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Chase, Discover, & ABOC 2021 5% Cash Back Calendars

Last updated on March 15th, 2021

Cash back credit cards are a popular option for consumers who want to save money on everyday purchases. Certain cards, however, offer higher rates of cash back than others, with the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover It being two of the most popular options available. These cards offer 5% back on select categories each quarter. Here are the 2021 5% cash back calendars for three leading card issuers: ChaseDiscover, and Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABOC).

What Are the Chase Freedom Flex 5% Cash Back Calendar Categories for 2021?

The Chase Freedom Flex Card is fast becoming one of the most popular cash back credit cards on the market. The card offers 5% back on select categories each quarter, with 1% back on all other purchases. Here are the 5% cash back categories for 2021:

Wholesale clubs, select streaming services, and phone, internet, & cable service providers.

Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at standalone wholesale clubs, such as Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s, or select streaming services (including Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, Spotify, Apple Music, and more), internet, cable, and phone services.

Official terms: Merchants who accept Visa/Mastercard credit cards are assigned a merchant code, which is determined by the merchant or its processor in accordance with Visa/Mastercard procedures based on the kinds of products and services they primarily sell. We group similar merchant codes into categories for purposes of making rewards offers to you. Please note: We make every effort to include all relevant merchant codes in our rewards categories. However, even though a merchant or some of the items that it sells may appear to fit within a rewards category, the merchant may not have a merchant code in that category. When this occurs, purchases with that merchant won’t qualify for rewards offers on purchases in that category. Purchases submitted by you, an authorized user, or the merchant through third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, online or mobile digital wallets, or similar technology will not qualify in a rewards category if the technology is not set up to process the purchase in that rewards category. 

Gas stations and home improvement store purchases

Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases  at eligible merchants.

Official terms: Merchants who accept Visa/Mastercard credit cards are assigned a merchant code, which is determined by the merchant or its processor in accordance with Visa/Mastercard procedures based on the kinds of products and services they primarily sell. We group similar merchant codes into categories for purposes of making rewards offers to you. Please note: We make every effort to include all relevant merchant codes in our rewards categories. However, even though a merchant or some of the items that it sells may appear to fit within a rewards category, the merchant may not have a merchant code in that category. When this occurs, purchases with that merchant won’t qualify for rewards offers on purchases in that category. Purchases submitted by you, an authorized user, or the merchant through third-party payment accounts, mobile or wireless card readers, online or mobile digital wallets, or similar technology will not qualify in a rewards category if the technology is not set up to process the purchase in that rewards category. 

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How Does the Chase 5% Cash Back Calendar for 2021 Compare to 2020?

While the previous year’s cash back calendar usually provides insights into future categories in 2021, that may not be the case this year. Here’s a quick rundown of the 2020 Chase Cash Back Calendar:

  • January to March: Gas stations, and select streaming services
  • April to June: Gym memberships, fitness clubs, groceries, and streaming services
  • July to September: Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • October to December: Walmart and PayPal

Streaming services are the sole holdover from the 2020 5% Cash Back Calendar. That category includes a wide selection of streaming providers – which is made up of both video and on-demand music. Select streaming services include Pandora, Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Vudu, Spotify, Apple Music, and more.

The internet, cable, and phone services category is fairly straightforward. Freedom and Freedom Flex cardholders can offset their monthly mobile phone bills, cable bills, or internet provider charges at 5% back for the first $1,500 in spending (across all categories).

Related Article: The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2020

What Are the Discover It 5% Cash Back Calendar Categories for 2021?

Discover is another card issuer that offers a 5% cash back credit card. The issuer’s Discover It Cash Back is an excellent cash back card with no annual fees. It also features Discover’s Cashback Match for the first year (only for new cardholders).

Unlike Chase, Discover announces its Cashback Calendar in full. Here is the full list of 2021’s 5% cash back categories:

Grocery Stores, Walgreens, and CVS

Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at stand-alone grocery stores, Walgreens, or CVS locations.

