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Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card Review: Is It A Good Value?

Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card Review: Is It A Good Value?

The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the best no annual fee rewards cards around.
Editor's Rating: 4.5/5.0

Editor's Rating

4.5/5.0

The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the better cash back credit cards, provided that you can take advantage of the 5% bonus cash back in the quarterly categories, which you get up to a quarterly maximum when you sign up. Instead of the traditional signing bonus that many other cards typically have, Discover will double the cash back you earned during your first cardmember year, if you are a new cardmember. This makes the Discover it® Cash Back one of the absolute best cash back cards - at least for the first year you have it. The card now comes in two varieties, which differ only in the length of their introductory purchase and balance transfer APR periods. This review will take you through all the benefits, and help you see which, if any, of the Discover it® credit cards is the best choice for you.

Review: Is the Discover it® Cash Back Worth It?

The Discover it® Cash Back, like other 5% rotating category credit cards, is all about how and when you use it. The standard 1% cash back offered on the non bonus categories is average among no annual fee rewards credit cards. The best value of this card resides in sticking to its 5% cash back calendar. As long as your purchases line up with the categories listed each quarter, you can earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend at those category retailers in each quarter. This means a potential savings up to $75 every three months.

Discover also has a good promotion running for new applicants - they will double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your 1st year of card membership. During that first year, Discover it® Cash Back offers the greatest savings of any other cash back card around. If you count this bonus, your effective cash back rate during that first year can be at the very least 2%. This makes the Discover it® Cash Back, undeniably, one of the best rewards credit cards - for the first year, it even beats out competitors like the Citi Double Cash.

Another benefit of the Discover it® Cash Back is access to the Discover Deals program, the company's online retail portal. Through Discover Deals, card holders can make purchase at other online vendors while qualifying for additional cash back. Retailers can include such places as the Apple Store, Macy's and Best Buy. Outside of the holiday season most of these retailers do not fall under the bonus rotating categories, so Discover Deals is another avenue for getting immediate return for choosing the card.

Discover credit cards are not as widely accepted as leading competitors. Like American Express, Discover cards run on their own payment processing network, different from VISA and MasterCard which are accepted nearly everywhere. With the Discover it® Cash Back, cardholders may sometimes run into issues where a vendor may not accept it as a form of payment. This generally happens in brick and mortar retailers and restaurants more so than it does online. It's one of the reasons we think that the Discover it® Cash Back is a great option as a supplemental credit card. Use it to earn the bonus rewards, but keep a more accepted primary card around just in case.

Discover it® Cash Back Features & Benefits

The Discover it® Cash Back earns its users anywhere between 1% and 5% cash back on all purchases. You can earn 5% on select bonus categories, on up to a quarterly maximum. All other spending is rewarded with an unlimited 1% cash back. If you apply for the card now, Discover will double all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, assuming you are a new cardmember.

Discover it® Cash Back
Annual Fee
$0
Purchase APR
13.74% - 24.74% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent, Good
Details
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.

5% Bonus Cash Back Calendar

The following table outlines the 2018 calendar year 5% bonus categories for the Discover it® Cash Back. Lining up your spending with this calendar is essential to maximizing the rewards you earn. Most of the time, you will be better off using another credit card to pay for purchases which aren’t a part of a 5% category at any given time.

Jan - Mar 2018 Gas & Wholesale Clubs

Apr - Jun 2018 Grocery Stores

Jul - Sep 2018 Restaurants

Oct - Dec 2018 Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs

Effective Rewards Rate with the Discover it® Cash Back

While the card's 1% cash back awards on most spending is definitely less than you would earn with flat rate cash back cards like the Capital One® Quicksilver® Card or Fidelity Investment Rewards, it really doesn't take much spending in the bonus categories to come out ahead overall. With the 5% bonus applicable to $1,500 in purchases each quarter, you can quickly find ways to make the Discover it® Cash Back more lucrative than these options. In the following table we calculated the proportionate amount of spending you'd have to make in the 5% categories to earn different overall rewards rates.

% Of Spending In Bonus Categories

Overall Rewards Rate

10%

1.4%

25%

2.0%

50%

3.0%

100%

5.0%

Obviously the more you shift your spending to these bonus categories the better you do. But it really doesn’t take much for you to have an overall rate higher than even the 2% offered by cards such as the Citi Double Cash. If at least 25% of all your spending is confined to the quarterly categories, the Discover it® Cash Back will actually have a better return on your spend than a majority of cash back credit cards. In a given year you'll be able to make up to $6,000 in total purchases that will qualify for the 5% bonus. If used optimally, that translates to $300 in annual savings.

Which Discover it® Credit Card Should I Choose?

Discover begun offering two different variations of its most popular product – the two cards are virtually identical, outside of the length of their introductory APR periods. If you don’t have any existing credit card debt you’d want to manage, we recommend the classic Discover it® Cash Back with 14 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases. It will provide users with some more breathing room when it comes to paying off new purchases. As always, we urge users to pay all credit card balances in full each month (if possible). If this is something you already do, choosing between the two credit cards will not make a difference.

Individuals who are more interested in managing an existing credit card balance will be better off going for the Discover it® Balance Transfer. This card offers just 6 months of 0% introductory APR on purchases, and 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers. This can be beneficial for consumers who are currently paying a lot of money towards credit card interest, and want to get some breathing room to pay off their debts.

How Does the Discover it® Cash Back Compare to Other Credit Cards?

The Discover it® Cash Back 5% rotating categories structure is not exclusive to the card itself. The Chase Freedom® and Citi Dividend Platinum Select are two comparable credit cards with similar seasonal bonus categories. Other alternatives are flat rate cash back cards, such as the Citi Double Cash, which provide better rewards on overall purchases to high spenders. We profile the cards below, in order to help you better understand choosing between the different cards.

