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Card Comparisons

Chase Freedom Flex vs. Discover it Cash Back

Check out how the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back compare


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.

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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 the majority 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 take a 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℠
Chase Freedom Flex
Discover it® Cash Back
Discover it® Cash Back card
Rewards rate
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%)
  • 5% back on Ultimate Rewards travel
  • 5% back on Lyft purchases (through March 2022)
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year
  • 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories (upon enrollment, on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
Sign-up bonus$200 when you spend $500 in the first 3 months100% match of your cash back at the end of the card’s first year
Annual fee$0$0
Estimated yearly rewards value (assuming maxed-out bonus categories and average spending in other categories)$493$399
Who should get this card?
  • Cardholders whose spending varies throughout the year
  • Frequent travelers
  • Someone who wants just one credit card
  • Rewards maximizers who plan to use the card heavily during the first year
  • Someone who wants to pay off debt

Best for first-year rewards: Discover it Cash Back

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 much 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 cardDiscover 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 its 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 card’s cash back match the end of the year – more than twice the value of the bonuses from the Chase Freedom Flex card.

Bonus cash earned on $1,500 monthly spend ($500 spent in 5% bonus categories)

Chase Freedom Flex cardDiscover it Cash Back card
Sign-up bonus = $200(($500 x 5% rotating category bonus) + ($1,000 x 1%)) x 12 months = $420

Best for everyday spending: Chase Freedom Flex

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 all or 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. This is thanks to the year-round bonus cash back categories it tacks on in addition to 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. The inclusion of these ongoing bonus cash back categories helps give the Freedom Flex a much higher average rewards rate of 1.72% back outside of its rotating categories (compared to just 1% back with the Discover it Cash Back).

Plus, unlike the Discover it card, the Freedom Flex card doesn’t require much spending to receive a significant bonus. To earn it, you just need to spend $500 in the card’s first three months. That comes out to about $167 a month – which is not a big threshold for such a large bonus.

With the Discover it card, by contrast, you would need to spend around $12,700 in the card’s first year to earn a $200 cash back match bonus (assuming an average rewards rate of 1.58% cash back across categories). If you spend heavily on 5% bonus categories, you may be able to get away with spending less. But you would still need to use your card fairly regularly.

If you don’t plan to spend more than a few hundred dollars here and there – or if you plan to devote most of your spending to other rewards cards – you may have trouble spending enough on your Discover it card to claim a substantial bonus.

Minimum monthly spend required to earn $200 bonus cash

Chase Freedom FlexDiscover it Cash Back card
$167/month (first 3 months only)
$167 spend x 3 months to meet $500 spending requirement = $200
$334 spend x 5% rotating category bonus x 12 months = $200

Best for frequent travelers: Chase Freedom Flex

Travel is another area in which the Freedom Flex beats out the Discover card. Not only do you earn 5% back on Ultimate Rewards travel with the Freedom Flex, but you can also pair it with a Chase travel card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and convert your cash into miles. If you redeem your miles for travel using the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you will earn a 25% to 50% rewards bonus, depending on the card. That could add up to big savings if you transfer a significant amount.

Imagine, for example, you earned $270 in cash back from your Freedom Flex card. If you transferred that cash to the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and redeemed your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards, you’d earn a 50% bonus and have $405 to spend on a free flight.

If you transferred it to the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and redeemed it for travel, you’d earn a 25% bonus and have $338 to spend. And unlike with the Discover it card, you’d earn those bonuses every year you had the card, allowing you to rack up more rewards over time.

Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption options

Redemption optionPoint valueValue of 27,000 points
Chase Sapphire Preferred travel redemption (25% bonus)1.25 cents$338
Chase Sapphire Reserve travel redemption (50% bonus)1.5 cents$405
Statement credit1 cent$270
Direct deposit1 cent$270
Gift cards1 cent$270 purchases0.8 cent$216
Chase Pay purchases0.8 cent$216

If you own a qualifying card, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve card, you can also transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to other airlines and hotels, such as United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France, Korean Air, Singapore Airlines, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG. As you can see from our table below, many of Chase’s travel partners offer even more valuable redemption options, allowing you to stretch the value of your points further:

Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partners

PartnerPoint valueValue of 27,000 points
Singapore Airlines2.4 cents$648
Southwest Airlines1.6 cents$432
United Airlines1.5 cents$405
British Airways1.4 cents$378
Korean Air1.7 cents$459
World of Hyatt1.4 cents$378
Air France1 cent$270
Virgin Atlantic0.8 cent$216
Marriott Bonvoy1 cent$270
IHG0.6 cent$162

Comparing bonus categories

Despite some similarities, the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back cards have a good amount of daylight between them when you take a closer look. That said, their bonus categories are nearly identical. Typically, the only significant variation between the cards’ cash back calendars comes down to timing and the specific retailers that earn bonuses. For example, during the last quarter of 2020, the Chase cash back calendar listed PayPal and Walmart purchases as eligible for 5% cash back upon enrollment, while the 2021 Discover cash back calendar lists, and

Chase 5% cash back calendar

Chase only announces its categories on a quarter-by-quarter basis, but last year’s categories should give you a good idea of what to expect in 2021.

Winter 2021Spring 2021Summer 2020Holiday 2020
January – MarchApril – JuneJuly – SeptemberOctober – December
  • Select streaming services
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Phone, cable and internet services
  • Home improvement stores
  • Gas stations
  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods Market
  • PayPal
  • Walmart

Discover 5% cash back calendar 2021

January – MarchApril – JuneJuly – SeptemberOctober – December
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Gas stations
  • Select streaming stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal

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. You might also check out how the Chase Freedom Flex and Freedom Unlimited stack up, as well as how the Discover it Cash Back compares to the Discover it Chrome card.

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.

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