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A guide to Discover credit cards
A Discover credit card can bring a lot of value to your wallet. These cards don’t charge an annual fee, offer dollar-for-dollar matching of all the cash back earned at the end of your first year and so much more. Here, we’ll take a deep dive into what each card offers so you can find the best Discover credit card for you.
Comparing the best Discover credit cards
|Credit card||Best for||CreditCards.com rating||Annual fee|
|Discover it® Cash Back||5% cash back on rotating categories||4.5 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||Balance transfers||4.5 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® chrome||Gas and dining rewards||3.9 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student Cash Back||Students earning cash back||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Miles||Travelers||3.7 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student chrome||Students||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Secured Credit Card||Cash back and credit building||4.1 / 5||$0|
Editor’s picks: Discover credit cards
Discover it® Cash Back: Best for 5% cash back on rotating categories
Why we picked it: Discover’s first-year Cashback Match™, which matches all of the cash back you accumulate in year one, could easily beat the sign-up bonuses offered by many other rewards cards. Plus, the card’s lengthy 0% introductory purchase APR (0% for 14 months, then 11.99% to 22.99% variable) allows you to earn cash back on larger purchases and pay them off over time.
Pros: The offer to effectively double the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year can typically outdo the sign-up bonuses offered by many other rewards cards, especially with the 5% rate you can earn on up to $1,500 in rotating categories each quarter after activation, then 1%. And with no annual fee, your rewards go straight to your pocket rather than digging you out of a hole.
Cons: 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.
Who should apply? If you’re on the hunt for a generous cash back bonus and don’t mind keeping up with rotating categories, this user-friendly card stands out from the pack.
Who should skip? Someone looking for a card that doesn’t require any extra homework. Activating Discover’s rotating categories and trying to adjust your spending habits can be tedious.
Read our Discover it® Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Balance Transfer: Best for balance transfers
Why we picked it: With this card, you won’t have to sacrifice the long-term value of a rewards program to get a no-annual-fee balance transfer credit card with a long introductory APR period. Plus it offers a unique first-year promotion.
Pros: The card offers an impressive 18-month introductory period to pay off a transferred balance without accruing any interest (11.99% to 22.99% variable APR after that), but also a generous cash back program and the extremely valuable Cashback Match offer from Discover.
Cons: This card doesn’t give you much time to carry a balance interest-free on new spending (0% intro APR for the first 6 months then 11.99% – 22.99% variable APR thereafter) and you’ll want to keep in mind there is an intro balance transfer fee of 3%, up to 5% on future transfers.
Who should apply? This card will appeal to individuals who are looking to chip away at high-interest debt while still being able to reap the benefits of a rewards program.
Who should skip? People looking for a long amount of time to finance new purchases and those who don’t want to keep track of rotating bonus categories will find more utility elsewhere.
Read our Discover it® Balance Transfer review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® chrome: Best for gas and dining rewards
Why we picked it: It offers 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter (then 1%) on spending at gas stations and restaurants. When matched at the end of the first year, this is a remarkable rate for a no-annual-fee card.
Pros: In addition to its great cash back rewards program, you can take advantage of the card’s 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and new purchases for 14 months (11.99% to 22.99% variable thereafter). This is a great way to pay down debt or finance a larger purchase.
Cons: While the card’s low-end APR of 11.99% (variable) is significantly lower than the average cash back card APR, your APR could run as high as 22.99% (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.
Who should apply? If you like to eat out or do a lot of driving, this well-rounded everyday card can earn big bonuses in addition to an already generous welcome offer.
Who should skip? Cardholders who want top-tier cash back rates should look to see if the Discover it® Cash Back’s rotating categories pique their interest.
Read our Discover it® chrome review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Student Cash Back: Best for students earning cash back
Why we picked it: You won’t have to sacrifice top-notch cash back rewards just because you’re a student. You’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating categories like gas, groceries and Amazon.com (with enrollment, 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.
Pros: The card offers a number of unique perks for students, including your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score. It also charges no foreign transaction fee, making it a solid choice if you plan to travel or study abroad.
Cons: You’ll have the added homework of enrolling 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.
Who should apply? This cash back card is ideal for responsible students who won’t carry a balance and feel capable of keeping track of rotating categories.
Who should skip? The high-percentage cash back might seem worth it to some rewards-hunters, but those with an established credit score should probably look elsewhere.
