Discover it® Balance Transfer review

Discover it® Balance Transfer review

Updated: September 8, 2021

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Updated: September 8, 2021

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Ratings Policy
Balance Transfer Rating:
4.5 rating
4.5 rating
4.5 / 5
Introductory Offer:4.7
Net Value:3.6
Features:2.0
Issuer Customer Experience5.0

In a Nutshell:

A good value for cardholders who need to transfer a balance, but don’t want to give up earning new rewards, the Discover it Balance Transfer card pairs a generous balance transfer promotion with a solid first year bonus.

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0% Introductory Period for Balance Transfers
0% intro APR for first 18 months (See rates & fees)

Excellent

Transfer Fee
3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms) (see rates & fees)

Excellent

Introductory Purchase APR

0% intro APR for first 6 months (See rates & fees)

Fair

Regular APR
11.99% – 22.99% (variable, see rates & fees)

Very Good

Annual Fee
$0 (See rates & fees)

Excellent

Discover Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2020 customer satisfaction rating: 837 (10% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: Yes
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.5/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.8/5
Excellent

Other Notable Features: Fraud protection, free FICO® credit score, no penalty for first late payment (up to $40 late payment fee thereafter), instant account freeze, 100% U.S.-based service, free social security number alerts

Cash Back Rating:
4.3 rating
4.3 rating
4.3 / 5
Rewards Value:4.5
Annual Percentage Rate:4.1
Rewards Flexibility:4.1
Features:2.0
Issuer Customer Experience5.0

In a Nutshell:

Though not as valuable as some points-based rewards cards, the Discover it Balance Transfer card’s cash back program is one of the best options for cardholders who prefer cash back rewards, thanks to its cash back match in the first year and rotating quarterly categories.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

  • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in quarterly purchases in various categories throughout the year (then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
Average

Sign-up Bonus
Matches cash back at end of first year

Excellent

Annual Bonus
None

Poor

Annual Fee
$0 (See rates & fees)

Excellent

APR
11.99% – 22.99%  (variable, see rates & fees)

Very Good

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Rotating categories
  • Redeem at any time
  • Redeem as gift cards (range from $5 to $200, in increments of $5), donations, credit to your account, direct deposit into any account, payment at select retailers

Cons

  • Enrollment required
  • Rotating bonus is limited to $1,500 in purchases per quarter
Excellent

Discover Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2020 customer satisfaction rating: 837 (10% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: Yes
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.5/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.8/5
Excellent

Other Notable Features: Fraud protection, free FICO® credit score, no penalty for first late payment (late payment fee up to $40 thereafter), instant account freeze, 100% U.S.-based service, free social security number alerts

If you’re in the market for a balance transfer credit card that offers a long introductory APR period and charges no annual fee, you’ll typically have to sacrifice extras like rewards programs, cardholder perks and sign-up bonuses. Indeed, most dedicated balance transfer cards offer next to nothing in the way of rewards and benefits aside from their lengthy intro APR periods, and rewards cards that do come with an intro APR usually cap their balance transfer periods at 12 to 15 months.

That’s what makes the Discover it® Balance Transfer card such a game-changer. This card offers the best of both worlds, giving you not only an impressive 18 months 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 unique first-year promotion that matches all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year – an offer that could easily beat out some of the best credit card sign-up bonuses if you use your card for everyday purchases.

The only catch is that you’ll need to track and enroll in bonus categories each quarter to earn at the maximum cash back rate, and the card’s categories may not always line up with your spending habits. Depending on how much time you need to pay down your new purchases or transferred balance, a different cash back card that offers an intro APR may be a better fit long term.

Lengthy balance transfer period

The biggest feature distinguishing the Discover it Balance Transfer card from other balance transfer rewards cards is its balance transfer promotion. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another rewards card that gives you so much time – a full year and six months – to pay off your transferred balance at a 0% intro APR before the card’s standard rate of 11.99% to 22.99%  variable kicks in.

Most competitors with similar promotions don’t offer any kind of rewards program and so they typically aren’t useful after you’ve finished paying off your debt. Most people just stow their plain vanilla balance transfer cards away in a drawer until they pay off the transferred balance and then either cancel them or let them linger in their wallets.

See related: What is a balance transfer and how does it work?

Affordable balance transfer fee

The Discover it Balance Transfer card also gets high marks for its intro balance transfer fee, which is on the low end for a balance transfer card. You’ll pay an intro balance transfer fee of 3% (or up to 5% on future transfers; see terms), which is tacked on to your total balance and subject to the same intro APR.

Many competitors charge higher fees that can add up to hundreds of dollars in extra charges. And while you’d likely be better off sticking with a card that doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee at all if you have a large amount of debt to transfer, these offers are increasingly rare. Plus, the few cards that come with this perk typically don’t offer any rewards either.

Depending on your spending habits and the size of your balance, the cash back you’d earn via the Discover it Balance Transfer card’s rewards program and first-year cash back match promotion could add up to more than you’d save with a card with no balance transfer fee.

Modest promotion for purchases

On the downside, the Discover it Balance Transfer card may not be the best option for financing new purchases, since it doesn’t give you much time to carry a balance interest-free on new spending. A number of competing balance transfer cards carry the same intro APR period on both balance transfer and new purchases, but the Discover it Balance Transfer card only offers a 0% intro APR for six months on new purchases, versus 18 months on balance transfers (followed by an ongoing variable APR of 11.99% – 22.99%).

While six months may give you enough time to pay down a large purchase you made early on before the card’s standard rate kicks in, it’s not much time to pay off a larger balance. If you continue to carry a balance on new purchases after the end of the six-month promotion, you may owe a significant amount of interest.

