Discover it® Cash Back Bonus Calendar for 2020

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The Discover it® Cash Back doesn’t charge an annual fee, yet it offers an extremely robust rewards scheme that makes it easy to rack up cash back. Once you sign up, you’ll earn 5 percent back (activation required) on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating categories (then 1 percent), and you’ll also earn 1 percent back on other purchases made with your credit card.

Discover will also match all the rewards you earned the first year of card membership. This means that a rewards stash of $200 in cash back would be doubled to $400 after 12 months or that $400 in rewards would double to $800.

If you’re curious to learn more about how the Discover it® Cash Back works, you can check out Bankrate’s detailed review. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about the Discover rewards calendar.

Discover’s 2020 cash back bonus calendar

One feature that helps this card stand out when compared to many other rewards credit cards is the fact that its bonus categories change each quarter. The Discover calendar dictates which categories dole out 5 percent back in any given month throughout the year, so you can refer to it each quarter as you plan your spending.

To earn the most cash back with this card possible, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Discover 5 percent calendar for 2020. Below, you can compare Discover calendar details for 2019 to see which spending categories remain consistent over time.

2019 Discover it® categories 2020 Discover it® categories
Q1: January – March
  • Grocery stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
Q2: April – June
  • Gas stations
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Gas stations
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Wholesale clubs
Q3: July – September
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Q4: October – December
  • Target
  • Target

How to activate Discover categories

One detail to note about the Discover it® Cash Back card is the fact that you won’t earn 5 percent back in bonus categories automatically. You have to “activate” this feature on your card, which you can do on your credit card’s online account management page.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve activated each quarter’s bonus categories or not, you can also check using the Discover website.

Making the most of this quarter’s bonus categories

Earning cash-back with a credit card is easy since all you have to do is use your credit card for regular spending and bills. Provided you pay your credit card balance in full each month, you can avoid being charged interest and actually save money.

But, how can you make the most of quarterly bonus categories? Consider these tips:

  • Use your card for grocery store spending through the end of March. The first quarter of this year, which includes January through March, lets you earn 5 percent back on grocery store spending and Walgreens and CVS purchases. You should make sure you’re using your Discover it® Cash Back for all your supermarket purchases as well as any extras or prescriptions you could pick up from these two drugstores. Remember that you’ll earn 5 percent back on the first $1,500 you spend within these categories (activation required), then 1 percent.
  • Focus on transportation. For April through June of this year, you’ll want to make sure you use your card each time you fill up at the gas station. Also make sure to link your Discover it® Cash Back to your Uber and Lyft accounts so you can earn 5 percent back on rideshares the first $1,500 you spend within these categories (activation required), then 1 percent.
  • Use your card for purchases at Costco, Sam’s Club and other wholesale stores. Since wholesale clubs are included in April through June’s 5 percent category, this quarter is a good time to stock up on bulk groceries and other household goods. Make sure to use your credit card each time you shop at Costco, Sam’s Club or any other wholesale stores in your area. Remember that you’ll earn 5 percent back on the first $1,500 you spend within these categories (activation required), then 1 percent.

How do the Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories compare to Chase Freedom® rotating categories?

If you like the rotating bonus category this card offers but haven’t signed up yet, you may want to compare this card to the Chase Freedom. Like the Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom also offers 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in combined purchases on rotating bonus categories after activation (then 1 percent), as well as 1 percent back on all other purchases.

Unlike the Discover it® Cash Back, Chase doesn’t announce its full calendar of categories at the beginning of each year; instead, categories are revealed throughout the year before each quarter begins.

If you’re curious about this card, you should check out Bankrate’s Chase Freedom review and take note of its 2020 bonus categories:

  • January – March: Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; select streaming services
  • April – June: Grocery stores (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases), fitness clubs and gym memberships
  • July – September: To be announced
  • October through December: To be announced

How to redeem rewards

A major benefit of the Discover it® Cash Back is the flexibility of the rewards you earn. Unlike other rewards credit cards that make you build up a minimum balance of rewards before you redeem, the Discover it® Cash Back lets you redeem rewards for cash back into a bank account or for purchases made through or in any amount.

You can redeem for a gift card when you’ve accrued at least $20 in rewards, and Discover even adds a $5 bonus on some gift cards at that threshold. You can also donate your rewards to charity.

Your rewards will never expire, and you can execute any of these rewards options by calling Discover or logging into your online account management page.

Bottom line

The Discover it® Cash Back card makes it easy to earn rewards without an annual fee, but you should be careful to pay attention to the Discover rewards calendar categories. Given the 5 percent back on the first $1,500 you spend in the quarterly bonus categories (activation required) you’ll earn with this card, the extra effort is worth it.

Just make sure you “activate” your bonus categories each quarter so you can make the most of your spending.