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Discover it Cash Back: Is it worth it?

Big (but limited) category bonuses and first-year cash match are the star incentives

Summary

The Discover it Cash Back card offers plenty of perks for cardholders who know how to utilize rotating categories. Consider pairing it with another, flat-rate card so your earning potential stays high.

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As its name suggests, the Discover it® Cash Back is a cash back credit card that can enable you to earn 5 percent cash back on rotating quarterly categories. With no annual fee, the card can be an attractive option for those who want cash back rewards. Bonus: You’ll also get all your cash back for the first year doubled at the end of the year thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match program.

In this article, we’ll take a look at when the Discover it Cash Back card is worth it, and when you might consider alternatives.

When is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?

When you want to earn 5% cash back on purchases

One of the biggest perks of the Discover it Cash Back credit card is the ability to earn 5 percent cash back on rotating quarterly categories. Each quarter, Discover has a different set of bonus categories, which the issuer releases all at once.

For example, in the second quarter of 2022, the Discover 5 percent bonus categories were gas stations and Target stores, and in the third quarter restaurants and PayPal. Note that you do have to manually activate your purchase categories to earn the 5 percent.

You can earn 5 percent cash back on your first $1,500 in purchases in the bonus categories each quarter; after reaching the cap, you’ll earn 1 percent. On other purchases outside the rotating categories, you’ll always earn 1 percent.

If you maximize your bonus categories each quarter, you can end up earning $300 in rewards per year. And after your first year (when all of your cash back is doubled as an initial sign-up bonus), you could get up to $600 in rewards just from spending in the quarterly bonus categories. That’s a hefty reward coming from a card with no annual fee.

When you could use an intro APR offer

The Discover it Cash Back card has a variety of rewards and benefits, and one of the most popular is its 0 percent introductory APR offer. You can get 15 months of 0 percent APR on both new purchases and balance transfers (13.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable thereafter).

If you’re unsure if you can pay off your debt within 15 months, check out our balance transfer calculator to see if you should transfer the balance. As for the intro APR on new purchases (whether it’s a new washing machine or blender), be sure to make regular payments before your APR offer ends.

When is the Discover it Cash Back not worth it?

When you want a higher return on everyday purchases

The 5 percent cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories is a great return if it happens to line up with your spending, but 1 percent on all other purchases is not the best. And there are many other credit cards that offer a higher rewards rate on everyday spending.

For instance, the Citi® Double Cash Card gives unlimited 2 percent back — 1 percent on general purchases and then 1 percent when you pay off those purchases. That could be a better option if your spending doesn’t really align with the Discover it Cash Back’s rotating categories and if you regularly pay off your card each month.

Another option is to pair the Discover it Cash Back with the Double Cash Card or one similar to the Double Cash. If you already use flat-rate credit cards, this could be beneficial to you. You could use the Discover card for the bonus categories, then once you hit the $1,500 quarterly limit, start using a card that gives more than 1 percent on all other purchases.

When you prefer travel rewards and perks

The Discover it Cash Back is a good card, but its redemption options are limited to cash back and similar alternatives like gift cards, donations and statement credits. Cash is king and can be used to book travel or anything else you want, but if you’re a frequent traveler looking to maximize your purchases for travel rewards, you should shop for a travel credit card. If you’re looking for free checked bags or elite status perks, you may want to look for an airline or hotel credit card.

A good hotel card that gives great all-around value is the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card due its high rewards rates, three Free Nights once you spend $3,000 in three months and an annual bonus of one Free Night (worth up to 35,000 points).

As for an airline card, the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card gives points on some everyday categories and provides convenient travel perks like two free checked bags, baggage delay insurance and the opportunity to earn a Companion Pass.

Should you get the Discover it Cash Back card?

The Discover it Cash Back credit card is a great option for people who are looking to supercharge their cash back rewards. The ability to earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter is an excellent return on spending. If you play your cards right, you earn up to $600 cash back your first year, thanks to Discover’s Cashback Match.

The card is best suited for cash back enthusiasts who don’t mind activating categories each quarter and would love to spend the extra time strategizing purchases to fit the category rotation schedule.

However, if you don’t mind having multiple cards in your wallet, the Discover it Cash Back works best when combined with another card that you can use for non-bonus spending. Since its 1 percent cash back on other purchases is below average, we recommend adding a flat-rate cash back card or another cash back card with bonus categories in reliable, everyday categories, such as groceries or gas.

Bottom line

The Discover it Cash Back is a solid, no-annual-fee card that earns up to 5 percent cash back on all purchases. It also comes with a wide array of benefits, including free access to your FICO score and a 15-month, introductory 0 percent APR offer. If you love earning cash back in a variety of categories and wouldn’t mind expending some effort toward maximizing the card, it could be perfect fit for you.

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
17.72%
Student
18.28%
Airline
17.51%
Business
16.01%
Cash Back
17.71%

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