Top-notch cash back program

One of the best-known 5% cash back bonus cards, the Discover it Balance Transfer card offers terrific variety and flexibility via its quarterly rotating categories. Upon activation, you’ll earn a whopping 5% back on purchases in rotating categories like grocery stores and gas stations based on Discover’s cash back calendar (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1% back), making this a great card to have on hand for both everyday errands and seasonal extras. You’ll also earn 1% back on general purchases.

If you get a kick out of strategizing about when and where you buy to maximize rewards, this card’s unique cash back program could be right up your alley. The Discover it Balance Transfer card also makes perfect sense as a supplement to other rewards cards that offer more consistent rewards year-round. The downside is that you have to pay attention to which card you’re using for certain purchases and proactively opt in to the bonus categories. If you don’t opt in, you’ll earn just 1% on purchases, even if they’re on the Discover cash back calendar.

To maximize your earnings, you’ll also need to plan ahead and shift your spending to correspond with the quarterly bonuses. For example, you may decide to delay certain purchases until they earn more cash back.

How does the Discover it Balance Transfer card compare to other balance transfer cards?

While the Discover it Balance Transfer card comes with an impressive promotion on balance transfers, it falls a bit short with its offer on new purchases. Meanwhile, the card’s cash back program may prove too much work for some, since you’ll need to enroll in quarterly categories, track spending and plan purchases in advance according to the Discover cash back calendar. Several competing cards offer either a longer intro APR on new purchases, more consistent, lower-maintenance cash back programs, or both. Here are some of our top picks:

Citi Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum

U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card

BankAmericard
BankAmericard® credit card
Rewards rate

  • 1% cash back general purchases
  • 1% additional cash back as you pay for those purchases
Rewards rate

None

Rewards rate

None

Introductory period (balance transfers)

18 months (for balance transfers made within 4 months of opening account)

Introductory period (balance transfers)

20 billing cycles

Introductory period (balance transfers)

18 billing cycles (for balance transfers made within 60 days of opening account)

Introductory period (new purchases)

None

Introductory period (new purchases)

20 billing cycles

Introductory period (new purchases)

18 billing cycles

Regular APR

13.99%–23.99% (variable)

Regular APR

14.49%–24.49% (variable)

Regular APR

12.99%–22.99% (variable)

Other things to know

  • Balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is higher
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits
Other things to know

  • Balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% (whichever is higher)
  • Includes cellphone protection coverage, auto rental insurance and flexible payment plans
Other things to know

  • Balance transfer fee of $10 or 3% (whichever is higher)
  • Can earn modest cash back via the BankAmeriDeals card-linked offer program

Citi Double Cash Card

Not only is the Citi Double Cash one of the best flat-rate cash back cards on the market, but it also carries a terrific balance transfer offer. Along with the up to 2% cash back you can earn on all eligible purchases (1% when you buy, 1% when you pay off your purchase), you’ll get a 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable APR thereafter). Given this card earns cash back at a flat rate on all purchases, it should offer more consistency and, depending on your spending habits, potentially better long-term rewards value than the Discover it Balance Transfer card.

U.S. Bank Visa Platinum Card

If your focus is getting as much time as possible to chip away at debt or finance new purchases while avoiding interest, the U.S. Bank Platinum Card should be at the top of your list. The card offers one of the longest – if not the longest – intro APR periods available on the market today. You’ll get 20 billing cycles to pay down debt or stretch out payments on purchases while paying no interest. While it won’t come close to matching the Discover it Balance Transfer card’s long-term value since it offers no rewards, it may be a better fit if you need every bit of extra time to pay off your balance.

BankAmericard credit card

The BankAmericard also offers an impressively long 18-billing cycle 0% intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers made within the first 60 days, as well as a reasonable ongoing APR of 12.99% to 22.99% (variable). Bank of America also offers a number of top-tier cash back and travel rewards cards, which could give you some options should you decide to product change to a card with better long-term value once you’ve paid off your debt or larger purchases. And while this card doesn’t offer ongoing rewards, it’s one of the few dedicated balance transfer cards to come with a welcome bonus – a $100 statement credit online bonus after spending at least $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Who should get the Discover it Balance Transfer card?

  • Cardholders who want to transfer a balance, but also earn rewards.
  • Cardholders who want a cash back card for everyday spending, but also want to earn a large sign-up bonus.
  • Cardholders who prefer cash back instead of travel or point rewards.
  • Cardholders who need a long intro APR period to pay off their transferred balance.

 How to use the Discover it Balance Transfer card:

  • Figure out how much you need to pay each month to knock out your balance in 18 months.
  • Only use your card for new purchases if you can afford to pay your new balance in full – and put additional money toward your transferred balance.
  • If you make a big purchase in the card’s first six months, try to pay it off before the card’s promotional period expires.
  • For additional advice, check out our complete guide to transferring a balance to your Discover card.

Is the Discover it Balance Transfer card worth it?

If you’re looking for a balance transfer card with long-term appeal, the Discover it Balance Transfer is easily one of your best bets thanks to its generous balance transfer offer, impressive first-year promotion and the long-term value, variety and flexibility of its cash back program. However, the card’s bonus cash back program takes a bit of legwork and its rotating categories may not always line up with your spending habits. If you think you can sacrifice a couple of months of intro APR in exchange for more rewards consistency, you should be able to find a cash back or rewards card that offers at least 15 months of 0% intro APR on top of generous rewards.

All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

Responses to comments in the discussion section below are not provided, reviewed, approved, endorsed or commissioned by our financial partners. It is not our partner’s responsibility to ensure all posts or questions are answered.

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