Discover's 2019 cash back calendar is hereAlthough the jack-o-lanterns have only just gone dark and there are months of feasting and family gatherings left before 2018 winds down, some of us are already looking toward the future. That’s because Discover just unveiled the categories for its 5% cash back rewards program in 2019, also known as the cash back calendar. One of the major benefits of being a Discover cardholder is that year after year, you can rake in some seriously hefty cash back rewards thanks to these rotating rewards categories. The cards that are eligible for this rewards program include Discover it Cash Back, Discover it Balance Transfer, NHL Discover it and Discover it Student Cash Back. As an added bonus, if you apply for one of these cards and are new to Discover, you’ll be eligible for the Cashback Match bonus. This takes all the rewards you earn during your first year as a cardholder and automatically matches them — meaning if you earn $300, Discover will give you another $300 for a total of $600 back. Want to learn more? Keep reading to find out all the details about 2019’s categories and how to make the most of them.

How to take advantage of the 5% cash back categories

Unlike other credit cards that earn rewards in set categories all year or those that net you a fixed rate on every purchase, Discover it Cash Back and its previously mentioned sister cards have categories that rotate or change every quarter — or every 3 months. This enables customers to enjoy a higher cash back rate on purchases within a variety of different categories throughout the year. There are a couple of stipulations that are important to understand, though, in order to make the most out of Discover’s rotating categories. First, cardholders must activate the categories each quarter, which can be done by logging into their Discover account online (either on a computer or via the mobile app) or calling customer service. Activation opens up a few weeks before the quarter begins, giving you ample time to lock it in. Plus, Discover will send you email reminders when it’s time to activate if you set those up in your account settings. Next, after you activate, you can earn 5% on up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500 in purchases each quarter — which equals a maximum of $75 in cash back. Anything spent over that quarterly threshold will earn the standard 1% cash back, as will purchases made that fall outside the 5% categories (i.e., all other purchases).

What does the 2019 cash back calendar have in store?

You might know that right now, we’re in the 4th quarter of the year, which means 2019 is just around the corner. The last 5% categories of 2018, which Discover cardholders can earn 5% cash back on between now and Dec. 31, 2018, are wholesale clubs and Amazon.com. Since it only takes a handful of days after approval to get your new card, now is a great time to apply. Not only will you be able to cash in on extra rewards at wholesale clubs that accept Discover and all those last-minute Amazon.com shopping binges, but you’ll be set by the time the 2019 categories begin. Wondering what they are? Here’s a breakdown:

  • Q1 (January – March): Groceries
  • Q2 (April – June): Gas Stations, Uber and Lyft
  • Q3 (July – September): Restaurants
  • Q4 (October – December): Amazon.com

Next year’s list is pretty well-rounded, covering many of the major purchase categories that the average cardholder uses. We’re especially psyched about the combination of gas stations with ride-sharing services Uber and Lyft for the 2nd quarter, since many people might not use both, but plenty probably spend money on one or the other. Even if you might not utilize one of the categories as heavily as others throughout the year, the ability to earn 5% on your purchases can make up the difference — and remember that no matter what, all your purchases will earn at least the standard 1%.

Why be a Discover cardholder?

Although the rewards are certainly an enticing reason to get a Discover card, you might wonder if there are any other incentives to be had. The answer is a resounding yes. Discover offers its cardholders a plethora of helpful perks and benefits that are available across the board no matter which card you own. These include security features like Freeze it, which allows you to log into the Discover app or website and place a temporary hold on your card to prevent fraudulent activity if it goes missing, identity theft protection alerts and $0 fraud liability. Other great perks for Discover cardholders are the ability to change your rewards program (depending on which card you have) for free, more than 100 fun card designs to choose from and super flexible rewards redemption (with options that include gift cards, donations to charity, 1:1 redemption at Amazon.com when you check out and more).

What if rotating categories just aren’t for you?

Using a cash back credit card with rotating categories requires a bit of planning, as in order to truly benefit from the card, you will need to make sure you’re aware of which categories will get you the biggest bang for your buck at what time. Discover it Cash Back makes this planning a bit easier than Chase Freedom (the only other card we review that earns cash back on rotating categories), since the latter publishes its categories quarter by quarter rather than all at once. Still, if you find that you just can’t deal with rotating categories, there are plenty of other options to choose from that will earn you rewards in some of the above categories and more — from cards to use at the grocery store to those that are great picks when you dine out. You might also consider a card like the Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited, as both earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases. We should note that Discover offers two cards that earn fixed rewards on purchases: Discover it Miles earns unlimited 1.5 miles on all purchases and Discover it chrome earns 2% cash back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants (up to the quarterly maximum, currently $1,000, then it’s 1% back) as well as 1% cash back on all other purchases — the latter also has a student version called Discover it Student chrome.

If you’re interested in getting a Discover credit card, visit our Discover card reviews to find the right card for your needs and spending habits. To learn more about credit cards and how to make them work for you, follow our credit cards blog.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.