Discover it® Cash Back Categories for 2020

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The Discover it® Cash Back is a no annual fee card that offers 5% cash back at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate and an unlimited 1% cash back on everything else. You can earn hundreds of dollars in rewards each year — and redeem the rewards in multiple ways, including deposits of any amount right into your checking account. For new cardholders, Discover it® Cash Back also matches all the cash back rewards you earn at the end of your first year, making this a valuable card to own.

There are two catches: you must remember to activate the reward category each month, and you’ll only get 5% back on the first $1,500 spent in the bonus categories each quarter. If you don’t activate, you won’t earn the bonus rewards. Let’s take a look at the upcoming categories for 2020 and how you can take advantage of them.
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Discover it® Cash Back 2020 Categories

  • January to March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
    • You’ll earn a 5% cash back bonus on purchases made at stand-alone grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (including Walgreens.com and CVS.com), on up to $1,500 in purchases, when you activate. Note that you won’t get 5% cash back on grocery or drugstore purchases made at wholesale clubs, supercenters or discount stores.
  • April to June: Gas Stations, Uber, Lyft and Wholesale Clubs
    • You’ll earn 5% cash back for things you buy at wholesale clubs as well as purchases made at stand-alone gas stations and rideshare services like Uber and Lyft, on up to $1,500 in purchases, when you activate. The offer doesn’t extend to affiliated services — like cell phone and travel — at wholesale clubs, nor will you get the 5% if you tank up at a gas station that’s affiliated with a grocery or convenience store.
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal
    • In order to be eligible, the restaurants must be full-service cafes, cafeterias, restaurants and fast food places. Qualifying PayPal purchases must be through PayPal wallet or point-of-sale transactions made on the Discover platform. Money you send to friends and family via PayPal are also eligible when you use your Discover it® Cash Back card.
  • October to December: Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com
    • A wide range of Amazon services, including Prime and Amazon gift cards, are eligible for this bonus. The bonus rate only applies to purchases made online or through the Target or Walmart apps, though you can pick up purchases you made online in Walmart stores.

2020 Calendar: Discover it® Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom®

Chase Freedom® is another card that offers bonus cash back rewards in rotating quarterly categories. Both Chase Freedom® and Discover it® Cash Back offer cash back in their rotating categories, and both cap that bonus reward at $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter. Neither card has an annual fee. Each has a sign up bonus for new cardholders: Discover will match all your cash back at the end of the first year, while Chase Freedom® gives a $200 bonus to cardholders who spend $500 in the first three months.

Unlike Discover it® Cash Back, Chase Freedom® sets a deadline each quarter, after which you can’t activate your rewards. They have chosen not to reveal their 2020 calendar in advance, so it’s hard to know what they will offer, and when. In 2019, they offered the 5% bonus in grocery and home improvement stores, tolls, department stores, PayPal and drug stores.

Quarter Discover it® Cash Back Chase Freedom®
January to March Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS Gas stations, select streaming services, internet, cable and phone services
April to June Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs TBA
July to September Restaurants and PayPal TBA
October to December Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com TBA

How to activate Discover it® Cash Back Bonus Categories

You need to activate your bonus categories in order to receive the cash back — it won’t just happen automatically. You can activate at any time throughout the quarter, but you’ll only get the bonus on purchases you make after the activation date.

Remembering to activate the categories is the tricky part — the process itself is really simple. If you’re already a cardholder, all you need to do is log into the Account Center and click the activation link or call 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683).

How to redeem your Discover it® Cash Back Rewards

Redeeming your cash back bonus rewards is simple. You can do it online from the Account Center or call 1-800-DISCOVER to have an agent walk you through the process.

There are a number of redemption options. You can purchase gift cards (starting at $20), use your rewards to make purchases at Amazon, make select charitable donations, deposit any amount you want directly into your bank account or pay down your statement balance.

Aside from remembering to activate each quarter, the best way to maximize your rewards is to be conscious of where you are using the card. If you normally tank up at a convenience store, find a stand-alone gas station for the quarterly reward period. Shop for wholesale club pantry items when the 5% cash back bonus is in effect. Order from your Walmart app and pick up items in the store to get the bonus points. A little forethought and some painless changes can really boost your rewards.

The bottom line

The 2020 calendar was truly designed with maximizing rewards in mind. Use your Discover it® Cash Back to buy groceries and prescriptions in the winter, stock up on wholesale club purchases all spring, dine out in the summer and buy your holiday gifts in the fall. All you have to do is remember to activate the card. It’s a small price to pay for big rewards.

Please Note: Information about the Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom® have been collected independently by TheSimpleDollar.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

Editorial Note: Compensation does not influence our recommendations. However, we may earn a commission on sales from the companies featured in this post. To view a list of partners, click here. Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers. Reasonable efforts are made to present accurate info, however all information is presented without warranty. Consult our advertiser's page for terms & conditions.

Valerie Fulton
Valerie Fulton
Contributing Writer

Valerie Fulton is a freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, real estate, higher education, home improvement and business copy. Her work has been published at Veros Real Estate Solutions, Bluehost, Sears, UPS, Movoto, Peak Communications and the University of Tennessee. Every summer, she travels from Austin, Texas to the coast of Maine with her two standard poodles in order to manage the vacation property she bought for a steal several years ago.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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