Official terms: Grocery Store purchases made at convenience stores, gas stations, warehouse clubs, discount stores, supercenters (or at grocery stores associated with supercenters or discount stores), including Walmart and Target are not eligible. Walgreens and CVS purchases include only purchases made in-store at Walgreens or CVS, online at Walgreens.com or CVS.com, or through the Walgreens or CVS app. Individual merchants and stand-alone stores within physical Walgreens or CVS locations (including health centers), or on Walgreens.com or CVS.com, may not be eligible in this category.

Gas Stations, Wholesale Clubs, Streaming Services

Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at stand-alone gas stations, or with select streaming services.

Official terms: Purchases made at Gas Stations include only merchants in the category that sell automotive gasoline that can be paid for either at the pump or inside the station. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets and supercenters may not be eligible. Check with your Wholesale Clubs to make sure your Discover card is accepted. Purchases of affiliated Wholesale Club services, such as travel and cell phone purchases, may not be eligible in this category. Streaming service purchases include only the following select U.S. streaming subscriptions: Apple Music, Apple TV+, AT&T TV Now, BET+, CBS All Access, DAZN, Disney +, ESPN+, Fubo TV, Google Play Movies & TV, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Philo, Peacock TV, Showtime, Sirius XM, Starz, Sling, Spotify, Vudu, YouTube TV. If your subscription is bundled with another product or service, billed by a third party (such as a digital platform, a cable or satellite provider, telecommunications, internet provider or a car manufacturer), the purchase may not be eligible in this category. Add-ons associated with Select Streaming Services may not qualify for this promotion if they are not listed, billed in a bundle, separately or through a third party. Listed merchants are in no way sponsoring or affiliated with this program.

Restaurants and PayPal

Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at restaurants classified as full-services restaurants, or on PayPal purchases. 

Official terms: Restaurant purchases include only those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias and fast food locations. PayPal qualifying purchases are those made through the PayPal wallet online, when you send money to Friends and Family via PayPal using your Discover Card, and point-of-sale transactions using PayPal Here. Payments made through the Xoom transfer service are not eligible for 5%. Any restaurant purchase made using PayPal will only be awarded a total of 5% Cashback Bonus. 

Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com

Offer applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at Amazon, Walmart, or Target websites.

Official terms: Amazon.com purchases include those made through the Amazon.com checkout, including digital downloads, Amazon.com gift cards, Amazon Fresh orders, Amazon Local Deals, Amazon Prime subscriptions and items sold by third party merchants through Amazon.com’s marketplace. Purchases also include those made in-store at Amazon Go, Amazon Bookstore, and Amazon 4-Star. Walmart.com purchases include only those made at Walmart.com and when shopping through the Walmart app (including Grocery Pick Up and Instore Pick Up). Purchases made through affiliates of Walmart.com are not part of this promotion. Target.com purchases include only purchases made online at Target.com or through the Target app. Purchases made through affiliates of Target.com are not part of this promotion, including, but not limited to, targetoptical.com and targetphoto.com. 

How Does the 2021 Discover 5% Calendar Compare to 2020?

Beyond streaming services in Q2, the Discover 5% Cashback Calendar is the same as 2020’s. For reference, here’s the 2020 Discover Calendar:

  • January to March: Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
  • April to June: Home Depot (June only), gas stations, Uber, Lyft, and wholesale clubs
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October to December: Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com

The biggest news with the new Cashback Calendar from Discover is the change from Uber/Lyft to streaming services.

While Uber/Lyft was a great category (especially since the 5% back also applied towards Uber Eats food delivery), the addition of streaming services potentially adds greater value. With services such as Apple TV+, Hulu, Sling, and Netflix (as well as music services like Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify, Q2 looks to be a very lucrative one for cardholders.

Related Article: Discover Announces 2021 5% Cashback Calendar

ABOC Platinum Rewards 5X Calendar for 2021

While much of the focus on 2021 5% cash back calendars goes to Chase and Discover, they aren’t the only issuers that feature a 5% cash back calendar.

Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABOC) also offers a 5% card (or 5X points, to be more accurate): the ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard.

The ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard earns 5X points on select purchases, with a full calendar for 2020 already available. ABOC Rewards categories for 2021 break down as follows:

Health and wellness

Earn 5X points on qualifying groceries, fitness clubs, hospitals, and pharmacies. 

MCC codes:

  • 5411 – Groceries
  • 5451 – Dairy product stores
  • 5462 – Bakeries
  • 5499 – Misc. food/convenience
  • 5441 – Candy/nut
  • 5422 – Freezer/locker meat
  • 7997 – Fitness clubs
  • 8062 – Hospitals
  • 8041 – Chiropractors
  • 8042, 8043, 8044 – Vision services
  • 7298 – Beauty/health spas
  • 5912 – Pharmacy
  • 5499 – Vitamins
  • 8011, 8021, 5047, 8099 – Medical providers & medical supply
  • 0742 – Veterinary services

“Spring Spuce-Up”

Earn 5X points on qualifying home improvement, gardening, Amazon.com, and other major online retailers. 

MCC codes:

  • 5531, 5713, 5722, 5200, 5211 – Home improvement
    5261  – Gardening and nurseries
    5712, 5719  – Home furnishings
    5300 – Warehouse clubs
    5399 – Costco.com, Target.com, Walmart.com

Travel

Earn 5X points on qualifying airline, cruise, car rental, hotel, travel agency purchases, gas, tolls, and ride share purchases.

MCC codes:

3000 – 3299 – Airlines
3355, 3357, 3359, 3366, 3387, 3389, 3390, 3393, 3395, 3405, 3412, 3441 – Car Rental
5812, 5813 – Dining
5814 – Fast Food
7032, 7832, 7922, 7929, 7991, 7996, 7998, 7999 – Movies, Concerts, Theme Parks, and Other Ent.
5541, 5542 – Gas
3501 – 3779; 7011 -Hotels, Motels, Inns, and Resorts
4131, 4411, 4722 – Bus Lines, Tours, and Travel Agencies
4787 – Tolls
4121 – Ride Shares
4111 – Mass Transit
4112 – Passenger Railways

“Enjoy the Holidays”

Earn 5X points on qualifying dining and groceries, food delivery services, liquor stores, and Amazon.com. 

MCC codes:

  • 5812, 5814 – Dining
    5812, 5814 – Food delivery services (GrubHub, DoorDash)
    5441 – Groceries
    5921 – Liquor stores
    5818, 5735, 5942, 5968, 5192 – Amazon.com

How Does the 2021 ABOC 5X Calendar Compare to 2020?

Amalgamated Bank’s 2021 5X calendar has little in common with 2020. The only category that remains the same from 2020 is from Q3, which offers 5X points on travel. Last year’s calendar offered 5X points on the following categories:

  • January to March: Monthly bills
  • April to June: Dining and transportation
  • July to September: Travel
  • October to December: Department stores

Bottom Line

The Chase Freedom, Discover It, and ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard are three excellent cash back cards. The 5% cash back (or 5X, in the case of ABOC) calendars offer significant value for those who either like to shop online or prefer to plan their major spending ahead of time. The bonus categories are incredibly useful around the holidays, as department stores, online shopping, and other major retailers are the focus.

Those who don’t spend heavily in bonus categories, however, don’t have to settle for 1% cash back. There are plenty of excellent credit cards that offer accelerated cash back on all purchases.

Not sure which card is best for you? Check out some of our “Best Of” lists to discover the top credit cards in each category:

Featured photo by Matthew Henry/ Burst

About: Cory
Cory Santos

Cory is BestCards.com's "Jack of all trades" and resident credit expert, covering all facets of the credit card space. In addition to credit cards, Cory finds that jogging, cats, and memes are essential parts of a balanced day.