Your guide to Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories

A young boy having fun on a shopping cart while out buying groceries with his family.

If you have a Discover it® Cash Back card, you have the opportunity to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at various types of venues every quarter. Cardholders must activate their Discover rotating rewards in order to be eligible for the quarterly maximum.

If it’s your first year with the card, Discover will match the total cash back you’ve earned at the end of the first year. This includes Discover rotating rewards and the unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Here’s a look at the Discover it Cash Back rotating categories so you can maximize your cash back rewards all year long.

The first 2020 quarter at a glance

The first 5% cash back bonus quarter for the Discover it Cash Back card in 2020 is for CVS stores, grocery stores and Walgreens. You can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in this quarter, equal to $75. After that, all other purchases in these places will be eligible for 1% cash back.

Cash back bonuses for this 5% category are eligible through March 31, 2020. Purchases must be made at standalone venues or at, or through the Walgreens or CVS apps. Purchases made at convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, supercenters, Target, Walmart and other types of venues are not eligible. Be sure to read the fine print so you know which places are eligible for 5% cash back.

You can find the full 2020 5% cash back bonus calendar online. Make sure you log in to your card account to check that you’re activated for the quarter and don’t miss out on 5% cash back rewards. Rewards are added to your Discover cash back bonus account within two billing periods.

Category zoom: April-June 2020 — Wholesale Clubs, Uber, Gas Stations and Lyft 

  • Purchases made from April 1 through June 30, 2020, at gas stations and wholesale clubs and on Uber and Lyft rides may be eligible for 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in transactions.
  • You can activate this category beginning February 1, 2020.
  • Eligible gas station purchases are only for those at merchants that sell automotive gasoline inside the station or at the pump. Those affiliated with supercenters and supermarkets may not be eligible.
  • Certain wholesale club service purchases, like travel or cell phone purchases, may not be eligible for 5% cash back.

Category zoom: July-September 2020 — Restaurants and PayPal

  • Purchases made from July 1 through September 30, 2020, at restaurants and PayPal may be eligible for 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in transactions.
  • You can activate this category beginning May 1, 2020.
  • Eligible restaurant purchases are only for those at merchants that are classified as full-service fast food locations, cafes, cafeterias and restaurants.
  • Eligible PayPal transactions for 5% cash back must be made through the online PayPal wallet, at point-of-sale purchases using PayPal here or when sending money to Friends and Family via PayPal using your Discover card.

Activating your bonus

To enroll in the Discover it Cash Back category bonus, log in to your Account Center to activate. If you need to register for the Account Center, you can do so online. Once you’re in, navigate to the cash back bonus tab and click “Activate Now.” That’s it.

You can also call 1-800-DISCOVER to activate your 5% cash back opportunities every quarter. You may want to send yourself a reminder of the dates you can begin activating your 5% cash back rotating categories. That way, you can do so early and won’t have to worry about missing out on any potential earnings.

Maximizing your bonus

The first step to maximizing your 5% cash back bonus is to read the fine print of each category. Each category will likely have exclusions, and you don’t want to spend somewhere in the hopes of getting extra cash back when you’re not eligible.

In some cases, you may need to amend your normal routine in order to maximize your cash back. For example, if you typically get your gas at a supercenter, you’ll want to switch to standalone gas stations during the gas station 5% cash back category, until you maximize your purchases. Then, you can switch back.

Some categories may require that you change your shopping habits. For example, the fourth quarter category from October through December 2020 is for, and purchases. If you’re used to hitting Black Friday sales in person, you might want to plan for some Cyber Monday shopping in 2020 instead to get rewards.

Contact Discover customer service when you need clarification on cash back categories. You may be able to message a Discover agent online, or you can call 1-800-DISCOVER for help.

A final note before you earn 

The 5% cash back Discover rewards rate is one of the highest cash back rates you’ll find with any card. But you’ll miss out if you forget to activate, or if you neglect to make purchases in the Discover rotating rewards categories.

If you have this card, make sure you remember which categories provide 5% cash back rewards and that you’ve activated early for each quarter. You may want to adjust your spending habits to meet the requirements of the rewards. Take a look at the 2020 calendar so you have an idea of where to spend as the year goes on so you can get the most cash back rewards.

If you’re new to the Discover it Cash Back rewards program, be mindful of any other rewards cards you might have. You’ll want to get the most bang for your buck with your card usage, so plan to use the Discover it Cash Back card for at least the 5% cash back categories. Then, make other purchases with the cards that will reward you the most.