While some rewards credit cards offer the same earning rates all year long, others offer bonus rewards in categories that change every quarter. Several Discover credit cards fall into this category, including the Discover it® Cash Back* and the Discover it® Student Cash Back*. Each card lets you earn 5% cash back on rotating categories when you activate (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover also essentially doubles all rewards earned at the end of the first year with these cards, and there’s no annual fee for either card.
Fortunately, you don’t have to guess which categories are on the bonus rewards list. Instead, you can use the Discover cash-back calendar to find out the bonus rewards categories for each quarter.
What is the Discover cash-back calendar?
The Discover cash-back calendar is a listing of the past, current and future quarterly bonus reward categories. Discover it Cash Back credit card and Discover it Student Cash Back cardholders can earn 5% cash back every quarter on bonus reward categories when they activate on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases, then 1%.
Keeping track of this calendar is important since rotating bonus categories are announced every quarter, and the categories may change from year to year. Also, bonus categories have to be manually “activated.” You can do it in a few clicks on the Discover mobile app or your online account or by calling Discover customer service, but activating a category is the only way cardholders can earn their quarterly bonus rewards.
Discover quarterly cash-back calendar for 2023
In 2023, the Discover bonus rewards calendar includes the following categories:
- January to March (Q1): Grocery stores, drugstores and select streaming services
- April to June (Q2): Restaurants and wholesale clubs
- July to September (Q3): Gas stations and digital wallets
- October to December (Q4): Amazon.com and Target
Past Discover cash-back calendars
While many of the quarterly bonus categories have repeated over the years, the exact categories and the schedule change annually.
The chart below shows how these categories compare over the last three years.
|2021 Discover cash-back bonus categories||2022 Discover cash-back bonus categories||2023 Discover cash-back bonus categories|
|Q1 (January to March)||Grocery stores|
Select streaming services
|Q2 (April to June)||Gas stations|
Select streaming services
|Q3 (July to September)||Restaurants|
|Q4 (October to December)||Amazon.com|
When does Discover announce its quarterly bonus categories?
Discover used to announce its quarterly bonus categories once a year, which gave cardholders and potential new customers the chance to plan their spending each quarter to maximize bonus rewards. Currently, Discover announces its quarterly bonus categories about a month before you can activate the category.
You can find the announcement on the Discover mobile app, on its website or via an email Discover sends to cardholders announcing the categories each quarter.
How to activate Discover’s quarterly cash-back categories
You can activate each quarter’s bonus categories by logging onto the Discover mobile app or your online account or by calling the customer service number on the back of your credit card.
Note that you’ll only earn Discover quarterly bonus rewards starting on the date you activate a category, unlike some credit card programs that let you retroactively activate a bonus category throughout the quarter.
How to redeem Discover cash-back rewards
Discover offers quite a few redemption options for its cash-back credit cards. Ways you can redeem your cash back include:
- Cash deposits into a bank account
- Statement credits
- Gift cards (starting at $5)
- Merchandise through Amazon.com
- PayPal purchases
- Charitable donations
How to maximize Discover’s rotating rewards program
In addition to tracking the Discover cash-back calendar throughout the year, the following moves can help you maximize rewards:
- Activate each quarter’s bonus category right away. Remember to activate Discover’s bonus categories as soon as you have the option each quarter. You won’t earn quarterly bonus rewards on those categories until you do.
- Spend up to $1,500 in bonus categories each quarter. Spend up to $1,500 in each quarter’s activated bonus categories to earn 5% cash back -- for a maximum of $75 in bonus cash back. After that, you’ll earn 1% cash back. But don’t overspend just to earn the rewards, or you could end up with credit card debt.
- Pair your Discover credit card with a different rewards card. If you’re not satisfied with earning 1% cash back on regular purchases, there are plenty of cash-back credit cards with higher earning rates on purchases and many with no annual fee.
If you like the idea of earning 5% cash back in quarterly bonus categories but want to consider other options, look into the cards below.
- Chase Freedom Flex℠*: The Chase Freedom Flex lets users earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories when activated (then 1% back) with no annual fee. Cardholders also earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase, 3% back on dining at restaurants and drugstore purchases, and 1% back on everything else. Members can also earn $200 when they spend $500 on purchases within three months of account opening.
- Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card*: The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card lets new customers earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus when they spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. From there, they can earn 3% cash back in a category of their choice, and 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs each quarter (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases, then 1%). Other purchases earn 1% cash back, and there’s no annual fee.
- Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card: If you would rather earn a higher base rewards rate on purchases, consider the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card. This credit card lets users earn a $200 cash rewards bonus when they spend $500 in purchases within three months of account opening. Purchases earn a flat rate of 2% cash rewards, and there’s no annual fee.
*All information about the Discover it Cash Back, Discover it Student Cash Back, Chase Freedom Flex and Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards has been collected independently by CNET and hasn’t been reviewed by the issuer.
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