Caution: No Ebates in-store cash back for GC purchases


Rakuten (formerly called Ebates) in-store offers provide you with chance to earn rewards on in-store purchases with a linked credit card. We recently received some reports indicating that in-store gift card purchases are not earning cash back / rewards. One reader inquired with Rakuten and the response indicated that Rakuten was made aware of gift card purchases and that these violate the terms of the Rakuten in-store offers. Those who value the continued ability to earn Rakuten cash back / points may want to refrain from making in-store gift card purchases with an Rakuten-linked credit card at merchants that participate in the in-store cash back program.

Again, we had received some reports of cash back / Membership Rewards earnings not posting for in-store gift card purchases. However, the bigger caution in my mind comes from a reader who reached out to Rakuten about a few such purchases. Rakuten initially requested receipts, and when those could not be produced, here was the Rakuten response:

Our merchants let us know that you are using our in-store program to purchase gift cards. This is not allowed….

…..Going forward, it would be best if you adhered to our Terms & Conditions. You can view these policies in our In-Store Cash Back page here:

It would seem that the stores at the very least denied the payout to Rakuten. Whether or not they proactively reached out to Rakuten about the gift card purchases is unknown. The in-store offers terms indicate that rewards are not to be earned on gift card purchases. I’d recommend caution here: I could imagine a world in which the purchaser didn’t even expect to earn rewards (either because they didn’t know that the store participated or they knew the gift cards would not qualify), yet still landing in hot water with Rakuten (especially of rewards are errantly paid out on some transactions). It’s worth at least considering your strategy and whether or not it is worth the risk as some people surely value the ability to continue earning Rakuten cash back or Membership Rewards points enough so as not to want to jeopardize it.

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[…] 4:43 [Sam] Rakuten closing accounts buying GC in-store(link) […]


Getting banned from ebates/rakuten would be unfortunate but, realistically, how many of us would actually value in-store cashback if it didn’t work on gift cards? I use online cashback sites all the time for “real” purchases, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve linked to an offer for in-store cashback to purchase a product.

In any event, the number of “gameable” in-store cash back offers has dwindled. Is there anything more than BB&B? And that’s pretty marginal in my opinion.


I purchased some VGCs at Office Depot about 1 year ago when Ebates had a special CB promo. Ebates clawed back all the CB (about $300) and locked my Ebates account. After persistent emails and phone calls, Ebates finally reopened my account after warning me not to purchase GCs in the future. YMMV.


Are we supposed to disconnect the card before each GC purchase? And then reconnect afterward?!????


I bought Saks Off Fifth gift cards in store on 5/11 when it was 10%. Instantly received email saying you got cash back. However, the purchase still has not tracked.


My account was shot down 3 months a go over this. It showed a $200 cash back from office max and when time came for them to send the rebate, not only they did not send it but my account became locked. Emailed them for an explanation, and their answer was that this was high level of abuse. I replied to them that their system should have a way for just not paying on ineligible purchases and they basically said I am sorry. Further attempts to re open my account have been ineffective. Just for tour info.


I bought GC’s at BBB this weekend and received the “you have cash back” email yesterday. Just a data point for any interested.


Hmm, what retailer is this? I want to know to stay clear of it! 🙂

I believe this is retailer initiated, Rakuten doesn’t have anything programmed on their end.

Historically, Office Depot was ultra sensitive but I don’t see them listed in the in-store cashback retailers list anymore.

Rakuten isn’t going to close accounts for just a few incidents. But if most of your in-store transactions are gift card purchases (and yeah, you can make a pretty good guess based on the purchase amount and the merchant), they will close your account. I had one ebates account closed for this. I believe the OD purchases got eyes on the account, and the remaining in-store purchases looked like gift card purchases as well. Now, if my in-store purchases were not gift card purchases, I would have asked them to reconsider, but they were all most gift card purchases.

I’m now pretty conservative with in-store cashback purchases of gift cards, since I don’t want to get my primary ebates account shut down,.

Shawn Roberts

Thanks for being a Rakuten member! The details on Cash Back are a little different for each participating retailer. The best bet is to refer to our In-Store Cash Back Offers page ( and then click See Details for the retailer you’re interested in. It’s generally a safe bet that they will disallow Gift Certificates.


So let me get this straight:
Rakuten: Hey, you shouldn’t have gotten a rebate for that purchase!”
Me: Then why did you give me one?
Rakuten: That’s not the point. We gave you a rebate you didn’t qualify for.
Me: Thanks for the heads up. I might suggest you stop giving out rebates on purchases that don’t qualify for them.
Rakuten: Are you insinuating this is OUR fault?
Me: Uh, I didn’t steal the rebate. Remember? YOU gave it to me.
Rakuten: Shut up. We’re shutting you down.
Me: Why?
Rakuten: Because we sent you a rebate you didn’t qualify for. What part of this are you not understanding?
Me: Pretty much all of it.