Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Discover it® Cash Back: How to Pick Between the Two

Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Discover it® Cash Back: How to Pick Between the Two

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Choosing between the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back should boil down to the card that provides higher returns based on your spending habits. At first glance, these cards may look nearly identical: Both are cashback cards with 5% bonus categories that change quarterly.

Still, there are some subtle differences, in terms of who each card would work best for. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is best for those who want to earn an easy sign-up bonus and to lock in consistent, long-term value. Meanwhile, the Discover it® Cash Back is better for those who can maximize their spending in the first year and take advantage of Discover's exclusive cashback match program.

By breaking down each of the card's benefits, you'll get a clearer understanding of how to pick between the two.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ vs. Discover it® Cash Back: In-depth rewards comparison

There are two approaches to examining the rewards offered by the two cards: short-term versus long-term value. Depending on what type of user you are, you'll likely have a preference after examining the differences.

Chase Freedom Flex℠
Chase Freedom Flex℠
unavailable credit card
Discover it® Cash Back
Card IssuerMastercardDiscover
Sign-up bonusEarn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
Earnings rateEarn 5% cash back on eligible purchases in rotating categories, 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases.5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically
Apply Now
  • On Chase's Secure Website
Not available on ValuePenguin
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Note that the Discover network isn't as widely accepted in Europe and South America as Mastercard. In Asia, you can use the Discover network anywhere UnionPay, Diners Club International or JCB is accepted.

Best for short-term value: Discover it® Cash Back

During your first year of card ownership, the Discover it® Cash Back will almost always beat the Chase Freedom Flex℠. In place of a traditional sign-up bonus, Discover doubles all the cash back earned at the end of the first year. Therefore, if you max out your 5% bonus categories each quarter, you'll make at least $300 in cash back with the Discover it® Cash Back Card.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers this sign-up bonus instead: Earn a $200 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

However, if you're maxing out your bonus categories and spending a lot on your card within your first year, the Discover it® Cash Back will blow the Chase Freedom Flex℠ out of the water because of Discover's cashback match feature.

Winner: Discover it® Cash Back

Best for long-term value: Chase Freedom Flex℠

If we look past the shiny sign-up bonuses offered by each card, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ provides the best long-term value. Although the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is primarily a cashback card, it earns rewards in the form of Ultimate Rewards points. You can then redeem these points for cash back or other redemption options through Chase's Ultimate Rewards portal.

Even better, if you own one of Chase's premier travel cards, you can increase the value of your Ultimate Rewards. By transferring your points over to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, your points earn a travel redemption boost of 25% or 50%, respectively. With the Discover it® Cash Back, you'll earn direct cash back on your account at a set rate.

It's also worth noting that Discover cards aren't as widely accepted as those from Mastercard. So for the most flexibility with your rewards, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ is the better option in the long-run.

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Comparing cashback calendars

The primary differentiator between these two cards is their rotating category calendars. Based on each calendar, you should choose the card that offers the merchants that are more closely aligned with your spending habits. (Note that the 5% bonus for both cards is capped at $1,500 in purchases, with activation required. Once you reach that cap, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back will both earn you 1% until the next quarter rolls around.)

This is the Chase Freedom Flex℠'s cashback calendar for 2021:

January-March
April-June
July-September
October-December
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Internet
  • Cable
  • Phone services
  • Gas stations and home improvement stores
  • TBD
  • TBD
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This is the Discover it® Cash Back's cashback calendar for 2021:

January-March
April-June
July-September
October-December
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming services
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com
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The Chase Freedom Flex℠ tends to have more original categories that change based on consumer spending habits. By contrast, the Discover it® Cash Back tends to offer the same categories year-to-year with little variation.

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Which card is better for the average consumer?

The average consumer would be better off choosing the Chase Freedom Flex℠, which we've based on information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' average expenditures data from 2019. With this spending data, we can estimate the rewards provided by each card.

This is the average yearly consumer expenditure for our model consumer:

  • Groceries (food at home): $4,643
  • Dining (food away from home): $3,526
  • Gas (gasoline and motor oil): $2,094
  • General (All other expenditures, entertainment, apparel and services): $6,824

We assume that this consumer maxes out the 5% bonus categories for each card, so these cashback earnings are separate from their other yearly expenditure.

Chase Freedom Flex℠
Discover it® Cash Back
First yearSecond yearFirst yearSecond year
Groceries: $4,6435% on groceries
$232.15
1% on groceries
$46.43
1% on groceries
$46.43
1% on groceries
$46.43
Dining: $3,5263% on dining
$105.78
3% on dining
$105.78
1% on dining
$35.26
1% on dining
$35.26
General: $6,8241% on all other purchases
$68.24
1% on all other purchases
$68.24
1% on all other purchases
$68.24
1% on all other purchases
$68.24
Gas: $2,0941% on gas
$20.94
1% on gas
$20.94
1% on gas
$20.94
1% on gas
$20.94
5% bonus: $6,000$300$300$300$300
$727.11$541.39$470.87$470.87
Sign-up bonus$200N/A$470.87N/A
TOTAL:$927.11$541.39$941.74$470.87
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In total, this cardholder would earn $927.11 with the Chase Freedom Flex℠ during their first year and $541.39 per year going forward. The Discover it® Cash Back user would earn $941.74 in year one and roughly $470.87 annually moving forward.

Assuming your spending breaks down similarly to the above example, you will be better off choosing the Chase Freedom Flex℠ in the long-run. As you can see from the example, the difference can be substantial.

Winner: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Combining the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and the Discover it® Cash Back

Since the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back both offer great benefits, you may wonder if you should apply for both. By having both cards, you can optimize your purchases by leveraging each cashback calendar. For all other purchases outside of the bonus categories, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ would be more advantageous, since you'll be able to earn Ultimate Rewards points.

On the other hand, there are two main downsides to this approach. First, the two separate applications will result in two "hard pulls" on your credit report, which will result in a slight decrease in your credit score for a temporary period. Finally, having two credit cards will require you to put more effort into managing your rewards — you'll have to activate the bonus categories on both cards every quarter and pay extra attention to how you use each card.

ValuePenguin's verdict

You can't go wrong with either the Chase Freedom Flex℠ or the Discover it® Cash Back card, as they both offer excellent cashback reward opportunities. The main differences lie in the welcome offer, where the Chase Freedom Flex℠ has a traditional sign-up bonus while the Discover it® Cash Back matches all of your cash back in the first year. It's important to consider whether you're looking for short-term or long-term value from your next card and which calendar better aligns with your spending habits.

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.

Stella Shon

Stella Shon is a travel credit cards writer with ValuePenguin. After studying abroad in Paris three years ago, she became determined to keep traveling. That’s when she discovered the world of points and miles, which enabled her to travel on a student budget. Since then, she’s flown over 150,000 miles and earned more than 500,000 points and miles with eight different credit cards. While in college, she even co-founded her own travel agency, helping her peers plan and book trips on a budget. As a recent journalism graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill, her goal is to write about travel to make it simpler and achievable for everyone. Her work has also appeared on JetBlue, The Points Guy, Travel + Leisure and CNBC.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). ValuePenguin does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).