Read our Discover it® Student Cash Back review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Miles: Best for travelers
Why we picked it: 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.
Pros: 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 on purchases, matched at the end of your first year) – rivaling the rates offered by many of the top luxury travel cards.
Cons: 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.
Who should apply? This no-annual-fee, high-value rewards card is an excellent choice for travelers looking to stockpile miles for future vacations.
Who should skip? Anyone who wants to maximize how much cash back they earn and travelers looking for premium perks will get more value with another card.
Read our Discover it® Miles review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Student chrome: Best for students
Why we picked it: 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. You should note that there is a late payment fee of up to $40 after the first time you pay late.
Pros: Along with its great cash back rate on combined 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.
Cons: While the card’s 0% introductory APR on new purchases for the first six months (12.99% to 21.99% 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.
Who should apply? Discover’s easy-to-use account management tools are great for first-time student cardholders looking to establish healthy credit habits.
Who should skip? Cardholders with a little experience under their belt and a solid credit score should look at the benefits and rewards offered by other cards.
Read our Discover it® Student chrome review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Secured Credit Card: Best for cash back and credit building
Why we picked it: You can build credit without putting down a ton of money upfront as a deposit. Even better, Discover promises to review your account on a monthly basis starting at seven months to see if you qualify for an upgrade to an unsecured line of credit.
Pros: Your approval odds are high whether you have a poor credit history or none at all. Plus, the card’s generous cash back program and Cashback Match mean you could actually earn money in the first year by using the card.
Cons: 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 22.99%.
Who should apply? This no-annual-fee cash back card with the potential for graduation to an unsecured credit line after seven months is a terrific choice for anyone building credit.
Who should skip? Credit-builders who don’t love the idea of putting down a deposit to grow their score should look to student credit cards or credit cards for bad credit.
Read our Discover it® Secured Credit Card review or jump back to this card’s offer details.
Discover it® Business Card: Best for business owners
Why we picked it: If you spend heavily, Discover’s Cashback Match could easily beat out the intro bonuses of other business cards.
Pros: 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.
Cons: The card’s Cashback Match is a great perk, 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 upfront, even if it’s smaller.
Who should apply? With its flexible rewards program, no expiration and unlimited Cashback Match, the Discover it® Business Card offers a lot of potential value to small business owners.
Who should skip? Small business owners looking for a card that rewards a little extra in certain categories should look to other business credit cards.
Read our Discover it® Business review.
What is Discover?
Discover is best known for its stellar lineup of cash back 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, making Discover cards viable payment across numerous countries.
Discover offers several more financial services as well, such as online banking, student loans, home loans and personal loans. They also offer their customers useful add-ons, like a free look at your FICO score and identity theft protection. These connections and services have made Discover a top provider of cards for cash back, everyday earnings, small businesses, beginners and more.
Where is Discover accepted?
Although it’s most common in the United States, Discover is accepted in 200 countries and territories. While it’s the smallest major U.S. network, Discover is still widely accepted at retailers across the states. In fact, among merchants who accept cards, 99% of them accept Discover. With widespread acceptance both in the states and around the globe, Discover’s cards can be great travel companions. If you’re planning a trip, you can check the Discover Card International Acceptance Map to see if your card is good-to-go.
What credit score is needed for a Discover credit card?
The majority of Discover’s cards will require a credit score in the good to excellent range, meaning your score will likely need to be at least 670 for their top choices. That being said, Discover has options for everyone no matter the credit score.
Discover’s secured and student cards are more than just a backup plan for cardholders with poor credit, they’re some of the most well-rounded and rewarding cards of their kind. After setting a trend of good habits with one of those starter cards, you can grow your credit score and move on to a Discover card that features better benefits.
How to choose a Discover credit card
Because Discover cards have such specialized structures, it’s a good idea to take a look at your own habits and identify the type of consumer you are. Using our CardMatch tool can help narrow down your options before applying and give you an idea of the right card for you based on your credit profile. Discover offers the gamut – credit building, student, travel and cash back cards. Which best suits you?
Who should get a Discover credit card
- The 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, is a road warrior or is on the hunt for a consistent everyday card.
- The occasional traveler. If you are looking for one 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 lack of fees and generous rewards make the Discover it® Miles best for the occasional traveler who needs room for flexibility.
