Discover it® Cash Back review

Discover it® Cash Back review

Updated: November 15, 2023

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Updated: November 15, 2023

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Ratings Policy
Cash Back Rating:
4.6 rating
4.6 rating
4.6 / 5
Rewards Value:4.0
Annual Percentage Rate:4.0
Rewards Flexibility:3.0
Features:2.0
Issuer Customer Experience5.0

In a Nutshell:

The Discover it® Cash Back card offers a substantial amount of value for cardholders who don’t mind keeping track of rotating bonus categories; but what really sets this card apart from its competitors is its consumer-friendly terms and ultra generous sign-up bonus, which matches the amount of cash back you earn at the end of the card member’s first year.

Terms and conditions apply.

Learn more about this card

Rewards Rate

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

Sign-up Bonus
Matches cash back earned at the end of the first 12 months

Excellent

Annual Fee
$0 (See rates and fees)

Excellent

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$399 (assumes the rotating categories are maximized each quarter)

Excellent

APR
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR (See rates and fees)

Very Good

Rewards Redemption
Pros

  • Rotating categories
  • Redeem at any time
  • Redeem as gift cards (ranging from $5 to $200 in $5 increments, at a potentially higher redemption value depending on the merchant), donations, credit to your account, direct deposit into any account, payment at select retailers

Cons

  • Enrollment required
  • Bonus cash back is limited to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter
Excellent

Discover Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2023 customer satisfaction rating: 629 (about 6% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: Yes
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.6/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.9/5
Excellent

Other Notable Features: Fraud protection, free FICO® credit score, no penalty for first late payment (up to $41 thereafter), instant account freeze with Freeze it®, 100% U.S.-based service, free social security number alerts

Ratings Policy
Low Interest Rating:
4.0 rating
4.0 rating
4.0 / 5
Rates, Fees, Penalties:3.5
Rewards:4.0
Features:3.5
Issuer Customer Experience5.0

In a Nutshell:

With the card’s long introductory APR on both balance transfers and new purchases and its low regular APR, cardholders are bound to save on interest with the Discover it® Cash Back card.

Terms and conditions apply.

Learn more about this card

Regular APR
17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR (See rates and fees)

Average

Introductory Purchase APR
0% intro APR for 15 months (See rates and fees)

Poor

Introductory Balance Transfer APR
0% intro APR for 15 months (See rates and fees)

Excellent

Fees

  • No annual fee
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee (up to 5% fee on future balance transfers, see terms)
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • 5% cash advance fee (or $10, whichever is greater)
  • (See rates and fees)
Very Good

Penalties

  • Up to $41 late payment fee (none for your first missed payment)
  • No penalty APR
  • Up to $41 returned payment fee
  • (See rates and fees)
Very Good

Discover Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2023 customer satisfaction rating: 629 (about 6% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: Yes
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.6/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.9/5
Excellent

Other Notable Features: Fraud protection, free FICO® credit score, no penalty for first late payment (up to $41 thereafter), instant account freeze with Freeze it®, 100% U.S.-based service, Dark Web monitoring with social security number alerts

If you don’t mind keeping track of rotating quarterly bonus categories – the Discover it® Cash Back is a top choice for cash back enthusiasts. You’ll have to activate the categories each quarter, but you can earn a generous cash back rate on purchases. The card is also ideal for savers hoping to spend a little less on interest, as it offers a solid introductory APR period on purchases and balance transfers with a low ongoing rate afterwards. The Discover it® Cash Back ranks well among some of the best cash back credit cards on the market, but if tracking categories and enrollment dates is a hassle, you may find a card that’s more fitting for your financial plans elsewhere.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • The card’s rotating rewards give you more category variety and higher cash back rates than many cards with fixed, year-round categories.
  • Discover’s unlimited Cashback Match™ matches the cash back earned at the end of your first year, making it potentially the most lucrative welcome offer available with a no-annual-fee card.
  • Carries some of the lowest rates and fees available with a rewards card, including no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, no penalty APR and no fee on your first late payment (then up to $41).
  • Discover is renowned for its award-winning customer service, which often ranks first or second in J.D. Power’s credit card satisfaction study.

