Last updated on May 13th, 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 and Discover It being two of the most popular options available. These cards offer 5% back on select categories each quarter. Here are the 5% cash back calendars for 2020 for three leading card issuers: Chase, Discover, and Amalgamated Bank of Chicago (ABOC).
What Are the Chase Freedom 5% Cash Back Calendar Categories for 2020?
The Chase Freedom Card is 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. What are the bonus categories? Here are the 5% cash back categories for 2020:
Gas stations, select streaming services
Applies to the first $1,500 in purchases at stand-alone gas stations, 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.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the trend for 2020 is for online and mobile wallet purchases. The gym membership and fitness club categories of Q2 were unfortunate, as they were announced before the full impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Since then, however, Chase has been proactive in updating the 5% cash back categories to reflect the changing dynamics of a pandemic lifestyle. Expect this trend to continue when the Q4 2020 cash back categories are revealed.
The 5% back categories only apply to the first $1,500 in purchases per quarter. Once a user exceeds $1,500 in spending in the bonus categories, all purchases earn an unlimited 1% back.
Activating Chase Cash Back Categories
The only way to earn 5% back on the bonus categories is by activating those categories through Chase. Cardholders who do not activate their card for the bonus categories will only earn 1% back on purchases, regardless of the category.
Fortunately, activating your Chase Freedom Card to earn bonus cash back is easy. Simply visit Chase’s 5% cash back calendar site, log in, and activate your card. You can also activate your card by calling the number on the back of your Chase Freedom Card, or by visiting the Chase Ultimate Rewards website.
How Does the Chase 5% Cash Back Calendar for 2020 Compare to 2019?
While the previous year’s cash back calendar usually provides insights into future categories in 2020, that may not be the case this year. Here’s a quick rundown of the 2019 Chase Cash Back Calendar:
- January to March: Gas stations, tolls, and drugstores
- April to June: Groceries and home improvement stores
- July to September: Streaming services and gas stations
- October to December: Department stores, PayPal, and Chase Pay
The 2019 list of cash back categories was popular thanks to the addition of department stores in Q4. This 2019 list of Chase Freedom department stores included over 30 retailers, with the most notable being JCPenney, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Kohl’s, Sears, Saks Fifth Avenue, and more.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the inclusion of a department store cash back category on the Q4 2020 calendar is unclear.
Related Article: The Best Cash Back Credit Cards for 2020
What Are the Discover It 5% Cash Back Calendar Categories for 2020?
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 2020’s 5% cash back categories:
Grocery stores, Walgreens, and CVS
Applies to the first $1500 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.
The Discover It Cashback Calendar for 2020 is much more enticing than 2019’s offerings. Discover is also reacting to the realities of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the addition of Home Depot purchases in June.
The 2020 calendar, however, offers more options than the 2019 calendar, even without additions due to the pandemic. Here’s the 2019 Discover calendar for comparison:
2019 Discover It Cashback Calendar
- January to March: Grocery stores
- April to June: Gas stations, Uber, and Lyft
- July to September: Restaurants
- October to December: Amazon.com
Activating Discover Cashback Categories and More Details
Like Chase, Discover requires activation for cardholders to earn the 5% back in bonus categories. Discover It cardholders can visit the Discover website to log in and activate their bonus categories a few weeks before the new quarter begins.
The 5% back categories only apply to the first $1,500 in purchases that quarter. Once a user exceeds $1,500 in spending in the bonus categories, all other purchases earn an unlimited 1% back.
ABOC Platinum Rewards 5X Calendar for 2020
While much of the focus on 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 2020 break down as follows:
Earn 5x points on qualifying utilities, cell, cable, Amazon Prime and streaming subscription services purchases.
900 – Utilities, Cell Phones/Cable
4899 – Digital downloads
4814, 4815, 4816 – Cell Phones/Cable
4899 – Cell Phones/Cable, Streaming
4912 – Cell Phones/Cable
5818 – Streaming
5968 – Subscription Services
6300 – Insurance Premiums
The 5X calendar with the ABOC Platinum Rewards Mastercard also applies to the ABOC Union Strong Mastercard. That card is attractive in that it provides unique benefits to members of labor unions, including allowing customers to skip payments if their union sanctions a strike of 30 days or more and notifies ABOC.
How to Activate ABOC 5X Bonus Categories
The ABOC Platinum Mastercard does not require activation each quarter. Instead, a cardmember activates their card once, and they are all set. To activate a card, visit ABOCRewards.com.
Like the Chase and Discover cards, ABOC Platinum cardholders earn 5X points on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter only. After that, they’ll earn 1X points on all purchases.
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. Most notable among these options are:
- Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5% cash back on all purchases)
- American Express Cash Magnet Card (1.5% back on all purchases
- US Bank Cash+ (5% back on the first $2,000 each quarter in two categories of your choosing)
- Capital One® SavorOne® Cash Rewards (Unlimited 3% cash back on dining and entertainment,plus 2% at grocery stores)
Related Article: Can You Raise Your Credit Score 100 Points In a Month?