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Discover's changing things up a little for 2018. Instead of announcing its 5% cash-back categories one at a time over the course of the year, the issuer is releasing the full list right now.
Discover's cash-back cards give you 5% back in bonus categories that change every three months, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, and 1% cash back on all other spending. Cardholders have to opt in, or "activate," the bonus categories each quarter. Cards that earn 5% back include the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover it® Student Cash Back.
The 2018 categories are:
Q1 (January - March): Gas stations and wholesale clubs
Q2 (April - June): Grocery stores
Q3 (July - September): Restaurants
Q4 (October - December): Amazon.com and wholesale clubs
All of these are everyday categories, so Discover cardholders might not have to rearrange their spending to maximize their rewards. Still, if you're planning a vacation for July and expect to spend a lot at restaurants, you'll know you can earn back a nice chunk by bringing your Discover card.
Plus, it can be just as helpful to know which categories won't be in play over the next year. In both 2016 and 2017, for example, Discover had home improvement stores as a 5% category during one quarter. If you were planning a major DIY project, you could have gotten up to $60 more cash back by timing your purchases in the right quarter. So knowing ahead of time that home improvement isn't on Discover's 2018 docket means you can, say, order your cabinets without worrying that you'll miss out on extra cash.
The other major 5% bonus category cash-back card on the market, the Chase Freedom®, hasn't released 2018 categories yet.