Comparing Discover Card Offers
When you discover Discover, you find some hidden surprises, such as their dollar-for-dollar matching of all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, no annual fee and so much more. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into what each Discover card offers, then look at their common, most excellent features, such as free FICO score, U.S.-based 24/7 customer service, and more. Here, we look at:
The Best Discover Credit Cards of 2019
Discover Credit Card Highlights
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for 5% cash back on rotating categories
You’ll rack up rewards on everyday spending with this card’s varied and practical rotating cashback categories, earning 5% back at places like grocery stores, gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter after activation, then 1% back).
Discover’s first-year Cashback Match™could easily beat the sign-up bonuses offered by many other rewards cards, and the card’s lengthy 0% introductory purchase APR (0% for 14 months, then 13.49% – 24.49% variable) allows you to earn cash back on larger purchases and pay them off over time.
It’s not ideal if you’re after a low-maintenance card: You must enroll in a rotating bonus category every quarter to maximize your cash back, and quarterly categories may not always line up with your spending habits.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for a long 0% APR period on balance transfers
This card’s 18-month balance transfer offer is one of the longest available on the market, and if you end up carrying a balance beyond that, the card’s ongoing APR is low (13.49% – 24.49% variable).
You’ll save on interest and get room to breathe thanks to this card’s lengthy balance transfer offer, and its great cashback program makes it worth keeping even after you’ve paid off your debt.
While the card’s balance transfer offer is generous, you’ll only get 6 months to make new purchases without paying interest (13.49% – 24.49% variable APR thereafter).
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for travelers
The card charges no annual fee and gives you a ton of freedom in how you redeem your miles: You won’t have to book through a travel portal or with specific airlines or hotels.
Thanks to the card’s first-year mile match offer, you’ll effectively earn 3X miles on every purchase for the first 12 months (1.5X miles, matched at the end of your first year), which rivals the rate offered by many of the top luxury travel cards.
The card lacks a traditional sign-up bonus, so you’ll have to spend a decent amount to get much value out of the first-year match. Also, since you can’t transfer your miles to frequent-flier programs, the card isn’t ideal if you’re loyal to specific airlines.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for gas and dining rewards
It offers 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter on spending at gas stations and restaurants, which, when matched at the end of the first year, is a remarkable rate for a no-annual-fee card.
In addition to its great cashback rewards program, you can take advantage of the card’s 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and new purchases for 14 months (13.49% – 24.49% variable thereafter) to pay down debt or finance a larger purchase.
While the card’s low-end APR of 13.49% (variable) is significantly lower than the average cashback card APR, your APR could run as high as 24.49% (variable) if you have some blemishes on your credit history. The card also doesn’t offer much in the way of perks like car rental insurance or extended warranty.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for earning cash back as a student
You won’t have to sacrifice top-notch cashback rewards just because you’re a student. You’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating categories like gas, groceries and Amazon.com (with enrollment, on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1% back). Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
The card offers a number of unique bonuses and perks for students, including a $20 statement credit for student cardholders who have a GPA of 3.0 or higher during a school year for up to 5 years. It also charges no foreign transaction fee, making it a solid choice if you plan to travel or study abroad.
You must enroll in a rotating bonus category every quarter to maximize your cash back, and the card’s variable APR, though reasonable, is a bit higher than that of many student cards, so you’ll have to be diligent about paying off your balance in full each month.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for your first student credit card
The card’s consumer-friendly terms are great for someone new to credit: You won’t be charged a late fee the first time you miss a payment and you won’t get hit with a penalty APR if you end up falling behind more frequently.
Along with its great cashback rate on purchases at gas stations and restaurants, the card comes with a number of financial management tools that can help you monitor your spending and ensure your credit stays on track.
While the card’s 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first 6 months (19.49% variable APR thereafter) can help students finance a large purchase like a laptop or moving expenses, it could spell trouble for inexperienced cardholders prone to overspending.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for earning cash back while building your credit
You can build credit without putting down a ton of money up front as a deposit. Even better, Discover promises to review your account on a monthly basis starting at 8 months to see if you qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured card.
Your approval odds are high whether you have a poor credit history or none at all. Plus, the card’s generous cashback program and Cashback Match mean you could actually earn money each year by using the card.
If you opt for a low security deposit (and, accordingly, a low credit limit), it may be difficult to keep your credit utilization in check. Additionally, the card’s APR is extremely high, regardless of your credit history: All cardholders are assigned the same variable APR of 24.49%.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for hockey fans
Choose from one of 31 officially licensed NHL team card designs and show your pride while getting all the rewards offered by the Discover it® Cash Back.
The card offers 5% cash back in an array of rotating bonus categories, including grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, and Uber and Lyft purchases (on up to $1,500 per quarter after activation, then 1%), which could add up if you do things like frequent sports bars or host game watch parties.
As with the Discover it® Cash Back, you’ll have to manually enroll in a bonus category each quarter to get the card’s maximum cashback rate. And other than its unique NHL team card designs, the card doesn’t offer any special perks or discounts for hockey fans.
Why it’s the best Discover credit card for business owners
If you spend heavily, Discover’s Cashback Match could easily beat out other cards’ intro bonuses, and the card’s 0% introductory APR on purchases for the first 12 months (14.49% – 22.49% variable thereafter) should free up cash flow and help you grow your business.
It’s a great low-maintenance option for business owners who don’t want to deal with special bonus categories and complicated redemption: You get unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and can redeem rewards in any amount, at any time.
The card’s Cashback Match can be very lucrative, but you’ll have to wait a full year after opening your account to get it. Depending on your business needs, it may make more sense to go with a card that offers a bonus up front, even if it’s smaller.
What is Discover?
Discover is best known for its stellar lineup of cashback cards, but it is more than just a card issuer. Discover is also a network, along with Visa, Mastercard and American Express. This means it partners with merchants nationally and worldwide, which accept the Discover cards for payment. Although more common in the United States, Discover is accepted in 185 countries and territories.
Discover card U.S. acceptance
Although it’s the smallest among the major networks in the U.S., it is widely accepted here. In fact, among merchants who accept cards, 97% of them accept Discover. Among the 4 major U.S. networks, there was $3.68ctrillion in purchase volume for credit cards, says Nilson Report. Here are how the networks break down with those:
2018 purchase volume of U.S. general purpose credit card networks:
- $1.96 trillion
- $810 billion
- $770 billion
- American Express
Source: Nilson ReportFeb. 2019 chart, U.S. general purpose brands
Discover rewards program and best redemption options
There are a few key rewards programs attached to Discover credit cards, with some cards offering bonuses in an array of rotating spending categories and others offering bonus cash back in just
a couple of spending categories. The following cards offer 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter upon enrollment (up to the quarterly max, then 1%):
- Discover it Cash Back
- Discover it Balance Transfer
- Discover it Student Cash Back
- NHL Discover it
The following cards offer 2% back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 combined purchases quarterly, then 1%):
- Discover it chrome
- Discover it Student chrome
- Discover it Secured
While quarterly activation is required for the Discover cards with rotating categories, cash back for the chrome cards is automatic.
Discover 5% cashback calendar 2020
Discover’s 2020 cashback calendaris now live, so you can get a sense of how your spending habits line up and start planning your purchases accordingly.
|Winter (January – March)
||Spring (April – June)
||Summer (July – September)
||Holiday (October – December)
- Grocery stores
- Gas stations
- Uber and Lyft
- Wholesale clubs
To ensure you earn the full 5% cashback bonus, keep the following in mind:
- You must activate the bonus each quarter to receive 5% back.
- Your bonus is active from the first day of the first month of each quarter – or the date on which you activate it, whichever is later – through the last day of the last month of each quarter.
- You earn bonus cash back up to the quarterly maximum.
- All spending over the quarterly maximum and all purchases outside a quarter’s bonus category earn 1% cash back.
