Discover 5% Cash-Back Calendar

Discover's first-quarter categories for 2023 include grocery and drug stores

A person pays for a loaf of baked bread using a smartphone and a digital wallet.

PeopleImages / Getty Images

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.

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. Once you hit the cap, you'll earn 1% cash back.
  • You can earn a maximum of $75 per quarter, or $300 per year, with these bonuses.
  • Unlike in previous years, for 2023 Discover will announce 5% bonus categories quarterly, rather than for the entire year.

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 Discover 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 a month 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 2022 cash-back calendar included several categories that made it easy to maximize your rewards:

  • Q1: Grocery stores, fitness club and gym memberships
  • Q2: Gas stations and Target
  • Q3: Restaurants and PayPal
  • Q4: and digital wallets

Discover it 5% Cash-Back Calendar for 2023

The earnings opportunities in the first quarter 2023 are strong, but we'll have to wait to see what Discover announces for subsequent quarters. In the meanwhile, we've provided estimates of what those might be, based on last year's categories.

Effective Period 5% Cash-Back Rewards Categories When To Activate
Q1 (January-March) Grocery stores, drug stores, and streaming services Dec. 1, 2022 to March 30, 2023.
Q2 (April-June) TBD (Gas stations, Target stores?) March 1 to June 29.
Q3 (July-September) TBD (Restaurants, PayPal?) June 1 to Sept. 29
Q4 (October-December) TBD (Amazon, digital wallets?) Sept. 1 to Dec. 30

January to March: Grocery Stores, Drug Stores, and Streaming Services

If you have the storage space, the first three months of the year are a great time to stock up on kitchen and bath supplies. Take an inventory of what’s sitting in your cabinets and what’s getting low. Have you made a New Year’s resolution to cook more? Now’s a good time to replenish your herbs and spices and other pantry items, especially if the contents of your spice cabinet are more than a few years old.

You may not need to shift your spending too much, though, to max out your quarterly bonus. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average household spends $5,259 a year (around $438 a month) on food cooked at home. But families with a lot of mouths to feed can easily spend more than $500 a month on groceries.


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 Stores?

In the second quarter of 2022, Discover offered its 5% bonus for purchases at Target and at gas stations. To put this in perspective, in 2021, the average U.S. household spent $179 a month on gasoline, according to the BLS. To reach the combined 5% threshold, you’d have to have spent another $321 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?

If Discover offers the same bonus categories for 2023 that it offered ion 2022, 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 2021, the average American household spent $253 per month on restaurants, according to the BLS. If that’s you, you’ll need to find another $247 of spending per month at places that accept PayPal to max out the bonus.


Using PayPal for your restaurant or takeout purchases won’t double your cash back. Those purchases earn a total of 5%.

October to December:, Digital Wallets?

In 2022, spending at and using digital wallets offered a lot of cash-back opportunities for holiday shoppers.

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, like Discover, Chase announces its categories on a quarterly basis.

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
  • Drug stores
  • 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.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Discover. “Discover 5% Cash Back Calendar.”

  2. Discover. "Discover Reveals Full 5% Cash-Back Bonus Calendar for 2022."

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Consumer Expenditures: 2021."

  4. Citi. "Citi Custom Cash credit card."

  5. Discover. “What Can You Do With the Discover App?

Related Articles