Discover was the first card to introduce the concept of rotating categories. They were soon copied by Citi and Chase on their Dividend and Freedom cards respectively.
What are rotating categories?
- To understand how rotating categories came about, it is important to understand why they came about in the first place. Back in 2005 to 2006, issuers like Citi and Chase issued straight cash back cards, but paid 5% rebates on certain expenses the whole year round. However, pretty soon, everyone realized that this was an unprofitable situation because savvy cardholders simply paid their bills in full every month and pocketed the 5% cash back (not even interchange fees could make up for that). Hence 5% because they bogey that consumers looked at.
So the challenge for issuers was how to attract consumers with 5% rebates but not pay them the whole year round? Well, why not just change them every three months? Hence, that's how we came up with a 5% quarterly rotating category.
Bear in mind the expense types changes every year and you have to register every quarter to ensure you actually do earn those 5% cash back when you spend on the right things.
Below is a screenshot of the categories for this year.