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The Discover it® Miles offers a solid 1.5% rewards rate each year. At the end of the first year, new cardmembers can have their miles doubled, effectively putting this card's rewards rate at 3% during those first 12 months. While the long-term rewards rate is still strong, it's difficult to recommend this no-annual-fee travel rewards credit card when we compare it to the excellent value from a cash back card, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card. The Discover it® Miles card's major drawbacks are lower rewards rate compared to the best cash back credit cards, and relatively limited use of rewards miles. Consumers don’t have any ability to transfer their rewards miles to other loyalty programs, and have specific redemption categories for obtaining maximum savings. Cash back credit cards offer much more flexibility and ease of use, and will be accepted by a larger network of merchants.
The features we like best about the Discover it® Miles
- Rewards miles earned are doubled in a bonus at the end of first year for new cardmembers
- Decent 1.5x miles on all net purchases thereafter
Where we think the Discover it® Miles falls short compared to other cards
- Best use case for rewards limited to statement credits on travel expenses
- 1.5% lower than rewards rate available from the best cash back credit cards
Because of its comparatively lower long-term rewards rate and limited acceptance, we believe most consumers will be better off with a cash back card than with the Discover it® Miles. In the first year, new cardholders can effectively earn 3% after the Discover it® Miles promotion double-your-miles promotion, but the ongoing rate is 1.5%. The Capital One® Quicksilver® Card or Citi® Double Cash Card can offer more cash back, respectively, and are more widely accepted by merchants in the U.S.
We also value flexibility highly - the more options a cardholder has to get good value out of their card, the more we believe that card is worth. In that regard, the Discover it® Miles card does well. Miles earned on the card can be redeemed as statement credit on travel-related credit card spending, or general cash back. Discover considers the following to be “travel-related” purchases: airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites and commuter transportation. This is a fairly limited range of expenses when compared to other competitors' definition of travel expenses (such as the Barclays Arrival™ World MasterCard®’s). Luckily, you can also exchange your miles for cash back. Converting rewards earned through the Discover it® Miles into cash back doesn't result in any penalty, therefore you can also think of this as a 1.5% cash back credit card. This is unlike many other travel rewards cards that tend to give you worse returns when miles are redeemed for cash back.
For individuals set on a travel rewards card with no annual fees, the Discover it® Miles is one of the best no-annual-fee travel credit cards. While it doesn’t offer any sign up or spending bonuses like some of its peers do, such as the Barclays Arrival™ World MasterCard®, Discover it® Miles’ flat 1.5x miles accumulation rate makes up for this deficit in the long-run. The 1.5% rewards rate on all spending categories makes this card fantastic for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with trying to figure out when is the best time to use their credit card for a purchase. The closest flat rate no-annual-fee travel rewards card is the VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card, which offers a lower rewards rate of 1.25% on travel expenses.
One of the bigger talking points around the Discover it® Miles card is the ‘double miles promotion’. After your first twelve months, Discover will double the miles you’ve earned that year in a one-time promotion and apply them to your account if you are a new cardmember. This will essentially act as if you were receiving 3 miles per $1 spent on all purchases during those first 12 months. This promotion may seem like a decent substitute to the card not having any sign on bonus. However, the amount of spending one would have to do for the bonus miles to match the bonuses of other top-notch travel rewards cards is rather high.
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How do I earn miles using Discover it® Miles? Generally, Discover it® Miles cardholders will earn 1.5 miles for each $1 spent. This remains constant whether buying groceries or airline tickets. At the end of the first year, however, Discover doubles the miles users earned that year and credits the account as if it had been earning 3 miles per $1 (only for new cardmembers). This increased rewards accumulation during the first year is a creative way for Discover it® Miles to make up for the fact that it doesn’t come with any welcome bonuses upfront. Despite this first year promotional rewards rate, the value will not surpass most decent introductory bonuses from competing credit cards unless cardholders spend at least $1,000 per month.
How can I use or redeem Discover it® Miles? Users can redeem the miles earned in one of two ways. They can use the miles as statement credit on travel related expenses made within the last 180 days. Spending 100 miles will offset $1 in travel-related purchases. You can also exchange miles for cash back at the same rate. For example, 100 miles will translate to $1.00 of credit card spending on the Discover it® Miles card.
