked through a third-party side like Expedia.
  • Rental car companies, including Dollar, Sixt, Europcar, and the third-party booking site RentalCars.com (But not my favorites Alamo and Enterprise. Book those through a third-party site to get cash back through Rakuten.)
  • Princess Cruises, not that I recommend Princess Cruises. (I saw some cool things on my cruise, however, large ships aren’t my thing.) But if that’s your thing, you can get cash back through Rakuten.
  • RVshare (It’s like Turo for rental cars or Airbnb, but for RVs and campers.) I haven’t tried it yet, but am hoping to do so next year.
  • Third-party tour aggregator Viator.
  • Lots of third-party cheap flight sites, which I don’t recommend because they won’t be there for you if something goes wrong.

This list changes frequently, so even if a company wasn’t on it a few months ago, it might be now.

Most businesses give 4% or less back, but some offer more. Sometimes much more as special deals. But even Hotel.com’s 1% back is better than nothing if you are booking anyway. That’s especially true if you can get both merchant points or discounts and Rakuten cash back. For example, book a hotel and rental car through Expedia and get the points/discount you earn through Expedia’s program AND cash back through Rakuten. On a bigger purchase, that can add up to real money.

But you have to wait to see your cash

Keep in mind that, like points programs for hotels and airlines, you won’t see your cash back until after you’ve completed your trip. That’s what the fulfillment requirement is all about.

And, because Rakuten pays out quarterly, you have may still have to wait a few months after completing your travel to see your cash. But it will show up eventually!

Join now!

Start using Rakuten for travel (and more) now.

Join using this link and complete at least $30 in purchases of any type before the end of September to get both your regular cash back AND an extra $30!  

photo of a beach with text "Book travel with Rakuten - get cash back"

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