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Discover announces cash back categories for 2021

See the latest bonus categories from Discover and get tips on how to maximize your cash back

Summary

Discover cash back categories in 2021 mostly repeat those from 2020, except in the spring – when the issuer is replacing Uber, Lyft and Home Depot with select streaming services.

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Discover has announced its 5% cash back categories for 2021. Most of the categories from 2020 will be repeated, including grocery stores, CVS and Walgreens in winter, restaurants and PayPal in summer and Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com during the holiday season.

However, there will be a change in spring categories. In spring 2020, Discover it® Cash Back cardholders could earn bonus cash back on Uber, Lyft and gas station purchases, as well as at Home Depot and wholesale clubs. From April to June 2021, they’ll still be able to earn 5% back at gas stations and wholesale clubs (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%), after activation. But on top of that, the issuer is adding select streaming services to its 5% categories in spring next year.

At the moment, cardholders can continue to earn 5% for Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com purchases until Dec. 31, 2020 (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%), after activation.

Discover it Cash Back cardholders can activate the fourth quarter bonus category here.

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

  • You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5% back.
  • The fourth quarter bonus is active from Oct.1 – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through Dec. 31.
  • The bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined spending per quarter.
  • All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

Discover 5% cash back calendar 2020 and 2021

Quarter2020 categories2021 categories
Winter (January – March)
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
Spring (April – June)
  • Gas stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Home Depot
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Wholesale Clubs
Summer (July – September)
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Holiday (October – December)
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com

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

What is included and excluded in the Amazon.com category?

The Amazon.com category includes purchases made through the Amazon.com checkout, including digital downloads, Amazon.com gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals, Amazon Prime subscriptions, as well as items sold by third party merchants through Amazon.com.

You can earn 5% back in this category at Amazon physical locations, too, including Amazon Go, Amazon Bookstore and Amazon 4-Star.

What is included and excluded in the Target.com category?

In this category, you can only earn 5% cash back for purchases made online at Target.com or through the app. Purchases made through affiliates of Target.com, such as TargetOptical.com and TargetPhoto.com, are also excluded from this category.

What is included and excluded in the Walmart.com category?

Similarly, this category only includes purchases made at Walmart.com and when shopping through the Walmart app, including grocery pickup and in-store pickup. Purchases made through affiliates of Walmart.com are excluded.

Tips for maximizing your bonus

  • Use your Discover it Cash Back card for all online purchases at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com.
  • Consider shopping for groceries on Amazon Fresh or through the Walmart app.
  • Take advantage of Black Friday deals to combine cash back with extra savings.
  • Visit Discover.com/digitalwallets for more information on which digital wallet transactions qualify for the 5% bonus, if you prefer to shop that way.

Discover vs. Chase bonus categories

Chase also offers a 5% cash back bonus in categories that rotate quarterly. From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders can earn 5% cash back on eligible Walmart and PayPal purchases.

Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2020


Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back
January – MarchGas stations, select streaming services and phone, cable and internet servicesGrocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April – JuneGym memberships, select streaming services, fitness clubs and grocery storesGas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
July – SeptemberAmazon.com and Whole FoodsRestaurants and PayPal
October – DecemberWalmart and PayPalAmazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

Which card offers the best deal?

In the fourth quarter of 2020, Discover it Cash Back might be a better deal. With the holiday season approaching and sales events in full swing, you can easily reach the $1,500 spend cap. Plus, if you’re a new cardholder, you get 14 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (11.99% to 22.99% variable APR thereafter), making this card a good choice for large purchases. On top of that, Discover will match your first-year cash back earnings, effectively bringing your bonus cash back rate to 10% in your first year with the card on rotating categories up to the spend maximum.

That said, many online stores offer checkout through PayPal. If you’re eligible, you can also use PayPal to shop at any online retailer that accepts Mastercard with PayPal Key and earn rewards on your Freedom card. Plus, you can also get 5% back at Walmart when using the card in-store – rather than online only.

However, it’s impossible to predict which card will offer the best deals next year, since Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time. While we know that Discover will offer a bonus at grocery stores, CVS and Walgreens early next year, we can only speculate based on 2020 categories that Chase will offer 5% cash back at gas stations and on streaming and internet services.

See related: Credit card special offers and limited-time promotions

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

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