Discover cash back calendar 2018

Activate the Q2 bonus category

Discover cash back calendar

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Although we’re still in the first quarter of 2018, it’s not too early to start looking ahead to Discover’s next bonus category. In fact, you can activate the second quarter bonus – grocery stores – as of Feb. 1, 2018.

From April through June 2018, Discover it cardholders can earn 5 percent back at grocery stores on up to $1,500 in combined spending upon enrollment. In terms of earning rewards for grocery shopping, 5 percent cash back is a generous rate.

But before we get too ahead of ourselves, keep in mind that Discover continues to offer 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases at gas stations and wholesale clubs through March 31, 2018. If you haven’t done so already, activate your 2018 first quarter bonus category here. While you’re at it, you may as well activate the second quarter bonus category as well.

Read on for everything you need to know about Discover’s cash back bonus, including the full 2018 calendar, our suggestions to maximize the 5-percent rate and how Discover’s bonus categories compare to those of Chase.

Q1 bonus categories

From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2018, Discover it cardholders can earn 5 percent back at gas stations and wholesale clubs on up to $1,500 in combined spending. This is a great opportunity to earn 5 percent back on items you buy every day, including gas, groceries, cleaning supplies and other household items.

Here’s what you need to know about the Q1 bonus at a glance:

  • You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5 percent back.
  • The first quarter bonus is active from Jan. 1, 2018 – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through March 31, 2018.
  • The bonus is capped at $1,500 per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.

Discover’s 2018 cash back calendar

Discover is doing things a little differently this year. Instead of announcing its bonus cash back categories on a quarter-per-quarter basis, they have unveiled the full 2018 calendar in advance.

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

Discover 5 percent cash back calendar 2018

Winter Spring Summer Holiday
January – March
(Activate now)
April – June
(Activate starting Feb. 1, 2018)
July – September
(Activate starting May 1, 2018)
October – December
(Activate starting Aug. 1, 2018)
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Grocery stores
  • Restaurants
  • Wholesale clubs

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 is offering the bonus rate at wholesale clubs during the first AND fourth quarters of 2018, you can essentially earn a bonus at stores like Sam’s and Costco for half of 2018. Since you can earn the bonus on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, and 1 percent cash back after that, you can potentially earn more than $150 cash back at wholesale clubs during 2018.

What is included/excluded in the “gas stations” category?

The category includes purchases made at stand-alone gas stations. Purchases made at gas stations affiliated with superstores and supermarkets may be excluded from the bonus.

What is included/excluded from the “wholesale clubs” category?

Items purchased at wholesale clubs, such as food, cleaning supplies and clothing, are included in this category. Services, like travel and cell phone purchases, may be excluded from the category. Items purchased using a mobile wallet, tap and pay, mobile or wireless card readers or similar technology may also be excluded.

Note: Discover recommends that you check with your wholesale club to ensure that Discover cards are accepted there.

Tips for maximizing your bonus

  • Use your Discover it card to purchase gas for each car in your household.
  • Purchase gas from stand-alone gas stations, and not supermarkets, to ensure that you receive the bonus.
  • Purchase groceries and household items from your wholesale club, instead of the grocery store, during the first quarter.
  • Do not use your mobile wallet to purchase items at your wholesale club.
  • Stack your rewards and earn extra cash back at Sam’s Club online through Discover’s shopping portal.

Discover vs. Chase bonus categories

Chase also offers a bonus in categories that rotate quarterly. From Jan. 1 through March 31, 2018, upon enrollment, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 of gas station purchases, mobile wallet purchases and internet, cable and phone services.

Chase versus Discover cash back categories 2018

Chase Freedom
Chase Freedom
January – March Gas stations and wholesale clubs Gas stations; internet, cable and phone services; Chase Pay, Android Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay
April – June Grocery stores Spring – coming soon
July – September Restaurants Summer – coming soon
October – December and wholesale clubs Holiday – coming soon

Which card offers the best deal?

Ultimately, we think Chase does.

Although Discover’s 5 percent bonus at gas stations and wholesale clubs is a great offer – especially if you like to buy items in bulk – the Freedom card basically offers the same deal, but with more flexibility and options.

In addition to getting 5 percent back at gas stations, Freedom cardholders can earn the bonus rate anywhere mobile wallets are accepted. Meaning that Freedom cardholders can also receive 5 percent back at wholesale stores, as well as grocery stores, department stores, restaurants and more.

Beyond the first quarter, though, we can’t tell you which card offers the better deal. Based on past years, we can guess that Chase may offer the bonus rate at restaurants, department stores and grocery stores some time during 2018. But because they don’t release their full calendar in advance, it’s impossible to tell which card will best suit your spending habits throughout the year.

See related: Chase unveils its cash back category for Q1 2018, 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

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Updated: 02-25-2018