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Credit Cards

Here's Discover's 5% cash-back calendar

Here are the bonus 5% cash-back categories for eligible Discover credit cards in 2021.

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The Discover it® Balance Transfer offer is not currently in market.

Eligible Discover credit cardholders can now activate bonus 5% cash-back categories for the third quarter of 2021. Cardholders who enroll will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in spending at restaurants and PayPal from July to September (then 1%).

Below, Select reviews the Discover cash-back calendar for 2021, and how you can use a 5% cash-back card to your advantage.

Discover cash-back calendar for 2021

Discover revealed its full 5% cash-back calendar for 2021, so you can take a look at the bonus categories for the whole year.

  • January to March (activation closed): Grocery stores (includes Walmart® grocery pickup and delivery purchases; excludes other Walmart and all Target® purchases), Walgreens and CVS
  • April to June (activation closed): Gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services
  • July to September (activate now): Restaurants and PayPal
  • October to December (activate starting Aug. 1, 2021): Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Discover cardholders that can benefit from 5% cash back include: Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Student Cash Back, NHL® Discover it® and Discover it® Balance Transfer.

Discover cash-back calendar vs. Chase cash-back calendar

Discover and Chase are the two most popular card issuers offering 5% cash-back cards. Here's a side-by-side comparison of the two cash-back calendars for 2020, since the full 2021 calendar for Chase isn't available.

Quarter Chase Discover
January to MarchGas stations; select streaming services and internet; cable and phone servicesGrocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart); Walgreens and CVS
April to JuneGrocery stores; select streaming services; gym memberships and fitness clubsHome Depot (June only); gas stations; Uber; Lyft; and wholesale clubs
July to SeptemberAmazon.com and Whole Foods MarketRestaurants and PayPal
October to DecemberWalmart and PayPalAmazon.com; Target.com; Walmart.com; and Best Buy

This comparison shows that, for 2020, both Discover and Chase included common spending categories, such as gas stations and grocery stores, in their calendars. Plus, Discover included restaurants while Chase didn't.

How 5% cash-back credit cards work

To earn 5% cash back, you're required to activate bonus categories each quarter. After you activate bonus categories, you can start earning 5% cash back on eligible spending. Discover lets you set up email alerts and you can add reminders to your calendar so you don't forget to activate.

Earning 5% cash back isn't unlimited. Each quarter, after you spend a combined $1,500 in the bonus categories, the cash-back rate drops to 1%. This maximum spending requirement resets every quarter.

All other purchases made outside the bonus categories automatically earn unlimited 1% cash back. If you want to optimize the amount of cash back you can earn, we recommend using an alternative cash-back or rewards credit card for spending outside the bonus categories, so you earn at least 2% or 2 points per dollar spent.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® Card ranks as No.1 cash-back card with no annual fee and earns cardholders 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining (including takeout) and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases.

The Citi® Double Cash Card is the runner-up and earns cardholders an effective 2% cash back: 1% when they buy and 1% when they pay for purchases.

Don't miss: Chase Freedom 5% cash-back calendar

Information about the NHL® Discover it® has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the cards prior to publication.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Cash Back, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Student Cash Back, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.