Cons

  • Enrollment is required each quarter to earn rewards from the rotating categories, so you have to stay on top of your spending in order to maximize reward earnings.
  • The high cash back rate is limited to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter (then 1%), which is typical, but can limit the card’s rewards potential for big spenders.
  • Unlike some rival cards’ cash back, you can’t increase the value of your rewards by pooling them with a premium card and redeeming for travel or via transfer partners.
  • Discover is not accepted as widely as Mastercard or Visa, which could limit your usage — especially abroad.

Why you might want the Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back should be on your list of cash back cards to consider for more than a few reasons. Flexible redemption options, a generous sign-up bonus and intro APR offers are just a few of its notable features.

Generous first-year welcome offer

Rather than a set cash bonus, the Discover it® Cash Back includes a unique introductory offer for new cardholders – it matches the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. This is an incredibly lucrative offer, even for a more moderate spender. If you max out the quarterly purchase limit on your bonus category purchases, you can still bring in $300 in the first year on bonus purchases alone (which is then matched by Discover at the end of your first year for a total of $600). A $300 welcome offer would be one of the best on the cash back card market, not just for a no-annual-fee rewards card.

Even if you don’t max out the bonus category limit each quarter, earning more than $200 cash back in your first year will at least earn you a larger welcome offer than most competing cash back cards carry.

Intro APR offers on both purchases and balance transfers

The Discover it® Cash Back offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases as well as balance transfers (17.24% - 28.24% Variable APR thereafter). If you are hoping to pay off some debt without sacrificing a great rewards program, the Discover it® Cash Back can be a great choice for you. Just keep in mind you’ll have to pay a 3% intro balance transfer fee. (5% on future transfers; see terms), which is on the lower end of the typical 3% to 5% range.

While these are typical intro APRs for a cash back card, cardholders who want the best balance transfer offer might be better off opting for the Discover it® Balance Transfer instead. It boasts the same cash back rate as the Discover it® Cash Back, but offers a lengthier intro APR on balance transfers. But on the downside, it has a shorter introductory period for new purchases.

If you have a balance to pay down – or want to be able to finance a large purchase over time without racking up interest – the Discover it® Cash Back balances these two prospects. Just be sure not to charge more than you can pay off in the introductory period – or you’ll end up paying interest that will cut into your rewards earnings.

See Related: How to transfer a balance to a Discover credit card

Rotating bonus categories

With the Discover it® Cash Back card, you’ll earn 5% cash back in rotating categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%). The 2023 categories are as follows:

Discover it® Cash Back Bonus Calendar 2023

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – March

(Activate starting November 1, 2022)

April – June

(Activate starting February 1, 2023)

July – September

(Activate starting May 1, 2023)

October – December

(Activate starting August 1, 2023)

  • Grocery stores
  • Drug stores
  • Select streaming services
  • Restaurants
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Gas stations
  • Digital wallets
  • Amazon.com
  • Target

Discover previously announced the entire cash back calendar in advance, making it easier for cardholders to plan their year, but now only announces the featured categories quarterly. While Discover’s categories are typically varied and practical, it may be hard to truly maximize rewards with this card depending on the categories offered. Additionally, if you have an authorized user on your account, the purchase limit applies to the total purchases among cards on your account (they won’t get an individual $1,500 quarterly limit).

Tip: If enrolling in and keeping track of rotating bonus categories is too much for your schedule, the Discover it® Chrome is a simpler alternative if you want to stick with the issuer. It offers 2% cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases (up to $1,000 in combined spending per quarter, then 1%) and 1% cash back on general purchases.

See related: Guide to Discover it® Cash Back rewards and benefits

Why you might want a different card

You may save a bit on interest and earn a decent sign-up bonus with the Discover it® Cash Back, but the lower rate of acceptance for Discover cards outside of the U.S. compared to American Express, Visa and Mastercard could prove challenging when taking this card abroad (even though the card charges no foreign transaction fees). Plus, the rotating rewards require some elbow grease to track, activate and manage, which could make it a bit too high maintenance if you’re new to rewards cards or looking for a simple cash back program.

Lower international acceptance for Discover cards

Unfortunately, Discover credit cards are not accepted as widely as Visa or Mastercard credit cards. While more and more merchants in the U.S. are accepting cards from the issuer, you might have some trouble using the card abroad – especially in countries like Spain and France.

Before you travel, you can check out Discover’s interactive acceptance map to see whether the country has low, moderate or high acceptance.

Issuer recommends having prime credit before applying

The Discover it® Cash Back is for users with good to excellent credit (a FICO score of 670 or higher), so you’ll want to ensure you meet those requirements before you apply.

Discover is also relatively strict about the number of cards you can have open – so if you already have two cards open with the issuer, it is likely you won’t be approved. If you already have a Discover card, you must also have had an open account for at least one year before applying for a new card.

See related: What credit score do you need for the Discover it® Cash Back card?

How does the Discover it® Cash Back compare to other cash back cards?

While the Discover it® Cash Back can be a lucrative rewards card for users willing to weigh their spending, keeping track of enrolling in rotating bonus categories can be cumbersome. Plus, the quarterly cap on bonus category purchases is relatively low – potentially limiting earnings for many spenders. Here are a few of our most popular cash back alternatives:

Citi Double Cash Card
Citi Double Cash® Card
Blue Cash Everyday
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
Chase Freedom Flex
Chase Freedom Flex℠
Rewards rate

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

  • 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 3% cash back at U.S. online retail purchases (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%)
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
  • Terms apply
Rewards rate

  • 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 5% cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel
  • 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases
  • at least 1% cash back on general purchases
Welcome bonus

Earn $200 cash back after you spend $1,500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® Points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

Welcome bonus

  • $200 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first six months (received in statement credits)
  • Terms Apply
Welcome bonus

$200 if you spend $500 in the first three months

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0

Other things to know

  • One of the best intro APRs on balance transfers available with a rewards card
  • World Elite Mastercard perks

Other things to know

  • Annual credits for The Disney Bundle streaming services and Home Chef (enrollment required, subject to auto renewal)
  • Pay It Plan It alternative payment options for eligible purchases
  • 2.7% foreign transaction fee

Other things to know

  • Includes trip cancellation and interruption insurance
  • Partner perks with DoorDash, Lyft and Instacart+
  • Transfer points to another Chase Ultimate Rewards card to potentially boost value

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Citi Double Cash Card

If you aren’t a fan of keeping track of bonus categories, the Citi Double Cash card offers one of the best flat rates of cash back available among rewards cards – for no annual fee. But while it includes a generous intro APR on balance transfers, it doesn’t include an intro APR for new purchases.

That being said, big spenders who pay their bill on time can probably earn more in cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card. Earning up to 2% back on every purchase (1% when you buy, 1% as you pay for those purchases) can outpace earning bonus cash back from the Discover it® Cash Back if your spending habits occasionally don’t fit a quarter’s categories.

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

While the bonus categories on the Blue Cash Everyday card don’t carry the same high rewards rates as those on the Discover it® Cash Back, they can potentially be more rewarding for some spenders. The Blue Cash Everyday offers 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and on U.S. online retail purchases (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year in each category, then 1%), and 1% cash back on general purchases.

These categories can be especially lucrative for families and others who prefer year-round rewards on popular everyday categories. The annual rewards spending cap divides out to around $500 per month, and users who meet this cap can bring in around $180 in cash back. When you factor in the annual credits and exceptionally flexible online shopping category, many cardholders shouldn’t have a problem maximizing this card’s features.

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom Flex

Similar to the Discover it® Cash Back, the Chase Freedom Flex offers 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter). On top of  Chase’s quarterly categories, the card offers 5% back on Ultimate Rewards travel, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and at least 1% cash back on everything else.

The Freedom Flex also allows you to transfer points to another Chase Ultimate Rewards card and, in some cases, increase their value. Since cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card include a points boost when you redeem for travel through Ultimate Rewards, combining the Chase Freedom Flex with another Ultimate Rewards card could make it more valuable than the Discover it® Cash Back – especially if you want the consistency of additional year-round categories to rely on.

How to use the Discover it® Cash Back:

  • Use it for all your purchases in the first year to take advantage of the introductory offer.
  • Don’t forget to register for rotating bonus categories each quarter.
  • Adjust your spending and where you might shop each quarter to fit the bonus categories and maximize cash back.
  • Consider pairing the Discover it® Cash Back with a card that earns a high flat cash back rate for purchases outside your rotating categories.

Is the Discover it® Cash Back right for you?

Despite the extra effort required, the Discover it® Cash Back can be a lucrative no-annual-fee cash back card for many users. As long as you are willing to enroll each quarter and keep an eye on bonus categories and the spend cap, you can earn significant rewards with this card and its stand-out first-year Cashback Match.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

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