One of the best ways to earn extra rewards is through online shopping portals such as Rakuten. By starting there (instead of a specific merchant's website), you can make your online shopping trips even more lucrative.
Rakuten lets you earn either cash back or American Express Membership Rewards points. By switching your earning preference to Amex points, you earn 1 Amex point on a purchase that ordinarily earns 1% cash back. We value Amex points at 2 cents each, which means switching to Amex points can double your return — or more, if you know the best ways to use Amex points.
The first step to doubling your Rakuten earnings is to visit rakuten.com and create an account.
(In fact, if you're not currently a member and join by Sept. 26 using this link, you can earn a one-time bonus of $40 after you spend $40 in the first 90 days.)
After you've enrolled, you can start earning rewards by shopping at rakuten.com or through the Rakuten app. But the easiest option may be installing Rakuten's browser extension, which will check online merchants for eligible cash back.
To install the browser extension, hover your mouse over your name in the upper right corner and select "My Account" from the drop-down menu. Select the widget that says "Add to Chrome" to add Rakuten's browser extension.
Related: How to maximize shopping portals for your online purchases
It's important to note that new users will automatically have their earning preference set to cash back (and your initial $40 bonus will also be delivered in cash). However, as soon as your account is created, you can switch to Amex points, and all future purchases through Rakuten will earn points.
To do that, select "Account Settings" from the list of options on the left of the screen.
The page will have a "How would you like to get paid?" section with three options. Rakuten will require you to select one of the two cash-back options first.
For this example, I chose "Big Fat Check." However, after completing the necessary verification, you'll see the option to switch your earning preference to Amex points.
When you select the link to "Switch to Membership Rewards® points," Rakuten will redirect you to the American Express page. Just follow the onscreen prompts to sync your accounts. Once that's complete, you can start shopping.
However, it's important to note that this is a one-time switch. If you opt to switch back to any of the cash-back payment methods, the option for earning Membership Rewards points will disappear entirely from your account settings page.
Once you've earned rewards, you'll receive them on a quarterly basis — generally six weeks or so after the end of the quarter. For example, points earned between July and October are paid out Nov. 15.
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Editor’s Note: The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer. CNN is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to provide news analysis and commentary. The content is produced solely by The Conversation.
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