Which 5% rotating bonus category card is right for me?

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Where some rewards credit cards offer a flat rate of points for each dollar you charge, others offer tiered bonus categories that let you maximize rewards with strategic spending. On top of that, you’ll find credit cards that give out a higher rate of rewards in categories that rotate throughout the year, typically each quarter.

The best rewards credit cards with rotating categories offer 5 percent back, in addition to some other major perks you can enjoy. Some cards even let you earn a generous sign-up bonus when you can meet a minimum spending requirement in the first few months.

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 Available to new cardholders? Annual fee
Discover it® Cash Back Discover will double your rewards after the first year Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories (then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases Unlimited Yes $0
Chase Freedom Flex℠ Earn $200 in bonus cash when you spend $500 within three months of account opening Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories (then 1% back), 5% back on travel through Chase, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1% back on other purchases Unlimited Yes $0
Citi Custom Cash℠ Card Earn $200 after spending $750 in the first three months Earn 5% back in top eligible spending category each billing cycle (on $500, then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases Unlimited for 1% back Yes $0
Citi® Dividend Card* None Earn 5% back in rotating bonus categories (then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases $300 per year No $0
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card* $150 rewards bonus after you spend $500 on eligible purchases within 90 days of account opening Earn 5% back on up to $2,000 in combined spending each quarter within two categories you choose (then 1% back), 2% back in one everyday category (groceries, gas or restaurants) and 1% back on other purchases

 

 

Unlimited Yes $0
ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard®* $150 statement credit after you spend $2,000 on purchases within 90 days of account opening Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories (then 1% back) and 1% back on other purchases Unlimited No $0

Discover it Cash Back Credit Card

The Discover it® Cash Back lets cardholders earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in 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 double all the rewards you earn after the first year.

Additionally, the Discover it Cash Back card gives cardholders access to 0 percent APR for purchases and balance transfers for 14 months, followed by a variable APR of 11.99 percent to 22.99 percent.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • Rewards are unlimited, and rewards earned on Discover credit cards are doubled after the first year
  • 0 percent APR intro offer helps you save money when you carry a balance or transfer high-interest debt
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

The downsides:

  • No traditional sign-up bonus
  • Caps on quarterly bonus spending
  • 3 percent intro balance transfer fee, up to 5 percent fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

Discover it bonus rewards categories for 2021

The 2021 Discover Cash Back calendar shares some promising rewards categories for the rest of the year. Cardholders can rack up bonus rewards based on the following schedule in 2021:

  • January through March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
  • April through June: Gas stations, wholesale clubs and select streaming services
  • July through September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October through December: Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Chase Freedom Flex Credit Card

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is unique in the fact it offers so many bonus categories. Cardholders can earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent back), but they also earn 5 percent back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases. All regular, non-bonus spending earns 1 percent back.

There’s no annual fee, and the Chase Freedom Flex sweetens the pot with a $200 bonus for new cardholders who spend $500 within three months of account opening. You can also qualify for 0 percent APR on purchases for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 23.74 percent.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • Exceptional earning rates, even outside of the generous rotating categories
  • Lucrative sign-up bonus worth $200
  • No annual fee
  • 0 percent APR intro offer can help you save money on interest
  • Get extra benefits like purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties and cellphone protection

The downsides:

  • Caps on quarterly bonus spending
  • Chase reveals 5 percent bonus categories one at a time so it’s difficult to plan ahead
  • 3 percent foreign transaction fee

Chase Freedom bonus rewards categories for 2021

Chase Freedom Flex 2021 bonus categories are announced on a quarterly basis. The current quarter (April through June 2021) lets cardholders earn 5 percent back at gas stations and home improvement stores, and Chase recently announced that the July to September quarter will feature bonus categories of grocery stores and select streaming services.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card rewards your top spending category each billing cycle. It’s easy to claim your 5 percent category because it automatically rewards your top eligible category. You earn 5 percent cash back on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent, in your top category each billing cycle. You also earn 1 percent on your other purchases. The Citi Custom Cash takes the spot of one of the easiest 5 percent cards to use since you don’t have to remember to activate your bonus category.

The card has no annual fee. It also offers a welcome bonus worth $200 in cash back after you spend $750 on the card within the first three months. Additionally, you can enjoy 0 percent APR for the first 15 months on both purchases and balance transfer, followed by a regular APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • Easy to use since your top eligible category is automatically rewarded with 5 percent back each billing cycle
  • Great sign-up bonus worth $200
  • No annual fee

The downsides:

  • 5 percent category is capped at $500 of spending each billing cycle
  • Only 1 percent back on all other purchases

Citi Custom Cash bonus rewards categories for 2021

Your bonus category isn’t pre-determined, 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.

