The Bankrate promise
At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
- 5 percent cash back credit cards earn rewards at higher rates, but usually only in a few categories
- Some cards have rotating 5 percent bonus categories you need to activate, some let you choose your bonus category and others automatically select your highest earning cash back category for you each quarter
- The best card for you is one that maximizes cash back earnings by matching your spending
- The annual fee for most of these cards is $0, and introductory bonus offers are around $200 a piece
The best 5 percent rotating bonus category cards offer an exceptional earning rate in everyday categories that change each quarter, plus some other major perks you can enjoy. However, you’ll still earn a base rate (usually 1 percent back) on all other purchases you make, and a few rotating category cards have additional bonus categories as well.
Some cards even let you earn a generous sign-up bonus when you meet a minimum spending requirement in the first few months. That said, you’ll want to compare cards that offer 5 percent back based on their fees, intro APR offers and bonus rewards caps.
An overview of 5% rotating category card options
The following chart highlights the best 5 percent cash back credit cards on the market today:
|Card||Bonus offer||Rewards rate||Rewards cap||Annual fee|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year||
||$1,500 quarterly cap||$0|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠*||$200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months||
||$1,500 quarterly cap on the 5% category||$0|
|Citi Custom Cash® Card||20,000 ThankYou points after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first six months||
||$500 cap each billing cycle||$0|
|U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card*||$200 rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in eligible purchases within the first 120 days||
||$2,000 cap per quarter on the 5% choice categories||$0|
Discover it® Cash Back
Why we picked it: The Discover it® Cash Back lets cardholders earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in activated rotating quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent back) and 1 percent back on all other spending. There’s no annual fee, and Discover will even match all the rewards you earn after the first year.
Additionally, the Discover it® Cash Back gives cardholders access to a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 17.24 percent to 28.24 percent. The intro balance transfer fee is 3 percent for amounts transferred from other cards (after the intro period it is a fee equal to 5 percent of the amount of each transfer).
- The intro APR offer helps you save money when you carry a balance or transfer high-interest debt
- No annual fee
- No foreign transaction fees
- 3 percent intro balance transfer fee that raises up to 5 percent on future balance transfers (see terms)
- Discover doesn’t announce bonus categories until the month before they start
- Cash back earnings capped at $1,500 in quarterly spend on bonus categories and $1,000 on gas and restaurant purchases.
Discover it bonus rewards categories for 2023
The 2023 Discover cash back calendar shares some promising rewards categories for the rest of the year, but the exact categories aren’t known until about a month before they start. Based on bonus categories used in previous years, you may see similar offerings in the future. What we know about bonus categories for Discover in 2023 include:
- January through March: Grocery stores, drug stores and select streaming services
- April through June: Restaurants and wholesale clubs
- July through September: Gas stations and digital wallets
- October through December: TBA
- In 2022, bonus categories were Amazon.com and digital wallets
Who should apply: Apply for the Discover it® Cash Back if you like variable cash back rewards from a wide variety of vendors. Borrowers with shorter credit histories are encouraged to apply for this Discover card.
Who should skip: Credit card holders who want a simpler earnings structure should look elsewhere. You need to activate and keep track of the rotating bonus categories to maximize your boosted cash back earnings.
Chase Freedom Flex
Why we picked it: The Chase Freedom Flex is unique in the fact that it offers so many bonus categories. Cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly activated bonus categories (then 1 percent back), but they also earn 5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 5 percent back on Lyft rides through March 2025 and 3 percent back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases. All regular, non-bonus spending earns 1 percent back.
There’s no annual fee, and Chase sweetens the pot with a $200 cash bonus for new cardholders who spend $500 within three months of account opening. You can also qualify for a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 20.49 percent to 29.24 percent.
- Exceptional earning rates, even outside of the generous rotating categories
- No annual fee
- Solid intro APR offer on both purchases and balance transfers
- Extra benefits like purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties and cellphone protection
- Chase reveals 5 percent bonus categories one at a time, so it’s difficult to plan ahead
- 3 percent foreign transaction fee
- Balance transfer fee jumps from 3 percent (minimum $5) to 5 percent after the first 60 days
Chase Freedom bonus rewards categories for 2023
Chase Freedom Flex 2023 bonus categories are announced on a quarterly basis. While it’s not known exactly what the bonus categories will be, they can be somewhat similar from one year to another. Bonus categories for 2023 that are known (or likely) include:
- January through March: Target, grocery stores (except Walmart), fitness clubs and gym memberships
- April through June: Lowes and Amazon
- July through September: TBA
- In 2022, categories included gas stations, car rentals, movie theaters and select entertainment
- October through December: TBA
- In 2022, categories included Walmart and PayPal purchases
Who should apply: Cardholders who are interested in pairing this card with other Chase cards for travel rewards should look into applying. You can turn cash back rewards from this card into Ultimate Rewards if you have a premium Chase rewards card.
Who should skip: Skip this card if you want a simpler rewards structure, such as that offered by the Chase Freedom Unlimited®* (1.5 percent cash back on all purchases).
Citi Custom Cash
Why we picked it: The Citi Custom Cash automatically rewards your top spending category each billing cycle. You earn 5 percent cash back on up to $500 each billing cycle (then 1 percent) in your top eligible category each billing cycle, as well as 1 percent on all other purchases. This makes the Citi Custom Cash one of the easiest 5 percent cards to use since you don’t have to remember to activate your bonus category each cycle.
