Discover it® Cash Back vs. Bank of America® Cash Rewards: Which Should You Pick?

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

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Discover it® Cash Back and Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card are two of the most versatile cash-back credit cards on the market. Combined with cutting out-of-pocket costs with no annual fee, this explains why both cards have found a spot in many people’s wallets. But which is the best cash-back credit card for your needs? We’ll compare these two popular credit cards side by side across essential features to figure out which may be a fit for you.

Side by side comparison

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Discover it® Cash Back Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card
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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On Discover's Secure Website.

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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

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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: Double cash back in the first year Bonus: $200 after spending at least $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening
Rewards Program: Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else Rewards Program: Now earn 3% cash back on gas or in your choice category and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases), and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 14 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 14 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 billing cycles Balance Transfers: 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days
Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable Regular APR: 15.74% - 25.74% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $0

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.

Highlights:

  • No annual fee
  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases
  • 0% Introductory APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the intro APR offer ends, 15.74% - 25.74% Variable APR will apply. A 3% fee (min $10) applies to all balance transfers
  • No expiration on rewards
  • If you're a Preferred Rewards member, you can earn 25% - 75% more cash back on every purchase

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On Discover's Secure Website.

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On Bank of America's Secure Website.

Discover it® Cash Back benefits at a glance

  • Sign-up bonus -- Discover doubles all the cash back earned in the first year for new cardholders.
  • Ongoing cash-back rewards -- 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, 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Annual fee -- $0 annual fee.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card benefits at a glance

  • Sign-up bonus -- $200 cash rewards sign-up bonus after spending just $1,000 within 90 days of account opening.
  • Ongoing cash-back rewards -- Cash back of 3% for gas or a category of your choice and 2% on groceries and at wholesale clubs ($2,500 spending cap each quarter), 1% on everything else. Preferred Rewards members earn 25% to 75% bonus rewards when redeeming cash back into a Bank of America account.
  • Annual fee -- $0 annual fee.

Sign-up bonuses

Both credit cards approach sign-up bonuses differently, given Discover it® Cash Back matches all the cash back earned in the first year whereas Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers a traditional sign-up bonus ($200) that requires cardholders to spend $1,000 within 90 days to qualify.

Discover it® Cash Back cardholders can earn among the highest rates you'll find in the market during the first year, particularly in bonus categories. These premium rates will secure a bigger bonus for cardholders using credit cards frequently. This outcome is best highlighted when comparing each card offer with a sample credit card budget.

Scenario 1 - Big Credit Card Budget Bonus-Category Purchases Per Month Other Purchases Per Month 1st-Year Sign-Up Bonus Value
Discover it® Cash Back $500 $1,000 $420
Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card $500 $1,000 $200

This scenario demonstrates how Discover rewards spending in the first year since the bonus offer is valued at $420, versus $200 for Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card, in this scenario.

Sign-up bonus verdict: Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back cash rewards program

Cardholders who can make the most of Discover’s cash-back calendar can look forward to premium cash rewards for rotating bonus categories you activate quarterly. Discover’s bonus categories run the gamut of essential purchases, from online shopping to gas, groceries, and restaurants. The only drawback is that bonus categories are limited to $1,500 of spend each quarter.

Discover it® Cash Back cash rewards redemption options

This card offers the flexibility of redeeming cash rewards for any amount at any time and rewards don’t expire as long as your account is open.

Discover it® Cash Back cash rewards can be redeemed for gift cards ($20 min.), used at checkout on Amazon.com, deposited to your bank account, or applied as a statement credit with no minimum.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards program

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card provides high rates of cash back in essential categories and increases the quarterly spending cap that earns bonus cash back. You can earn 3% back for gas or a category of your choice and 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs on the first $2,500 of bonus-category spending each quarter.

While the bonus cash-back rates are lower (and consistent for each category throughout the year) than Discover it® Cash Back the higher quarterly spending cap does benefit cardholders with bigger gas, grocery, and wholesale club budgets. What’s more, Bank of America Preferred Rewards members can amp up their cash back when redeeming rewards into an existing Bank of America account.

Bank of America Preferred Rewards

The bank’s Preferred Rewards program can skyrocket the value of cash-back rewards to some of the highest ongoing rates we’ve come across for a no-annual-fee credit card. Preferred Rewards members earn 25% to 75% bonus rewards when redeeming cash back into a Bank of America checking account. At the highest tier, that’s a cash-back rate of 5.25% for a category of your choice and 3.5% for groceries and at wholesale clubs!

Preferred Rewards tiers are based on your combined balances in your Bank of America banking accounts and Merril Edge® and Merril Lynch® investing accounts. The Preferred Rewards tiers and associated bonus rewards are as follows:

Preferred Reward Tiers Cash Rewards Bonus All-In Category of Choice Cash Back All-In Grocery & Wholesale Clubs Cash Back All-In Base Cash Back
$20,000 combined balance 25% 3.75% 2.5% 1.25%
$50,000 combined balance 50% 4.5% 3% 1.5%
$100,000+ combined balance 75% 5.25% 3.5% 1.75%

The benefits aren’t just limited to bonus cash-back rewards: Preferred Rewards members also get a savings account interest rate boost, an allotted number of free ATM transactions and stock trades, and mortgage origination fee discounts.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card redemption options

Cash back may be best redeemed into a Bank of America® checking account to juice the yield but other options are available as well, including a statement credit or a personal check. Recall, redemptions are only available when your rewards balances is at least $25.

Cash rewards program verdict: Tie. Again, it depends on your spending habits. Discover it® Cash Back is a great fit if you can make the most of bonus purchases, but Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is a clear winner for Preferred Rewards members and cardholders prioritizing year-round gas or a category of your choice cash back.

0% intro APR offers

Discover it® Cash Back amps up the value for cardholders wanting to float the cost of a large purchase or for people using balance-transfer strategies to pay off debt faster. The card includes a 0% intro APR for 14 months for both purchases and balance transfers, after which the go-to variable rate applies.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card offers a longer 0% intro APR offer of 15 billing cycles for purchases and balance transfers made within 60 days.

0% intro APR verdict: Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card.

Credit score requirements

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card is intended for cardholders with good and excellent credit whereas Discover it® Cash Back is more widely available to cardholders with good and excellent credit (670-plus FICO® Score).

It’s important to note that your credit score isn’t the only factor assessed during the application process: Income, current credit utilization, and other proprietary factors are reviewed and can sway approval. In fact, cardholders have reported approval for both cards with scores in the mid-600’s. That’s certainly not the norm but highlights the fact that more than just your credit score matters.

Which card should you pick?

One thing goes without saying: Cash-back credit cards are best for cardholders paying off balances each month to avoid interest charges and harvest the full value of cash rewards.

We rank both cards as two of the best cash-back credit cards for good reason and cardholders have a good option in hand, regardless of which one they pick. Ultimately, choosing the clear cut winner may come down to spending habits and brand loyalty.

Discover it® Cash Back cardholders maxing out cash-back categories can earn ongoing rewards and doubling the cash back earned in the first year makes the offer even more enticing.

But that ignores the fact that many cardholders prioritize earning high rates for cash back year-round on a category of their choice, are Preferred Rewards members and can earn at sky-high rates, want a large intro bonus, or simply have a smaller credit spending budget. If any of those sound like you, then Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card may be the better option.

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