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Discover cash back categories 2020

Earn 5% cash back on gas, restaurants and groceries.

Updated . What changed?

Fact checked
The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the go-to cards for earning 5% cash back on rotating categories. However, you need to activate them each quarter, and you’re limited to $1,500 in combined purchases every three months. After you reach the limit each quarter, you’ll earn 1%. You’ll also earn 1% on all other purchases or on the quarterly categories if you forget to activate.

2020/2021 Discover cashback rewards calendar

October–December 2020January–March 2021April–June 2021July–September 2021October–December 2021
Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com; Best Buy (new category from November 25 to December 31)Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVSGas stations, wholesale clubs and streaming servicesRestaurants and PayPalAmazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com

Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com and Best Buy eligibility

The following purchases are eligible for the 5% cashback rate on Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com and Best Buy:

  • Amazon.com purchases made through Amazon.com checkout — digital downloads, gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals, Amazon Prime subscriptions and items sold by third-party merchants through Amazon.com’s marketplace. Purchases also include those made in-store at Amazon Go, Amazon Bookstore, and Amazon 4-Star.
  • Walmart.com purchases made at Walmart.com and when shopping through the Walmart app, including Grocery Pick Up and In-store Pick Up.
  • Target.com purchases made online at Target.com or through the Target app.
  • Best Buy purchases made in-store at Best Buy, online at bestbuy.com, or through the Best Buy app.

Steps to activate your Discover rewards

You must activate your Discover rotating categories to earn the 5% cash back. There are three ways to activate:

  1. Through your online account
  2. Through the Discover Mobile app
  3. Call 800-347-2683.

What to know

With the Discover it® Cash Back card the 5% cash back isn’t retroactive. This means if you activate the categories late in the quarter and made purchases beforehand in qualifying categories, you may not earn accelerated cash back on them. However, reach out to customer service to see if they would be willing to adjust it.

How do 5% cashback categories work?

Every time you make a purchase in activated categories — for up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter — you earn 5% cash back. After reaching the cap, and on all other purchases, you earn 1% back.

This means, you can earn a maximum of $300 on the 5% categories every year. For the first year, that would be $600 or 10% back thanks to Discover Cashback Match. Not bad, considering there’s no annual fee.

Tips to maximize your Discover cash back

  • Activate your categories.
    If you fail to activate before the end of the quarter, you won’t earn accelerated cash back. You also may not receive retroactive cash back if you activate later in a quarter.
  • Cashback Match.
    Instead of a signup bonus, Discover will match the entire cash back you earn during your first year. Suppose you earn $500 in cash back, You’d get a $500 bonus for a total of $1,000 for the first year. This beats any signup bonus offered by a similar card.
  • Use at Amazon.com.
    When Amazon.com purchases are part of the Discover card categories, you can buy gift cards and use them later during the year. You can also use your card to renew your Prime membership.
  • Pair it with another card.Chase Freedom Flex℠ also offers 5% cash back up to $1,500 in combined purchases, and the categories rarely overlap. Combining the two cards can maximize your cash back during the entire year.

There are two other 5% cashback Discover cards

The Discover it® Student Cash Back and NHL Discover it® Card offer the same 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories, except these cards have additional perks if you’re a student or if you purchase NHL merchandise from the official online store.

Compare bonus rewards categories

Chase Freedom Flex℠ is another card that offers 5% cashback. Compare the Chase Freedom Flex℠ cashback categories to see how it stacks up against Discover.

Categories 2021Chase Freedom Flex℠Discover it® Cash Back
January to MarchRevealed before the quarter startsGrocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April to JuneRevealed before the quarter startsGas stations, wholesale clubs and streaming services
July to SeptemberRevealed before the quarter startsRestaurants and PayPal
October to DecemberRevealed before the quarter startsAmazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com; Best Buy (new category from November 25 to December 31)
  • January to March 2020.
    Gas stations, select streaming services, Internet, cable and phone services.
  • April to June 2020.
    Grocery stores — excluding Walmart and Target — fitness club and gym membership.
  • July to September 2020.
    Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market.
  • October to December 2020.
    Walmart and PayPal.

Which card is better?

There’s no clear answer, as it mostly depends on your spending habits. However, you could maximize your cash back if you combine both cards and use each card for the category with the highest cash back.

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