Discover is offering select cardholders 5% cash back on Amazon and digital wallet purchases, giving you the chance to earn big on your holiday spending.

Discover credit cards are unique in the loyalty program world and surprisingly lucrative despite offering no welcome bonuses. But what distinguishes Discover cards are two distinct features: a cash back match during the first year and a 5% cash back calendar for select cardmembers.

The 5% cash back calendar consists of a rotating list of merchants that earn bonus rewards every quarter. You can earn up to $75 cash back each quarter by consistently maximizing these bonus categories. The best part? Your rewards get doubled during the first year, making up for the lack of a welcome incentive.

If you’re looking for simplified rewards, a Discover cash back card with 5% quarterly rewards might be a good fit. Here is everything you need to know about the Discover cash back calendar so you can maximize your rewards with little effort.

What are the Discover 5% cash back categories for 2022?

Discover’s 5% cash back categories change every quarter. During the current quarter, eligible cardmembers earn 5% cash back on purchases made with Amazon and digital wallets. Both online and Amazon Go purchases qualify for the bonus. Qualifying digital wallets include Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Garmin Pay.

This bonus is valid on up to $1,500 worth of purchases made through December 2022. Once you max out the bonus, you’ll earn 1% back in those categories. Here’s a look at the complete Discover cash back calendar for 2022:

  • January – March 2022: Grocery stores, gym, and fitness club memberships
  • April – June 2022: Gas stations and Target
  • July – September 2022: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October – December 2022: Amazon and digital wallets

Which Discover cards qualify for 5% cash back rewards?

Currently, three credit cards qualify for Discover’s 5% cash back rewards: The Discover it® Cash Back Card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back, and the NHL credit card. All three cards have no annual fees, so you can keep them long-term without paying for the privilege.

During the first year of card membership, Discover offers an unlimited “Cashback Match” on all three cards. This can be very lucrative if you have significant expenses coming up or can max out the quarterly 5% cash back rewards. That’s right — the 5% cash back bonus is eligible for Cashback Match, doubling to 10% in the first year.

The Cashback Match gets tallied up at the end of 12 months and deposited into your account within two billing cycles.

How to maximize the current quarter bonus

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Holiday shopping season is in full swing (including Black Friday and Cyber Monday), making this a great time to maximize Discover’s current quarterly bonus. And even outside of gift purchases, most people will spend a considerable amount on food, decorations, and travel expenses.

With 5% cash back on Amazon and digital wallet purchases, you can earn substantial rewards on any of these purchases.

Read more: How to hack Cyber Monday: 10 tips from an online shopping pro

Digital wallet purchases

The digital wallet bonus is broader and easier to maximize than Amazon. It applies to purchases made anywhere that Apple, Google, Samsung, and Garmin Pay are accepted. Most merchants nowadays accept these digital wallets, both in-store and online. All you have to do is add your Discover card to your digital wallet and use it to pay for purchases.

Amazon purchases

Amazon, of course, sells virtually everything you might need for the holidays. And its Black Friday deals are legendary. Plus, with Prime membership, you get free two-day shipping.

If you can’t fully max out the $1,500 quarterly limit, consider using this quarterly bonus as an opportunity to stock up on gift cards. Visa gift cards purchased on Amazon carry a fee, but you can use them virtually everywhere (including some bill payments). Or you can simply reload your Amazon balance and use it for purchases throughout the rest of the year. You could even buy a gift card for your local grocery store (a year-round expense).

Just avoid buying any of these on your Discover card if it’s going to put you into debt. While earning elevated rewards on purchases you were going to make anyway is ideal, you should avoid spending what you can’t pay off at the end of the month. Remember: any interest fees you incur will invalidate the rewards you’re earning.

Read more: How to budget using credit cards

How to activate Discover cash back rewards

You can activate your Discover cash back rewards bonus by heading to the bonus calendar page and logging into your account. You can activate the bonus at any time during the quarter, but you’ll want to do it early on, so you don’t miss out on additional rewards. Remember that you won’t earn the bonus until after you’ve followed this crucial step.

Once the bonus is activated, head to the digital wallet page and add your Discover card to your digital wallets. You can scan the QR code and specify which platform you want to add your card to.

Redeeming rewards

If you want simplicity in a rewards program, it doesn’t get easier than cash back.

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You don’t have to deal with complicated redemption options or ways to maximize every point earned. Cash is worth what it’s worth, and you can use it on anything you want. You can offset some of your monthly bills, cover impulse purchases, or stock up on essentials for the holidays and beyond.

You can redeem your Discover cash back rewards for cash or as credit with Amazon and PayPal. There are no redemption minimums, which is great because you don’t have to hit any minimums before using your hard-earned rewards.

Bonus cash back rewards post to your account within two billing periods and are available for immediate redemption.

Redeeming Discover rewards with Amazon

To use your rewards with Amazon, head to Discover’s Amazon landing page.

Click “Link your Discover rewards account” and “Enroll a new rewards account.” Then follow the steps to link your Discover card to your Amazon account.

Select your Discover card and the “Shop with points” option checkbox when checking out. Instead of a credit card charge, your rewards will be applied.

Redeeming Discover rewards with PayPal

Redeeming Discover cash back with PayPal is similar to Amazon. Head over to the designated landing page and link your accounts.

When completing a PayPal transaction, choose your Discover card as the payment form and check off the “Use cash back bonus” box underneath. Your rewards will directly apply to your transaction.

Does Discover match 5% cash back?

Discover matches all the cash back you earn in your first card membership year, including the rotating 5% quarterly bonus categories. You’ll effectively earn 10% cash back on these categories, which is the highest rate you can get on a cash back card. Now granted, the elevated cash back rate is limited to the first $1,500 spent. But that translates to $600 in potential rewards during year one, which makes up for the lack of a welcome bonus.

In fact, most cash back cards don’t offer welcome bonuses higher than $200. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ (which also has a 5% cash back calendar) offers $200 cash back after spending $500 within the first three months of account opening.

The Citi Custom Cash℠ Card provides the same bonus except with a $1,500 spending requirement that must be completed within six months.

So, the Discover cards offering 5% cash back with the first-year match are pretty competitive. The match applies to all your credit card spending in the first 12 billing cycles or 365 days (whichever is longer).

Note that Cashback Match is limited to new card members only.

Read more: Best cash back credit cards

Is cash back really worth it?

Earning cash back rewards with Discover is worth it, considering the cards don’t carry annual fees. Aside from this, the rotating 5% cash back rewards are very competitive against other rewards credit cards.

For example, most rewards cards earn 1 point per dollar spent on Amazon and digital wallet spending. These points are typically worth around 1-2 cents each. So you will, at most, get a 2% return on your credit card spending — making Discover’s 5% much more substantial.

When you factor in the first-year cash back match, earning 10% back on common spending categories is even more valuable. Since the value of the cash back earned outweighs other rewards, having a Discover card is well worth it.

Read more: Best rewards credit cards

Summary

Discover offers a great cash back rewards program, with no annual fee and a first-year cash back match that makes it even more valuable. There are no redemption minimums, so you can use your rewards as soon as you earn them. Bonus cash back rewards post to your account within two billing periods and are available for immediate redemption.

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About the author

Total Articles: 3
Ariana Arghandewal is a travel reward expert and founder of Pointchaser, an award-winning blog. She has covered all things points, miles, and credit cards for over a decade and served as an editor at The Points Guy, NerdWallet, and FlyerTalk. Her work has appeared in CNN Underscored, Forbes Advisor, Fodor's Travel, and U.S. News Weekly.