Credit Cards

5% Cash Back Credit Cards - 2021 Categories

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One of the highest cash back percentage you’ll find anywhere is five percent on select categories that change every three months. There are two major credit cards that offer 5% cash back: the Discover it Cash Back and the Chase Freedom Flex℠. These rotating categories are one of the reasons each of these cards made our list of the best cash back credit cards.

6% Cash Back: There is one card that offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 at U.S. Supermarkets each year (1% after). It’s the Blue Cash Preferred® Card From American Express. Terms apply.

But there is a catch. You need to sign up for the 5% categories each quarter in order to be eligible for the increased payout. It only takes a few seconds to sign up online, but you don’t want to forget.

Discover it® Cash Back 5% Categories

You can get five percent back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories that change quarterly. Discover typically offers the same categories each and every year but once in a while, they provide a touch of variation.

A breakdown of the 5% cash back categories offered by Discover in 2021 are as follows:

  • January - March: Grocery Stores, Walgreens, CVS
  • April - June: Gas Stations, Wholesale Clubs and Streaming Services
  • July - September: Restaurants & PayPal
  • October - December: Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com

The biggest selling point of the Discover it® Cash Back is in the card name. All of the cash back you earn the first year is doubled on your anniversary date. This means that the 5% cash back categories you have year #1 are actually 10% cash back categories. That’s an unparalleled amount of savings on a credit card.

Also included for new card members is a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. Not only will you be earning double cash back the first year but all of the purchases you make can be made interest free for 14 months. Should you have a big purchase coming up in the near future, this card would be a perfect fit. Save a little money off the top AND take your time paying the balance down to zero. All with no annual fee.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ 5% Categories

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ starts off consumers with a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 in the first three months. Most purchases earn 1% cash back and every quarter, a select group of purchases earns 5% cash back. The maximum amount you can spend per quarter to earn 5% cash back is $1,500.

For 2022, you can earn bonus cash back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter on the following categories:

  • January – March: Grocery Stores (Excluding Target® and Walmart®) and eBay**
  • April – June: Amazon and Select Streaming Services
  • July – September: Gas Stations, Car Rental Agencies, Movie Theatres, and Select Live Entertainment
  • October – December: TBD

Chase also offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months from account opening (the ongoing APR after the intro rate expires is 17.24% - 25.99% Variable). The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has no annual fee and does charge a 3% foreign transaction fee when you make purchases abroad. Keep this card in the United States!

Don’t Forget to Activate Your 5% Cash Back

Every quarter, each of these credit cards requires activation to receive your 5% cash back. Discover and Chase do this because it likely saves them millions of dollars each year. If the cash back were given to consumers automatically, 100% of their customer base would receive it.

However because the bank knows people are lazy (and forgetful), they've added this crutch to ensure that some customers will merrily go along with their 1% cash back all year long.

Typically, activation begins one month before the quarter starts, and ends two weeks before the quarter ends. If you activate late (after the quarter has started and you’ve spent money in the category), call your issuer and ask them to apply the 5% retroactively. That might work, and it might not work but it’s worth trying.


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