The Discover it® Cash Back doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet it offers an extremely robust rewards program that makes it easy to earn cash back. Once you sign up, you’ll earn 5 percent back (activation required) on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories (then 1 percent), and you’ll also earn 1 percent back on all other purchases made with your credit card.
For a welcome bonus, Discover will match all the rewards you earn at the end of the first year of card membership. This means that a rewards stash of $200 in cash back would be doubled to $400 after 12 months.
If you’re curious to learn more about how the Discover it Cash Back works, you can check out Bankrate’s detailed credit card review. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about the Discover rewards calendar.
Discover’s 2020 cash back bonus calendar
One feature that helps this card stand out when compared to many other rewards credit cards is the fact that its bonus categories change each quarter. The Discover calendar dictates which categories dole out 5 percent cash back in any given month throughout the year, so you can refer to it each quarter as you plan your spending.
To earn the most cash back possible with this card, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Discover 5 percent calendar for 2020. Below, you can compare Discover calendar details for 2019 to see which spending categories remain consistent over time.
2019 Discover it® categories 2020 Discover it® categories
Q1: January – March
Q2: April – June
Uber and Lyft
Uber and Lyft
Q3: July – September
Q4: October – December
Best Buy (in-store and online)
How to activate Discover categories
One detail to note about the Discover it Cash Back card is the fact that you won’t earn 5 percent back in bonus categories automatically (on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories, then 1 percent). You have to “activate” this feature on your card, which you can do on your credit card’s online account management page.
If you’re not sure whether you’ve activated each quarter’s bonus categories or not, you can also check using the Discover website.
Making the most of this quarter’s bonus categories
Earning cash back with a credit card is easy since all you have to do is use your credit card for regular spending and bills. Provided you pay your credit card balance in full each month, you can avoid being charged interest and actually save money.
But, how can you make the most of quarterly bonus categories? Consider these tips:
It’s likely you’re completing a majority of your holiday shopping online this year, and with the Discover it Cash Back, you can earn significant rewards if you do so through Amazon.com, Target.com, Walmart.com, and, as of Nov. 25, 2020, Best Buy. Whether your shopping list is filled with the newest gaming technology or family-friendly board games, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list from these four retailers.
Given the status of the coronavirus pandemic, you could use your Discover it Cash Back card for grocery store delivery spending through the end of December. Ordering grocery delivery for your holiday meals through Amazon Fresh or Walmart Grocery, for example, would net you 5 percent cash back (activation required) on up to $1,500 in purchases for the quarter, then 1 percent.
How do the Discover it Cash Back bonus categories compare to Chase Freedom FlexSM rotating categories?
If you like the rotating bonus category this card offers but haven’t signed up yet, you may want to compare this card to the Chase Freedom FlexSM. Like the Discover it Cash Back, the Chase Freedom Flex also offers 5 percent back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500, then 1 percent), as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases.
Unlike the Discover it Cash Back, Chase doesn’t announce its full calendar of categories at the beginning of each year; instead, categories are revealed throughout the year before each quarter begins.
If you’re curious about this card, you should check out Bankrate’s Chase Freedom Flex review and take note of its 2020 bonus categories:
January—March: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; select streaming services
April—June: Grocery stores (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases), fitness clubs and gym memberships
July—September: Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
October—December: Walmart and PayPal
How to redeem rewards
A major benefit of the Discover it Cash Back is the flexibility of the rewards you earn. Unlike other rewards credit cards that make you build up a minimum balance of rewards before you redeem, the Discover it Cash Back lets you redeem rewards for cash back into a bank account or for purchases made through Amazon.com or PayPal.com in any amount.
You can redeem for a gift card when you’ve accrued at least $20 in rewards, and Discover even adds a $5 bonus on some gift cards at that threshold. You can also donate your rewards to charity.
Your rewards will never expire, and you can execute any of these rewards options by calling Discover or logging into your online account management page.
The bottom line
The Discover it Cash Back card makes it easy to earn rewards without an annual fee, but you should be careful to pay attention to the Discover rewards calendar categories. Given the 5 percent back you’ll earn on the first $1,500 you spend in activated quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent), the extra effort is worth it. Just make sure you activate your bonus categories each quarter so you can make the most of your spending.