With the new year just around the corner, it's time to activate your credit card bonus categories for 2016. Here's my quarterly roundup of the available bonus categories and suggestions for maximizing them.
In the first quarter of 2017 Citi Dividend cards will offer 5% cash back on purchases made at The Home Depot and "Home Furnishing Stores." Since the total cash back you can earn with the card is capped at $300 per calendar year, unless you're planning to make some large purchases at The Home Depot anyway, it's probably best to wait until the second quarter bonus category of "Drug Stores" kicks in, unless you are able to combine the 5% cash back with other lucrative offers from Home Furnishing Stores.
Chase Freedom "classic" cards will earn 5 Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent at gas stations and on "Local Commuter Transportation" excluding parking and tolls. If you still have access to gas station manufactured spend, that's the obvious choice for maximizing this category. In my case I'll just switch from paying for my subway rides with my Barclaycard Arrival Plus card for the first quarter of 2016.
US Bank Cash+
Here's the list of categories where you can earn 5% cash back on up to $2,000 in purchases with the Cash+ in the first quarter of 2016:
As you can see, there's pretty slim pickings here, although "Charity" and "Electronics Stores" remain available, which make the Cash+ a solid card for making Kiva loans and paying for Apple products, which are rarely available at a significant discount.
In the first quarter of 2017 Discover it cards will earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in the categories of "Gas Stations, Ground Transportation, and Wholesale Clubs." If you've been taking advantage of the flood of offers for discounted membership and cash back at Sam's Club and other wholesale clubs, and have easy access to a location, your best bet is likely buying prepaid debit cards with your Discover card. Keep in mind that once you've earned cash back with a Discover it card, it can be redeemed for many gift cards at above face value, increasing your total return on your credit card spend.
To activate your Discover it bonus earning log into your Discover online banking account.