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Guide to the 2022 Discover cash back calendar

A man using his phone to pay for drinks at the table in a British pub.
Georgeclerk/Getty Images
A man using his phone to pay for drinks at the table in a British pub.
Georgeclerk/Getty Images
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While some cash back credit cards offer a flat rewards rate for each dollar you spend, the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover it® Student Cash Back take a different approach.

Cardholders will earn a flat 1 percent cash back for all regular spending with both cards, but they will also earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 they spend each quarter in rotating categories (activation required). After you hit that limit, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back on any additional purchases in these rotating categories. Both cards also come with no annual fee, making either a good choice to keep in your wallet.

Discover also takes a different approach when it comes to welcome bonuses. Instead of a traditional cash bonus that you earn when you meet a minimum spending requirement, Discover will match all the rewards you earn during 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 either the Discover it Cash Back or the Discover it Student Cash Back, you’ll need to know which categories provide higher cash back rewards. This guide explains Discover’s rotating categories for all of 2022, along with how you can best utilize its cash back calendar.

Discover’s 5% cash back calendar for 2022

Discover’s cash back bonus categories change each quarter, allowing cardholders to consistently choose the categories in which they’ll earn 5 percent 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 2022 Discover cash back calendar. Below, you can also compare Discover calendar details for 2022 to 2020 and 2021 to see which spending categories have remained consistent over time.

Quarter 2020 Discover it categories 2021 Discover it categories 2022 Discover it categories
Q1: January-March
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Gym memberships
Q2: April-June
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Select streaming services
  • Gas stations
  • Target
Q3: July-September
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Q4: October-December
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Digital wallets

As you can see, the 2022 calendar includes many of the same bonus categories it did in 2021. However, for Q1 2022, Walgreens and CVS were replaced with fitness clubs and gym memberships. For Q2 2022, streaming services and wholesale clubs were replaced with Target. The Uber and Lyft categories still haven’t come back since 2020.

Also, you’ll notice that the 2022 Q4 bonus category has replaced Target.com and Walmart.com with digital wallet purchases. Eligible digital wallets include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay and Garmin Pay.

How to activate Discover categories

You won’t earn your 5 percent cash back bonuses with the Discover it Cash Back card or the 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 click on “Log In to Activate.”

Making the most of Q4’s bonus categories

In the fourth quarter of 2022 — October through December — you can earn 5 percent back at Amazon.com and via digital wallets. Consider the following tips to get the most out of these bonus categories:

  • Stock up, purchase big-ticket items or get Amazon gift cards. What can’t you buy on Amazon? If there are items you regularly buy from Amazon, consider buying in bulk this quarter to get a discount with your cash back. This could include anything from nonperishable food items to consumables like paper towels or garbage bags. Plus, this quarter is an ideal time to purchase more expensive items like electronics, clothes or home furnishings — or even holiday gifts. Also, note that your 5 percent cash back counts toward Amazon.com gift cards and Prime subscriptions.
  • Tap your phone to pay. Like Q3’s PayPal category, simply add your card to your preferred digital wallet — such as Apple Pay, Google Pay or Samsung Pay — to pay for items online or in store wherever digital wallets are accepted (which is most major retailers).

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, the Discover it Cash Back and the Discover it Student Cash Back let you redeem rewards in the form of a direct deposit to your account or a statement credit on your card in any amount.

You can also redeem your rewards for a gift card 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 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 the Discover it Student Cash Back make it easy to earn rewards without an annual fee, but you’ll get more out of either card 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 during those first 12 months. Just be sure to activate your bonus rewards each quarter so you don’t miss out.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
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