Chase vs. Discover Credit Cards: Which Are Better?

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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Chase and Discover are constantly raising the bar with their credit cards, which has led to them both being near the top in terms of popularity and consumer satisfaction. If you’re looking for a new card, the big question is which card issuer is the better choice.

It’s a tricky question, because while certain Chase credit cards and Discover credit cards have similar feature sets, there are also areas where they’re both entirely unique. To decide how they stack up, I’m going to cover what the Chase and Discover card lineups offer in several key areas.

Travel rewards

Travel rewards cards are Chase’s bread and butter -- it has partnered with several of the biggest airline and hotel brands. Chase also offers co-branded credit cards with many of its partners. If you’re loyal to a specific brand, one of these co-branded airline or hotel cards can help you earn more points and receive special perks with that brand.

There’s also Chase’s Ultimate Rewards® cards, which earn versatile points that you can transfer to any of Chase’s partners or redeem at a fixed-rate to book travel. These include the Chase Sapphire Preferred®, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, which are widely considered among the top travel cards on the market.

While Chase offers a wide selection of travel rewards cards, Discover does the opposite. Its only travel card is the Discover it® Miles. The card earns miles on all your spending, and you can redeem miles for any travel purchases at a set rate.

The Discover it® Miles is a solid card, but Chase is clearly the superior option for travel rewards for many cardholders.

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Discover it® Miles Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
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3.5 stars
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Rating image, 4.5 out of 5 stars.
4.5 stars
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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 Miles in the first year Bonus: 60,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Worth $750 redeemed for travel through Chase's portal.
Rewards Program: 1.5 Miles per $1 Rewards Program: 2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases. 25% more points for travel booked through Chase's portal.
Intro APR: Purchases: 0.00%, 14 months Balance Transfers: 10.99%, 14 months Intro APR: Purchases: N/A, N/A Balance Transfers: N/A, N/A
Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable Regular APR: 17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee: $0 Annual Fee: $95

Highlights:

  • UNLIMITED BONUS: Discover will match ALL the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. That’s $700 towards travel! The more you earn, the more you get.
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases - with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates. Simply pay for travel purchases like airlines, hotels, rental cars, and more with your Discover it® Miles card.
  • Miles Pay You Back. Easily redeem Miles as a statement credit for travel purchases. Or get cash.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.

Highlights:

  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel

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Cash back

When it comes to their cash-back credit cards, Chase and Discover are somewhat similar. Both have cards that earn cash back in rotating bonus categories that you must activate every quarter, up to a quarterly spending maximum. That makes each card excellent if you can maximize the bonus categories.”

As of Oct. 22, 2019
Discover it® Cash Back Chase Freedom®
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 Chase'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: $150 after spending $500 within three months
Rewards Program: Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else Rewards Program: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate, 1% on all else
Intro APR: Purchases: 0.00%, 14 months Balance Transfers: 0.00%, 14 months Intro APR: Purchases: 0%, 15 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 15 months
Regular APR: 13.49% - 24.49% Variable Regular APR: 16.74% - 25.49% 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:

  • 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℠

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On Discover's Secure Website.

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Sign-up bonuses

The most significant difference between Chase and Discover credit cards is how their sign-up bonuses work.

Many Chase cards have the traditional credit card sign-up bonuses where you receive a set amount of points or cash back for reaching a spending minimum.

Discover, on the other hand, matches whatever you earn in cash back or miles the first year you have your card. Let’s say you earn $400 cash back from your Discover it® Cash Back in your first account year. Discover will add $400 to that, so you bank $800 total.

Which is better here depends entirely on whether you like to use one or multiple credit cards and how much you typically spend. You get your sign-up bonus faster with Chase cards, so if you plan to open multiple cards, you could do so and earn multiple bonuses. A Discover card is better if you want to stick to one card or you have high annual spending to really drive up your first-year match.

Annual fees

Discover is the go-to card issuer if you’re not looking to pay any annual fee on your credit card, because none of its cards have them.

In fairness, there are plenty of Chase cards that don’t have annual fees, either. The Chase cash-back cards usually don’t charge an annual fee, whereas the Chase travel rewards cards often do.

You should get a Chase card when…

A Chase card is probably the smarter pick if you want the following:

  • A travel rewards card
  • A big sign-up bonus that you can earn in a few months or less

The roster of Chase travel cards is hard to beat. Not only are there all kinds of options, but they’re high-quality cards that are often among the best in their specific area, whether that’s all-purpose travel rewards, airline miles, or hotel points.

Chase is also known for having generous sign-up bonuses, especially among its travel cards. By hitting a reasonable spending minimum, you could earn a huge chunk of points or cash back in a short span of time.

A Discover card is better for you if…

For the most part, anything you can get with a Discover card, you could also likely get from a Chase card. The one thing Discover has that Chase doesn’t is its double rewards in the first year program. Because of that, a Discover card could be the superior option if you’re sticking to one credit card.

Final thoughts

In most areas, Chase and Discover credit cards are neck and neck, save the travel rewards arena, which Chase dominates.

Your best bet in choosing between them is narrowing down exactly what you want in a credit card first. Then, you can look at what each card issuer offers in that area and choose the card that fits you more.

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