For some people, a rotating category credit card can be a powerful tool, giving them the opportunity to earn 5% cashback on many different categories of purchases throughout the year. Other people avoid rotating credit cards because they don’t like strategizing how to use them correctly or they just don’t understand how they work.
Whether a rotating category credit card is right for you depends on what you hope to get out of your credit card. Most of today’s best credit cards offer rewards, but not all credit cards give you the opportunity to earn high-level cash rewards on the spinning bonus tiers.
Here’s what you need to know about category striped credit cards, including how category striped cards work, some common categories of striped credit cards, and how to choose between the two best striped credit cards currently on the market. .
What are rotating categories of credit cards?
Rotating category credit cards are cash back credit cards that offer the highest cash back percentage in purchase categories that rotate on a regular basis, often quarterly.
Unlike fixed rate cashback cards, which offer the same percentage of cashback for each purchase, and bonus tier cashback cards, which offer a higher percentage of cashback for spending categories that never change (for example, credit cards that reward purchases in grocery stores), rotating category credit cards give you the opportunity to earn high cashback percentages on a variety of everyday expenses throughout the year. In January, your bonus categories may include grocery stores and eBay; By October, your bonus categories could switch to Walmart and PayPal.
The best rotating category credit cards include popular spending categories throughout the year, giving you the opportunity to maximize rewards in the bonus category.
How do striped category cards work?
Rotating category credit cards typically offer a high reward rate — typically 5 percent cashback — across multiple categories of purchases that rotate every quarter. There is usually a limit on the number of bonus categories you can earn in a quarter. Once you maximize rewards in your bonus tier, any additional purchases in your bonus tiers will cash back at the card’s normal reward rate.
General bonus categories include restaurants, grocery stores, streaming services, and gas stations, as well as specific retailers such as Walgreens, Target, or Amazon.com.
What are the best rotating category credit cards?
The top spinning credit cards are Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex℠. Both offer 5 percent cash back on bonus tiers that rotate every quarter, up to a maximum of $1,500 on purchases (or $75 refund) each quarter.
Discover it cashback offers a flat 1% cashback on all other purchases, while Chase Freedom Flex offers different cashback percentages depending on the category of your purchases.
Discover it Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex have many similar features, but the amount of rewards you can earn with each will depend on your shopping habits and your financial goals.
Here’s how to decide if Discover it Cash Back or Chase Freedom Flex is right for you.
Discover it Cash Back offers a 5 percent refund on categories that rotate every quarter up to $1,500 on purchases per quarter (then 1 percent refunded). All other purchases receive unlimited 1% cashback.
In addition, new cardholders can take advantage of the Discover Cashback Match program, which matches all the rewards you earn during your first year as a cardholder. For example, if you maximize spending on the bonus category each quarter, you will receive $75 in cash for the quarter ($300 per year), and at the end of the first year, you will receive another $300 in cash.
In 2022, the Discover it Cash Back calendar includes the following rotating bonus categories:
|Q1 (January to March)||
|Q2 (April to June)|
|Q3 (July to September)|
|Q4 (October to December)||
Before you can start receiving 5% cash back on purchases in the bonus category, you need to activate those categories.
Discover makes it easy to activate rotating categories – all you need to do is log into your online account or the Discover app and select the option to activate them. (Want an even easier option? Discover will email you a one-click activation link, no sign-in required.)
It is recommended that you activate the quarterly bonus categories well in advance of the start date because you will not receive bonus cash back on any of them until you have activated them. If you make a restaurant purchase on July 1st but don’t activate the quarterly bonus categories by July 10th, for example, your restaurant purchase on July 1st will earn only 1 percent cashback.
Like Discover it Cash Back, Chase Freedom Flex offers a 5 percent cashback on categories that rotate each quarter up to a maximum of $1,500 on purchases per quarter (then 1 percent is refunded).
However, Chase Freedom Flex also gives you the chance to earn bonus money back in a select number of categories, including:
- 5% cashback on Lyft purchases (until March 2025)
- 5% cash back on rides purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Cashback 3% for dinner
- Cashback 3% for purchases in a pharmacy
All other purchases earn a flat 1 percent refund, and new cardholders can earn a $200 signup bonus by spending $500 within the first three months.
Unlike Discover, Chase does not announce its bonus categories in advance. Here are Chase’s rotating bonus categories for 2022:
|Q1 (January to March)||
|Q2 (April to June)||
|Q3 (July to September)||
|Q4 (October to December)|
Like Discover, Chase requires you to activate the spinning bonus categories before you can claim the 5% cashback. However, unlike Discover, Chase applies your activation to the entire quarter – if you activate it before the deadline, which is usually 15 days before the end of the quarter.
This means that if you make a category purchase on January 1st but do not activate your bonus categories by January 10th, your category purchase on January 1st will still earn you 5% cashback.
How to maximize a rotating category card
The best way to maximize cashback on rotating categories is to plan ahead. Be sure to activate your rewards as soon as possible and use the categories to plan your spending. If you know that, for example, during a certain quarter, grocery shopping will bring you 5 percent cash, consider stocking up on a freezer and maximizing your rewards.
It’s also a good idea to pair one of the top spinning category credit cards with another top reward card. Use your rotating credit card anytime you can earn 5% cashback, and use your other reward card for any purchases that can only earn 1% cashback on your rotating credit card. So you can earn industry-leading rewards on everything you buy, no matter the category.
The best rotating category credit cards offer 5% cashback on popular spending categories that change every quarter, giving you the opportunity to earn rewards on a variety of purchases.
Once you understand how category rotating cards work, you can start using these powerful bonus cards to plan your purchases and maximize your cashback potential.