Editor’s note: Some of the Discover offers on this page may be expired. Check out our Best Credit Cards page for the most up-to-date offers for our favorite credit cards.

Key takeaways

  • Discover’s rotating cash back categories offer cardholders the chance to earn 5 percent back (with activation) on up to $1,500 combined spending on qualifying purchases each quarter (then 1 percent).
  • Categories tend to align with seasonal themes and common spending patterns, with multiple categories reappearing year after year.
  • Each of the rotating categories cards also features Discover’s Cashback Match bonus opportunity — Discover will match all the cash back new cardholders earn in the first year.

While some cash back credit cards offer a flat rewards rate for each dollar you spend, the Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Balance Transfer and Discover it® Student Cash Back take a different approach.

Cardholders earn a flat 1 percent cash back for all regular spending with these cards, but they also earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly rotating categories (activation required). After you hit that spending limit, you earn 1 percent cash back on any additional purchases in these rotating categories. The cards also come with no annual fee, making them all good choices to keep in your wallet.

Furthermore, Discover takes a different approach when it comes to welcome bonuses. Instead of a traditional bonus that you earn when you meet a minimum spending requirement, Discover will match all the rewards you earn at the end of your first year of card membership. This means that if you earn $200 in cash back your first year, you’ll receive another $200 at the end of the year via Discover’s Cashback Match, for a total of $400 in cash back.

If you’re considering Discover it Cash Back or Discover it Student Cash Back, you’ll need to know which categories provide higher cash back rewards. This guide explains Discover’s rotating categories so far for 2024, along with how you can best use its cash back calendar.

Discover’s rotating cash back calendar for 2024

Discover’s cash back bonus categories change each quarter, allowing cardholders to consistently have options of categories in which they’ll earn elevated cash back. It helps that Discover includes categories that most people can use.

If your goal is maximizing your rewards, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the 2024 Discover cash back calendar and compare previous years’ calendar details to see which spending categories have remained consistent over time.

Quarter 2022 Discover it categories 2023 Discover it categories 2024 Discover it categories
Q1: January to March
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Gym memberships
  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Drug stores
  • Restaurants
Q2: April to June
  • Gas stations
  • Target
  • Restaurants
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations
  • Home improvement stores
  • Public transit
Q3: July to September
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Gas stations
  • Digital wallets
  • Walmart
  • Grocery stores
Q4: October to December
  • Amazon.com
  • Digital wallets
  • Amazon.com
  • Target
  • TBD

Certain categories have featured consistently over the last three years even if they’ve shifted the quarter in which they appear. For instance, for Q1 2024, restaurants replaced grocery stores and select streaming services, while drug stores remained unchanged. For Q4 2022 and 2023, Amazon.com remained one of the options, but Walmart.com hasn’t appeared since 2021.

Discover used to release all of its cash back categories at the beginning of the year, but the issuer now releases categories one quarter at a time — in line with how Chase announces its bonus categories. It means that cardholders aren’t able to plan their purchases out to maximize a year’s worth of bonus categories, but it’s not an uncommon practice among rotating category cards.

How to activate Discover categories

You won’t earn your 5 percent cash back bonuses with the Discover it Cash Back, Discover it Balance Transfer or Discover it Student Cash Back unless you activate this bonus feature on your card each quarter. Fortunately, you can easily activate your bonus categories on your credit card’s online account page.

If you’re unsure whether you’ve activated your quarterly bonus categories, you can also check by using the Discover website. On the cash back calendar page, you can select Log In to Activate.

Making the most of Q3’s bonus categories

In the third quarter of 2024 — July through September — you can earn 5 percent back at Walmart and grocery stores (on up to $1,500 in combined spending for the quarter after activation, then 1 percent). Consider the following tips to get the most out of these bonus categories:

  • Stock up for summer. Walmart offers plenty of products, whether you’re getting your backyard summer barbecue ready, heading to the pool or just picking up everyday essentials. There are plenty of ways to max out the bonus category at Walmart.
  • Feed the family… or the whole block. The kids are home from school, which means your pantry better be full when their friends come to play. Or perhaps you’ve been meaning to have your neighbors over for a summer gettogether. Either option — and so many more! — is a good excuse to break out your Discover card at your grocery store.

How to redeem Discover rewards

Unlike some other cash back credit cards that make you build up a minimum balance of rewards before you can cash them in, Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Student Cash Back let you redeem rewards in the form of a direct deposit to your account or a statement credit in any amount.

You can also redeem your rewards for gift cards when you’ve accrued at least $5 in your rewards account. Cardmembers can redeem their cash back for a physical or digital partner gift card with a possible 5 percent to 20 percent added value to each gift card (depending on the merchant). Partner gift cards range from $5 to $200 in increments of $5. You can also donate your cash back earnings to charity or make purchases through Amazon.com or PayPal.com.

Rewards you earn with Discover credit cards never expire as long as your account is open, so you can keep earning until you’re ready to redeem.

The bottom line

The Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Student Cash Back make it easy to earn rewards without an annual fee, but you’ll get more out of these cards if you pay attention to the rotating bonus categories offered. This is especially true during the first year you’re a cardholder since Discover will match all the rewards you earn at the end of your first year. Just be sure to activate your bonus rewards each quarter so you don’t miss out.