Discover just announced the quarterly bonus categories for all of 2019. Every three months, Discover offers 5% cash back on specific types of purchases, up to a limit of $1,500 each quarter. If you max out the bonuses all year long, that’s an additional $300 in cash back. Not bad for a card with no annual fee.
I’m sure there are ways you can get better than a 5% return with a rewards card if you’re maximizing your points earning and redemptions. Personally, I feel that sometimes 5% off is just fine for me. Sharon will even allow the Discover to creep into her wallet if it’s a simple request like, “Use this card for gas stations for the next three months.”
The one catch with Discover is that you need to enroll for the bonus each quarter. If you don’t enroll, no bonus for you. Fortunately, Discover lets you sign up for the next quarter well in advance (as you can see in the graphic, it’s possible to already sign up for January’s bonus category).
January – March 2019
The bonus category for the first three months of the year is grocery stores. This is the category I’m least thrilled with because I already earn 3X Membership Rewards points with the American Express Everyday Preferred. If we make more than 30 purchases a month and get the 50% kicker bonus, we end up getting 4.5X points at grocery stores.
However, sometimes I forget about the 30 purchase requirement and we don’t earn the 50% bonus on the AMEX. If I tell Sharon to use the Discover for groceries, I don’t have to worry about how many purchases we’re making and we’ll earn 5% back. The path of least resistance is occasionally the one I’ll choose if I’m not desperate for points.
April – June 2019
In the second quarter of 2019, Discover is giving 5% back on gas stations, Uber and Lyft rides. These are also categories I already get a decent return on with other cards. The Citi Premier pays 3X Thank You Points for all transportation charges (including gas stations) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve pays 3X points for Uber and Lyft charges.
I’ll probably switch gas purchases to the Discover for the same reason I’m switching groceries in the first quarter – ease. I also don’t value Thank You points for much more than one cent each, so I’d rather get 5% back.
We don’t use Uber and Lyft that much. Even so, I’d rather earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points than 5% cash. I easily average more than 2 cents per point for my redemptions with Ultimate Rewards.
July – September 2019
The third quarter of 2019’s bonus category is restaurants. I’m usually the one who pays the check when we eat out and I’m torn on this one. Should I get the 3x Ultimate Rewards with the Sapphire Reserve, the 5X Thank You points with the Citi Prestige or should I get the 5% cash back? July is a long time away. Who knows if by then I’ll have applied for the revamped AMEX Gold card that pays 4x Membership Rewards points for restaurant spending.
There are no shortages of credit cards that pay a good return for restaurants so I’m thinking the Discover card might stay in the drawer for these three months of 2019.
October – December 2019
Unless something changes in the next year, I’ll be setting the Discover as our card to pay for purchases on Amazon for the last quarter of 2019. Earning 5% back on all Amazon purchases with absolutely no work is a choice that’s really easy to make.
The Discover card isn’t very sexy in the miles and points world. If it wasn’t for the 5% cash back categories, I’d never put the card in my wallet. But I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, either. If you’re going to pay me 5% back for purchases I’m going to make anyway in categories it’s easy to utilize, I might as well take advantage. Every couple of months, I’m able to look at a Discover bill and pay it with my cash back balance and that’s a good feeling (just not as good as booking a $25,000 plane ticket with miles).
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary