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
Deeper analysis on Discover's best cards
First off, rather than sign-up bonuses, the Discover cards come with cash back matched at the end of your first year. This means if you earn $300 over the course of your first year, you get another $300 back at the close of the first year of membership. Even the credit-starter cards offer this. Pretty awesome, yes?
Discover it® Cash Back
Discover's flagship card, the Discover it Cash Back offers a stunning 5% back at different places each quarter such as Amazon.com, wholesale clubs, and more common categories such as gas and restaurants each time you activate (up to $1,500 spend each quarter). Competing head-to-head with the Chase Freedom, the Cash Back eschews a sign-up bonus in favor of Discover's famous cash back match at the end of your first year.
- Unlimited 1% cash back on everything else
- Rewards don't expire
- 0% intro offer for 14 months on purchases & BT (then standard variable rate, currently 14.24% - 25.24%)
Discover it® Balance Transfer
This card's greatest feature is the generous 18-month 0% intro APR on balance transfers, one of the industry's best balance transfer offers. There is also a 6-month intro 0% APR offer on purchases. This card is helpful for the consumer with a balance on an existing card and interest charges piling up. With an 18-month transfer, that means you can save hundreds on interest. After the introductory period expires, standard variable APR of 14.24% - 25.24% applies.
- Redeem any amount
- Free Social Security number monitoring
- 5% in rotating categories each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate
Discover it® Miles
This straight-forward travel card delivers 1.5X miles on all purchases. You can redeem your miles toward a statement credit. One nice feature – there are no blackout dates, which means you can fly anywhere, at any time.
- Free FICO score
- Handy on/off switch to manage freezing your account
- 0% intro offer for 14 months on purchases (then 14.24% - 25.24% variable)
Discover it® chrome
This card offers cash back at gas stations and restaurants of 2% for up to $1,000 per quarter, perfect for the foodie who loves to try new restaurants. It's 1% after that, and 1% on everything else.
- Use your rewards on Amazon.com
- Free alerts on new accounts on your Experian credit report
- $0 fraud liability
Discover it® Student Cash Back
A great card for the consumer with fair credit, you get the same quarterly categories and 5% back as the Discover it Cash Back with this card when you enroll (up to the quarterly max). Also, special for the hard-working student, earn a $20 statement credit each year for a 3.0 GPA or higher for up to 5 years.
- No late fee on first late payment
- No APR change for late payment
- 0% for 6 months on purchases; 10.99% for 6 months on BT (then 15.24% - 24.24% variable rate applies)
Discover it® Student chrome
This card has the 2% back at gas stations and restaurants that you get with the Discover it chrome, but it is offered to consumers with fair credit. Cardholders automatically receive the cash back up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. The Discover it Student chrome also has the good grades offer of the Discover it Student Cash Back – earn a $20 statement credit each year for a 3.0 GPA or higher for up to 5 years.
- Overnight shipping of card to U.S. address at your request
- No overlimit fee
- No foreign transaction fee
Discover it® Secured
If you need a reliable card that accepts bad or limited credit, look no further. This card is ideal for the consumer whose credit isn't his best, but who wants to build credit quickly and safely. With every one-time payment, you are that much closer to credit bliss with this card – just make sure you also pay in full each month. Good habits reap great rewards.
- Pay a refundable deposit of at least $200 in exchange for a matching credit limit
- Earn 2% back at gas stations and restaurants for up to combined $1,000 a quarter, automatically
- Get reviewed after 8 months for possible transition to an unsecured line of credit
NHL® Discover it®
Show your true colors by choosing your favorite of 31 teams to display on your card. Also, save 10% at Shop.NHL.com and NHL.TV™. With this card, you can earn the 5% on rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly max each time you activate, and 1% on everything else after that.
- 100% U.S.-based customer service
- Free credit scorecard
- Redeem for cash at any time
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.
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 $3.68 trillion 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 Report Feb. 2019 chart, U.S. general purpose brands
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.
