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How I’m using my Discover it Cash Back this holiday season

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It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year again. I’m one of those people who like to go all-in on my favorite holidays, and with Christmas being one of them, I’m anticipating the tears my budget will shed.

As a moderately frugal person, I always look for simple ways to save money on holiday shopping, such as deals, sales and price comparison tools.

My favorite method, however, is simply shopping with the right rewards credit card. During the holiday season, that card for me is the Discover it® Cash Back.

Here’s how I’m planning to use my Discover it Cash Back for Christmas shopping and how much I’m anticipating saving.

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Why I love the Discover it Cash Back

A little bit about the card first: Discover it Cash Back is a cash back credit card that earns 5 percent cash back in bonus categories that you need to activate every quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, then 1 percent). All other purchases will get you 1 percent back. At the end of your first year with the card, Discover also matches all the cash back you’ve earned as an intro offer, sweetening the deal.

The bonus categories rotate quarterly. Unlike Chase, which maintains a veil of mystery, announcing the Chase Freedom Flex categories right before they launch, Discover reveals its cash back calendar in its entirety a year ahead.

This is what the Discover cash back calendars are looking like for 2021 and 2022:

Quarter 2021 categories 2022 categories
Winter (January – March) Grocery stores
Walgreens
CVS
Grocery stores
Fitness clubs
Gym memberships
Spring (April – June) Gas stations
Select streaming services
Wholesale clubs
Gas stations
Target
Summer (July – September) Restaurants
PayPal
Restaurants
PayPal
Holiday (October – December) Amazon.com
Target.com
Walmart.com
Amazon.com
Digital wallets

As you can see, this holiday season, the Discover it Cash Back rewards you generously for shopping on Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com.

These are my three favorite places for uncontrollable shopping (I’m only joking—always exercise self-control when shopping so you don’t incur credit card debt). Plus, there’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas sales. The potential for savings is enormous.

How I’m saving with the Discover it Cash Back this holiday season

Last November, I saved $325 shopping with my Discover it Cash Back. I maxed out the 5 percent categories and scored a few deals, including Cashback Match and some deals exclusive to Discover cardholders.

My goal back then was to furnish my apartment as I’d moved in 2020. The Discover it Cash Back was a huge help, especially considering its 15-month 0 percent intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers (12.24 percent to 23.24 percent variable APR after that).

Now, however, I can fully focus on holiday spending.

I’m a devoted online shopper. The fact that the Discover it Cash Back allows me to earn such a high cash back rate from some of the largest retailers this quarter makes my Amazon-addicted heart swell with pre-holiday cheer.

First things first, I’m going to need a nice Christmas tree. I only got a small one last year because buying furniture was my priority. This year, I’m doing it right. My colleagues recommended Walmart.com for nice budget-friendly Christmas trees, so that’s where I’m planning to order one.

I also need more Christmas décor overall. Target is often my destination of choice when I need things to make my home prettier, and I don’t anticipate this time to be different. Hopefully, shopping at Target.com will help me stay within my décor budget because that rarely happens when I shop in-store.

Finally, the largest chunk of my holiday budget will go toward gifts. I’ll be purchasing most of them on Amazon. It’s especially convenient because so many of my friends live in a different state, and Amazon makes it incredibly easy to shop someone’s wish list and send the gift directly to them without hitting the post office.

See related: Best credit cards for shopping on Amazon.com

As you’ve probably guessed, I’m getting 5 percent back on all of this spending with my Discover it Cash Back.

That said, I’m not planning to max out the bonus categories’ $1,500 cap just with holiday spending. I hope to keep my total budget under $1,000. I’ll spend the remaining $500 on daily basics, including essentials like toiletries and household supplies bought on Amazon and groceries from Amazon Fresh.

To sum this up, this quarter, I’m living off Amazon, Target.com and Walmart.com and earning 5 percent back on as much of my spending as I can. I’ll also be on the lookout for deals, as those can also help you save significantly.

Why you should look into Discover it Cash Back too

‘Tis the season of giving—and the season of spending. But even if it wasn’t, I’d still recommend this card.

Amazon, Walmart and Target are major retailers, and it’s hard to imagine what you can’t buy from any of them. This makes earning cash back easy. This would be a fantastic bonus category at any time of the year, but for many, that’s especially true in the fourth quarter.

Another important thing is, I only had fair credit when I applied in 2020. Supposedly, you need good credit to get a decent rewards card like this, but my Experian FICO score was at 660 when I got approved for the Discover it Cash Back. I can only assume my previous relationship with the issuer might have played a role since I also have a savings account with Discover, but that’s pure speculation and might have made no difference at all.

For that reason, I think you might want to take a chance too—even if your credit isn’t good yet. If you don’t see Discover it Cash Back in CardMatch, you can try to get preapproved before you apply. Preapproval doesn’t affect your credit score and can show you which Discover cards you’re likely to qualify for.

Good luck! Meanwhile, I’m going to start a list of all the gift cards I’m going to buy at grocery stores in the first quarter of 2022 to get another $75 in cash back.

Written by
Ana Staples
Credit Cards Reporter and Young Credit Analyst
Ana Staples is a reporter for Bankrate and an expert on all things credit basics and personal finance for the younger generation.
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News