We compare the Capital One Quicksilver to the Discover it Cash Back card to help you decide whether rotating quarterly categories or a flat rate of cash back will be more rewarding.
If you’re looking for a cash back credit card you can use every day to earn rewards on common purchases, the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and Discover it® Cash Back are good options. Though they both earn cash, the rate at which you’ll earn it differs greatly between the two.
Discover it Cash Back has rotating bonus categories. Discover’s cash back calendar usually includes categories such as groceries, gas and dining; these categories change every quarter and require activation. (You can earn 5% cash back on purchases in that category on up to $1,500 in purchases that quarter upon enrollment. After that, you’ll earn 1%. Non-bonus category purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back.)
Flat-rate cash back cards are simpler to use but will potentially earn less cash. Rotating category cash back cards offer a higher return but require some work and may not align with your particular spending habits.
Since neither of these cards has an annual fee, you should come out on top using either one (as long as you pay your balance off every month to avoid interest charges). To determine which offer is right for you, you’ll need to dig deeper into the rewards structure and secondary card features.
See related: What is cash back?
Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back
|Rewards rate||Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase|
|Sign-up bonus||$200 if you spend $500 in the first 3 months||Cashback Match™ (all cash back earned at the end of your first year is matched)|
|Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend)||$239||$438 ($500 of monthly spend is on 5% bonus categories)|
Capital One’s Quicksilver card has long been popular in the flat-rate cash back category for many reasons – primarily because the 1.5% cash back you can earn is unlimited, and you can redeem cash back in any amount at any time.
Not only its unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, but also its easy-to-earn sign-up bonus of $200 after spending $500 in the first three months, a comparably small spending goal for a sign-up bonus, make the Quicksilver an incredibly popular card. It’s a smart choice for simple savers and savvy card-stackers alike, especially those who would like a card that earns rewards easily without having to put in too much effort into maximizing rewards.
On the other hand, the Discover it Cash Back can lead to lucrative rewards, especially in year one. Discover is unique in that it matches all the cash back you earn in your first year. So, if you max out the card’s bonus categories each quarter (at $1,500 per quarter), you’ll have at least $300 by year’s end (which Discover would match for a grand total of $600).
It’s possible that any given quarterly bonus category may not align with your regular spending (they change every year), in which case it will be difficult to spend roughly $500 per month. However, Discover has already announced its 2022 cash back calendar, which offers a good array of everyday categories.
Already eyeing your next big purchase — say, a new refrigerator? If you’re ready to buy a big-ticket item and would like to gradually pay it off without accruing interest, you can take advantage of the Quicksilver’s 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months of card membership (15.24% to 25.24% variable APR thereafter).
However, if you have some credit card debt you’d like to pay off, as well, the Discover it Cash Back’s 15-month 0% intro period on purchases and balance transfers (12.74% to 23.74% variable APR thereafter). Keep in mind, however, that Discover will charge you an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer, then up to 5% after that. The Discover it Cash Back certainly wins out against the Quicksilver if you have a small amount of credit card debt, but the transfer fee makes it not ideal for larger amounts of debt.
Capital One Quicksilver: Best for people with multiple cards
It may seem ironic that the credit card with the simpler rewards structure is better for savvy credit card users juggling multiple cards. The simple truth: It only makes sense to use this card (1.5% cash back) to improve upon the 1% cash back you’d earn with another card in non-bonus category spending. In essence, it’s a supplementary card.
People with multiple credit cards have most of their purchase categories (dining, travel, etc.) covered by higher-earning rewards cards. Nevertheless, there are always a few expenses that fall through the cracks and yield only 1%. After all, most rewards cards don’t offer bonuses on things like haircuts, dry cleaning or car washes. The mark of a savvy cardholder is earning better than 1% on every single purchase – that’s where the flat-rate card comes in.
Use the Capital One Quicksilver to supplement the rewards you earn with other cards, and you can virtually guarantee that at least 1.5% of every dollar you spend in a year will return to your wallet. Since Quicksilver has no annual fee, you can even use it as often or rarely as you like and still come out on top.
Discover it Cash Back: Best for people seeking a big first-year bonus
It’s no secret that Discover’s Cashback Match is a huge plus. By itself, it’s enough of a reason to get the card, especially since there’s no annual fee. Hypothetically, you could completely disregard the bonus categories, spend $1,000 per month and still receive a $240 first-year bonus (thanks to 1% earnings and Discover’s match). That first-year bonus would be more than sign-up bonuses offered by other cards, and you wouldn’t even have to expel any effort towards spending in the bonus categories.
However, if you love optimizing benefits, maxing out the 5% quarterly bonuses (and spending no more) will result in $6,000 of yearly spend. That equates to $300 cash back and $600 in the first year (once Discover has matched it). Again, there’s no annual fee, so even if you aren’t fond of tracking bonuses and budgets, you can give it a shot without having to worry about a fee to recoup.
The long-term value of a cash back card with rotating bonus categories is debatable, but Discover’s Cashback Match at least makes this card worth it in its first year.
Capital One Quicksilver’s rewards are simple and reliable, making it a steady card for both short and long term. Discover it Cash Back’s rewards are lucrative, somewhat unpredictable and most valuable in the first year.
If you are a fan of cash back and want to make sure to maximize your earning potential on every purchase, you can also consider getting both cards. You can take advantage of Discover it Cash Back’s rotating category 5% bonus on specific purchases, while Quicksilver’s 1.5% can ensure that you’re earning more than 1% on the rest of your spending.