Discover’s 5% cash back calendar for 2021

People shopping in grocery store, which could be one of the Discover 5% cash back categories.Image: People shopping in grocery store, which could be one of the Discover 5% cash back categories.

In a Nutshell

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in various bonus categories that change every three months. And the card also offers 1% cash back on all your other purchases. The bonus categories for 2021 range from grocery store to Amazon.com purchases — but you must activate this offer every three months in order to unlock that higher cash back rate.
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The Discover it® Cash Back card offers rotating cash back categories that can help you boost your rewards each quarter.

The card has no annual fee, but to maximize the rewards you can earn, you’ll still need to prioritize your spending to match those rotating categories.

The key is to always know in advance what your next spending categories will be and activate them as soon as possible to avoid missing out — otherwise you won’t earn bonus rewards on purchases in those categories.

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Discover cash back calendar for 2021

Year Q1: January–March Q2: April–June Q3: July–September Q4: October–December

2021

  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens and CVS
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Select streaming services
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com

How to activate Discover bonus cash back

There are a couple of ways to activate your bonus cash back categories each quarter.

  • Through your online account
  • Calling 1-800-DISCOVER

If you’ve had the Discover it® Cash Back card for less than a year, remember that Discover matches all of the cash back you earn during the first 12 billing cycles through its Cashback Match program.

Just keep in mind that Discover applies that cash back to your account in the following one or two billing periods after your first year.

Maximizing your cash back rewards

So how do you get the most value from your cash back rewards? Discover offers several ways to redeem your cash back, including …

  1. Cash or credit:  You can opt for a direct deposit into your checking account or a statement credit to help pay down your bill.
  2. Amazon and Paypal: You can use your rewards to pay when you check out at Amazon.com and Paypal.com.
  3. Gift cards: You can choose from dozens of brands.
  4. Charity donation: You can donate your rewards to select charitable organizations.

The Discover 5% cash back bonus categories can help you get more back for everyday purchases. But if you’re not primarily spending in those bonus categories, the card’s 1% base rewards rate is nothing to write home about.

To further maximize your rewards, consider pairing your Discover it® Cash Back card with another credit card to get more rewards on purchases that don’t fall within a bonus category.

  • Take a look at our picks for the best Discover cards.
  • If these categories don’t make sense for you but you like earning boosted cash back in rotating categories, check out the Chase Freedom Flex℠ for an alternative.
  • A flat-rate cash back card like the Citi® Double Cash Card could be a good choice for purchases that aren’t covered by the bonus categories.

About the author: Ben Luthi is a personal finance freelance writer and credit cards expert. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business management and finance from Brigham Young University. In addition to Cr… Read more.