Don’t forget to activate your 5% cash-back categories for Q3 2020

Jul 1, 2020

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. This page includes information about the Discover it Cash Back card that is not currently available on The Points Guy and may be out of date.

Today is the first day you can start earning 5% cash back on third-quarter bonus categories with your rotating cash-back credit cards. Issuers including Chase, Citi, Discover and U.S. Bank all offer cards with 5% cash-back categories that can change each quarter. While this type of rewards structure takes a bit more effort to keep up with, it offers a way to maximize rewards on specific categories that you may miss out on with other credit cards.

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Remember, you have to enroll in the new categories each quarter in order to receive 5% cash back. Activating new categories is a simple process that can be done online through each issuer’s website or through your credit card app.

Related reading: The best cash-back credit cards for 2020

As we head into summer, cards are shifting toward different categories. This upcoming quarter, the categories are actually pretty varied across cards. Here’s a quick rundown of the second quarter bonus category offers from each issuer:

The information for the Chase Freedom, Discover it Cash Back, Citi Dividend and U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Chase Freedom (No longer open to new applicants)

(Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)
You’ll get 5% back (or 5x) on Amazon and Whole Foods. (Photo by John Gribben for The Points Guy)

You’ll be able to earn 5% back at Amazon and Whole Foods Market on up to $1,500 from July 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2020. I don’t know about you, but Amazon has been a major spending category for me since social distancing began. Groceries is another major spending category for a lot of people right now, and 5% at Whole Foods Markets is one of the best earning rates on groceries out there.

Related reading: The best credit cards for groceries in 2020

Keep in mind that if you also have a Chase Ultimate Rewards credit card such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll really be earning 5x Ultimate Rewards points — which are worth 2 cents each, according to TPG valuations.

Here’s how to activate your 5% cash back:

  • Head to the Chase bonus activation page.
  • Enter your last name, last four digits of your card number and your billing zip code. If you don’t have your card on hand, you can log into your Chase account to retrieve these digits.
  • Click “Activate Now” to register.
  • If you have multiple Chase Freedom cards, make sure to register each one.
  • Save a screenshot of your activation, just in case there are any issues later.

You can also register through your Chase Mobile App.

Related reading: Maximize your wallet with the perfect quartet of Chase credit cards

Discover it Cash Back

(Photo by Getty Images/Katleho Seisa)
You’ll earn 5% back at restaurants, which means your next takeout order could get you 5% back. (Photo by Getty Images/Katleho Seisa)

Now through the end of Sept. 2020, you’ll earn 5% cash back at restaurants and with PayPal, with a $1,500 cap in quarterly purchases after you enroll. These categories do not overlap with the Freedom, meaning you can maximize both cards and their respective bonus categories. A number of merchants accept PayPal as a payment method (including Etsy, Airbnb, Spotify and many more), which means you can potentially earn 5% back across a number of purchases that may not earn bonus rewards with other cards.

Rewards will be added to your account within two billing periods. You can enroll by logging into your Discover account online or in the app, navigating to the cash-back bonus tab and clicking “Activate Now.”

Related reading: Best Discover credit cards 

Citi Dividend

While this card is no longer open to applications, existing cardholders can still enjoy its rotating 5% cash-back category offerings. The Citi Dividend’s second-quarter categories are home improvement stores and popular streaming services — perfect for anyone staying at home more often these days. A lot of people (myself included) have taken on a few DIY home improvement projects and added new streaming services to their lineup.

Keep in mind that though there is no quarterly cap on rewards like with most other rotating category cards, there is a $300 cap in the total cash-back rewards you can earn annually with this card. If you split that up equally across quarters, it’s $1,500 in spend every three months — but you can earn the full $300 in one quarter if that’s how you choose to allocate your card spend.

You can activate these new categories by logging into your Citi Dividend account.

Related reading: The best Citi credit cards of 2020

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

(Photo by Getty Images)
Cell phone providers are among the categories cardholders can choose for quarterly 5% cash back. (Photo by Getty Images)

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature operates a little differently than your typical rotating cash-back credit card. Rather than be assigned two or three different categories each quarter, cardholders can choose two categories each quarter from U.S. Bank’s eligible list to earn 5% cash back (with a $2,000 cap per quarter in combined purchases).

The current list cardholders can choose from includes:

  • TV, internet and streaming services
  • Home utilities
  • Select clothing stores
  • Cell phone providers
  • Electronics stores
  • Gyms/fitness
  • Fast food
  • Ground transportation
  • Sporting goods
  • Department stores
  • Furniture stores
  • Movie theaters

You’ll also choose a 2% cash-back category each quarter. Choose from gas stations, grocery stores or restaurants.

Many of those 5% categories aren’t covered by some of the other best cash-back credit cards (including other rotating cash-back cards), which is huge benefit with this card. Plus, while you can switch categories, you can theoretically just reactivate the same categories each quarter to earn consistent rewards on the same categories. While U.S. Bank retains the right to change its list of categories, they typically stay the same throughout the year.

You are required to reactivate your categories each quarter, even if you elect to keep them the same. To activate, you can either call the number on the back of your card or log in to your account at usbank.com/cashplus.

Bottom line

Using rotating cash-back credit cards is a great strategy for earning bonus rewards in specific categories throughout the year — as long as you can keep up with the categories and remember to activate the offers each quarter.

Second-quarter categories are active from now through June 30, 2020. If you haven’t already activated your bonus categories, log in to your account online or through your issuer app so that you aren’t missing out on 5% cash-back rewards.

Featured image by 10’000 Hours/Getty Images

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 2x total points on up to $1,000 in grocery store purchases per month from November 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021. Includes eligible pick-up and delivery services.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

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