Discover releases entire 2018 cash back calendar

Discover cash back calendar

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers.

Discover is switching things up for 2018. Instead of announcing its bonus cash back categories on a quarter-per-quarter basis, they have decided to announce the full 2018 calendar in advance. In fact, you can even activate the first quarter bonus category – gas stations and wholesale clubs – now.

Director of rewards strategy at Discover, Nidhin Mattappally, explained that this change is an attempt to allow cardholders to earn the most from their Discover card, stating, “Now, our card members can see upfront where they can earn 5 percent cash back for the entire year.”

According to Discover, the 2018 calendar is designed to include more places where Discover it and Discover More card members routinely shop. See the categories and activation dates below:

DISCOVER 5 PERCENT CASH BACK CALENDAR 2018*
January - March
Gas stations and wholesale clubs
Activate now
April - June
Grocery stores
Activate starting Feb. 1, 2018
July - September
Restaurants
Activate starting May 1, 2018
October - December
Amazon.com and wholesale clubs
Activate starting Aug. 1, 2018

*On up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter

While several of Discover’s 2018 categories are the same as those from 2017, the major items that stand out are the absence of ground transportation, home improvement stores and Target stores. However, if you frequently shop at wholesale clubs, you’ll still come out on top with the 2018 categories. Because Discover plans to offer the bonus rate at wholesale clubs during the first and fourth quarters of 2018, you can earn 5 percent back at stores like Sam’s and Costco for half of 2018. Since the 5 percent bonus applies to up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter and drops to 1 percent after that, you can potentially earn more than $150 cash back at wholesale clubs during 2018.

In the meantime, Discover continues to offer 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at Amazon.com and Target through the end of 2017. If you haven’t done so already, activate your 2017 fourth quarter bonus category here. While you’re at it, you can go ahead and activate the first quarter bonus category for 2018 as well.

Read on for everything you need to know about Discover’s cash back bonus, including the 2017 calendar, our suggestions to maximize the 5-percent rate and how Discover’s bonus categories compare to those of Chase.

Earning 5 percent back at Amazon and Target through 2017

From October through December 2017, Discover it and Discover More cardholders can earn 5 percent back at Amazon.com and Target on up to $1,500 in combined spending. With Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holiday shopping season upon us, this is a great opportunity to buy everything you need from Amazon and Target, all while earning 5 percent cash back. 

Here’s what you need to know at a glance:

  • You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5 percent back.
  • The fourth quarter bonus category is active from Oct. 1, 2017 – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through Dec. 31, 2017.
  • The bonus is capped at $1,500 per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.
DISCOVER 5 PERCENT CASH BACK CALENDAR 2017*
January - March
Gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs
April - June
Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs
July - September
Restaurants
October - December
Amazon.com and more

*On up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter

What is included/excluded in the “Amazon” category?

The Amazon category covers a broad range of items, including purchases made through Amazon.com checkout, digital downloads, Amazon.com gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals and third-party merchants through Amazon.com’s marketplace, according to Discover’s website. The bonus rate also covers the Amazon Prime membership fee.

What is included/excluded in the “Target” category?

The Target category covers in-store and online purchases made at Target and SuperTarget, including food, clothing, cleaning supplies, electronics and more.

Note that individual merchants and stand-alone stores within physical Target locations may be excluded from the 5 percent category. So, for example, if you buy a coffee from the Starbucks within a Target store, you may not receive 5 percent cash back from that purchase.

Additionally, purchases made using third-party payment accounts, tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible. To avoid possibly missing out on the 5 percent bonus rate, use your physical Discover card at Target instead of your mobile wallet through the end of 2017.

Tips for maximizing your 5 percent cash back at Amazon

  • If you have an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa or Amazon.com Store card, use those cards to earn 5 percent on your Amazon purchases and save the Discover card bonus for your Target purchases.
  • Sign up for or renew an annual Prime membership during the fourth quarter to get 5 percent back on your membership fee and receive free two-day shipping for the next 12 months.
  • Look for special sales and discounts on items for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holiday season.
  • Purchase household supplies, groceries, personal items and more using Subscribe & Save to save up to 20 percent.
  • Take advantage of extra savings at Amazon:
    • Save 10 percent or more through limited-time promotions on Lightning Deals. Prime members get 30-minute early access to Lightning Deals.
    • Save on everyday items with Amazon’s online coupons.
    • Shop Amazon Warehouse for used products, such as laptops and lawn equipment.
    • Shop Amazon Outlet for lower-priced, overstocked items.