Discover rewards program and best redemption options
There are a few key rewards programs attached to Discover credit cards. For example, upon enrollment the Discover it Cash Back, Discover it Balance Transfer, and Discover it Student Cash Back all offer 5% back on rotating categories each quarter (up to the quarterly max, then 1%). Meanwhile, the Discover it chrome and Discover it Student chrome offer 2% back at restaurants and gas stations (up to $1,000 quarterly, then 1%).
While quarterly activation is required for the Discover cards with rotating categories, cash back for the chrome cards are automatic. Other cash back cards usually offer a sign-up bonus – Discover cards' bonus at the end of your first year competes with that.
However, there is usually a window for success when comparing the cash back match to a sign-up bonus. For example, take a look at a comparison of the Discover it chrome and the Chase Freedom Unlimited:
Discover it chrome vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited...
|Card||Discover it chrome||Chase Freedom Unlimited|
|Rewards at restaurants/gas stations||2% * $300/mth * 12 = $72||1.5% * $300/mth * 12 = $54|
|Other rewards||1% * $1,000/mth * 12 = $120||1.5% * $1,000/mth * 12 = $180|
|Sign up/first year bonus||Cash back match first year = $192||$150 / $500 spend in 3 months|
|Total end of first year||$72 + $120 + $192 = $384||$54 + $180 + $150 = $384|
As you can see, if the flat-rate spending is over $1,000, the Chase Freedom Unlimited wins out; below and the Discover it chrome prevails.
It's a certainty that 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 are typically 3% of the charge, so that's a whole lot of money saved with those two fees waived. These cards carry a host of other features, as we'll talk about next.
Other benefits of having Discover cards
Discover cards offer a number of benefits, from service to security to great rewards. Here is what the brand offers with all of its cards.
- 100% U.S.-based customer service
- Accepted in the U.S. by at least 97% of the merchants that accept cards
- Get cash with your card purchase, up to $120 per 24 hours
- Year-end summary
- Free FICO score
As you can see, one of Discover's greatest benefits is the free FICO score feature. Discover has found that 69% of consumers who regularly checked their scores believed their scores had improved during that time, so it's worth your while to be able to access your score on a monthly or quarterly basis. Here's what else Discover learned about credit scores:
Don't be afraid to check your credit score...
- Consumers who said checking their credit score positively impacted their credit
- Consumers who believed their credit had improved over the last year
- Consumers who hadn't checked their credit score in the last year
Source: Discover's 2018 Current State of Consumer Credit Health Report
- Free alerts if Social Security number found on risky website
- Free alerts if new account shows up on Experian credit report
- $0 fraud liability
- On/off switch to freeze your account
- Free overnight shipping for card replacement
- No annual fee
- No overlimit fee
- No foreign transaction fee
- Price protection, within 90 days of your purchase up to $500 per item, $2,500 per year
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 12.24% - 25.24%.
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 travel somewhat and you're looking for flexibility, 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. While the first year would bring you a bonus of 1.5X miles at the end of your first year, a premium travel card with an annual fee waived the first year could get you a bodacious bonus, such as 70k after a $5,000 spend within the first 90 days with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard, then 2X miles on all purchases. When all 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.
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.
Recap: The Best Discover Credit Cards of 2019
|Credit Card||Best For:||CreditCards.com Rating||Annual Fee|
|Discover it® Cash Back||Cash back with rotating rewards categories||4.3 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Balance Transfer||18 month balance transfer offer (then 14.24% - 25.24% variable)||4.5 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Miles||Earning airline miles||4.0 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® chrome||Gas and dining rewards with cash back match||4.1 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student Cash Back||Good Grades Rewards and rotating categories||4.2 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Student chrome||Good Grades Rewards, restaurants and gas stations||4.2 / 5||$0|
|Discover it® Secured||Establishing credit||4.1 / 5||$0|
|NHL® Discover it®||Hockey fans||N/A||$0|
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.