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The Discover it® Balance Transfer is quite literally the best of both worlds – an excellent cash back credit card and a top balance transfer card. With this card, you'll earn anywhere between 1% and 5% back on your day-to-day purchases, making it one of the best in terms of rewards rates. Where it separates from the rest of the pack is in providing a really long, 18-month, 0% APR period that can give debt relief to those who are currently struggling with other high interest on their other balances.
Don’t get this card mixed up with the other Discover it® Cash Back. The two cards are very similar, but differ in their balance transfer capabilities. The card we talk about in this review offers 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers, and 6 months of purchases. The other Discover it® Cash Back gives just 14 months of 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers. You should apply for the card that better lines up with what you want to achieve. Those with existing debt should get the 18-month offer, while those who want zero interest on future purchases will do better with the 14 month offer.
Review: Is the Discover it® Balance Transfer the Right Card for You?
The Discover it® Balance Transfer is both an excellent cash back and balance transfer credit card. The 5% cash back users get on the first $1,500 in purchases (each time you activate), within rotating categories, is among the highest rewards rates available of any card. When you couple that with the Discover’s “double your cash back” promotion, it makes the card better than most rewards credit cards on the market.
One thing to note is that this card is slightly more complicated to use than most other offers. To be used optimally, you will need to stay on top of the card's rotating bonus calendar to know where you can earn 5% throughout the year. You must also remember to activate these categories online. If you can’t manage these things, the card will be actually below average in terms of rewards.
Out of the entire Discover credit card lineup, the Discover it® Balance Transfer is the best at helping cardholder's handle old card debt. You can move over old balance from other credit cards to this one and you’ll get 0% introductory APR for 18 months from the time your account is opened. The only catch is that you’ll need to pay a 3% fee for each transfer. There are better balance transfer credit cards out there, like the Chase Slate®, but those frequently don’t come with any reward program mixed in.
Bottom Line: We highly recommend the Discover it® Balance Transfer for anyone who wants a good cash back card and doesn’t mind keeping track of the rotating categories. The balance transfer functionality is a nice cherry on top, in case you want to get rid of any old credit card debts from other issuers.
Discover it® Balance Transfer Benefits & Features
The two main features of the Discover it® Balance Transfer are its cash back rewards and the balance transfer functionality. We’ll break down each of these benefits in more detail below, to help you figure out if these are something that would be good for your finances.
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Discover Balance Transfers
The Discover it® Balance Transfer comes with 0% Intro APR for 6 months on purchases and for 18 months on balance transfers. While the purchase APR is not impressive, the 18-month balance transfer offer is among the best around. Most credit cards on the market don’t give you reduced interest when transferring balances. Those that do, often give users around a 12-month promo period.
Know that Discover, like many other issuers, has a policy preventing you from transferring balances between two Discover cards. The Discover terms and conditions read: “Balance transfers may not be used to pay any Discover accounts and do not earn rewards.” The last part also means you will not earn cash back on the debt you transfer to your account.
The graph below shows how effective a balance transfer with the Discover it® Balance Transfer can be. We ran a simulation on a sample debt of $16,000 and fixed monthly payments of $1,000. You can see how quickly the balance goes down when you transfer it to the Discover it® Balance Transfer when compared to an average 15% APR credit card.
Note that initially, there is a slight increase to the balance due to the 3% balance transfer fee you must pay with the Discover it® Balance Transfer.
5% Cash Back Rotating Rewards
Discover it® Balance Transfer users can earn 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. You get that bonus rate on the first $1,500 you make in purchases, within the bonus category. Cardholders get just 1% back on all other purchases. How much of your total purchases fall within the 5%-bonus calendar determines how good of a rewards card this card is. As a rule of thumb, if you manage to get at least a quarter of your annual purchases aligned with the calendar, you will come out ahead of most cash back credit cards.
Make sure you activate the categories every quarter, or else you will earn just 1% back.
Double Your Cash Back
Discover will double all the cash back new cardmembers earn at the end of their first year, taking this card from good to great. This effectively transforms the Discover it® Balance Transfer for new cardmembers from a 1%-5% rewards rate credit card to a 2%-10% one for that first year.
The bonus will apply to cash back you earn during the first 12 months of cardmembership, not the first calendar year. Therefore, if you open an account in March 2017, the cash back you earn until March 2018 will be doubled.
How Does the Discover it® Balance Transfer Compare to Other Credit Cards?
To get a better idea of how valuable the Discover it® Balance Transfer can be, it helps to compare it to other available options. Below you’ll find a quick summary of other cash back and balance transfer credit cards and how they relate to the Discover it® Balance Transfer.
Discover it® Balance Transfer vs Chase Freedom®
The Chase Freedom® is another cash back credit card with a rotating 5% calendar. Like the Discover it® Balance Transfer, this card provides you with 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. From a cash back perspective, the real distinction between the two cards comes from their bonus calendars. You should pick the card whose calendar aligns better with how you tend to spend your money.
The Chase Freedom® has a balance transfer 0% APR period that is about 3 months shorter than the Discover it® Balance Transfer. The Chase card also has a more expensive transfer fee. Therefore, if you’re looking to get rid of old debt, we recommend the Discover it® Balance Transfer.
Discover it® Balance Transfer vs Chase Slate®
The Chase Slate® has one purpose: balance transfers. Therefore, if you’re not interested in earning any cash back, you will likely benefit most from the Chase Slate®, over the Discover it® Balance Transfer. While it has a 0% period that is 3 months shorter, the Chase Slate® has a strong introductory offer – it has a $0 Introductory balance transfer fee for transfers made during the first 60 days of account opening. Skipping the transfer fee payment can help you pay down your balance faster, than if you had to contend with this additional charge. You could even use the funds that would have to go towards paying the transfer fee and use them to pay down the principal balance.
Discover it® Balance Transfer vs Discover it® chrome
The Discover it® chrome is another cash back credit card, though it is significantly worse than the Discover it® Balance Transfer in that regard. The card awards users just 1% on most purchases, and 2% back on at restaurants and gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter. The only way we would recommend the Discover it® chrome over the Discover it® Balance Transfer is if you don’t shop at any of the 5%-bonus categories. However, given how sprawling they tend to be, most consumers are likely to find things to earn 5% cash back with.