Tips for maximizing your 5 percent cash back at Target

  • If you have a Target REDcard, use it to earn unlimited 5 percent on your Target purchases, and save the Discover card bonus for your Amazon purchases.
  • Do your holiday shopping at Target and get free shipping on orders of $35 or more, plus free returns.
  • Purchase household items through Target’s subscription delivery service, and save 5 percent. (You can save an additional 5 percent by using your REDcard.)
  • Look for special sales and discounts on items during Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the holiday season.
  • Access extra savings through Cartwheel, printable coupons and weekly ads.

Stacking your rewards

Look for additional savings on Discover Deals to stack with your 5 percent discount. Current promotions include:

  • Up to a $25 Sam’s Club gift card when you sign up for or renew your membership through Dec. 31, 2017.
  • 5 percent cash back at Macys.com. (Ongoing)
  • 5 percent cash back at Walmart.com (Ongoing)
  • 5 percent cash back at Bloomingdales.com. (Ongoing)

Comparing Discover and Chase bonus categories

Chase also offers a 5 percent cash back bonus in categories that rotate quarterly. From Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, 2017, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 at Walmart and department stores.

CHASE VERSUS DISCOVER CASH BACK CATEGORIES 2017
  Discover
Discover
Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom
January – March Gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls and Amtrak purchases)
April – June Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs Grocery stores and drugstores (including Walmart and Target purchases)
July – September Restaurants Restaurants and movie theaters
October – December Amazon.com and Target Walmart and department storese

Which card offers the best deal? Ultimately, we believe it boils down to your shopping preferences. 

If you prefer Target or Amazon over Walmart, then Discover offers the better deal. Along with the 5-percent cash back bonus for Discover it and More cardholders, Target shoppers enjoy free shipping on orders of $35 or more, plus free returns. Amazon shoppers also receive 5 percent back on Amazon.com purchases, including digital downloads, Amazon.com gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals and Prime memberships.

Like Chase Freedom cardholders, Discover cardholders can earn a 5 percent cash back rate at Walmart and select department stores through Discover Deals for a limited time. But keep in mind that you can only use Discover Deals for purchases made online and not in-store. Discover has not yet specified when the Walmart bonus will end.

If you prefer shopping at Walmart or department stores, Chase offers the better deal. Walmart is ideal for those who prefer the convenience of shopping for a broad range of low-priced items all in one place. Although Discover currently offers a 5 percent bonus rate at Walmart.com through Discover Deals, Chase gives more flexibility by allowing cardholders to earn the bonus rate in-store and online. In addition to covering Walmart, Walmart Supercenters and Walmart.com in its bonus category, Chase also includes Walmart branded gas stations – letting you earn 5 percent back at the pump.

Besides low-priced items, Walmart offers free two-day shipping on purchases of $35 or more as well as free in-store pickup on select items. Customers can also order groceries online, and get free same-day pickup.

On top of the 5 percent bonus earned at department stores during the fourth quarter, Freedom cardholders can earn additional cash back through Chase’s shopping portal – for a total of up to 11 percent cash back. Shop through Chase offers promotional cash back bonuses at select retailers. For example, the Freedom card currently offers 5 percent back at Macy’s, plus an additional 6 percent bonus when you use the shopping portal. Chase has not yet specified when the 6 percent bonus rate at Macys.com will end.

See related: Chase Freedom categories 2017: Earn 5 percent back at Walmart in Q4, Credit card special offers and limited-time promotions

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy


Join the discussion
We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

If you are commenting using a Facebook account, your profile information may be displayed with your comment depending on your privacy settings. By leaving the 'Post to Facebook' box selected, your comment will be published to your Facebook profile in addition to the space below.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company's business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.




Weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, advice, articles and tips delivered to your inbox. It's FREE.


Updated: 11-24-2017