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All about 5% rotating category cards

Some credit cards offer 5% cash back rewards in categories that change every few months. These rotating category cards offer increased rewards on a limited amount of spending in categories that rotate quarterly. They can be a great way to increase the amount of credit card rewards you earn.

If you are a fan of earning credit card rewards, you should have one or more of these cards in your wallet.

How rotating category cards work

Rotating category cards offer increased cash back rewards in spending categories that change periodically. These categories sometimes include very usable categories like grocery stores and gas. But sometimes they include specific merchants or categories like streaming services, where you’re not likely to spend much money. The rotating category cards offering 5% back usually cap the amount of bonus rewards you can earn. Caps on bonus spending are typically $1,500 in spending per quarter, $500 per month or $6,000 per year.

Most rotating category cards require you to activate your bonus rewards each quarter. The card issuers usually publish which categories earn additional rewards the month before a quarter begins. For example, additional rewards during January-March are typically announced mid-December. It’s generally a good idea to activate your bonus rewards as soon as you can. Most card issuers only give you bonus rewards for purchases made after you activate.

The traditional rotating category cards

Discover it® Cash Back – The OG 5% cash back card

The Discover it® Cash Back card was the first major credit card to offer rotating cash back categories. The card earns 5% cash back rewards on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that rotate quarterly. Typical categories include places like, grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. You must activate your cash back categories prior to making your purchases if you want to earn bonus cash back. New cardmembers earn double cash back, meaning for the first year, you can earn 10% cash back on rotating categories.

More about Discover it®

Discover it® Cash Back card art
Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back is the original credit card offering 5% cash back rewards on spending in rotating categories. The card offers new cardmembers double cash back rewards in the first year and has an annual fee of $0.

The card’s rewards structure is relatively simple. Each quarter, Discover publishes the Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories. Spending in these categories earns 5% cash back, on up to $1,500 in spending during the quarter. All other spending earns 1% cash back.

Unfortunately, Discover eliminated most of the additional benefits on its cards, so the Discover it® Cash Back card has no notable additional benefits.

Discover it® Cash Back welcome offer: $100 statement credit + double cash back in your first year. (Annual fee: $0)

Discover it® Cash Back card art

Get a $100 statement credit when you’re approved and use the card within the first three months. Plus, get all of your cash back doubled in your first year of having the card. Get this welcome bonus.

The $100 statement credit after approval is an easy welcome bonus, even if it is smaller than other easy welcome bonuses. More interesting is the doubled cash back in the first year of having the card which turns the cards 5% rotating categories into 10% rotating categories.

5% cash back in rotating categories. (More in our card review.)

This is a referral link. All information about Discover it® Cash Back has been collected independently by

Chase Freedom Flex℠ – 5x rewards as Ultimate Rewards

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the previously available Chase Freedom card offer rotating 5% rewards in quarterly categories like the Discover card. Also similar to the Discover card, the Chase Freedom Flex limits the amount of purchases on which you earn 5% rewards. You only earn 5% rewards on up to $1,500 in rotating category purchases each quarter. But the Chase Freedom flex offers additional opportunities for cash back rewards. The card earns 3% on dining and drugstores and 5% cash back on travel purchases through Chase Ultimate Rewards. I like the card for its extended warranty and its cell phone protection benefits.

More about Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex card art
Chase Freedom Flex℠

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is Chase’s take on the 5% rotating category card, offering increased rewards in limited-time categories that are announced quarterly. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has no annual fee.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers 5% back on up to $1,500 spent each quarter in rotating bonus quarterly categories. Categories have historically included purchases at grocery stores,, gas stations and big box retailers. In addition, the card offers 3% cash back on restaurants and drugstore purchases and 1% cash back on everything else. All rewards are earned as Ultimate Rewards points, but can be redeemed for cash back.

In addition to cash back rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers a generous suite of benefits for a card with no annual fee. The card protects your purchases with Purchase Protection, Extended Warranty Protection, and Cell Phone Protection and it offers protection for your travels with secondary auto rental collision damage waiver insurance and trip cancellation/interruption insurance.

Chase Freedom Flex card art

Learn more and apply for the Chase Freedom Flex. Earn a $200 bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

While the above offer is the best public bonus that we can link to directly, you might be able to get a better offer. Learn more about the secret Chase Freedom welcome bonuses we found.

t Cards and Points, we always put the reader first. We always show you the best deal we know about, even if it means passing up the opportunity to get paid by showing you an affiliate link. Not all sites do this. If you found this useful and want to support this site, you can buy us a coffee.

