Discover Cashback Calendar: Here’s How to Earn Incredible 5% Bonuses [Updated with 2021 Categories]

These bonus opportunities are too good to miss. Here’s how to take advantage of them.
Last updated May 13, 2021 | By Jennifer Calonia
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Another quarter, another fresh list of categories on the Discover cashback calendar. Activating your Cashback Bonus categories can give you a rewards boost and push it to the top as one of the best cash back credit cards, provided you're willing to do some footwork.

Here’s what you need to know about the Discover cashback calendar and the current bonuses available now.

In this article

How does the Discover Cashback Bonus work?

The Discover it Cash Back Credit Card offers a cashback rewards program where cardmembers can earn an unlimited, flat 1% cash back rate on non-bonus categories. One of the biggest appeals of this card, however, is its Cashback Bonus opportunities.

Every quarter, you can earn 5% Cashback Bonus rewards on purchases under specific categories. The purchase categories rotate each quarter, starting from the first day of the first month to the last day of the last month; for example, January 1 through March 31.

Your ability to earn the Cashback Bonus, however, is capped at $1,500 every quarter from the time you activate it. Keep in mind that you must activate the bonus each quarter through your Discover Cashback Bonus account to earn 5% on eligible purchases.

Purchases made using tap-to-pay, your mobile device, or similar methods may not be eligible for the 5% bonus. In some cases, the technology doesn’t give Discover the information it needs to recognize rewards bonus eligibility. Also, third-party partner purchases — like a purchase from a Starbucks that’s inside a Target store — may not qualify.

Earned bonus rewards, based on the Discover cashback calendar, will usually post to your account within two billing cycles.

When does Discover announce its cashback calendar?

In November each year, the card issuer releases its full Discover cashback calendar for the upcoming year. Unlike other cashback credit cards that reveal their bonus categories one by one throughout the year, Discover publishes its entire calendar for the upcoming year. This is a helpful benefit for cardmembers who prefer to plan their eligible bonus transactions ahead of time.

Discover 5% Cashback Bonus categories for 2020 and 2021

Cashback Bonus purchases may be eligible for 5% rewards, if they fall under the following categories:

2021 dates 5% Cashback Bonus categories for 2021 Exclusions
January 1 through March 31 Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS Includes Walmart grocery pickup and delivery purchases, but excludes other Walmart and all Target purchases.
April 1 through June 30 Gas stations, wholesale clubs, and select streaming services Gas stations at supermarkets and supercenters may not be eligible. Delivery services, travel and cell phone purchases at wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Bundled streaming services may not be eligible.
July 1 through September 30 Restaurants and PayPal

Payments through Xoom transfer

Restaurant transactions using PayPal only receive a total of 5% bonus (i.e., doesn’t earn 10%)

October 1 through December 31 Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com In-store purchases


2020 dates 5% Cashback Bonus categories for 2020 Exclusions
January 1 through March 31 Grocery Stores, Walgreens and CVS Walmart and Target grocery purchases

Purchases from convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, and supercenter

April 1 through June 30 Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft and Wholesale Clubs Gas Stations include only merchants that sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets and supercenters may not be eligible.

Uber and Lyft purchases include on those made in the United States.
Purchases of affiliated Wholesale Club services, such as travel and cell phone purchases, may not be eligible in this category.

July 1 through September 30 Restaurants and PayPal Payments through Xoom transfer

Restaurant transactions using PayPal only receive a total of 5% bonus (i.e., doesn’t earn 10%)

October 1 through December 31 Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com In-store purchases

FAQs about the Discover Cashback Bonus

Does Discover give cash back on all purchases?

Yes. If you’ve activated the Cashback Bonus during the quarter, you’ll earn 5% cash back when you use your Discover card. You’ll also earn 1% back on all other purchases.

Is there a limit on Discover cashback rewards?

Discover cashback calendar bonuses have a $1,500 quarterly limit. There’s no maximum for how much cash back you can earn at the 1% rate.

What is Discover Cashback Match?

If you’re a first-time Discover it Cash Back cardholder, you automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earned $252 in cash back after your first year, Discover credit cards will match your cash back by $252.

How do I maximize my Discover Cashback Bonus?

To maximize your Cashback Bonus, make sure to set a calendar alert on your mobile device or computer each quarter to activate the bonus categories. You can also enroll in dining rewards programs and link your Discover it Cash Back Card to maximize your rewards. Overall it's very easy to get a lot of value out of this card since it also has a $0 annual fee.

How do I redeem my Discover Cashback Bonus?

You can redeem your Cashback Bonus through your online account. Once you’re logged into your account, you can see all of your redemption options, including gift cards, depositing the amount to your bank account, applying your rewards to your Discover statement, donating to charity, or using rewards at Amazon.com checkout.

Do Discover cashback rewards expire?

No, Discover Cashback rewards don’t expire. Additionally, if you close your account, Discover will credit your account with your remaining rewards.


Other cards with rotating bonus cash back categories

Discover is not the only credit card issuer to offer cards with bonus cash back categories. Though these other cards don't match your cash back in your first year like Discover, they still present great opportunities to make the most of your spending.

The Chase Freedom Flex Card earns 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal. Past categories have included Walmart, PayPal, streaming services, drugstores, fitness club and gym memberships, gas stations, home improvement stores, Whole Foods, and a variety of other retailers. The Chase Freedom Card also offers these categories, even though it is no longer open for applications.

As with the Discover card, these categories require activation if you want to earn the bonus cash back. Keeping an eye on the Chase Freedom categories will help you know where to spend and when.

Bottom line on Discover cashback calendar

Staying in the know for when the Discover cashback calendar is published and remembering to activate the 5% bonus categories each quarter can help you get the most value out of your Discover it Cash Back Credit Card.

Even if you don’t plan on making purchases under a particular category, it’s a wise move to active your option to earn lucrative quarterly bonuses in case you do. This is the best way to get the most out of this great rewards credit card.

5% Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Benefits

  • Up to 5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Cash back match your first year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Author Details

Jennifer Calonia Jennifer Calonia is a native Los Angeles-based writer and editor with eight years of experience in personal finance. She's passionate about helping others pay off debt, navigate family finance, and use rewards credit cards, responsibly. She's been featured on Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Credit Karma, Nerdwallet, and more. To find more information about her work, visit JenniferCalonia.com.