Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back

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Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back

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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:

  • The Quicksilver is a flat-rate cash back card that earns unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.
  • Discover it Cash Back has rotating bonus categories. Bonus categories usually include purchases such as groceries, gas or dining; they change every quarter. (You can earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in that category on up to $1,500 in purchases that quarter. After that, you’ll earn 1 percent. Non-bonus category purchases earn unlimited 1 percent.)

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:

Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back

  Capital One QuicksilverOne
Capital One Quicksilver
Discover Cash Back
Discover it Cash Back
Rewards rate
Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase 
  • 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
Sign-up bonus
$150 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Cashback Match™ (all cash back earned at the end of your first year is matched)
Annual fee
$0 $0
Estimated yearly rewards value ($1,325 monthly spend) $288 $399 ($500 of monthly spend is on 5% bonus categories)
Pros
  • No annual fee
  • Cash back earned is unlimited
  • Little maintenance required
  • No annual fee
  • Higher cash back rate than most cash back cards
  • Special first-year bonus not offered by other card issuers
Cons
  • Low rewards rate
  • No bonus categories
  • Not all bonus categories may be relevant for all people
  • Only 1% cash back offered on non-bonus categories
  • Have to wait till the end of your first year to collect the introductory bonus
  • You have to track and activate bonus categories
Who should get this card?
  • People who want to transfer a balance
  • People who want simple rewards they don’t need to track
  • People who plan on using Quicksilver to supplement rewards earned with other cards
  • People who spend most of their money on everyday expenses like groceries and gas
  • People who don’t mind tracking/activating quarterly bonus categories
  • People who want a big first-year bonus

A closer look

Capital One Quicksilver

Capital One’s Quicksilver card has long been popular in the flat-rate cash back category for many reasons – the cash back you can earn is unlimited, you can redeem cash back in any amount at any time, etc. Perhaps the greatest reason for Quicksilver’s popularity is its ability to fulfill several purposes: 

  1. Collecting cash back. The Quicksilver offers unlimited 1.5 percent on every purchase.
  2. Transferring a balance from a different card with a high APR. Capital One currently offers a 15-month intro APR period to transfer and pay off a balance with no interest.
  3. Saving on purchase interest. If you would like to make a big purchase and gradually pay it off without accruing interest, you can take advantage of Quicksilver’s intro APRs. 

Quicksilver can serve one or all of these purposes for you; it’s a smart choice for simple savers and savvy card-stackers alike.

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back can lead to lucrative rewards, especially in year one. Discover is unique in that it matches all of the cash back you earn in your first year. So, if you max out the 5 percent bonus earnings each 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 spending (they change every year), in which case it will be difficult to spend roughly $500 per month. Before you commit to this card, take a look at Discover’s 2018 calendar:

Discover 5 percent cash back calendar 2018

Winter

Spring

Summer

Holiday

January – March

April – June

July – September

October – December

Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs

Earn 5% Cashback Bonus at Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs from Jan. 1 -March 31, 2018, on up to $1,500 in purchases

Grocery Stores

Earn 5% Cashback Bonus at Grocery Stores from April 1 - June 30, 2018, on up to $1,500 in purchases.

Restaurants

Earn 5% Cashback Bonus at Restaurants from July 1 - Sept. 30, 2018, on up to $1,500 in purchases.

Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs

Earn 5% Cashback Bonus at Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs through Dec. 31, 2018, on up to $1,500 in purchases.

Source: Discover

Let’s say you dine out once or twice a month. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely you’d make the most of the 5 percent cash back bonus Discover offered from July to September. Since this credit card has no annual fee, there’s not really any pressure to max out its rewards or to spend more than you normally would. Although the potential for a $300 minimum return on bonus categories exists, keep in mind that many people will probably get disappointed by an irrelevant bonus category at some point in the year. 

Note that the Discover it Cash Back also comes with an intro APR period for balance transfers and purchases. While Quicksilver gives you a 15-month intro period, the Discover card offers a smaller 14-month intro period.

Best for people juggling multiple cards: Capital One Quicksilver

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 is this: It only makes sense to use this card (1.5 percent cash back) to improve upon the 1 percent 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. Yet, there are always a few expenses that fall through the cracks and yield only 1 percent. After all, most rewards cards don’t offer bonuses on haircuts, dry-cleaning or car washes. The mark of a savvy cardholder is earning better than 1 percent on every single purchase – that’s where the flat-rate card comes in. 

Use Quicksilver to supplement the rewards you earn with other cards and you can virtually guarantee that at least 1.5 percent 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.

Best for people seeking a big first-year bonus: Discover it Cash Back

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 percent earnings and Discover’s match. Obviously, this isn’t the best way to maximize your earnings and it won’t yield great returns after year one, but it demonstrates the value of Cashback Match™. 

Maxing out the 5 percent quarterly bonuses (and spending no more) will result in $6,000 of yearly spend. That equates to $300 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 thanks to Discover’s unique intro bonus, the first-year value of its cash back card is pretty undeniable.

Which card should you choose?

Of course, there are folks in many subcategories of spending and not everyone will fall into one of the subsets described here. If we boil down the value of these two popular cash back cards, we can make some general conclusions that will help you define your own subcategory and select the card that’s right for you: 

  • Capital One Quicksilver’s rewards are simple, multipurpose and reliable.
  • Discover it Cash Back’s rewards are lucrative, somewhat unpredictable and most valuable in the first year. 

See related: Discover 2019 bonus categories, Credit card bonus categories: What's ahead for 2019, Americans love their cash back credit cards


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Updated: 12-18-2018