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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: 5.0/5.0

Editor's Rating


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.

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.

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
Purchase APR
14.24% - 25.24% Variable
Credit Needed Excellent, Good
  • 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.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at 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 2019 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 Grocery Stores

Apr - Jun Gas Stations, Uber & Lyft

Jul - Sep Restaurants

Oct - Dec

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® Cash Rewards Credit 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









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 sign-up 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 of each card 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

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 $1,430 monthly spend
Monthly spending:

Comments and Questions

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Info about the following cards: Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express, Platinum Delta SkyMiles® 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 Amex EveryDay® 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, Starwood Preferred Guest® American Express Luxury Card, Amazon Business American Express Card, and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® 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.

Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card 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).