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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, to boot.
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||5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in activated rotating bonus categories each quarter (then 1% back); 1% back on all other purchases||$1,500 quarterly cap on the 5% category||$0|
|Chase Freedom Flex℠||$200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months||5% cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%) and on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases; 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2025); 3% back on dining and drugstore purchase; 1% back on all other purchases||$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||5% cash back (on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1%) on your top eligible spending category each billing cycle||$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||5% cash back on purchases in two categories of your choice (up to $2,000 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%); 5% back on prepaid airfare, hotel stays and car rentals through the Rewards Travel Center; 2% back on one choice everyday category; 1% back on all other purchases||$2,000 cap per quarter on the 5% choice categories||$0|
Discover it Cash Back
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 card gives cardholders access to a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 25.99 percent.
- 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 it bonus rewards categories for 2022
The 2022 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 2022:
- January through March: Grocery stores, fitness clubs and gym memberships
- April through June: Gas stations and Target
- July through September: Restaurants and PayPal
- October through December: Amazon.com and digital wallets
Chase Freedom Flex
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 17.99 percent to 26.74 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 2022
Chase Freedom Flex 2022 bonus categories are announced on a quarterly basis. While the first quarter of the year offered bonus rewards at grocery stores (excluding Walmart and Target) and eBay, Chase recently announced that the current quarter’s categories (April through June 2022) include Amazon.com and select streaming services.
Citi Custom Cash
The Citi Custom Cash 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 eligible 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 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 17.74 percent to 27.74 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
Citi Custom Cash bonus rewards categories for 2022
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.
U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature
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 (18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR after).
- You get to pick your 5 percent categories each quarter, as well as your everyday spending category
- 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
- 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 2022
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
- 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 and EV charging stations
- Grocery stores
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 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 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 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 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, 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 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.