Time to enroll in your Q3 5 percent cash-back categories

If you have a card with quarterly rotating categories, it’s time to activate for Q3. The third quarter spans July, August and September – so the roster of categories is quite summery.

Q3 2017 categories (5 percent cash back)

Just three cards on the market offer rotating 5 percent cash-back categories: The Discover it, the Chase Freedom and the Citi Dividend (which is closed to new applicants).

Here’s your cash-back summer lineup for 2017:

5 percent cash-back categories: Q3 2017

Discover itChase FreedomCiti Dividend
Home improvement stores

Wholesale clubs
Restaurants

Movie theaters
Airlines

Hilton
Limit: $1,500 in combined purchasesLimit: $1,500 in combined purchasesLimit: Only $300 in rewards can be earned annually.

Card issuers do their best to match their bonus categories to seasonal spend. So Q3’s bonus categories are a mix of common summer expenditures: Wholesale clubs for summer-picnic and BBQ bulk purchases. Home improvement stores for yard projects. Restaurants and movie theaters for entertaining the kids while they’re out of school. Hilton and airlines for summer trips.

Which card is most lucrative for you depends on your summer plans. But Citi’s airline category is especially compelling if you want to buy your holiday-season airfares a bit early. The Discover it’s categories have the potential for maximizing big-ticket purchases. As for the Chase Freedom, restaurants represent a beloved category for many rewards-chasers – and rewards earned with Chase become valuable currency in Chase’s lucrative Ultimate Rewards program.

How to enroll in 5 percent cash back

With these cards, 5 percent cash back is not automatic – you must enroll in the categories. You can do so via online banking, or you can sign up for text/email reminders and simply click through on the link you’re sent to activate.

As of June 15, all cards are open for activation for Q3 – and it’s best to activate immediately. While Chase will reward you retroactively for all the bonus-category purchases you make (as long as you enroll during the quarter), Citi and Discover will not. In fact, Citi has an activation delay of up to two days.

Other ways to earn cash back this summer

If these cards’ bonus categories are lackluster to you – or you’d rather earn a steady rate of cash back year-round, check out these cash-back card options:

 
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