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How I made $80 by getting a free Sam's Club membership

A retired man with a white beard in Avila Beach, California.

I was diving into an endless maze of Internet rabbit holes as one does on a Saturday when I discovered Rakuten.

A week later, I had made $80 by getting a free Sam’s Club membership. A pretty sweet deal.

In this post, I’ll show you how I did this.

Sam’s Club + Rakuten

There’s two parts to this.

The first is that Sam’s is currently running a promotion where you can join for $45 and get $45 off your first purchase of $45 or more, which essentially gives you a free membership.

I just said $45 a lot.

Basically, you:

  1. Pay $45 for an annual membership.
  2. Buy $45 worth of stuff.
  3. Get $45 off your purchase.

In case you haven’t heard of it, Sam’s Club is owned by Walmart and is essentially the same as Costco. Like Costco, you need an annual membership to shop at Sam’s.

Here’s the fine print for the promotion:

  • You have 60 days to make your first purchase and get the $45.
  • The purchase has to be in-store and redeemed at a register. It can’t be an online purchase and you can’t use curbside pickup or Scan & Go.
  • There’s a couple of items like alcohol, tobacco, milk, gas, and gift cards that don’t count towards the $45 you need to spend.
  • The offer is currently valid until the end of July.
    • From what I’ve seen, they usually run this promo every so often, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll come back.

The second part is Rakuten. (It’s pronounced Ra-kuh-ten. Not Ra-koo-ten. 😁)

Rakuten is a Japanese company that’s often referred to as the “Amazon of Japan.”

They’ve been around since 1997 and are known for their e-reader called Kobo that’s their version of the Kindle. They also do advertising and e-commerce.

Pretty similar to Amazon overall.

If the name sounds familiar, it might be because they sponsor the Spanish soccer team Barcelona and the Golden State Warriors of the NBA.

Rakuten used to have an online store in the US but they closed it down in 2020.

They’ve since rebranded and what they have now is called Rakuten Rewards, which is a cash-back and shopping rewards site.

It used to be called Ebates, if you’re familiar with that name. Rakuten bought Ebates and turned it into Rakuten Rewards.

How it works is:

  1. You sign up on Rakuten.com for free
  2. You click on an offer
  3. You make a purchase
  4. Rakuten gives you cashback on your purchase

Why do they do this?

Rakuten partners with stores and sends them traffic by promoting their offer.

The stores pay Rakuten a commission if you buy something—that’s how they make money—and they give you piece of this commission.

At the time of writing (June 2022), you can get 6% back at Nike.com.

So if you clicked on this offer through Rakuten and bought a pair of $100 sneakers, they’d give you $6 back.

Nike offer on Rakuten

The way you get this money is that Rakuten sends you a check every 3 months as long as your cashback balance is greater than $5. If it’s less than $5, it just carries over until it goes over $5.

The cool thing about Rakuten is that you can refer someone to join. And when that person joins with your link and spends $30, both you and they get a $30 bonus.

How referrals work on Rakuten

The second cool thing is that Sam’s Club is one of their partner stores.

You can see where I’m going with this.

Game plan

Here’s the game plan:

  1. You sign up for Rakuten with my referral link.
  2. You go to the Sam’s Club page on Rakuten and click the link to join Sam’s for $45 and get $45 off your first purchase.
  3. You click, click, click and buy the Sam’s Club membership.
  4. At this point, both you and I get $30. Rakuten will mail us a check pretty soon.
  5. You go to your local Sam’s Club and spend $45 with your soon-to-be-free membership.
  6. You refer your wife, husband, partner, sister, brother, friend and get another $30. Infinitely. 🤑

Are you excited or what?

Some final things:

  • I’m a bit of grocery price-tracking freak so if you’re wondering how to best spend the $45 at Sam’s I’ll tell you that the almonds, walnuts, avocado oil, Greek yogurt, and extra virgin olive oil have the best price I’ve seen anywhere. At least in Austin. It might vary in your local Sam’s Club.
  • In general, Sam’s prices are pretty much the same as Costco’s—gas included—and their sizes aren’t as outrageous. Their bag of carrots, for example, is 5 pounds instead of 6. And they don’t only sell onions in 10 pound quantities. Costco has better free samples, though.
  • The Sam’s offer is automatically linked to your membership within 72 hours. Download the Sam’s Club app and scan it at checkout. For my wife and I it was there in less than 12 hours. We bought the membership Friday night and went to Sam’s next morning. Remember to go to a register instead of self-checkout.
  • Sam’s sets your membership to auto renew. Turn this setting off in the app so you don’t get a surprise charge a year from now.
  • What if you already have a Sam’s Club membership? No worries. Rakuten still comes through. You can also spend the $30 needed to get the bonus by shopping Sam’s online and using the free club pickup option. You’ll see this offer on the Sam’s Club page on Rakuten. This’ll get you and your referral the $30 bonus as well.
  • And last, what if you don’t give a rat’s butt about Sam’s? No worries. Rakuten still comes through. You can spend the $30 at tons of other stores like Walmart, Target, Nike, Lowe’s, and lots of others.

Summary

Here’s a picture of the check my wife recently got from Rakuten:

Check from Rakuten

It’s $40 rather than $30 as when we signed up last month Rakuten was giving $40 if you signed up and spent $40 rather than $30 if you spent $30 as they are now.

The extra $3.60 are there because there’s an extra 8% cashback on the new Sam’s Club membership if you click on the offer through Rakuten. So you’ll get these extra $3.60 too if you do the Sam’s Club membership.

I’ll soon be getting my own $40 check for referring my wife.

Rakuten + Sam’s Club = $80 and a free Sam’s Club membership 🎉

And that’s it.

If you’ve got a lot of friends, you can make a lot of money from this deal.

If you’re like me… you can make $40 off your wife.

This post as a video

If you prefer watching to reading, here’s an easy-to-follow video I made with all this info: