Chase Freedom® vs. Discover it® Cash Back: Which Should You Pick?

Lyle Daly is a personal finance writer specializing in credit cards, travel rewards programs, and banking. His work has also appeared on MSN Money, USA Today, and Yahoo! Finance.

If you don’t mind paying attention to bonus categories that rotate every quarter, the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® Cash Back offer some of the highest cash-back rates on the market. Both cards give you the opportunity to earn hundreds of dollars back every year on your typical spending, and intro 0% APR offers also make them ideal for balance transfers and financing bigger expenses.

Although these two cards are extremely similar, they’re not an exact match, and there’s likely one that suits your needs more than the other. To determine which is the better option, I’ll be comparing the features on each card.

Because the first three categories in this matchup are the most important for a cash-back card, the winner for each of those will receive two points. The other four categories are all one-pointers since some are minor factors and others will only be relevant for certain consumers.

Side by side comparison

As of Nov. 18, 2019
Chase Freedom® Discover it® Cash Back
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
ToolTip Icon for Star Rating. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor.
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Read Full Review Rates & Fees

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent Clickable tooltip icon for credit rating info.

Bonus: $150 after spending $500 within three months Bonus: Double cash back in the first year
Rewards Program: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else Rewards Program: Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 14 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 14 months
Regular APR: 16.74% - 25.49% Variable Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

Highlights:

  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter!
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74 - 25.49%.
  • 3% intro balance transfer fee when you transfer a balance during the first 60 days your account is open, with a minimum of $5.
  • No annual fee
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠

Highlights:

  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • No annual fee.

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On Chase's Secure Website.

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On Discover's Secure Website.

Annual fees

  • Chase Freedom® -- No annual fee
  • Discover it® Cash Back -- No annual fee

You won’t have to pay an annual fee for either of these cards. Assuming you use your card wisely so you don’t incur any interest or other fees, you’ll be the one profiting from your credit card.

Scores:

  • Tie, 2 points for each card

Why you can trust me

Getting the most value from my credit cards is something that’s very important to me, so I’m always on the lookout for which cards will earn me the most back. By matching certain credit cards with the right spending categories and finding the best signup bonuses, I’ve managed to earn thousands of dollars in credit card rewards in less than two years.

Cash-back rates

  • Chase Freedom® -- 5% cash back on bonus categories that rotate each quarter (you must activate this cash-back rate and it’s up to a limit of $1,500 in spending per quarter), 1% cash back on all other spending
  • Discover it® Cash Back -- 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum ($1,500 of spending) each time you activate

Whether you have the Chase Freedom® or the Discover it® Cash Back, you can activate the bonus categories through your online credit card account or by calling the number on the back of your card. Chase can also send you an email notification that includes an activation link.

The only difference here is the bonus categories. Discover's cash-back calendar is released in advance whereas Chase typically releases bonus categories quarter by quarter. While you may find that one card issuer’s bonus categories fit you more than the other, that could vary for everyone, so this one’s also a draw (I swear I won’t say that for every category).

Scores:

  • Tie, 2 points for each card

Signup bonuses

  • Chase Freedom® -- $150 for spending $500 within the first three months.
  • Discover it® Cash Back -- Discover automatically matches all cash back you earn during your first year of using the card.

Here we have the first major difference between the cards.

The Chase Freedom® has a traditional signup bonus where you receive a set amount of cash back if you spend enough. Since you only need to spend $500 in three months, you should have no problem earning that bonus.

Discover has a signup bonus that no other card issuer offers. This effectively gives you bonus cash-back rates that are the highest you'll find in the market, albeit capped each quarter.

Which card will earn you more?

For cash-back signup bonuses, whichever will earn you more money is the better choice. Of course, that’s not so cut and dry with these cards, because one has a set bonus amount and the other has a variable amount based on your spending.

Due to those bonuses, the Chase Freedom® will be more valuable for smaller spenders that first year, and the Discover it® Cash Back will be more valuable for those who spend more.

That’s the general answer, but there’s also a more specific and accurate version. The break-even point or “magic number” is $150 cash back. If you earn less than that your first year, then the $150 signup bonus on the Chase Freedom® will be greater than the cash-back match from Discover. If you spend more than that, then the cash-back match will be more.

Scores:

  • 2 points for the Discover it® Cash Back
  • 0 points for the Chase Freedom®

0% intro APR offers

  • Chase Freedom® -- 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers
  • Discover it® Cash Back -- 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers. Note, the go-to variable rate applies after the promo period.

Both cards are excellent if your goal is to consolidate debt or make a big purchase. While they don’t have the longest intro periods with 0% intro APR, they’re well above average in that regard.

Whether you’re looking to pay off existing debts or finance a new purchase, it’s important to run the numbers and give yourself an accurate idea of how long it will take you to pay off the full balance you put on your new card. If it will take longer than 15 months, then you should look for a credit card with a longer introductory period.

Since the Chase Freedom® beats the Discover it® Cash Back by one month here, it gets a point.

Scores:

  • 1 point for the Chase Freedom®
  • 0 points for the Discover it® Cash Back

Redemption options

  • Chase Freedom® -- Redeem cash back as a statement credit, transfer to an eligible bank account, or for gift cards with Chase retail partners; convert to Ultimate Rewards points if you have a Chase credit card in that rewards program
  • Discover it® Cash Back -- Redeem cash back as a statement credit, transfer to eligible bank account, or for gift cards with Discover retail partners (bonuses are available on gift card redemptions)

There’s no minimum amount required for redemptions with either card, so cashing in your earnings is a breeze. And each card has one unique redemption option in its favor.

If you have both the Chase Freedom® and a travel card in Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program, you can transfer all your cash back to that travel card to turn it into points. Each $1 of cash back is worth 100 points. This allows you to use your Chase Freedom® as a companion card and essentially earn 5 points per $1 on its bonus categories. The current cards where you can transfer your cash back are:

You can’t turn your cash back into travel rewards with the Discover it® Cash Back, but you can get a solid bonus on gift card redemptions. The amount depends on the retailer, as different retailers have different bonuses available.

I’m calling this category a tie. The Chase Freedom® is far more useful for travelers. The Discover it® Cash Back®, on the other hand, can get you more back.

Scores:

  • Tie, 1 point for each card

The final score

  • Discover it® Cash Back -- 7 points
  • Chase Freedom® -- 6 points

While it's neck and neck there are times when one specific card may be a better choice over the other.

Choose the Discover it® Cash Back if:

  • You’re looking for a cash-back card to use frequently and keep long-term as your primary credit card

The Chase Freedom® is a good credit card overall, it just doesn’t quite measure up to the Discover it® Cash Back in potential earnings. That being said, you’d have a hard time finding a better companion card to complement a Chase Ultimate Rewards card. Go with the Chase Freedom® in the following situations:

  • You don’t use credit cards much, so you want one with a large signup bonus and a low minimum spending requirement
  • You already have or plan to apply for a card in the Ultimate Rewards program

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