Discover cash back calendar 2018

Earn 5 percent back at restaurants in Q3

Discover cash back calendar

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Discover has launched its 5 percent cash back category for the third quarter of 2018. From July through September 2018, Discover it cardholders can earn 5 percent back at restaurants on up to $1,500 in combined spending upon enrollment. In terms of earning rewards on dining out, 5 percent cash back is a generous rate.

To activate the third quarter bonus category, click here.

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

  • You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5 percent back.
  • The third quarter bonus is active from July 1, 2018 – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through Sept. 30, 2018.
  • The bonus is capped at $1,500 per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1 percent cash back.

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.

Discover’s 2018 cash back calendar

Discover has done 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
April – June
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 5 percent back at stores like Sam’s and Costco for half of 2018. Since you can earn the 5 percent rate on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter upon enrollment, 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 “restaurant” category?

The “restaurant” category includes purchases made at full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias and fast food locations. Purchases made using tap-and-pay, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible for the bonus.

Tips for maximizing your bonus

  • Use your Discover it card to pay for all dining purchases.
  • Do not use your mobile wallet to purchase items at restaurants.
  • Purchase gift cards – that can be used throughout the year – directly from restaurants of your choice.
  • Check Discover’s shopping portal for opportunities to stack your rewards.

Discover vs. Chase bonus categories

Chase also offers a 5 percent cash back bonus in categories that rotate quarterly. From July 1 through Sept. 30, 2018, Chase Freedom cardholders can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 on gas station, Lyft and Walgreens purchases

Chase vs. 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 Groceries, Chase Pay and PayPal
July – September Restaurants Gas stations, Lyft and Walgreens
October – December and wholesale clubs Holiday – coming soon

Which card offers the best deal?

Ultimately, we think Chase does.

In addition to getting 5 percent back on gas and Lyft purchases, Freedom cardholders can earn the bonus rate at Walgreens purchases. Meaning that, along with cosmetics, toiletries and prescriptions, Freedom cardholders can receive 5 percent back when they purchase gift cards for restaurants, department stores movie theaters and more, which can later be used throughout the year.

Beyond the third 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 and department 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 launches its cash back category for Q3 2018, Chase Pay: How to use it and rack up cash back rewardsCredit card special offers and limited-time promotions

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Updated: 08-18-2018