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Best Discover Credit Cards: Which One Is Right For You?

Discover offers several credit cards, many of which have fantastic rewards and features. With how similar some of these cards are, it may not be immediately obvious which of the seven will best suit your needs. Our analysts broke out the most noteworthy cards and categorized them according to general consumer categories to help you quickly arrive at an answer. For most people, the Discover it® Miles will be the best answer. However, you should feel free to see if any of the other options we list here may work better for you.

Note: If you have a bad credit score (FICO below 600) then the Discover it® Secured is likely the only Discover card you can get. Luckily, it's one the best credit cards for bad credit. You can read our review of it here.

Best Discover Credit Cards...

Best Overall: Discover it® Miles

For most people, the Discover it® Miles will deliver the best cash back rewards. It's arguably the one Discover credit card that requires the least maintenance, as there are no rotating categories to keep track of. If you value simplicity, and aren't naturally an optimizer, you want this card. The Discover it® Miles awards 1.5 miles on all your purchases. It doesn't matter if you're shopping for groceries or booking a flight — you'll be getting 1.5 miles for every dollar spent. The miles can then be traded in for either travel statement credit or cash back. Each mile will get you about $0.01 in rewards. Furthermore, these miles don't expire.

Since the Discover it® Miles effectively gives cardholders a 1.5% rewards rate (1.5 x $0.01), it's best used by anyone for whom most spending falls outside of the 5% categories of other Discover cards. If you find earning up to 5% cash back intriguing, we recommend you still read through what makes the Discover it® Cash Back the second best Discover card, in the following section.

Discover it® Miles Highlights

  • 1.5 Miles On All Purchases
  • Discover matches all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year
  • Miles are redeemable for cash back and travel
  • Read The Full Review

Best for Optimizers: Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back has one of the highest reward potentials of any Discover credit card. It offers 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, Amazon.com, restaurants, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. The most you can earn through the bonus categories is $75 each quarter, with all other spending earning you an unlimited 1% cash back. The bonus 5% categories change every three months, though they are somewhat predictable year-to-year. We typically see gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants and Amazon.com as categories throughout the year.

It's worth applying for the Discover it® Cash Back over the Discover it® Miles if you can manage to get at least roughly 15% of your total purchases into the 5% bonus categories. If you do that, you'll be walking with a rewards rate that is, on average, higher than 1.5%.

Discover it® Cash Back Highlights

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate
  • Discover doubles all the cash back you earn at the end of the first year (for new cardmembers only)
  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Read The Full Review

Best for Students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Students have two options if going with Discover, and the Discover it® Student Cash Back is the best choice. It shares a lot of the same features as the Discover it® Cash Back — namely 5% cash back on categories that rotate each quarter, up to a maximum. The other student option, the Discover it® Student chrome, simply doesn't come close.

Not only is the Discover it® Student Cash Back the best Discover card for students, it's also one of the best student credit cards in general. That's because the rewards it comes with don't hold back. Most student credit cards will give cardholders some truncated version of a rewards program that is much worse than what non-student cards offer. The Discover it® Student Cash Back is, in many ways, just as good as its non-student counterpart.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Highlights

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years
  • Read The Full Review

Best for Dealing With Debt: Discover it® Balance Transfer

If you have existing credit card debt, the Discover it® Balance Transfer is the Discover card best suited to get you out of that bind. As the card's name suggests, it comes with 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers. After the promo period expires, your interest rate will be 13.74% - 24.74% Variable, depending on your creditworthiness. That 0% intro period can be great for helping you pay down your principal debt. Skipping interest charges for a year and a half has the potential to save you thousands of dollars. You do have to pay a 3% fee with each transfer. However, we find that in most scenarios you'll be coming out ahead through the money you save on interest.

Do not confuse this card with the Discover it® Cash Back. Though the two have very similar names and properties, the Discover it® Cash Back gives you 4 less months of 0% introductory APR on balance transfers. It does, however, have a much longer 0% intro APR period on new purchases. The Discover it® Cash Back comes with 14 months of 0% intro purchase APR, compared to just 6 months on the Discover it® Balance Transfer. Therefore, if you anticipate to make large purchases in the future, and want a credit card to deal with those, the Discover it® Cash Back is the way to go.

Discover it® Balance Transfer Highlights

  • 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases and for 18 months on balance transfers
  • 3% balance transfer fee
  • 13.74% - 24.74% Variable APR applies after promo period
  • Read The Full Review

Discover Credit Cards And What They Offer

We want to give consumers the opportunity to quickly compare all the Discover credit cards and their rewards at a glance — including cards we didn't directly talk about above. The table below gives you everything you need to know.

Discover CardBest Feature

Discover it® Cash Back

5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter up to a quarterly maximum
Discover it® Student Cash Back$20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years
Discover it® chrome2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter
Discover it® MilesUnlimited 1.5x Miles per dollar on all purchases
NHL® Discover it®10% discount on purchases at shop.NHL.com
Discover it® Balance Transfer18 months of 0% introductory APR on balance transfers
Discover it® Secured2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter
Discover it® Student chrome2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter

All of the above Discover credit cards share a few features in common that strengthen each offer. For the most part, we avoided talking about these benefits above, since they don't really help distinguish one Discover credit card from another. However, they are still worth highlighting, so we talk about each briefly below.

Rewards Match. Discover matches the rewards new cardholders have earned at the end of the first year. With the cash back cards, if you earned $150 in rewards during year one, you'd get another $150 credited to your account. For the Discover it® Miles your miles are what doubles. In either case, this benefit makes the Discover credit cards one of the best offers from any bank, especially during that first year.

No Foreign Transaction Fees. All of the Discover credit cards don't impose any additional fees when you use them outside of the United States. This is a great perk for those who frequently travel abroad and want to use their card during their trip.

Social Security Monitoring. This is one of the newest features to be rolled out on Discover credit cards, and it's a unique one. The issuer will monitor risky websites on the dark web, scanning for your Social Security Number. Discover will also monitor your Experian® credit report and notify you whenever any new credit account is reported to your Experian® credit file, even if it's not a Discover account. You'll receive an alert any time your account becomes active. Most of the time it will probably be something you authorized. However, if it isn't, you have a the chance to immediately take action to protect yourself.

Partnerships with other card networks, for more global acceptance. One of the most frequently levied complaints about Discover cards is that they aren't as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard, especially abroad. While this is true, Discover has partnered with other credit card networks so that you may use your Discover credit card with more merchants when travelling overseas. The following table breaks down where and when you can use your Discover cards when going abroad.

Region

Credit Usage
North AmericaDiscover Only
Central AmericaDiscover Only
South AmericaDiners Club Only
CarribeanDiscover Only
EuropeDiners Club & Discover
AsiaDiners Club, China UnionPay (Mainland China Only) & JCB (Japan Only)
AfricaDiners Club Only
OceaniaDiscover & Diners Club

Comments and Questions

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Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

These responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

How We Calculate Rewards: ValuePenguin calculates the value of rewards by estimating the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using the card less any associated annual fees. These estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone, not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.