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Rakuten Cash Back Visa: The Secret Way to Turn Cashback into American Express Membership Rewards Points

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Shows Rakuten Visa card and Amex cards

Rakuten, the largest e-commerce site in Japan, has teamed up with Visa to rebrand the Ebates Visa card. In doing so, the new Rakuten Cash Back Visa now offers a way to collect American Express Membership Rewards points … by way of, um, a Visa card.

To quote Bill Murray’s character from Ghostbusters, it’s like “cats and dogs living together.”

What is Rakuten Doing To the Ebates Visa?

First, let’s define Rakuten. As I noted, it’s Japan’s largest e-commerce site. But while it’s based in Tokyo, the company’s 107-million-plus members are located across some 29 countries, including the U.S. Those members are buying everything from fresh eggs to luxury cars to travel packages from roughly 42,000 merchants – and many of the products purchased are shipped globally.

Think of Rakuten, then, as a hybrid between Amazon.com, eBay, Etsy and, maybe, a local farmers’ market.

Five years ago, the company bought Ebates for $1 billion. Now, Rakuten is changing the Ebates Visa to better reflect the Rakuten brand.

As part of the alteration, Rakuten Visa cardholders have the ability to convert their points into Amex Memberhip Reward Points instead of cash back. It’s not an obvious benefit blatantly spelled out on the Rakuten Visa website, but once you have a Rakuten account and a Rakuten Visa, when you go to tell Rakuten how to pay you for your accumulated points, the options include: direct depots of your cash back into Paypal, a “big fat check” that you can deposit at your bank … and switch to American Express Rewards Points.

What Are the Benefits of a Rakuten Cash Back Visa?

The Rakuten Visa offers a fairly decent cash back benefit.

  • You collect 3% cash back on purchases through Rakuten.com (and you can find just about anything you might want there). You also collect 3% when booking travel through Rakuten Hotels and Rakuten Travel.
  • The first time you use the card, you get a $10 cash back bonus.
  • At certain stores you get bonus cash back. At Macy’s and JCPenny, for instance, you get not only the 3% cash back by using the Rakuten card, you get an extra 10% cash back for a grand total of 13% cash back. At Kohl’s, it’s 3% plus another 3% for a total of 6%.
  • Everything else you buy is 1% cash back.
  • And there’s no annual fee.

All in, this is a pretty good card for someone who’s regularly shopping online, particularly at the stores where the big bonuses apply.

Why Do I Care about Amex Membership Rewards?

If cash back is all you want, there’s no need to think about the opportunity with American Express Membership Rewards.

But, if you like using credit card miles and points for free travel, then Rakuten Visa’s ability to morph into Amex Membership Rewards points it’s quite interesting.

There aren’t many quality credit cards that are going to give 3% to 13% back on your purchases. The Rakuten points you collect transfer to Amex at a 1:1 ratio. So 1% cash back on $1 spent, is the same as 1 Amex Membership Rewards point.

You can see, then, that collecting as much as 13% cash back through a Rakuten Visa will help you accumulate Amex Rewards Points even faster.

And if you have the Amex Platinum Card, or the Amex Business Gold Card, you get back, respectively, 35% and 25% of the points you have to pay for your travel. So, those Rakuten Visa points you convert to Amex Membership Rewards points really can go a lot further with certain American Express cards.

How Do I Turn Rakuten Visa Points Into Amex Rewards Points?

Like I said, this is not an obvious benefit spelled out when you apply for a Rakuten Visa. It’s a bit of a credit-card hack.

It’s a three-step process:

Step1. You will need an American Express card that earns Membership Rewards points. But there are a lot of those to choose from, including the aforementioned Amex Business Platinum and Amex Business Gold cards. Or you can have any of the Amex consumer credit cards. Most of them impose an annual fee, but if you want an Amex that is fee free, than take a look at the Amex Everyday Card.

Step2. Sign up for an account at Rakuten.com that is tied to your Amex card. You can accomplish that through https://www.rakuten.com/american-express. When you do that, you will receive a bonus of 1,500  Membership Rewards points after making just $25 in purchases in the first three months – which is effectively a whopping 60% cash back bonus.

Step 3. Finally, apply for your Rakuten Visa using the same email address as the one that links to your Rakuten account. To do this, it’s probably best if you log into your Rakuten account, then look for the Rakuten Visa signup page. As I noted previously, though, you will not see any direct mention of Amex Membership Rewards points. It’s just that once you have your Rakuten account, you will see those three cash back options: PayPal, big fat check, and Switch to Amex Membership Rewards points.

Once you have your Rakuten portal account (tied to your Amex) and you have your Rakuten Visa tied to your Rakuten portal account … everytime you earn Rakuten points using your Rakuten Cash Back Visa, you can convert those points to Amex Membership Rewards points when you log into your account to request cash back.

The only bummer is that  it’ll take about 4 months to get it according to this  transfer schedule :

Follow this link to find out more about this transfer policy. 

What Credit Score Do I Need For a Rakuten Cash Back Visa?

Some people have reported that the card is hard to qualify for. But it looks as though you need a minimum credit score of 670, which is “good” credit. Most American consumers top 670, so you should have no problem getting the card, if you at least have good credit.

What If I Don’t Qualify For a Rakuten Cash Back Visa?

This means you likely have subpar credit. In that case, you need to focus on building or repairing your credit as quickly as possible. And as I regularly point out, the best card for that is the Capital One Platinum credit card.

The Capital One Platinum card charges no annual fee and it offers an automatic credit-limit increase after five consecutive on-time monthly payments. Because of the way credit scores are calculated, those two benefits are great for building or repairing credit because they work together to bump up your credit score quickly.  

You won’t earn miles, cash-back, rewards points or a signup bonus with Capital One Platinum, but when you have no credit or bad credit, perks are not what you need.

The Wrap Up

Though converting Visa-based cash back rewards into Amex Membership Rewards points is certainly not an overtly advertised benefit of the Rakuten Cash Back Visa, the reality is that such a conversion is very much possible, if you set up your Rakuten portal account properly.

And what a benefit that can be for those who want their credit cards points to help them earn free travel. When you’re collecting as much as 13% cash back – which you can then convert into Amex Membership Rewards points – you can quickly rack up lots points that you can then use for free travel.

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