Use This Easy Hack to Save Money on Online Shopping Purchases

Photo illustration to accompany article on how you can use your credit card to save money on online purchases Getty Images
We want to help you make more informed decisions. Some links on this page — clearly marked — may take you to a partner website and may result in us earning a referral commission. For more information, see How We Make Money.

Whether you are a frequent or occasional online shopper, there’s an easy trick you should be using to save money on pretty much everything you buy, from groceries and household items to clothes and school supplies.

And with so many people taking a closer look at their budgets these days, taking advantage of the extra savings offered by cash back portals is a quick and effective way to keep more of your money.

Rakuten is one of several cash back portals, companies that reward you with cash back when you shop online using their apps, websites, or browser plug-ins. There are a handful of different competitors, and all are free, though they vary slightly in the amount of cash back they offer. 

Most of the time, you’ll get between 1% and 5% of your purchases back in cash, but there are bigger deals to be found every now and then. In fact, from May 10 to 17, Rakuten is hosting “Big Give Week.” During this time, you can earn 15% cash back from top retailers such as Bed, Bath & Beyond, Kiehl’s, Adidas, and Glossier.

For someone who spends $200 a month buying things online, even the typical 1% to 5% rate could translate to $2 to $10 in cash back. For someone who spends $500, those savings would add up to $5 to $25 a month. Think of it as free money for purchases you’d be making anyway. 

We’ve heard of cases where people were able to get thousands of dollars in cash back in one year, which are certainly extreme — but even smaller amounts add up over time, especially if you save or invest the money, thanks to compound interest.    

Rakuten is one of the most popular cash back portals. Formerly named eBates, this company is owned by American Express and partners with dozens of retailers all over the world. Rakuten is an affiliate of these retailers and earns a commission when products are bought, which it then shares with consumers. Note that Rakuten collects some personal data, including your transaction history, to manage your account and support the use of its products.

To take advantage of the service, you’ll first have to create an account and then install the browser plug-in, or download the app, for exclusive offers. You can also visit Rakuten’s website to check out the cash back deals across stores. Once you find and click on your desired store, it will redirect you to the retailer’s website. Every quarter, Rakuten will send you a check or make a PayPal payment with your cash back. It’s that easy.

You can earn Amex Membership Rewards points with Rakuten, too, although we recognize that for many people getting cash might be a bigger priority now than earning points for travel.

Since there are a handful of competing sites out there, knowing whether you’re getting the best deal could get confusing. We recommend checking a site called CashBack Monitor. You can use CashBack Monitor without signing up for an account, so your personal information is not needed to use the service. It will collect basic public information if you sign in using one of your social media accounts.

Pro Tip

Use cashback sites such as Rakuten and CashBack Monitor to save money at your favorite stores while online shopping.

This site aggregates some of the biggest retailers on the web and will point you in the direction of the best cash back deals — whether from Rakuten or other sites such as TopCashBack, RebatesMe, Mr. Rebates and more. No matter which site you are getting the cash back from, you’ll need to sign up for an account.

To add another layer onto this, one of my personal favorite tips is to download the browser plug-in called Honey. At checkout, Honey automatically scans for available coupons and the best price for the items in your cart, no matter where you’re buying them from. For example, you may find that the site you’re using is more expensive than a competitor. You don’t have to sign up with an email to use the service. Doing so, however, will give you access to perks such as rewards and a personalized recommendation feed among other things. The company does not sell your information.

As a personal example, I was able to buy a pair of jean shorts for $52.50, when they were originally listed for $70 on a competitors’ site, thanks to Honey’s notifications.

While it takes a little bit of work to ensure you’re getting the best deal, having these strategies up your sleeve will help you save quite a bit of money almost every time you shop online with major retailers.