Discover 5% Cash-Back Calendar for 2022

Broad categories mean easy earnings in 2022

A person pays for a loaf of baked bread using a smartphone and a digital wallet.
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Plenty of credit cards offer cash-back programs, which earn you a percentage of money on every dollar you spend. Some of these provide flat-rate bonuses, while a few operate on a rotating calendar of higher-earning spend categories. The Discover it Cash Back and Student Discover it Cash Back cards belong in this second category.

Let’s take a look at the Discover 5% cash-back categories for 2022 and how you can maximize your earnings.

Key Takeaways

  • Each quarter, activate the bonus to receive 5% cash back on rotating categories with your eligible Discover card.
  • The 5% cash back bonus is valid for the first $1,500 in spending each quarter.
  • Broad categories for 2022 make it possible to maximize your earnings for the year.
  • You can earn a maximum of $75 per quarter, or $300 per year, with these bonuses.

How the Discover it Quarterly Rewards Work

There are a trio of Discover cards that offer 5% cash back on a rotating schedule of categories, including both the Discover it Cash Back, the citit Student Cash Back cards, and the Discover NHL card.

To earn the elevated cash back each quarter, you’ll first need to activate the offer online or via the Discover app. You’ll be able to activate the bonus categories up to two months in advance and anytime during the quarter. Once completed, you’ll get 5% back on the first $1,500 in combined purchases for the selected categories. Thereafter, and for all other purchases, you’ll receive 1% cash back. This means you can earn a maximum of $75 of bonus cash back on these categories per quarter, or up to $300 per year. There’s no limit on how much you may earn at 1%.

The 2021 cash-back calendar included broad categories that made it easy to maximize your rewards:

  • Q1: Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
  • Q2: Gas stations, streaming services, and wholesale clubs
  • Q3: Restaurants and PayPal
  • Q4: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com

Discover it 5% Cash-Back Calendar for 2022

The earnings opportunities in every quarter are strong, with a couple of exceptions.

Effective Period 5% Cash-Back Rewards Categories When To Activate
Q1 (January-March) Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships Dec. 1, 2021 to March 30, 2022.
Q2 (April-June) Gas stations and Target Feb. 1 to June 29.
Q3 (July-September) Restaurants and PayPal May 1 to Sept. 29
Q4 (October-December) Amazon.com and digital wallets Aug. 1 to Dec. 30

January to March: Grocery Stores, Fitness Clubs, Gym Memberships

Just in time for New Year resolutions, Discover is offering 5% back on gym memberships and groceries. Although it may be difficult to spend $1,500 on the gym in just three months, grocery stores may be able to help you maximize your cash back. For context, consider that in 2019, the average U.S. household spent $387 per month on groceries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

If you’re a single person or a light eater, consider purchasing non-perishable products and stocking up during this quarter to meet that $1,500 threshold. Note that neither Walmart nor Target grocery purchases are eligible for this bonus—you’ll need to shop at a dedicated grocery store to qualify.

April to June: Gas Stations, Target

Unlike the 2021 calendar, which only included purchases at Target.com, 2022’s second quarter bonus includes in-store shopping at Target. Since the store carries seemingly everything, from sunscreen to big-screen TVs and sun-dried tomatoes, finding ways to earn your cash back should be easy—but don’t be tempted to spend more just to earn the bonus.

This is paired with a bonus on gas stations, and that may make reaching the full 5% bonus a challenge, although this depends on how much you drive and the cost of gas in your area. To put this in perspective, in 2019, the average U.S. household spent $168 a month on gasoline, according to the BLS. To reach the combined 5% threshold, you’d need to spend another $332 per month at Target. That’s a lot of sunscreen and sun-dried tomatoes.

Some gas stations associated with wholesale clubs or supermarkets may not be eligible for this bonus.

July to September: Restaurants, PayPal

Maxing out your rewards earned with the third quarter's 5% categories will depend on your dining out (and takeout) habits and your propensity to shop online.

In 2019, the average American household spent $294 per month on restaurants, according to the BLS. If that’s you, you’ll need to find another $206 of spending per month at places that accept PayPal to max out the bonus.

PayPal is a commonly accepted method of payment for many websites, which means many of your online purchases are eligible for 5% cash back. Payments made through the PayPal wallet online, money transfers via PayPal using your card, and point-of-sale transactions using PayPal all qualify.

Restaurants include sit-down restaurants, takeaway, and restaurant delivery services.

Using PayPal for your restaurant or takeout purchases won’t double your cash back. Those purchases earn a total of 5%. That 5% cap is true in the fourth quarter for purchases on Amazon.com using a digital wallet, too.

October to December: Amazon.com, Digital Wallets

Spending at Amazon.com and using digital wallets should offer a lot of cash-back opportunities for holiday shoppers. This is the time to buy all your online gifts via Amazon.com, including Amazon.com gift cards.

For everything else, link your credit card to your digital wallet to use for in-store purchases. Eligible digital wallets include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Garmin Pay.

As digital wallets are accepted anywhere contactless payments are accepted, you should have no trouble spending $1,500 over these last three months of the year. Examples of merchants that accept digital wallets include Target, Costco, gas stations, and grocery stores. You’ll also find acceptance for these payment methods online.

Alternative Rotating 5% Reward Programs

Discover isn’t the only credit card to offer rotating 5% reward programs. Both the Chase Freedom Flex Card and the Citi Custom Cash Card have similar rewards structures, although there are variances.

Chase Freedom Flex

Chase offers a quarterly cash-back calendar for the Chase Freedom Flex card. The spend threshold is the same—$1,500 per quarter—and you’ll need to activate the categories each quarter. However, Chase only announces its categories on a quarterly basis. The 2022 categories haven’t been released yet, but we can review 2021’s categories to figure out what may be coming:

Period Chase Freedom Flex 2021 Discover it Cash Back 2022
Q1 (January-March) Wholesale clubs, phone, cable, and internet services, select streaming services Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships
Q2 (April-June) Home improvement stores, gas stations Gas stations and Target
Q3 (July-September) Select streaming services, grocery stores (excluding Target and Walmart) Restaurants and PayPal
Q4 (October-December) Walmart, PayPal Amazon.com and digital wallets

Citi Custom Cash Card

The Citi Custom Cash card is an ultra-customizable cash-back card that offers a monthly rotating cash-back system for consumers. Unlike Chase and Discover, you don’t need to enroll each month for these categories. Instead, Citi automatically calculates your top eligible spend category each month and awards you 5% back for those purchases. This caps out after the first $500 of purchases, after which you’ll receive 1% back.

These are the categories that are eligible for the 5% cash back:

  • Select travel
  • Select transit
  • Restaurants
  • Select streaming services
  • Drugstores
  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Home improvement stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Live entertainment

The 5% cash back you’ll receive on live entertainment includes theme park tickets, making the Citi Custom Cash card one of the best options on the market for purchasing Disney tickets.

The Bottom Line

The Discover it cash-back calendar can be an easy way to earn rewards on your spending. You’ll need to pay attention, however, as these rewards don’t activate themselves and vary based on the quarter.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you sign up for 5% cash-back rewards with Discover?

You can activate your cash-back rewards in your account online or via the Discover mobile app. The enrollment period begins two months prior to the quarterly bonus earning period and you can activate your categories anytime up until the end of the quarter.

How do I track my 5% spending on my Discover card?

You can track the purchases you’ve made—and the cash back you’ve earned—in the quarterly bonus categories via your Discover account online as well as via the Discover app.

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