Discover it® Cash Back review

Discover it® Cash Back review

Updated: March 22, 2023

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Updated: March 22, 2023

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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 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter (then 1%). The card is also ideal for savers hoping to spend a little less on interest, as the card has zero percent introductory APR offers on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 16.49% to 27.49% variable after). 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?


  • Rotating categories give you more variety on where you earn most as seasons and spending habits change
  • Redeem your rewards at any time (no minimum redemption thresholds)
  • Redeem as gift cards (ranging $5 – $200 in $5 increments), donations, credit to your account, direct deposit into any account or for payment at select retailers


  • Enrollment required each quarter to benefit from the latest bonus category
  • 5% cash back is limited to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter
  • Discover not accepted as widely as Mastercard or Visa

Why you might want the Discover it Cash Back

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

Generous sign-up bonus

Rather than a flat 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 the first year. This is an incredibly lucrative offer, even for a more moderate spender. If you max out the quarterly purchase limit on 5 percent bonus category purchases, you can still bring in $600 in the first year on bonus purchases alone. Plus, there is no limit to the 1 percent cash back that you earn on general purchases.

Even if you don’t max out the bonus category limit each quarter, we estimate the average spender will bring home $502 in the first year with the Discover it Cash Back card. No annual fee cash back cards that offer a more traditional bonus can’t bring home quite as much, even with varying rewards rates.

Intro APR offers on both purchases and balance transfers

The Discover it Cash Back offers a 15-month intro APR (16.49% to 27.49% variable APR thereafter) on purchases as well as balance transfers. 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 percent balance transfer fee. (Note the 3 percent fee is an introductory rate, and you can pay up to 5 percent on future balance transfers.)

While this offer is one of the longer balance transfer periods available, cardholders who are looking for 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 it offers a lengthier intro APR on balance transfers. On the down side, 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 percent cash back in rotating categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1%). In 2022, the categories are as follows:

Discover it Cash Back Bonus Calendar 2022

January – March

(Activate starting November 1, 2021)

April – June

(Activate starting February 1, 2022)

July – September

(Activate starting May 1, 2022)

October – December

(Activate starting August 1, 2022)

  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness club & gym memberships
  • Gas stations
  • Target
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Digital wallets (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and Garmin Pay)

For the past couple years, Discover has announced its entire cash back calendar in advance, making it easier for cardholders to plan their year. While Discover’s categories are typically varied and practical, depending on the categories offered, it may be hard to truly maximize rewards with this card. 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 good alternative. It offers 2 percent cash back on restaurant and gas station purchases (on up to $1,000 in combined spending per quarter) and 1 percent cash back on general purchases.

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). The card also may not be the best option for people just getting started with building their credit.

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.

Strict approval odds

The Discover it Cash Back is designed for users with good to excellent credit (above 670), 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 also must have had an open account for at least one year before applying for a new card.

How does the Discover it Cash Back compare to other 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 5 percent 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


Welcome bonus

  • $200 back after you spend $2,000 in purchases within the first 6 months (received in statement credits)
  • Terms Apply
Welcome bonus

$200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months

Annual fee


Annual fee


Annual fee


Other things to know

  • Price protection
  • Rewards expire if card is not used every 12 months
Other things to know

  • Purchase protection
  • Cash back doesn’t expire
  • Terms apply
Other things to know

  • Includes cell phone protection
  • Redeem rewards for cash, travel, merchandise or gift cards
  • Transfer points to another Chase Ultimate Rewards card to potentially boost value
  • Rewards don’t expire

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 any intro APR for new purchases.

That being said, cardholders who pay their bill on time can probably earn more in cash back with the Citi Double Cash Card. Earning up to 2 percent back on every purchase (1 percent when you buy, 1 percent as you pay for those purchases) can easily outpace earning bonus cash back in certain categories of spending – especially if the rotating category doesn’t align with your spending habits in any quarter.

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

While the bonus categories on the Blue Cash Everyday card might not seem as valuable as the Discover it Cash Back, they can potentially be more rewarding for some spenders. The Blue Cash Everyday offers 3 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, U.S. gas stations and U.S. online retail purchases (on up to $6,000 in purchases per year in each category, then 1 percent), and 1 percent cash back on general purchases.

Though not quite as high as the Discover card’s 5 percent rotating category, the 3 percent rate on U.S. supermarket purchases is particularly lucrative – especially for families. The annual cap comes out to around $500 per month, and users who meet this cap can bring in around $180 in cash back each year on U.S. supermarket purchases alone. When you add in the 3 percent cash back you can earn on U.S. gas station purchases, this card is a great choice for families who spend a large portion of their budget on gas and groceries, even with the spending cap.

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 that, 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 redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, combining the Chase Freedom Flex with another Ultimate Rewards card makes it more valuable than the Discover it Cash Back.

Why get the Discover it Cash Back?

  • You don’t mind enrolling in rotating bonus categories to earn a high rate of cash back.
  • You plan to spend a significant amount in the first year and can take advantage of the unique sign-up bonus.
  • Quality customer service is a priority for you.

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.
  • Weigh your spending each quarter toward the bonus category to maximize cash back.
  • Consider pairing the Discover it Cash back with a card that earns a high flat cash back rate for non-bonus category purchases.

Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?

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 a significant amount of rewards with this card.

Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply. Please visit for more details. Underwritten by Amex Assurance Company.

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