Rotating Category Cards: Sorry, Sam

  • Revolving category cards (5% cash back in rotating categories) are worth your time
  • Discover is particularly lucrative, if you use gift card redemption
  • Chase’s Freedom card feeds into their Ultimate Rewards program, another great option.

Samuel L Jackson has a problem with rotating category credit cards. Too much trouble. Confusing, says Sam. Who needs it?

You do. No matter what Nick Fury says, one or more of these cards should be in your wallet.

Discover: Savings Multiplier

The Discover It card is hands down my favorite in this segment. I never use it for anything but the rotating quarterly categories, but for those, it’s great. Below is the most recent set of categories packing 5% cash back. They’re things you already certainly spend plenty on.

You’ll need to sign up for participation each quarter – it’s not automatic, but you can set reminders at Discover to do it ahead of time.

Once the “Cashback Bonus” is in your account, though, is when it gets more interesting.

Discover has several options for redeeming your bonus. The simple one is to use them for an account credit, but there’s a better one: redeem for gift cards, with a $5 kicker.

That converts, for example, your $20 bonus into $25 at Starbucks, a 25% boost. So your 5% bonus rate turns into an effective 6.25% bonus. The gift cards can be physical or digital.

That’s the definition of stacking. Sam, I love you in the MCU, but your Quicksilver 1.5% isn’t the endgame I’m looking for.

Chase Freedom: “Ultimate” Savings

Similarly, the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back quarterly in major categories, like groceries, gas, and Amazon. In fact, it’s clear Discover and Chase watch each other closely to set the timing of their offers. It’s also on you to enroll by quarter.

The downside of Chase Freedom is that there’s no equivalent to Discover’s gift card leverage.

Card experts would dispute that claim, however, since you earn Ultimate Rewards points with the Freedom, that, in specific circumstances, can be very valuable for travel redemption. If you want to dip a toe in that pond, read The Point Guy’s coverage. It’s not for the squeamish.

The upside, though, is that by combining your spending with Discover, you can get 5% back in leading categories for significant parts of the year.

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