How to Get the Most Out of the Discover it Cash Back Card
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The Discover it® Cash Back card is a valuable option for those who don't want a set-it-and-forget-it cash-back card, but instead enjoy maximizing their rewards.
The $0-annual fee card earns 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in combined spending per quarter), and 1% after that. All other non-bonus category spending earns 1% back.
Making the most of the card’s elevated rewards means keeping track of and activating new bonus categories when they rotate. Here’s how to maximize your rewards with the card.
Take advantage of the potentially rich sign-up bonus
The card features a unique sign-up bonus for new cardholders, which Discover phrases this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300."
This means that whatever cash back you earn will be automatically doubled at the end of your first 12 months of having the card.
Aim to align spending with bonus categories
Unlike some other cards with 5% rotating bonus categories, Discover has been announcing all of its quarterly bonus categories at once, rather than revealing them slowly, quarter by quarter. Bonus categories have historically included popular spending areas like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and more (activation is required). And seeing all of these categories upfront allows you to better plot out your spending for the full year.
Discover bonus rewards categories for 2023
Q1 (Jan. 1–March 31)
• Grocery stores*. • Drugstores. • Select streaming services.
Q2 (April 1–June 30)
• Restaurants. • Wholesale clubs.
Q3 (July 1–Sept. 30)
TBD (In 2022: Restaurants; PayPal).
Q4 (Oct. 1–Dec. 31)
TBD (In 2022: Amazon.com; digital wallets).
*The grocery stores category does not include grocery purchases at Walmart or Target or at other superstores or wholesale clubs.
If possible, aim to group your spending in each category so that more of it occurs during the bonus period, at least until you reach the $1,500 spending cap.
Of course, some expenses can be delayed until the bonus category period while others cannot. For instance, you may be able to save a non-pressing home improvement project until a later quarter when you can earn elevated rewards for related spending. But you’ll still need to fill your gas tank regardless of whether that’s a current bonus category.
If you're nearing the end of the quarter and you haven't reached the $1,500 spending cap, you can also consider buying a gift certificate at an in-category store where you frequently shop, which can be useful even after the quarter has ended.
Activate bonus categories
You’ll only be able to earn the card’s elevated rewards once cash-back categories have been activated online. This means that while you can opt in any time before the quarter ends, you'll only get 5% back starting from the date you sign up.
If you're likely to forget, consider setting a reminder for the start of each new quarter — Jan. 1, April 1, July 1 and Oct. 1 — so that you can take advantage of bonus cash back for the entire quarter.
Don't overspend on bonus categories
Avoid breaking the budget just for a little extra cash back in your rewards account. Instead, consider maximizing your Discover it® Cash Back rewards on things you would've spent money on anyway.
Pair the Discover it® Cash Back with another card
Keeping track of this card’s rotating bonus categories requires some effort. But if you’re able to manage multiple cards at once, it can be valuable to pair the Discover it® Cash Back with another card. Here are a few options.
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Consider coupling the Discover it® Cash Back with an easy-to-use flat-rate card that earns a fixed rewards rate regardless of what you purchase. This way, you’ll also be able to earn an elevated rewards rate on everyday purchases not included among Discover’s 5% bonus categories.
The $0-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, for instance, pays an unlimited 2% back on all purchases.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you spend consistently in one area like travel, for instance, you might want to also carry a card that will reward you for travel-related spending year-round.
For example, in addition to bonus rewards for various other spending, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card pays 5 points per $1 spent on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 2 points per $1 spent on travel not purchased through the issuer’s portal — available all year and with no cap. The card charges an annual fee of $95.
Chase Freedom Flex℠
If you’re a super rewards maximizer who has no trouble keeping track of numerous spending categories, carrying two rotating bonus category card’s might have its advantages. If you have both the Discover it® Cash Back and the Chase Freedom Flex℠, for instance, that increases the chances that there will be an active 5% rewards category in one of your largest budget areas at any given time.
The $0-annual-fee Chase Freedom Flex℠ also features 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly spending (activation required). It also earns 5% on Chase travel purchased through Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other non-bonus-category purchases.
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