The Discover it Miles card is a perennial favorite for budget-minded travel rewards cardholders. It offers great value with a simple yet flexible rewards program.
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The world of travel rewards credit cards can be overwhelming. Many of the best cards are very expensive, with annual fees landing in the hundreds of dollars. But not all cards are like that. It’s possible to find affordable, quality travel rewards cards – yes, even for free (from annual fees, at least). Enter: the Discover it® Miles card.
Why is the Discover it Miles worth it?
The Discover it Miles card is a great option for expanding your travels, especially if you’re new to the wide and sometimes confusing world of travel rewards credit cards. Two things really stick out about this card: It’s a flexible travel rewards card, and it has low fees that give it an ongoing value.
A flexible travel rewards card
Travel rewards cards are notorious for having a lot of rules. You might even feel like you need to be a lawyer or mathematician to decipher some of them.
For example, your travel card may have rules about how much you’ll earn on spending for different categories, and these categories might change every few months. You might need to remember redemption thresholds or limits regarding redeeming your rewards through the credit card issuer. You might need to keep track of your spending for a certain period of time to make sure you earn a sign-up bonus. It’s a lot to remember.
The Discover it Miles card does away with all of that. You’ll earn the same rate – 1.5 miles for every dollar spent – on everything you buy, regardless of the time of year or purchase category. You can redeem your miles at any time as a statement credit against any purchase, or even for cash, at the same rate of 1 cent per mile. (Typically, credit card companies penalize you by offering less value for cash redemptions, but not Discover.) Although it’s marketed as a travel card, this means that you’re free to redeem your miles for other things, too, like that weekend splurge at Target or your electric bill.
Furthermore, the sign-up bonus is blessedly simple. You don’t need to spend a certain amount of money within the first three months like with most cards. Instead, Discover simply matches all your miles at the end of your first year, essentially doubling your earnings. For example, if you earn 5,000 miles in your first year, by the time your cardholder anniversary rolls around, you’ll get an extra 5,000 miles (for a total of 10,000 miles in your first year).
This greatly simplifies your rewards and allows you an opportunity to turn your sign-up bonus into whatever you want it to be.
Low fees give ongoing value
This card is also ultra-affordable, making it perfect if you’re a new travel card user or you only travel occasionally.
There is no annual fee with this card, so you can keep it open as long as you want (which is great for building your credit score). Discover also won’t charge you a late fee on your first late payment. After that, it’s up to $41. Remember, though, Discover could still report that late payment on your credit report, which could hurt your credit score.
Discover also doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, which is handy if you’re traveling abroad. However, Discover isn’t as widely accepted in other countries as Visa or Mastercard, so if you plan on frequently traveling outside the country, it may be better to choose a different card.
Why is the Discover it Miles not worth it?
Two things could make the Discover it Miles card not worth it to you.
First, if you travel a lot or spend a lot on dining (a common bonus category with many travel rewards cards), it may be better to choose another travel rewards card. In many cases, it could be worth it to pay for a card with an annual fee. To find out, you can estimate how much you’d earn in rewards from a particular card and compare it with its annual fee. For example, if you’d earn $600 in free travel from the Chase Sapphire Reserve card every year and it’d cost you a $550 annual fee, then you’d still come out ahead with the pricier card.
Second, if you’re a more advanced traveler, you may be a bit frustrated by the Discover it Miles card’s lack of transfer options. Transferring your rewards points to another frequent traveler program, such as with airlines, is one of the hidden ways to make your miles stretch even farther. You won’t get that option with this card, however.
Should you get the Discover it Miles card?
The Discover it Miles card is a standout option if you’re an occasional traveler who prefers a simple travel rewards card. You may still want to take advantage of travel rewards, but a higher-end, more complicated card may not be worth it to you.
Keep in mind that it is possible to get a better deal with some cash back rewards cards. Many of these cards offer a higher percentage of cash back for the same annual fee ($0). The Discover it Miles card is already a de-facto cash back card since you can redeem your miles for cash, but some people prefer the mental image of a card that earmarks their rewards for travel.
Even better is if you’re planning larger-than-normal purchases in the upcoming year. This is really where Discover’s sign-up bonuses shine over even the best travel rewards cards. But remember, it’s always best to pay off your bill in full each month, too. That way, you don’t have to worry about racking up a balance. You also won’t have to pay any interest on your charges if you pay your full balance each billing cycle, making all your rewards essentially free.
The Discover it Miles card offers exceptional value for its class. It’s like a good Honda: It’s not the flashiest option out there, but it’s dependable, and you can count on it to take you around the country and back again with minimal hassle and cost.
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