Citi Dividend Card

The Citi Dividend Card is no longer available to new cardholders, yet current customers can use it to earn 5 percent back in rotating bonus categories and 1 percent back on all other spending. Of note, this Citi credit card caps your total rewards at $300 per year.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • No caps specifically on the 5 percent category spending per quarter
  • No annual fee

The downsides:

  • Not available for new cardholders
  • You can earn a maximum of $300 in rewards per year, including rewards earned in 5 percent categories
  • Citi unveils each 5 percent bonus category one at a time

Citi Dividend bonus rewards categories for 2021

For April through June of 2021, cardholders of the Citi Dividend Card will earn 5 percent back at supermarkets and grocery stores.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card works a little differently than other 5 percent back categories 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 in one everyday category of your choosing (among groceries, gas and restaurants) and 1 percent back on all other spending.

Cardholders can also earn an initial bonus of $150 with the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature card after spending $500 on eligible purchases within 90 days of account opening. A 0 percent APR offer also applies to balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles, after which a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent will apply.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • You get to pick your 5 percent back categories each quarter, as well as your everyday spending category
  • 5 percent back categories include popular options like cellphone providers, electronic stores, department stores, fast food, movie theaters and more
  • Generous bonus offer of $150
  • Save money on balance transfers with 0 percent APR for a limited time

The downsides:

  • Caps on quarterly bonus categories
  • 0 percent APR intro offer does not apply to purchases
  • 2 percent fee for each foreign purchase charged in U.S. dollars; 3 percent foreign transaction fee for purchases made in other currencies

U.S. Bank Cash+ bonus rewards categories for 2021

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature lets you select two 5 percent bonus categories each quarter, as well as a 2 percent back category among everyday options. 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
  • Cellphone providers
  • Electronics stores
  • Gyms and fitness centers
  • Fast food
  • Sporting goods stores
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

2 percent cash back categories: 

  • Gas stations
  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores

ABOC Platinum Mastercard

While the ABOC Platinum Mastercard® is not currently available to new cardholders, Amalgamated Bank of Chicago says this card will be rereleased soon with a new set of features. Current cardholders can use this card to earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in quarterly bonus categories (then 1 percent back) as well as 1 percent back on other purchases. A $150 cash bonus was formerly available to new cardholders who spent $1,200 on purchases within 90 days of account opening. The ABOC Platinum Mastercard doesn’t charge an annual fee.

Pros and cons

What we like:

  • Earn 5 percent back in popular categories
  • Generous $150 bonus is available
  • Older version of the card had 0 percent APR offer for purchases
  • No quarterly activation required
  • No foreign transaction fees

The downsides:

  • Caps on quarterly bonus categories
  • Not available to new cardholders

ABOC Platinum Mastercard bonus rewards categories for 2021

The ABOC Platinum Mastercard has already released its bonus categories for existing cardholders in 2021. For the full year, they include the following:

  • January through March: Groceries, fitness clubs, hospitals and pharmacies
  • April through June: Home improvement, gardening and selected online retailers
  • July through September: Airline, cruise, car rental, hotel, travel agency purchases, gas, tolls and ride-share
  • October through December: Dining and groceries, food delivery services, liquor stores and Amazon.com

How to choose a 5% rotating bonus category card

Choosing the right 5 percent cash back credit card isn’t rocket science, but you should keep a few factors in mind. For example, it helps to look at a card’s 5 percent rewards calendar upfront (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 add up and 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 rewards.
  • Pair multiple cards with different bonus categories: If you like more than one 5 percent cash back credit card due to their unique bonus categories, consider them all. You can use each one 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 back credit card with a flat-rate cash back credit 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 percent back or more 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 categories can be a useful tool, and 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 cash back credit cards and rewards credit cards, including ones that dole out rewards differently. The best 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 the Citi® Dividend Card, U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card and ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard® has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Written by
Holly D. Johnson
Author, Award-Winning Writer
Holly Johnson began her career working in the funeral industry, which may make you wonder why she works in personal finance now. Yet, the funeral industry taught the author everything she needs to know about the value of one's money and time. Johnson left the mortuary business a decade ago in order to explore her passion for personal finance and travel the world, and since then, she and her husband have built a debt-free lifestyle that has them on the path to retire very wealthy in their 40s. Holly's love of budgeting also led to the creation of her debt payoff book, “Zero Down Your Debt: Reclaim Your Income and Build a Life You’ll Love."
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