Citi Dividend – 5% cash back on up to $6,000 of spending

The Citi Dividend card earns 5% cash back on rotating categories, up to $300/year
Citi Dividend Card

Finally, the Citi Dividend card rounds out the traditional rotating category cash back cards. The Citi Dividend offers 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, but the limits on its cash back earnings are structured differently. Rather than limiting the amount of cash back you can earn in a quarter, the Dividend card limits the amount of cash back you can earn during the year to $300. This means that you can choose to earn 5% cash back in a few of its rotating categories or simply earn 5% on up to $6,000 of spending in one category during the year. Note that the $300 limit is across all cash back categories. Once you’ve hit that limit, no further purchases made using the card will earn cash back.

Unfortunately, the Citi Dividend card is no longer available to new cardmembers.

Non-traditional rotating category cards

Citi Custom Cash℠ – 5% on your top category each month

The Citi Custom Cash card gives you 5% cash back rewards on up to $500 spending in the category where you spend the most each statement cycle.
Citi Custom Cash℠

The Citi Custom Cash℠ card offers a different take on rotating category cards. Rather than selecting a category each quarter, you simply earn 5% back on the first $500 you spend in your top eligible category, each billing cycle. Eligible categories include restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, select travel, select transit, select streaming services, drugstores, home improvement stores, fitness clubs and live entertainment. And you don’t have to select a category; Citi selects your monthly category based on where you have spent the most. After $500 in spending, all of your purchases earn 1% rewards.

Citi Custom Cash℠ Card card art

The Citi Custom Cash℠ frequently offers new cardmembers a welcome bonus. Learn more about the Citi Custom Cash℠ and its welcome bonus from our Citi Custom Cash overview page.

U.S. Bank Cash+ – 5% on two categories each quarter

U.S. Bank Cash+ card lets you select your categories each quarter.
U.S. Bank Cash+

The U.S. Bank Cash+ card lets you pick two categories that earn 5% cash back each quarter. The U.S. Bank Cash+ lets you pick from a long list of categories, including fast food, home utilities, department stores, cell phone providers, electronics stores, sporting goods stores, gyms/fitness centers, ground transportation, furniture stores, select clothing stores and more. The long list of categories and the option to change each quarter makes this card very useful for large planned purchases. The limits on your cash back earning are also higher than you get on either the Chase Freedom Flex or the Discover IT cards. You earn 5% cash back on your first $2,000 in combined purchases across your two categories each quarter.

The flexibility of the Citi Custom Cash and the U.S. Bank Cash+ give you a great tool to maximize your cash back rewards. Having one or both of these cards in your wallet likely means being able to choose 5% cash back categories that complement your other cards.

What is a good rotating category strategy?

Having a few rotating category credit cards in your wallet can be an easy way to get 5% back on a good chunk of your spending. And it doesn’t have to be terribly complicated.

Let’s say that the majority of your spending is on groceries, restaurants, gas, household utilities, and purchases that can be made at a big box store like Target, Walmart or Amazon. What kind of rewards could you get on these everyday purchases? Here’s what this looks like in the first quarter of 2023:

  • Groceries – 5% using Chase Freedom or Discover it
  • Restaurants – 5% using Citi Custom Cash (3% using Chase Freedom Flex)
  • Gas – 5% using Citi Custom Cash
  • Household utilities – 5% using the U.S. Bank Cash+
  • Big box purchases – 5% using Chase Freedom (Target) or 5% using Citi Dividend (

If you held just the Chase Freedom and the Citi Custom Cash, you could get 5% cash back on your everyday spending on groceries and purchases at Target and your gas purchases. You’d also get 3% back on your dining purchases because the Chase Freedom Flex offers that bonus category year-round.

Of course, if you held more of the rotating category cards you could optimize your spending further. But there are diminishing returns to holding more credit cards.

Bottom line

5% rotating category cards can be a great way to increase the rewards you earn on your everyday spending. Having one or two rotating category cards in your wallet can increase the rewards you earn on your everyday spending without adding much complexity to your wallet.

About the author

  • Aaron Hurd

    Aaron Hurd is a credit card, travel rewards, and loyalty program expert. Over the past 15 years, he has authored over a thousand expert contributions published by leading outlets including WSJ, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, Bankrate, CNET, and many others. He has also served in consulting roles for many of these same outlets, designing content strategy, hiring teams of teams of editors and contributors, developing thought-leadership pieces, and ghost-editing for senior editors. Aaron is well-known in the miles and points community and regularly presents about travel rewards at conferences like the Chicago Seminars and Minnebar. Aaron has enjoyed the game of optimizing credit card rewards since getting his first credit card shortly after he turned 18. He started learning about credit cards and travel rewards from the (now defunct) FatWallet Finance forums and FlyerTalk. He holds more than 40 open credit cards and has first-hand experience with almost every major credit card product.

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