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By now we all understand my obsession with going to Disney World. But let’s face it, going to Disney is expensive so I’ve made it my mission to try to save money for Disney in any way I possibly can. In the end, I use various strategies layered on top of one another to try to save whatever I can to make a trip to Disney more financially manageable. One of the strategies that I use is cashback savings through Ebates for Disney.
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What is Ebates/Rakuten?
Wait a second, what is that Rakuten word? Rakuten is actually the new name of Ebates. Rakuten bought out Ebates a few year ago and has finally officially transitioned to operating under the new name. Because I’ve used Ebates for years, I tend to just call it Ebates out of habit. I will use the words interchangeably throughout this post.
Ebates is a cashback program you sign up for online. Ebates rewards you for online shopping you already do. It does not include all stores, simply ones that they are contracted with, but the list of stores that qualify for the cashback bonus is extensive.
Each store has a different percentage of reward, and sometimes those are increased for various promotions and holidays. Back to school shopping, Christmas presents, and normal purchases have the potential to help save for Disney with Ebates.
How Do You Get Paid with Rakuten?
There are two primary options for Rakuten payment. The first option is through a check that is delivered in the mail. The second option is to get paid through PayPal. You are free to choose whichever option works best for you and you can change it at any time.
We had a bad experience with PayPal getting hacked so we go old school with this one and get a check. I then deposit that check directly into my Disney vacation savings account.
Occasionally, Rakuten gives you the option of redeeming your cashback reward into gift cards for a percentage bonus. I haven’t seen this every time and the gift card options can vary. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Disney gift cards as an option. Because that would be sweet.
Payments are sent out on a quarterly basis. If you check your Ebates account, it will tell you when your next Big Fat Check will be paid out.
How to Use Ebates
Let’s get down to business. How do you set up your account? How do you actually use the program? The answers are coming your way!
Signing up for Ebates/Rakuten
Clearly, the first step is to create your Rakuten account! If you click on this Ebates referral link I will get a referral bonus and you will get a $10 sign on bonus once you make a purchase. That’s $10 simply for signing up and using the service! Score!
Creating the account itself is pretty simple and really just consists of you inputting basic information. Once you’ve created the account you are ready to save.
Steps to Use Ebates/Rakuten
You have a couple of different options for how to use Ebates. The first way is to simply go to your Rakuten page and search for the stores you want to shop at.
When you find the store you are looking for, simply click the orange button that says “Shop Now” and the page will direct you to the website you are looking for. This will create a shopping trip with an ID number that Rakuten will use internally to track your purchase.
The second (and easiest) way to use Rakuten is to install the Rakuten extension at the top of your browser. What this does is eliminates the need to go to the Rakuten website. If I go to a website that accepts Rakuten, the little Rakuten icon will turn orange.
I simply click on that icon to activate the cashback and the Rakuten icon will turn blue with a blue box around it. As long as it’s blue you are good to go. The bonus to this route is that whenever you do a search for a product on Google, the search results will tell you if each store is an Rakuten partner and what percentage you will get back.
Once you complete the transaction you typically get an email within a couple of days letting you know how much cash back you earned. It is very important that you complete your shopping transaction in that same session. If you close the window and go back later, it will no longer be valid for Ebates/Rakuten.
Applying Ebates Rewards to Disney
So, all of this sounds great, but how do you use it to save for Disney? Really, you can use this to save for anything. It’s an extra little bit of money that you normally wouldn’t have. I have chosen to specifically earmark the money I earn through Ebates to go towards travel.
I have a savings account that is labeled “Vacation” which is the ultimate destination for those Rakuten checks. That “Vacation” fund is money that goes towards whatever travel my family is doing, whether it’s going to Disney or elsewhere.
If you are using your Ebates cash back specifically to make your Disney trip cheaper, you will want to then turn that check into discounted Disney gift cards. There are various ways to buy discounted Disney gift cards, and the loopholes in this strategy do appear to be closing, but it is still possible.
I typically buy the discounted gift card with my travel rewards credit card, giving me not only the discounted gift card but also the rewards points on my credit card. Those rewards then cover Disney expenses. I actually used travel rewards to pay for the four of us to go to Hoop Dee Doo Revue.
Once the credit card bill comes due that contains those discounted Disney gift cards, I transfer the money from my “Vacation” savings account (which now includes my Rakuten cashback money) to cover the cost.
It is in this very roundabout way that my Rakuten cashback is going towards paying for my Disney trip. You can make it easier and simply have a vacation savings account that goes directly towards paying off your Disney trip balance, but I prefer the extra savings of the discounted Disney gift cards. Any little bit of savings will add up when you are talking thousands of dollars.
Ebates and Disney Destinations
There is a more direct way to potentially save on your Disney resort or Disney cruise by using Ebates. Many of the travel booking websites, such as Expedia, sell Disney resort rooms and Disney cruises.
Ebates/Rakuten offers cashback discounts on those purchases. The exact amount of cashback varies from travel website to travel website, as well as the category of booking (i.e. hotel vs. cruise). So you really do need to double check which site gives the best deal.
For example, right now you can get 3% cashback on hotels and cruises through Expedia. Orbitz offers 3.5% on those hotel bookings and 5% on cruises.
However, keep in mind that Expedia and the others do not offer the room discounts that Disney does. If there is a promotion running, booking a room through Disney will likely be cheaper.
But, if you are booking a trip at the last minute or there are no promotions offered during your trip, booking your Disney resort through a travel website with Ebates cashback discount will give you at least some savings.
Always double check and do the math, but certainly look around to make sure you are getting the best deal possible.
It is important to note that cashback earned through Ebates on travel purchases will not be added to your Ebates account until AFTER the travel has been completed. So don’t plan on having that cashback right away, you’ll need to be patient. Most other normal purchases will earn cashback within a few days of purchase but usually sooner.
Final Thoughts on Ebates & Disney
The amount of cash back that you end up with really depends on how much online shopping you do throughout the year. My checks have varied from $10-$45 a quarter throughout the years. According to my account on Ebates, I have saved over $430 since I started using it. Perhaps that isn’t a ton of money, but every little bit helps.
You can really maximize your Rakuten rewards during the Christmas shopping season. At that time most of the stores will offer double, or sometimes triple, the cash back
Using Ebates to help save towards Disney will clearly be most beneficial for people who still have a decent chunk of time before their trip. It does take time for everything to add up and to get the check.
However, since most people start planning their Disney vacation well over a year in advance that gives you plenty of time to accrue some savings through Ebates and apply it towards your Disney trip.
The same caveat that applies to using any sort of credit card rewards hack also applies to using Ebates. Please, just use it to do shopping that you would have done anyway. Spending extra money in order to save money really doesn’t work out in the end.
Ultimately the cash back reward is eclipsed by the fact that you spent money that you didn’t have to in the first place. But if you simply activate your Ebates cash back rewards on those shoes you needed to buy for the kids anyway, then that’s a win.
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Have you tried Ebates? Do you love it or hate it? How do you maximize your Ebates checks? Tell us about it in the comments below. Don’t forget to follow The Disney Journey on Facebook and Pinterest.