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Activate Discover it Cash Back bonus categories for winter 2021 now

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


You can activate the next quarter 5% categories on your Discover it Cash Back card, including grocery stores, CVS and Walgreens.

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In the first quarter of 2021, Discover it® Cash Back cardholders will be able to earn 5% back at grocery stores, CVS and Walgreens (up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1%) after activation. Activation opened on Jan. 1, 2021, and cardholders will be able to earn in these categories through March 31, 2021.

Most of the bonus categories from 2020 will be repeated this year, including grocery stores, CVS and Walgreens in winter, restaurants and PayPal in summer and, and during the holiday season.

However, there’s 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 quarterly, then 1%), after activation. But on top of that, the issuer is adding select streaming services to its bonus categories in spring this year.

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

  • You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5% back.
  • The current quarter bonus is active from Jan. 1, 2021 – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through March 31, 2021.
  • The bonus is capped at $1,500 in combined spending per quarter and then the rewards rate drops to 1%.
  • All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

Discover 5% cash back calendar 2021

QuarterBonus categories
Winter (January – March)
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
Spring (April – June)
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Wholesale Clubs
Summer (July – September)
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Holiday (October – December)

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 grocery stores category?

The grocery stores category includes all purchases made at grocery stores, as well as Walmart grocery pickup and delivery purchases. Other purchases at Walmart won’t qualify for the 5% cash back.

Purchases made at convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, supercenters, as well as grocery stores associated with supercenters or discount stores, are excluded from this category. Target purchases are also not eligible.

What is included and excluded in the CVS category?

This category includes purchases made in-store at CVS or online at, as well as through the CVS app. Stand-alone stores and individual merchants within physical CVS locations or on might not qualify for bonus cash back.

What is included and excluded in the Walgreens category?

Similarly, this category only includes purchases made in-store at Walgreens, online at or through the Walgreens app. Stand-alone stores and individual merchants within physical Walgreens locations or on might not be eligible in this category.

Tips for maximizing your bonus

  • Use your Discover it Cash Back card for all purchases at grocery stores – but make sure your preferred store is not excluded from the category.
  • Shop for gift cards at grocery stores, CVS or Walgreens to help you meet the $1,500 category spending limit and maximize cash back.
  • If you prefer shopping for groceries online, consider using Walmart grocery delivery.
  • Visit 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 Jan. 1 to March 31, Chase Freedom* and Chase Freedom Flex℠ cardholders can earn 5% cash back at wholesale clubs and on eligible streaming services, internet, phone and cable purchases.

Chase vs. Discover cash back categories 2021

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back
January – MarchWholesale clubs and eligible streaming services, internet, phone and cable purchasesGrocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
April – JuneTBAGas stations, select streaming services, wholesale clubs
July – SeptemberTBARestaurants and PayPal
October –, and

Which card offers the best deal?

In the first quarter of 2021, which card would work best for you depends on whether you have a membership with an eligilble wholesale club. If you often go to BJ’s or Sam’s, the Chase Freedom Flex can offer a better deal. But if you’re not a member, the Discover it Cash Back will definitely be a better pick for you this quarter.

On top of that, for new cardholders, Discover will match your first-year cash back earnings, effectively increasing your bonus cash back rate in your first year with the card on rotating categories up to the spend maximum.

However, it’s impossible to predict which card will offer for the rest of the year, since Chase only releases bonus categories one quarter at a time. While we know that Discover will offer a bonus at gas stations, wholesale clubs and for select streaming services in the next quarter, there’s no information yet on which purchases Chase will reward for the rest of 2021 since the issuer announces bonus categories one at a time.

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

*All information about the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.

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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