Discover it®, my top choice among cash back credit cards, is ready to deliver a new dose of bonus cash back opportunities this year. In addition to having no annual fee, it offers 5% cash back on certain purchase categories that change every three months, while all other spending earns 1% cash back.
The 5% cash back category line-up for 2015 has been released and that means you can get an idea of how to earn the most cash back for the year. After I reviewed these categories, I have a few tips on how you can maximize the cash back earned on Discover it® card in 2015 (like 10% cash back at your favorite department store via the Discover Deals program).
1. Enroll at the start of the quarter
The ability to earn 5% cash back on certain purchases is the major attraction of the Discover it® card. But first, you better remember to enroll at the beginning of every quarter because you won’t earn the 5% cash back until you do (you’ll just get the base 1% cash back instead).
Normally, Discover will send out emails that allow you to sign up just by clicking a button within the email — no login required. It’s the simplest and fastest way to enroll. Otherwise, you can also sign up through online banking or by calling 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683). If a calendar reminder would help, create a recurring reminder for every three months.
During some months of the year, you won’t be earning 5% cash back on certain categories simply because you don’t anticipate those types of purchases. Therefore, you may not bother to enroll. I would advise against that, since you can never be 100 percent sure. Sign up anyway — you’ve got nothing to lose.
2. Wait until late summer for home improvement purchases
Based on the Discover it® 5% cash back calendar for 2015, you’ll most likely earn 5% cash back at home improvement, garden and furnishing stores from July to September. Discover didn’t release the exact categories so I’m not entirely certain, but based on the 5% cash back categories in previous years, I’m confident that those categories will show up.
If you’re thinking about any renovations, repairs and touch-ups for your home, it would be ideal to wait until the third quarter of the year. You can earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in these categories during the quarter. It translates to $75 cash back plus the 1% cash back on any amount in excess of $1,500 spent.
3. Earn 10% at department stores
Again, looking at the last quarter of 2015, there’s a good chance that Discover it® will let you earn 5% cash back at department stores (it was one of the categories in 2014, too). You can earn at least double that amount of cash back by using the Discover Deals (formerly called ShopDiscover) program.
Discover Deals is a cash back program that is separate from the Discover it® card program, but you can combine the cash back earned from both programs. Discover Deals has an online shopping portal that has links to various online retailers. If you click these links to arrive at a retailer’s website and complete an online purchase as your normally would, you can get 5% to 20% extra cash back.
For instance, Discover Deals offers 5% bonus cash back when you make online purchases at Bloomingdales.com. Since Bloomingdales is a department store, you would get another 5% cash back through Discover it® (presumably in Q4). Just like that, you get a total of 10% cash back when you use your Discover it® card to pay for a purchase made at Bloomingdales.com through Discover Deals.
Luxury department stores are known for their long list of exclusions when they provide “deals” and “discounts.” Using this tip, you can avoid those exclusions because the 10% cash back is earned on all items purchased.
I’d also like to note that the extra cash back that you earn through Discover Deals is not counted towards the quarterly cash back limit on the Discover it® card.
4. Review your Discover Deals offers every month
The new Discover Deals program also provides different types of offers that you can “load” onto your Discover it® card for instant discounts or one-time statement credits — another way to rack up more savings on top of your Discover it® card’s cash back program.
Just like the Discover it® 5% cash program, you’ll have to “enroll” for each offer on Discover Deals. If you think there’s the slightest chance that you’ll use the offer, just enroll. It costs you nothing.
One type of deal is an instant discount, which takes effect immediately when you make the purchase. An example is 20% off at a certain restaurant, where the discount is applied when your Discover card is charged.
The other type of deal comes in the form of statement credits. You make a purchase for a qualifying amount and receive a credit toward your account balance. For instance, one deal may require that you spend at least $100 at a retailer to get $25 back in a statement credit.
I’ve had a chance to check out some of the deals available through Discover Deals, and many of them have expiration dates. So, I would suggest that you take a quick glance at your offers at the beginning of every month. You can do so through online banking or through Discover’s mobile app.
Again, like the Discover Deals online shopping portal, you’ll also earn cash back on these purchases as you normally would with the Discover it® card.
Do you already have the Discover it® card and have found other useful ways to boost your cash back earnings? Please share in the comment section below.