Discover it® Cash Back Review: A Valuable Bonus Cash-Back Card

Discover it® Cash Back is a prime example of how Discover packs its cards with tons of valuable features cardholders prefer. The 0% intro APR and cash rewards program, alone, are among the best in each category, but Discover it® Cash Back packs both in a single card.

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

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Great for: Bonus cash back and no annual fee  Discover it® Cash Back

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Our Bottom Line

A clear cash-back leader with a laundry list of perks, including double cash back in the first year and other essential wallet-friendly features like no annual fee.

Credit Rating Requirement: Good/Excellent
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, 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.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
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Rates & Fees

What I like about Discover it® Cash Back

5% bonus cash back -- Discover it® Cash Back pays 1% cash-back on regular purchases, and 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.

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 in the first year. 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 10% cash back. Importantly, I excluded spending that earns at a 1% rate, but Discover matches that, too.

No annual fee -- Credit cards packed with valuable features tend to charge high fees or APRs. Discover it® Cash Back balances this relationship well and doesn’t charge an annual fee, making it a fit for cardholders with modest credit spending needs, who won’t see their rewards get wiped out by an annual fee.

0% intro APR for purchases -- The card includes a 0% intro APR for 14 months for purchases, after which the go-to variable rate applies.

0% intro APR for balance transfers --  The same length 0% intro APR applies for balance transfers, as does the go-to variable rate as well. Note, the promo period extends for 14 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.

No foreign transaction fees -- Foreign transaction fees can quickly add up when whipping out credit cards for purchases abroad. Fortunately, the card has nixed the typical 3% foreign transaction fee many card issuers charge.

What could be improved

0% intro APR for balance transfers -- The 0% APR balance-transfer window is a treasured feature I’d prefer to see extended beyond 14 months.

How to best use

To avoid interest charges on rewards spend

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 swiping the card to get bonus cash back

Be sure to activate bonus cash-back categories to qualify for 5% rewards. Redeeming rewards doesn’t require jumping through any additional hoops, however. The card doesn’t require meeting certain minimums (usually $25 for other cards) to redeem your rewards.

To optimize for more cash back

Consider placing bonus-category purchases on Discover it® Cash Back while applying for a separate card that earns rewards at a higher base-rate than 1% cash back for all other purchases. This two-card strategy can make your credit purchases work harder for you and yield more rewards.

If you're wanting to get out of debt faster

Transfer high-interest credit card debt to chip away at debt balances faster. We at The Ascent always encourage smart use of debt and transferring balances to a 0% intro APR card can help avoid costly interest charges. In fact, paying down a $5,000 balance over 14 months will cost a whopping $581 in interest charges at an 18% APR.

When monitoring 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.

Other cash-back cards to consider

Unlimited cash back rewards simplicity

Capital One® Quicksilver® Card is a popular unlimited cash-back card that earns a flat rate of 1.5% on all purchases. Rewards can even be redeemed for any amount at any time, and the card includes a $150 bonus after spending just $500 on purchases within three months of account opening. Few unlimited cash-back cards we've come across offer this slate of perks, and more. Read our full Capital One® Quicksilver® Card review to learn more.

Final take

The best label to give Discover it® Cash Back is value-packed. The card nicely balances costs with benefits, delivering a credit card that users may find worthy of a prime spot in their wallets, especially those who can maximize 5% bonus rewards categories while avoiding common credit card nuisance fees.