- The 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 six months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99 to 21.99%.
- The small business owner. Discover offers a consistent, easy-to-understand business card for those trying to grow and organize their business in new ways. With the Discover it® Business, entrepreneurs can take advantage of unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases – a number that can quickly stack with high-budget business expenses.
Who should skip a Discover credit card
- The luxury traveler. Someone looking for a top-notch travel experience including comped checked bags, access to airport lounges, priority upgrades and anything else exclusive to the high-priced lifestyle will have to look to other travel cards. Cards with high annual fees can often be your ticket into these offers, and can be very much worth the cost for the right spender.
- The quick-bonus chaser. If you’re someone trying to capitalize on credit card rewards in the near future, cards with more traditional sign-up bonuses might be a better choice. Discover’s rewards cards are typically backed with their Cashback Match offer, which –while valuable– takes a full year to make an impact.
What programs does Discover offer?
As a top provider for customer satisfaction, Discover gives ways for their cardholders to earn great rewards and benefits. Knowing their featured programs can help you take full advantage of their offers and level-up as a cardholder.
Discover’s rotating cash back
Discover’s 2022 Cashback Calendar is available and can be found below. To ensure you earn the full cash back rate, 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.
|Winter (January – March)||Spring (April – June)||Summer (July – September)||Holiday (October – December)|
- Grocery stores
- Fitness clubs
- Gym memberships
- Digital wallets
Discover’s reward redemption options
Since cash back reward values are pretty straightforward, the best cash back redemption options are often the most convenient for you at the moment without sacrificing reward value. For gift card lovers, however, Discover has a great deal: There is an added value on each gift card you redeem for (for example, certain merchants offer a $25 gift card for $20 of cash back rewards).
When you’re ready to collect your hard-earned Discover credit card rewards, here’s a quick rundown of your Discover redemption options.
- Cash, either as a direct deposit or a statement credit – 1 cent minimum redemption
- Amazon.com or PayPal purchases, using the “Cashback Bonus® option at checkout ($1 Cashback Bonus = $1) – no minimum redemption value
- Gift cards (with an added bonus value) – ranging from $5 – $200 in increments of $5 (minimum redemption)
- Charity donations – 1 cent minimum redemption
Discover it Miles can be redeemed as a credit toward eligible travel purchases on your credit card statement or as a bank account direct deposit, both at 1 cent per 1 mile. Plus, Discover’s cash back and miles don’t expire. Rather than erasing your rewards, Discover will credit your account with your cash back or miles balance if your account is closed or it hasn’t been used within 18 months.
Is a Discover credit card worth it?
Being a known leader in the credit cards industry, it should come as no surprise that Discover provides worthwhile card offers with strong rewards. Whether your goal is to accumulate cash back, use your spending to flip into a vacation or get a card to build your credit score and unlock new opportunities, Discover has a card that can bring you value.
The top way Discover helps their cardholders is by offering top-notch cash back rates and their juicy welcome offer. You can get 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter upon enrollment (up to the quarterly max, then 1%) and double it thanks to Discover in the first year. You can also take advantage of that same matching offer with their number of cards that earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants (on up to $1,000 combined purchases quarterly, then 1%), giving rewards opportunities to cardholders no matter their score.
Looking at Discover’s number of benefits is an easy way to evaluate whether one of their cards is worth it to you, but matching your spending habits to their rewards offers is the best way to be sure it’s worthwhile. In any case, getting the most value out of your Discover card will require knowing how to best spend and redeem your rewards. For the rotating categories cards, knowing the calendar is just the start.
How we picked the best Discover credit cards
Research Methodology: We analyzed Discover’s selection of credit cards to identify their top offers currently on the market. The major factors we considered were:
- Available rewards: Discover has cards offering a variety of cash back and travel rewards rates, so we found the most customer-friendly earning options.
- Extra perks: With cards designed with specific consumers in mind, it’s important that any add-ons can help contribute to the cardholder’s goal. We looked for cards from Discover that feature benefits to help the traveler, cash back earner, credit-builder and more.
- Rates and fees: We looked at whether cards had an introductory APR offer and how reasonable ongoing APRs were. We also took into account any extraneous fees or anything else that would make a card more expensive.
Our criteria also included rewards redemption, credit needed, security, ease of application, potential rewards, miscellaneous benefits.
More information on Discover credit cards
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