Discover's 5% Cashback Calendar for 2021

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Each quarter, cardholders of the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover® More® Card can earn 5% cashback on purchases. However, the eligible merchants change each quarter. Thankfully, Discover releases its 5% cashback calendar at the beginning of each year. So, you have plenty of time to plan ahead.

To earn 5% cashback, you must activate the earning rate before making purchases. Discover only awards the bonus on purchases made after you activate for the quarter. That's unlike the Chase Freedom Flex℠ — which allows you to register later in the quarter and retroactively receive the 5% on purchases for the entire quarter.

Highlights of the merchants featured in Discover's 2021 5% earning calendar include grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, PayPal, Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and select streaming services.

2021 Discover cashback calendar

2021 Discover 5% Cashback Calendar

  • Q1 (January to March): Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
  • Q2 (April to June): Gas stations, wholesale clubs, and select streaming services — activation now open
  • Q3 (July to September): Restaurants and Paypal — activation opens May 1, 2021
  • Q4 (October to December): Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com — activation opens August 1, 2021

Walgreens and CVS are straightforward, but you'll need to be careful with the “grocery store” category in Q1. This includes Walmart Grocery Pickup and Delivery purchases. However, it excludes other Walmart purchases, all Target purchases, and other “supercenter” purchases.

The list of “select streaming services” is extensive and includes most well-known names — including Apple Music, Apple TV+, Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, and Showtime. But if your service is provided through another third-party provider, it may be ineligible for earning 5% cashback.

Discover 5% Cashback Overview

  • Each quarter, cardholders earn 5% cashback at select merchants on up to $1,500 of purchases.
  • That's a maximum of $75 cashback each quarter. Then, you'll earn 1% thereafter.
  • You need to register at the beginning of each quarter to activate your 5% cashback.
  • The offer is only open to cardholders of the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover® More® Card.
  • Purchases made using Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay digital wallets are eligible for the promotion.
  • Purchases made through other third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, virtual wallets or similar technology may not be eligible “if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details for rewards qualification.”
  • Allow up to two billing cycles for the bonus to post to your account.

Final Thoughts

The 5% bonus is the primary reason for holding these cards. If you hold an eligible card, you'd miss out on serious returns by not registering and taking advantage of this 5% cashback offer.

Cashback fans can get even more bonus cashback categories by also signing up for the Freedom Flex card. In addition to earning 5% on travel purchased through Chase and 3% on dining at restaurants and drugstores, the Freedom Flex also features a rotating 5% bonus category. You can even combine the cashback with points earned from the Chase Sapphire Reserve® to boost the value of your cashback earnings.

Even better, get both the Freedom Flex and a Discover card to earn 5% cashback on up to $3,000 in purchases each quarter!

How do you boost your cashback earnings?

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Comments

  • I love using my Discover card because of the 5% categories they do by the quarters. Sad to see they don’t have travel listed under any of the quarters for 2021, as they have in the past and it was super helpful. On the flipside, I appreciate Discover for including restaurants in Q3, as hopefully that will be at a time that majority of restaurants would be open at near-full capacity or have more dining options as COVID restrictions lessen.

  • All quarters have easy to use categories this year.

  • Discover 5% is always a good way to earn cashback with grocery, gas, and restaurant spread out across the year. In addition to Discover, I’ve found that Chase Freedom is also very good esp. they currently (2021 Q1) have 5% cashback on wholesale clubs, such as Costco.

  • The only better deal I’ve found is the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred with 6% back on groceries…the advantage with Discover of course is it is a no annual fee credit card

  • It’s useful for planning to know each quarter’s categories in advance, especially given the overlaps that sometimes happen with other cards’ categories and credits.

  • the grocery bonus is now on so many cards, its practically difficult to maximize that. Wish Discover would do something like Citi Prestige and give 5x for online purchases or something. The Q3/Q4 promos are useful to maximize.

  • salina chen says:

    grocery is always the best.

  • I will certainly be able to max out each quarter with this selection. It’s a sensible split

  • Lisa Tolliver says:

    Thanks for the reminder and look ahead. FYI, you get a $5 bonus when using the cash back reward for a gift card purchase (e.g., if you spend $20 in cash back, you can get a gift card worth $25).=

  • The Discover It, Freedom Flex, and US Bank Cash+ make a fantastic combination.