What is the Discover it® Miles rewards rate? Since cardholders generally earn 1.5 miles per $1, we can calculate the rewards rate by considering the following example: charging $1,000 of expenses to the Discover it® Miles credit card earns 1,500 miles. Those miles are worth: 1,500 x $0.01 = $15. Therefore, the rewards rate is $15/$1,000 = 1.5%. Remember that at the end of your first year, Discover it® Miles grants you a one-time miles increase, resulting in double the rewards rates for spending in that first year.
As with all Discover credit cards, users also have access to their FICO score both online and on their monthly statements. While this used to be a fairly rare feature, more and more financial institutions are beginning to offer it. Staying on top of one’s credit score is an important and fiscally responsible practice. Monitoring one’s credit can, for instance, result in the early detection of identity theft, thus minimizing the damage it can do to us.
Lastly, Discover it® Miles cardholders will not be penalized for their first late payment. While being late usually means an increase in one’s APR, Discover is more forgiving to individuals – at least on their first slip up.
The true worth of a credit card can be best determined when it is contrasted against other available options. Because of this, we profiled some competitors to the Discover it® Miles card below. By seeing how the card stacks up against these other travel credit cards and cash back credit cards, we believe consumers can arrive at a more informed decision as to which option is best for them.
The Citi® Double Cash Card offers cardholders 1% when they make a purchase and 1% when they pay their balance. The card comes with no other prominent features worth mentioning, as its rewards rate already makes this one of the best credit cards around. While Discover it® Miles cardholders can maximize their first year and earn 3% back on all their purchases, in the long run the Citi® Double Cash Card will provide the better value. Since both cards come with no annual fee, the greatest savings can be found by applying for both cards, and using the Discover it® Miles for the first year on all purchases that would result in a 3% savings, and the Citi® Double Cash Card on all other purchases.
The Barclays Arrival™ World MasterCard® is the closest competitor to the Discover it® Miles, and one of the best no-annual-fee travel rewards credit cards. It comes with a 2.1% rewards rate on dining and travel purchases, and 1.05% on all other purchases. On top of fantastic rewards rates, it also comes with a hefty spending bonus. If you charge $1,000 to your card within the first 90 days of it being issued, you will receive 20,000 bonus miles, which can be worth up to $200.
There are a few other features of the Arrival World MasterCard that Discover it® Miles cannot compete with. The signing bonus offers fantastic value early on, which will take Discover it® Miles cardholders several years of moderate spending to overtake. Finally, international acceptance is a factor one cannot ignore. The Discover network is not nearly as widely accepted as MasterCard in most foreign nations. If an individual frequently travels abroad, and would enjoy using their credit card on their travels, the Barclays Arrival™ World MasterCard® is the safer bet.
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card is one of the best travel credit cards. Unlike the Discover it® Miles and Barclays Arrival™ World MasterCard®, this credit card costs $95 per year to maintain (waived year 1). What do users get in return? A flat 2% rewards rate on all categories and a spending bonus worth up to $500. For a consumer who spends at least $1,000 per month, the Venture is one of the best travel rewards card around.
We mention ‘$1,000’ per month spending as a barometer of whether this card is the right choice for a consumer. There is no getting around the fact that $95 is a lot of money to pay for a credit card. Therefore, if an individual is paying that much, we think they should ensure that they're getting their money’s worth. This occurs only if their spending is high enough to earn them rewards that make up for that $95 loss. Individuals with low to moderate spending are better off with a no-annual-fee card, such as the Discover it® Miles or the regular Venture, as they will only serve to earn rewards, with no need to worry about making up any card upkeep costs.
Overall, we believe the average spender will find greater returns on day-to-day purchases with the Discover it® Miles card. The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card works similarly to the way the Discover it® Miles card does. Both cards are no-annual-fee travel rewards credit cards, with no foreign transaction fee.
The rewards rate on the VentureOne® card ranges from 1.25% on travel expenses to as low as 0.625% on other purchases. While the Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card doesn’t have rewards rates nearly as good as the Discover it® Miles, it does have a sizable early spend bonus. For spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of receiving your VentureOne® card, you will receive 20,000 miles, worth up to $200 on travel. One would have to spend approximately $1,000 per month during the first year of having their Discover it® Miles card for the ‘double miles promotion’ to come close to the 20,000 point bonus of the VentureOne®.
The Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card is superior in one way. If you use it to shop at hotels.com/Venture, you'll receive 10x miles through January 31, 2020.