Courtesy of Discover

Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it chrome

The two cards offer excellent cash back rates but which one can earn you more?

Summary

The Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® chrome are both good cash back cards that appeal to different types of cardholders. But instead of deciding which card is best for you, why not get both?

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On the surface, the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® chrome look similar – they have the same simple exterior with the words “Discover it” emblazoned across the front.

However, the cards have a very different structure to their cash back programs. The Discover it Cash Back is a rotating categories card offering a 5% bonus on a different category you must activate each quarter (on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter, then 1%). The Discover it chrome is a bonus category card, offering the same 2% cash back on restaurant and gas purchases (up to $1,000 in spending per quarter) throughout the year, with no need to activate any categories.

They’re both good cash back cards that offer their own unique advantages and appeal to different types of cardholders.

Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it chrome

Discover it
Discover it Cash Back
Discover it chrome
Discover it chrome
Rewards rate
  • 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter when you activate)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 2% cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases (up to $1,000 in spending per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
Sign-up bonusDouble all your cash back at the end of your first yearDouble all your cash back at the end of your first year
Annual fee$0$0
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • High 5% rate on rotating categories
  • Large sign-up bonus that increases as you spend more
  • No annual fee
  • Bonus on two very rewarding categories: gas and restaurant purchases
  • Large sign-up bonus that increases as you spend more
Cons
  • Requires enrolling in and keeping track of rotating categories
  • $1,500 spending limit on 5% cash back per quarter
  • Not great as a stand-alone card – for a typical cardholder’s spending patterns, the overall rewards rate on the card is low
  • $1,000 spending limit on gas and restaurant bonus each quarter

Earning rewards

The Discover it Cash Back is a good no-annual-fee cash back card with a generous 5% cash back rate for quarterly rotating categories. The card requires a bit of maintenance since you must remember to activate the categories at the beginning of each quarter to begin earning the 5%.

Cardholders who are willing to go that extra mile and follow Discover’s cash back calendar will be rewarded with substantial earnings on very lucrative categories such as grocery stores and restaurant purchases. However, if there’s one quarter with categories in which you tend not to spend much in, like Q4 of 2022 (Amazon.com and digital wallets), your rewards may turn out quite low. Be sure to check the cash back calendar to maximize earnings in those categories.

On the other hand, the Discover it chrome is much more straightforward. The Discover it chrome card offers a 2% cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases, making it an ideal card for nights out and weekend road trips. Unlike the Discover it Cash Back, the restaurant and gas categories on the Discover it chrome card remain the same year-round, so you don’t have to worry about activating them.

Redeeming rewards

Redeeming rewards for both Discover cards is the same. Cash back rewards never expire, and you may redeem them at any time, even if you have as little as 1 cent in rewards. Redemption methods include a deposit into your bank account, statement credit, gift cards (of at least $5) and more.

Sign-up bonus

Both Discover it cards offer the same sign-up bonus: They will match all your cash back you earned in the first year of membership.

For Discover it Cash Back cardholders, that means the 5% category bonus is essentially a 10% bonus. For Discover it chrome cardholders, that intro bonus raises your cash back rate on gas and restaurant purchases to essentially 4% in the first year.

Discover it chrome: Best for simplicity

The Discover it chrome can be summed up in one word: simplicity. Since the card offers bonuses in categories where people tend to spend a lot of money – restaurants and gas – you can stick to using this as a general card for all your purchases without having to worry about juggling cards or managing rotating categories. And the cash match bonus makes it an especially strong card for gas and restaurant purchases for the first year.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spent $1,568 on gas in 2020 and $2,375 on food outside the home. These two categories add up to just under $1,000 per quarter, right around the maximum quarterly spend on the card. All this to say, if your spending habits are similar to those of the average consumer, this card is perfect for you.

Discover it Cash Back: Best for maximizing rewards

The Discover it Cash Back mainly suits cardholders that love playing around with and maximizing various categories. We estimate the average cash back rate at 2.76%. Based on a $15,900 yearly spend, you would earn $438 in cash back, even before the Cashback Match welcome bonus is applied. It’s no wonder this ranks as one of the best cash back credit cards on the market.

However, if you look at the Discover cash back calendar and already feel the categories don’t match up with your spending habits, you’re better off with a different card. For cash back enthusiasts, though, maximizing the Discover it Cash Back will definitely give generous returns, even after the first year.

We should also mention the Discover it Cash Back comes with other added benefits like a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and new purchases for 15 months (13.49% to 24.49% variable thereafter) and no foreign transaction fee.

Bottom line

The Discover it Cash Back and Discover it chrome are good cash back cards from a card issuer that values customer service and consistently scores near the top of J.D. Power rankings for customer satisfaction. That alone may be a good enough reason to sign up for these cards.

However, for the average consumer the Discover it chrome works better as a stand-alone card. Since gas and restaurant purchases are two of the largest spending categories, the card’s overall rewards rate is high. For people looking for an additional card to supplement their existing cards, the Discover it Cash Back is a great choice. In fact, it’s a great idea to get both cards – use the Discover it chrome during quarters you know you’ll spend less in with the Discover it Cash Back, then switch to the Discover it Cash Back during quarters you’d likely reach the spending cap.

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
18.00%
Student
18.66%
Airline
17.81%
Business
16.07%
Cash Back
17.95%

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