No annual fees on Discover cards
You won’t pay an annual fee or foreign transaction fee on Discover cards. Annual fees can run in the hundreds of dollars, and foreign transaction fees — which are fees added on top of your purchase when you use your credit card at a non-U.S. retailer — are typically 3% of the charge. That’s a whole lot of money saved with those two fees waived. Discover cards carry a host of other features, as we’ll talk about next.
Which Discover card should you get?
Because Discover credit cards have such different structures from competitors, it’s a good idea to compare with any other cards you have your eye on. Discover offers the gamut – credit building, student, travel and cash back cards. Which is best for you?
Consumer with a big balance – If you have a balance on another card, the Discover it Balance Transfer is one of the most generous on the market, with 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers. However, the purchase offer is only 6 months, so even though this card offers 5% back on rotating categories after activation (up to the quarterly maximum, then 1%), don’t plan on carrying any of those purchases over past 6 months, because interest rates will kick in at a variable rate of 13.49% – 24.49%.
Shopper with a plan – There are a couple of options here, including the Discover it Cash Back and the Discover it chrome. The Discover it Cash Back is a good card for someone who enjoys angling to maximize their cash back rewards, while the chrome is a good option for someone who frequents restaurants or is a road warrior.
Occasional traveler – If you are looking forone of the best travel credit cards and you want flexible features, the Discover it Miles is a good choice because it rewards 1.5X miles on all types of spending, with no blackout dates on redemption. When all is said and done, the Discover it Miles is best for the occasional traveler who needs room for flexibility.
Student consumer – Discover has two student cards, the Discover it Student Cash Back and the Discover it Student chrome. Both offer the rewards of their big brothers, but they only require no credit history. These are good cards for the youthful consumer who wants to experiment with rewards and build credit in the meantime. They also both feature a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 19.49%.
Credit builder –The Discover it Secured is an excellent option for the consumer who wants to build their credit while keeping open the option
of experiencing rewards. This card requires no credit history, but as a secured card, you have to put down a refundable deposit as collateral. However, you get to build your credit with every on-time payment. This secured card is one of the better ones on the market because fees are minimal, including no annual fee.
Where is Discover card accepted internationally?
While Discover doesn’t have as wide a reach internationally as Mastercard or Visa, it’s accepted at more than 44 million merchants in more than 190 countries and territories, with international acceptance continuing to grow. You can check out Discover’s online mapto see if your card is likely to be accepted where you’re traveling, but rest assured that many popular destinations in South and Central America, Europe and Asia have a moderate or high rate of Discover acceptance. Countries with a high Discover acceptance rate include:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
Discover also offers a variety of lending products, including checking accounts, personal and student loans, and more. Here’s what it offers:
- Credit cards. You already know that these products provide excellent value, but they also offer great service and security. More on that later.
- Banking. Discover also offers savings, checking, IRAs and CDs with a competitive 2.65% APY for 12 months and minimum $2,500.
- Personal loans. These loans can be used for major purchases, life events, remodeling or debt consolidation – basically, you have a need, Discover delivers.
- Student loans. All manner of student loans are offered, with a fixed rate undergraduate loan’s starting fixed rates ranging from 5.99% – 13.99%.
- Home equity. These loans range from 4.99% – 11.99% fixed APR for $35,000-$150,000. That’s with no application fee, origination fee or home valuation fee.
Recap: The Best Discover Credit Cards of 2019
|Discover it® Cash Back
||Cash back with rotating rewards categories
||4.3 / 5
|Discover it® Balance Transfer
||Long balance transfer offer
||4.5 / 5
|Discover it® Miles
||Earning airline miles
||4.0 / 5
|Discover it® chrome
||Gas and dining rewards with cash back match
||4.1 / 5
|Discover it® Student Cash Back
||Good Grades Rewards and rotating categories
||4.2 / 5
|Discover it® Student chrome
||Good Grades Rewards, gas stations and restaurants
||4.2 / 5
|Discover it® Secured
||4.1 / 5
|NHL® Discover it®
Laura is an editor and writer at CreditCards.com. She has written extensively on all things credit cards and works to bring you the most up-to-date analysis and advice. Laura’s work has been cited in such publications as the New York Times and
Associated Press. You can reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @creditcards_lm.