Discover it® Balance Transfer Review: Simply, One of the Best Balance-Transfer Cards

The Discover it® Balance Transfer is a prime example of how Discover packs its cards with tons of valuable features cardholders prefer. Notably, the 18-month-long 0% APR for balance transfers is among the longest offers I've come across, which makes this balance-transfer credit card a leading option for indebted cardholders wanting to pay off balances faster.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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Best for: Balance transfers and bonus cash back Discover it® Balance Transfer

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Our Bottom Line

There are few cards that can top this offer. The balance transfer offer and cash rewards program, alone, are best in class, but you get both in one card without having to pay an annual fee.

Credit Rating Requirement: good
Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically. 
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs 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. 
  • 100% U.S. based customer service. 
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more. 
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up. 
  • No annual fee.
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What I like about Discover it® Balance Transfer

0% intro APR for balance transfers -- The card includes a 0% intro APR for 18 months for balance transfers, after which the go-to variable rate applies. Note, the promo period extends for 18 months since the first transfer, not from account opening, as is common for balance-transfer credit cards. Cardholders must execute the transfer by a specific date to qualify, but starting the clock from the date of the first transfer does increase the versatility of this card.

0% intro APR for purchases -- The 0% intro APR for purchases spans six months, after which the go-to variable rate applies.

5% bonus cash back -- The card earns 1% cash-back on regular purchases, and 5% in rotating bonus categories you activate such as gas, restaurants, Amazon, and others, up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter (worth $75 in bonus rewards each quarter). 

Double cash back in the first year -- Discover will match all the cash-back earned during the first year for new cardholders. Cardholders who max out bonus categories quarterly can expect a total of $600 cash-back. For the number crunchers out there, that’s $1,500 of quarterly spending in bonus categories ($6,000 per year), which earns cash back at a 5% rate. Add Discover’s match on top, and you’ll receive $300, plus another $300 for the match in your first year -- that works out to a 10% rate. Importantly, I excluded spending that earns at a 1% rate, but Discover matches that as well.

$0 annual fee -- Credit cards packed with valuable features tend to charge high fees or APRs. This card balances this relationship well and doesn’t charge an annual fee, making it a fit for cardholders with modest credit needs, who won’t see their rewards get wiped out by an annual fee.

No foreign transaction fees -- Most competing cards charge a 3% foreign transaction fee for each and every swipe abroad. This card doesn't.

What could be improved

Balance transfer fee -- Balance transfers incur a 3% transaction fee. While this is standard among many competing credit cards, I can always wish for all the best perks in a single card.

How to best use

To pay off debt faster

Transfer high-interest credit card debt before the deadline to chip away at debt balances faster. The Ascent is here to help you conquer your money goals and transferring balances to a 0% intro APR card can help avoid costly interest charges. In fact, paying down a $5,000 balance over 18 months will cost a whopping $743 in interest charges at an 18% APR.

Earn rewards without being charged with interest

Cash-back cardholders will generally be better off paying balances by the due date every month to avoid interest charges. It’s a losing strategy to rack up debt to earn rewards at single-digit rates only to watch as they get eaten up by far higher double-digit interest charges.

Before spending in bonus cash-back categories

Be sure to activate bonus cash-back categories to qualify for 5% rewards. This crucial, quick step can be finished in a few clicks by keeping an eye on your inbox for the quarterly update for activation.

If want to know your credit score

Leverage access to your FICO® Score for free. Discover provides free access to your FICO® Score and this perk is a huge value! In fact, myFICO charges upwards of $350 per year to receive, track, and monitor your comprehensive credit history.

Discover it® Balance Transfer vs. Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Balance Transfer's close cousin, Discover it® Cash Back, is practically the same credit card from a features standpoint, save for the 0% intro APR offer. Discover it® Cash Back may be the better option for cardholders wanting a longer 0% intro APR for purchases. The latter version offers a 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases and balance transfers whereas Discover it® Balance Transfer includes the intro APR for 6 months for purchases and 18 months for balance transfers. Deciding between the two cards mainly comes down to cardholder preference, either wanting to float purchases for a longer period or securing a longer balance transfer offer to pay off debt. Read our full Discover it® Cash Back review to learn more.

Final take

Discover it® Balance Transfer is value-packed. Simply put, it's one of the most versatile cards that I've crunched the numbers on. The most valuable perk is the long balance transfer promo, which indebted cardholders will covet. Most people using balance-transfer cards ditch them after the APR promo expires but there's no need to do so with this card, since it also has one of the leading cash-back programs and no annual fee.