Key takeaways

  • Cash back cards that feature rotating bonus categories reward you higher cash back rates for spending in select categories each quarter.
  • Chase and Discover categories change from quarter to quarter and require activation in order to secure the higher rewards rate.
  • While most rotating bonus category cards don't release their categories for the year ahead of time, you can view previous years' categories to get a better idea of what to expect."colors_variant="blue

Cash back credit cards reward you on purchases you make by putting some money back into your account, yet they all reward you differently. Some will provide you with flat-rate cash back on everything you buy, and others will offer higher rewards on certain purchases.

There’s also a third group of cash back credit cards: cards with rotating bonus categories. These cards offer a higher cash back rate (typically 5 percent) in categories that rotate on a quarterly basis.

Below, we’ll take a look at three major issuers — Chase, Discover and Citi — who offer cash back credit cards with rotating bonus categories. Read on for the full breakdown of the current categories on these cards.

Chase 2024 rotating categories

The only Chase credit card (currently available for application) with rotating bonus categories is the Chase Freedom Flex℠*. The card offers 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent), 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2025), 3 percent cash back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

Note, the issuer announces categories one quarter at a time. Here’s what the Chase Freedom Flex 2024 bonus categories look like so far, compared to its 2023 offerings.

Quarter Chase 2023 categories Chase 2024 categories
Q1: January to March
  • Target
  • Grocery stores (excluding Walmart)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart)
  • Fitness club and gym memberships
  • Self-care and spa services
Q2: April to June
  • Lowes (in-store and online)
  • Amazon
  • Hotels
  • Restaurants
  • Amazon.com
Q3: July to September
  • Gas stations
  • Electric vehicle charging
  • Select live entertainment
TBD
Q4: October to December
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Select charities
  • PayPal
TBD

Uniquely, for Q2 2024, Chase is offering 5 percent back in a couple of categories that already earn elevated fixed rewards, so cardholders can potentially stack those rewards. Flex members earn a fixed 5 percent back on hotels purchased through the Chase travel portal, so they’ll earn up to 9 percent back on hotels (up to the quarterly spending cap) purchased through the portal in Q2. That’s the 5 percent base rate plus the additional quarterly bonus (Chase calculates the 5 percent quarterly bonus amount as 4 percent on top of a base of 1 percent rewards). The same logic applies to  restaurants, which earn a fixed 3 percent yearround, so will earn 7 percent in Q2 up to the cap.

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Keep in mind: Freedom Flex has fixed rewards tiers in addition to the quarterly rotating categories. The original Chase Freedom card doesn't have those tiers. Original Freedom cardholders will just earn 5 percent back on hotels and restaurants since they don't have the opportunity to stack rewards.

Discover 2024 rotating categories

The Discover it® Cash Back, and Discover it® Student Cash Back offer 5 percent cash back (after activation) on up to $1,500 in rotating category purchases each quarter, then 1 percent back, plus 1 percent on all other purchases. All three cards also include Discover’s first-year Cashback Match™ welcome offer. For example, if you earn $200 in cash back by the end of your first year of card membership, Discover will award you an additional $200, for a total of $400 in cash back earnings.

Unlike in past years, Discover now releases its categories one quarter at a time. Here’s a look at the 2024 Discover cash back calendar so far, along with its 2023 bonus categories for comparison.

Quarter Discover 2023 categories Discover 2024 categories
Q1: January to March
  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Restaurants
  • Drug stores
Q2: April to June
  • Restaurants
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations
  • Home improvement stores
  • Public transit
Q3: July to September
  • Gas stations
  • Digital wallets
TBD
Q4: October to December
  • Amazon.com
  • Target
TBD

Citi Custom Cash® Card categories

Citi no longer offers cash back cards with rotating categories on a quarterly basis. It used to offer the Citi Dividend Card*, but that has been discontinued.

These days, the card most similar to the Citi Dividend Card is the Citi Custom Cash Card. Custom Cash offers 5 percent cash back in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent), plus 1 percent back on all other purchases. This means you could earn $25 back per billing cycle, $75 per quarter and $300 per year.

Categories that qualify for 5 percent back include:

  • Restaurants
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Select travel and transit
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

The bottom line

So, should you get a 5 percent rotating bonus category card? If you’re willing to put in the work, including activating the bonus categories and making sure you use the card for the right purchases up to the spending cap, this type of credit card can yield lucrative rewards. If you don’t want to worry about activating categories, you can consider the Citi Custom Cash card instead of one of the Chase or Discover options.

Furthermore, the rotating category cash back cards currently available don’t charge annual fees, so there’s no pressure for you to spend enough to justify the card’s cost.

Before you make the decision to apply, consider reading through our list of the best cash back credit cards for 2024. You just might find another option that better suits your spending style and needs.

*Issuer-required disclosure statement
Information about the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Citi Dividend Card has been collected independently by Bankrate. Card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.