The Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back both offer bonus cash back in categories that rotate quarterly, $0 annual fees and introductory APRs. A closer look at the cards, though, reveals some subtle differences. Here’s what we found.
If you don’t mind keeping tabs on a list of bonus categories that rotate quarterly, the Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back can be helpful additions to your wallet. But due to their similarities, it can be tough to choose between them.
These popular cash back credit cards both get you 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories (upon enrollment, on your first $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%), allowing you to temporarily supersize your rewards earnings on purchases you’re already likely to make, such as gas, online shopping and groceries. Neither card charges an annual fee, both offer an attractive sign-up bonus and power users like to pair the cards with other high-yield or flat-rate rewards cards to earn as much as possible from their spending.
A closer look at the cards, though, reveals some subtle differences between these two Chase and Discover cards. For example, the Freedom Flex comes with additional year-round bonus categories missing on the Discover it Cash Back, and depending on your spending habits, the Discover it Cash Back could offer a much larger sign-up bonus if you use it for most of your purchases.
Deciding which card is best for you depends, in part, on what you want to get out of your credit card and how you plan to use it. Here we look at how these cards stack up and how to decide which is the best fit for you.
Chase Freedom Flex vs. Discover it Cash Back: At a glance
Chase Freedom Flex
Discover it® Cash Back card
|Sign-up bonus||$200 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months||100% match of your cash back at the end of the card’s first year|
|Estimated yearly rewards value (assuming maxed-out bonus categories and average spending in other categories)||$493||$399|
The biggest difference between the Freedom Flex and the Discover it cards comes down to their sign-up bonuses: While the Freedom Flex offers a generous upfront sign-up bonus of $200 when you spend $500 in the first three months, the Discover it Cash Back doesn’t offer an initial sign-up bonus. Instead, it matches any rewards you earned by the end of your card’s first year.
This requires you to wait for your rewards bonus, but if you have the patience and put a large spend on your card, you could be richly rewarded with a larger prize.
Consider, for example, if you spent at least $135 in the Discover it Cash Back card’s 5% cash back bonus categories and $1,000 per month on other purchases. Thanks to the card’s first-year cash back match, you would essentially earn 10% cash back in bonus categories with the Discover it Cash Back in your first year and 2% cash back on general purchases. That would net you $201 in bonus cash by the end of your card’s first year – just beating out the bonus on the Chase Freedom card.
Bonus cash earned on $1,135 monthly spend ($135 spent in 5% bonus categories)
|Chase Freedom Flex card||Discover it Cash Back card|
|Sign-up bonus = $200||(($135 x 5% rotating category bonus) + ($1,000 x 1%)) x 12 months = $201|
If you maxed out your 5% cash back categories, this difference would be even more dramatic. By spending $500 in the bonus categories each month to reach the $1,500 quarterly cap, plus an additional $1,000 per month on other purchases ($1,500 total monthly spend), you would earn $420 in bonus cash via the Discover it Cash Back’s match the end of the year – more than double the value of the bonus from the Chase Freedom Flex card.
Bonus cash earned on $1,500 monthly spend ($500 spent in 5% bonus categories)
|Chase Freedom Flex card||Discover it Cash Back card|
|Sign-up bonus = $200||(($500 x 5% rotating category bonus) + ($1,000 x 1%)) x 12 months = $420|
Earning cash back
The sign-up bonus on the Discover it Cash Back is clearly larger if you’re a heavy spender or if you use the same card for most of your purchases. But if you’re looking for the best long-term solution for everyday spending and travel purchases, the Freedom Flex is the clear winner thanks to its year-round bonus cash back categories tacked onto its rotating categories.
With the Freedom Flex, you’ll also earn 5% back on all travel booked through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal and on Lyft purchases (through March 2022), as well as 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases. These ongoing bonus cash back categories help give the Freedom Flex a much higher average rewards rate of 1.72% cash back outside of its rotating categories (compared to the 1% on general purchases with the Discover it Cash Back).
Comparing bonus categories
The two cards’ bonus categories are nearly identical, and the variations in their cash back calendars come down to timing and the specific retailers that’ll earn you bonuses.
For example, during the last quarter of 2021, the Chase cash back calendar listed PayPal and Walmart purchases as eligible for 5% cash back upon enrollment, while the 2022 Discover cash back calendar lists Amazon.com and digital wallets.
It may make a difference to you that Chase releases its bonus categories one quarter at a time, while Discover announces its cash back calendar all at once. If you don’t have the patience to watch for Chase’s drop every three months, the Discover it Cash Back would make a fine choice. However, the Freedom Flex’s longevity, due to its year-round bonus categories, does appeal and looking at the previous year’s categories should give you a good idea of what to expect in the following year.
With Discover, you can redeem your cash back rewards any time, in any amount through a credit to your account, direct deposit, payment at select retailers (like Amazon.com) or gift cards (in $5 increments).
Redeeming your rewards from the Freedom Flex is far more flexible, making them more valuable. In fact, your cash back rewards are logged as Ultimate Rewards points, and you can redeem your Freedom Flex cash back as statement credit, cash, gift cards and more.
The Ultimate Rewards points truly shine when you redeem them for travel on the Ultimate Rewards portal. With just the Freedom Flex, 1 point equals to 1 cent, but if paired with a Chase Sapphire, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you’ll earn great value. Transferring your points from the Freedom Flex to the Sapphire Preferred or Reserve allows you to redeem your points with a 25% or 50% bonus redemption value, respectively.
The Chase Sapphire cards also allow you to transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to Chase’s airline and hotel partners such as Air France, Hyatt, Korean Air, Marriott and more. With some travel partners, the point value goes as high as 1.5 cents or more.
Discover it Cash Back: Best for big spenders
The Discover it Cash Back’s bonus categories fit cardholders who spend widely and frequently. Its greatest advantage is undoubtedly its sign-up bonus of 100% match cash back from your first year. However, you would need to reach the $1,500 cap in the bonus categories plus spend a good amount on general purchases to really experience the value of the sign-up bonus. If you know you can easily reach that amount every quarter, the Discover it Cash Back will serve you well.
Chase Freedom Flex: Best for everyday purchases
Even outside the rotating bonus categories, the regular bonus categories of groceries (in the first year), Lyft, dining and drugstore will earn you a fair amount of value as you do your daily spending. Not only is the $200 sign-up bonus easy to earn, the Freedom Flex also performs best when paired with other Ultimate Rewards cards. Nevertheless, on its own the Chase Freedom Flex will continue to reward you, even after the first year, with all its year-round bonus categories.
The Discover it Cash Back is perfect for people who mainly use one card for all their purchases. If you spend well over $1,000 per month, you’ll love the Discover it Cash Back. You should also remember: The Discover it Cash Back’s main advantage, its sign-up bonus, ends after the first year and won’t earn you as much in the following years. For people who like to travel or just spend lightly in everyday categories, try out the Chase Freedom Flex.
If you don’t feel especially enthusiastic over the Chase Freedom Flex or Discover it Cash Back cards’ bonus categories, you may want to consider the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature Card*, which lets you choose which categories you want to earn 2% to 5% in every quarter. That way, you aren’t stuck with a 5% bonus category you rarely use.
All information about the U.S. Bank Cash+™️ Visa Signature®️ Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the content, nor is it responsible for its accuracy.