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

Matt is a Certified Financial Planner® and investment advisor based in Columbia, South Carolina. He writes personal finance and investment advice, and in 2017 he received the SABEW Best in Business Award.

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Discover it® Cash Back is a perfect card for rewards “optimizers,” people who have an affinity for scoring high rewards rates on their spending in specific categories. But it has value for more people than just rewards chasers, thanks to its 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers, too!

Ratings Methodology
Discover it® Cash Back

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On Discover's Secure Website.

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

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On Discover's Secure Website.

Apply Now

On Discover's Secure Website.

Rewards

Earn 5% cash back in rotating quarterly categories you activate ($1,500 quarterly spending cap), 1% back on all else

Annual Fee

$0

Intro APR

Purchases: 0%, 14 months
Balance Transfers: 0%, 14 months

Ongoing APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

Bonuses & Perks

Double cash back in the first year -- that's worth up to 10% back, FICO score for free

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 on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when 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.

Top Perks of Discover it® Cash Back

5% bonus cash back -- This card’s killer feature is 5% bonus cash back on up to $1,500 of quarterly spending in rotating bonus categories (activation required each quarter). Cardholders who max out each of four categories in one year ($6,000 of total spending) would net $300 in cash-back rewards. All other spending, as well as spending in categories above $1,500 in any given quarter, earns at a normal 1% cash-back rate.

Cash back match in the first year -- Discover it® Cash Back offers a first-year match in which all the cash back you earn in year one is matched, effectively doubling your rewards in the first year. So, if you max out the bonus categories ($300 of rewards) and have another $5,000 of spending outside bonus categories ($50 of rewards), you’d earn $700 of total cash back in your first year ($350 plus $350 match).

0% intro APRs for purchases -- This card blends the features of a rewards card and a 0% intro APR card, offering 14 months of 0% APRs on purchases. Note, the go-to variable rate applies after the promo period expires.

0% intro APRs for balance transfers -- Offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 14 months, but you don’t have to use it immediately. The 0% intro APR kicks in on your first transfer, not from the account opening, which gives you flexibility to use it on your own timeline. Note, the go-to variable rate applies after the promo period expires.

No foreign transaction fees -- You can confidently use this card at home or abroad, thanks to the fact it doesn’t carry a foreign transaction fee. Many cards charge a 3% fee when making purchases internationally, which can add up to $60 on $2,000 of foreign spend when traveling or purchasing products from vendors who operate abroad.

No minimum redemptions -- Discover it® Cash Back offers redemption methods where you can redeem your rewards in amounts as little as $0.01. This makes it ideal for even smaller spenders, who might otherwise have to wait months to accrue enough rewards to top the $25 or $50 minimum redemption requirement of other rewards cards.

FICO® Score for free -- Many well-known websites and apps offer a free credit score, but none of them offer a true FICO® Score that lenders use to make credit decisions. Discover it® Cash Back cardholders get access to a real FICO® Score for free.

What could be improved

Balance transfer fee -- This card offers a competitive 0% intro APR for 14 months on balance transfers, but it comes with a fee of 3%, for transfers made within 90 days of card opening, for each transfer. After the 90 day intro period, there is up to a 5% fee for balance transfers. In a perfect world, the card wouldn't have a fee, but it is worth noting the fee is competitive among its peers.

Suggested credit score

Discover it® Cash Back is intended for people with good credit, which is essentially a 670 FICO score or higher. As with any credit card, banks assess more than your credit score during the approval process. Accordingly, having at least this score isn't a slam dunk for approval nor is it impossible to get approved with a lower credit score.

Alternatives to consider

Chase Freedom® may be a better option for loyal Chase fans wanting to earn up to 5% cash back as well. The card includes the same $1,500 quarterly spending cap for bonus categories you activate. The card also offers a quicker potential bonus payout and has the slight edge on the 0% intro APR front with the promotional rate lasting 15 months for purchases and balance transfers.

Alternatively, Discover it® Balance Transfer is worth considering if your main goal is securing a longer 0% intro APR for balance transfers. The same lineup of perks are included as Discover it® Cash Back, but the balance transfer version includes a 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers and a lesser six months for purchases.

As of Jan. 28, 2020
Chase Freedom® Discover it® Balance Transfer
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, 5.0 out of 5 stars.
5.0 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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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 -- that's worth up to 10% back
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%, 6 months Balance Transfers: 0%, 18 months
Regular APR: 16.49% - 25.24% 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 16.49 - 25.24%.
  • 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 on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when 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.
  • 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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How to best use Discover it® Cash Back

  1. Avoid carrying a balance -- Unless you’re making use of its 0% intro APR on purchases or balance transfers, don’t make a habit of carrying a balance. As with any rewards card, just a few months of interest on a balance can erase all of the rewards you earn on your spend. It doesn’t make sense to earn cash back on a balance that carries a double-digit APR.
  2. Activate to get bonus rewards -- Without the bonus categories, Discover it® Cash Back is a bottom-tier cash-back card, since it only offers a base rate of 1%. Set up reminders to log-in and activate bonus rewards so you don’t miss out.
  3. Cash in on the first-year match and earn 10% back -- New cardholders can really rake it in. Because you receive a match on rewards earned in the first year, you can think of this card as offering up to double cash back to 10% on bonus categories and 2% cash back on everything else.
  4. Use it to monitor your credit score -- Discover offers access to a real FICO® Score for free. Getting access to a real FICO® Score, not a simulation of your credit score that many apps offer, ordinarily costs real money. For instance, myFICO charges upwards of $350 per year to get a real FICO® Score. You get access to a real score for free, just for having the card.

This card is right for you if:

It’s hard to beat Discover it® Cash Back as a category bonus card, given it offers one of the highest bonus cash-back rewards rates you’ll find with any credit card. If the following statements apply to you, you’re likely a good candidate to apply for it.

  1. You don’t mind extra work to earn bonus rewards -- To get the most value from this card, you must remember to activate your bonus categories every quarter. It only takes a minute or two, but if you’re forgetful, this alone might be reason to go with another card that offers less cash back with fewer strings attached.
  2. You spend a lot in its bonus categories -- Given that Discover it® Cash Back’s bonus categories have included grocery stores, gas stations, Uber, Lyft, restaurants, and Amazon.com, spending heavily in them will be very easy for some to accomplish.
  3. You have another cash-back card -- This card is best used in tandem with another cash-back credit card for purchases outside of its bonus categories. Use Discover it® Cash Back for all your spending in bonus categories, and put other spend on a credit card that offers more than its 1% base rate on other types of spend. Numerous cards offer 1.5% to 2% cash back on all your spending, so finding a cash-back card to complement this one won’t be difficult.

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