Discover it® Cash Back vs Chase Freedom®

There are two benefits of the Chase Freedom®that can make it a more lucrative card however: a fixed signing bonus and network. Chase Freedom® cardholders can earn a $150 bonus for being new cardholders (after spending $500 in the first three months). The Chase Freedom® is part of the largest card network in the U.S. – VISA. This means users will have less trouble paying with the Chase Freedom® over the Discover it® Cash Back. Individuals who wish to make their final decision based purely on rewards value, should consult with the rewards calendar below – to maximize rewards, you will want to select the credit card which best fits your spending schedule.

Discover it® Cash Back vs Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
This card is not available through ValuePenguin.

The Citi® Double Cash Card provides 1% cash back rewards once at the time of purchase, and adds another 1% when that purchase is paid off. As noted above, it only takes a little bit of spending within the Discover it® Cash Back bonus categories for it to offer savings greater than 2%. Additionally, consumers who nab the current ‘double your rewards after the first year’ promotion, will come out undeniably on top in terms of rewards at the end of that first year. Due to the high rewards rate on the Citi® Double Cash Card being uncapped, high spenders will find more value out of it. You would need to spend, on average, $6,000 every three months, in order for the Citi® Double Cash Card to come out on top.

Comparison Tool

Finding a credit card that is well suited to your particular spending can, oftentimes, be difficult. To help with the process, we have constructed the tool below which will calculate the rewards rate of credit cards for you.

Assumptions Based On Monthly Spend of: $1,430 Edit
General:
U.S. Gas Stations:
U.S. Supermarkets:
Airlines:
Hotel:
U.S. Restaurants:
Office:
Utilities:
Computing:
Card Annual Fee 2-yr Net Rewards Rate

The Net Rewards Rate is equal to the Rewards Value over two years divided by the total spending. The total spending is equal to the values entered into the tool and multiplied by 24 months. See the rewards Value note to see details on how it is calculated.

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

Bonus Value

The bonus field shows our estimate for the value of the card’s welcome bonus. If the bonus is point or mile based, we multiply the total bonus points/miles by our estimate for their value to arrive at a dollar equivalent. We display $0 if there is no bonus or if the user doesn’t qualify for the bonus based on the current spending entered into the tool. All estimates are based on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

2-yr Rewards Value

The Rewards value is calculated by adding together the rewards earned from charging purchases to the card over two years and any welcome bonuses (if applicable). They are then multiplied by our estimated point/mile value, with any annual fees (if applicable) subtracted. All values are based on our own estimates for the dollar value of any points, miles or bonuses earned using a card and on the spend assumptions entered above (which you can edit).

The estimates here are ValuePenguin's alone. They are not those of the card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer.

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card
$0 1.94%
$150
Get $150 bonus after spending $500 within the first 3 months
$665
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 515 x $1 = $515
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 665

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.74% - 24.74% (Variable)

Card Details

  • One-time $150 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • No rotating categories or sign-ups needed to earn cash rewards; plus, cash back won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how much you can earn
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months; 14.74%-24.74% variable APR after that; 3% fee on the amounts transferred within the first 15 months
  • Pay no annual fee or foreign transaction fees

Note: The information in this box was provided by Capital One® and is not part of our independent analysis.

Discover it® Cash Back
$0 1.50%
$171
INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There’s no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
$514
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
171 x $1 = $171
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 514

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 13.74% - 24.74% Variable

Card Details

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
Chase Freedom®
$0 1.44%
$150
Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
$493
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Estimated Rewards Value Dollars*
Spending Rewards 343 x $1 = $343
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 493

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Card Details

  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
$0 2.04%
$150
Get $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
$700
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 550 x $1 = $550
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $150
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 700

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $0
APR 14.74%-25.74% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).
  • 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • No annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
$95 2.46%
$200
Get $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
$845
Graph Card Read Review More Details and Value Calculation

Terms and Limitations Apply

Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months

Card Rewards Point Value Rewards Value
Spending Rewards 835 x $1 = $835
Bonuses
0 x $1 = $200
Less Annual Fees -$190
Total Net Estimated Rewards Through 24 Months 845

*The value estimate is calculated using ValuePenguin.com rewards point value.

Annual Fee $95
APR 14.74%-25.74% Variable
*Rates and Fees

Card Details

  • $200 statement credit after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) - that means spending $60 a week at U.S. supermarkets could earn over $180 back per year.
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and at select U.S. department stores, 1% back on other purchases.
  • Low intro APR: 0% for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable rate, currently 14.74% to 25.74%.
  • Over 1.5 million more places in the U.S. started accepting American Express® Cards in 2017.
  • Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be easily redeemed for statement credits, gift cards, and merchandise.
  • $95 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Comments and Questions

Opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or endorsed by the issuer. We may be compensated through the issuer's Affiliate Program. For a full list of our advertisers see our disclosure page

* See the online credit card application for details about terms and conditions. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. When you click on the "Apply Now" button, you can review the credit card terms and conditions on the issuer's website.

Info about the following cards: American Express® Gold Card, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Hilton Honors Surpass® Credit Card, American Express® Blue Sky, American Express® Green Card, The Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express, The Plenti® Credit Card from Amex, Blue from American Express®, Platinum Card® from American Express Exclusively for Mercedes-Benz, Bluebird, Centurion® Card from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, and Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card has been collected independently by ValuePenguin. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.

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.

Advertiser Disclosure: Some of the offers that appear on this website are from companies which ValuePenguin receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where offers appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). The site does not review or include all companies or all available products. For more information please see our Advertiser Disclosure.