This Citi card has no annual fee and offers a welcome bonus of 20,000 ThankYou points — worth $200 in cash back — when you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first six months. Additionally, you can enjoy a 0 percent intro APR for the first 15 months on both purchases and balance transfers, followed by a variable APR between 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent.
- Top eligible category is automatically rewarded with 5 percent back each billing cycle (no activation needed)
- Intro APR offers on both purchases and balance transfers
- No annual fee
- 5 percent category is capped at $500 in spending each billing cycle
- 3 percent foreign transaction fee
- 5 percent balance transfer fee (or $5, whichever is greater), and transfers must be initiated within four months of account opening
Citi Custom Cash bonus rewards categories for 2023
Your bonus category isn’t predetermined, nor does it need to be activated. The categories eligible to reward you at the 5 percent rate are restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment.
Who should apply: Cardholders who love the simplicity of automated bonus categories will enjoy this card.
Who should skip: Cardholders who have a lot of spending in each of the categories should look elsewhere; cash back earnings are capped at $500 per quarter. If the 5 percent category is maxed out, that’s only $25 back each quarter.
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
Why we picked it: The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature works a little differently compared to other 5 percent back cards on this list. Once you sign up, you get to earn 5 percent back on up to $2,000 in combined spending in two categories of your choosing each quarter (then 1 percent back). You’ll also get 2 percent back on one everyday category of your choosing (grocery store purchases, gas station purchases and restaurants) and 1 percent back on all other spending.
Cardholders can also earn an initial bonus of $200 after spending $1,000 on eligible purchases within 120 days of account opening and take advantage of a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 billing cycles (19.74 percent to 29.74 percent variable APR after). Note, you do have to transfer your balance within the first 60 days of account opening to qualify for the introductory offer.
- You get to pick your 5 percent categories each quarter, as well as 2 percent back on one everyday spending category
- 5 percent back on prepaid air, hotel, and car reservations when booked in the Rewards Travel Center
- Intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers
- No annual fee
- Balance transfers must be made in the first 60 days in order to receive the introductory offer
- 3 percent foreign transaction fee
U.S. Bank Cash+ bonus rewards categories for 2023
The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature lets you select two 5 percent bonus categories each quarter, as well as a 2 percent category focused on everyday purchases. Here’s a rundown of the bonus category options you can choose from.
5 percent cash back categories:
- TV, internet and streaming services
- Home utilities
- Ground transportation
- Select clothing stores
- Cell phone providers
- Electronics stores
- Gyms and fitness centers
- Fast food
- Sporting goods stores
- Department stores
- Furniture stores
- Movie theaters
2 percent cash back categories:
- Gas and EV charging stations
- Grocery stores
Who should apply: Borrowers who know they have larger amounts of spending in one or two categories should apply. The $2,000 cap is larger than other cards, and being able to select your bonus category is a major plus.
Who should skip: The 5 percent categories you can select may not be where you spend most of your money (for example, if you live in suburbia and spend more money on grocery stores or gas stations). If you’re not able to take advantage of the bonus categories available, skip it.
How to choose a 5% rotating bonus category card
You may already have a favorite 5 percent cash back card in mind based on what you know about your spending habits and how they’ll align with the bonus categories of these cards. But there are a few other factors you may want to keep in mind.
For example, it helps to look at a card’s 5 percent rewards calendar (for the issuers that make them available), since doing so gives you the chance to see which categories you can use for bonus rewards in the future. If a specific rewards credit card offers several quarterly categories you can easily spend in, there’s a chance that card could be a good fit.
In the meantime, you should also look at these features:
- Credit card sign-up bonuses that can help you earn $200 or more within a few months of account opening
- Bonus rewards caps that can limit the amount of cash back you earn
- Rewards redemption options that may include cash back, statement credits, gift cards, merchandise and more
- Introductory APR offers that can help you save money on interest when it comes to purchases, balance transfers or both
- Credit card fees that can eat away at your rewards
Tips for maximizing your rewards earnings with a rotating bonus category card
No matter which 5 percent cash back credit card you choose, you can boost your rewards haul with the right moves. Here are some strategies to consider if you want to maximize your efforts:
- Make sure to activate your 5 percent cash back bonus rewards every quarter. Cash back credit cards with rotating categories typically require you to “opt in” to bonus rewards each quarter. Make sure you remember this task so you don’t miss out on heightened rewards.
- Pair multiple cards with different bonus categories. If you like more than one 5 percent cash back credit card due to its unique bonus categories, consider using more than one card. You can use a different card to maximize rewards in its respective 5 percent categories throughout the year, and most cards in this niche do not charge annual fees.
- Pair a 5 percent cash back card with a flat-rate cash back card. Most 5 percent back credit cards only give you 1 percent back on regular purchases, so consider pairing it with a flat-rate rewards credit card that gives you 1.5 or 2 percent back on regular spending.
- Pay your credit card bill in full each month. Finally, remember to pay your credit card bill in full each month for the best results. If you carry a balance for a long time, the credit card interest you pay will quickly wipe out your rewards.
The bottom line
Rewards credit cards that give 5 percent back in rotating bonus categories can be a useful tool for maximizing your cash back earnings. That’s especially true if you pick up a card with categories that match your spending. If you’re able to earn a sign-up bonus and get a few credit card perks along the way, even better.
Still, you should take the time to compare other credit cards, including ones that dole out rewards differently. The best cash back credit card for you is the one that aligns with your spending style and has perks you’ll use, so don’t give up until you find it.
*The information about these cards has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.