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Discover it® Cash Back review: Earn up to 5% cash back each quarter

If you are a new card member, Discover matches all the cash back you earn, dollar for dollar, at the end of your first year! With no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and amnesty for many of the situations that cause most banks to hike their rates and fees, this card could prove a lucrative addition to your wallet.
By Brooklyn Lowery  CardRatings Senior Manager  | Updated

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back
Our Rating:   
Excellent, Good

CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons

  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically.
  • Enjoy a long intro offer of 14 months 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers, then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.
  • There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fees, and your first late-payment fee is waived.
  • If you know you spend a lot in a particular category, you might be better off with a card that features a constant higher cash-back percentage in that category.

DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK BONUS

When Discover it® Cash Back says it will match all the cash back accrued during your first year, it means it. Thanks to Discover's cash back offer, new cardholders could earn a staggering amount of cash back on purchases made within the rotating 5% cash-back categories in their first year (up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 each time you activate). Think about it: $150 in cash back will automatically become $300.

Furthermore, Discover releases its full quarterly category list at the start of the year, making it easy for you to see whether the bonus categories will match your spending habits.

The Discover it® Cash Back match in bonus categories is in addition to the match Discover is offering for all the purchases you make in the first year in regular, non-bonus categories. With a bit of strategy and some regular credit card usage, you could reap some serious cash back, particularly during your first year.

In addition to the intro offer and with a fresh look and a focus on customer service, Discover it® Cash Back has redefined itself as a serious contender in the crowded cash-back credit card field (which the original Discover card invented in the 1980s). With no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and amnesty for many of the situations that cause most banks to hike their rates and fees, Discover it® Cash Back has the potential to set a new standard for American rewards credit cards.

Top Features

 Cash Back on Gas
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
 Cash Back on Groceries
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
 Cash Back on Other
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

WHAT DISCOVER SAYS ABOUT THIS CARD

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year! There's no minimum spending or maximum rewards. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back in any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • #1 Most Trusted Credit Card according to Investor's Business Daily.
  • No annual fee.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
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DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK REWARDS

It's always nice to know that using your credit card is earning you rewards, and the Discover it® Cash Back earns you rewards every time you swipe – at least 1% on all your purchases.

When you sign up and spend in one of the rotating categories each quarter, however, you boost your earning to 5% back on those purchases up to $1,500 spent.

When the time comes, Discover it® Cash Back then offers easy redemption of your cash-back rewards. You can use your points as credit toward Amazon.com purchases or to request immediate credit card statement credit through Discover's website, among several other options.

Additionally, if you're the type who wants maximum rewards and is willing to think through the strategy a bit, Discover it® Cash Back pairs well in your wallet with another no annual fee credit card like Chase Freedom Unlimited®. How does it pair well? Here's the deal:

  • Use your Discover it® Cash Back card to earn 5% cash back on all your purchases in the bonus categories each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500 each time you active).
  • Use your Chase Freedom Unlimited® card to earn 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and 1.5% back on everyother purchase – it's automatic. In other words, you'll earn AT LEAST a half-percent more than you'd earn using Discover it® Cash Back.
  • Remember that Discover it® Cash Back matches all your cash back in the first year; that means you'll want to employ a strategy like that mentioned in the bullets above AFTER your first year of card membership. That's because the match effectively means you can earn at least 2% back on your purchases (and up to 10% back when you're talking about the bonus categories) with your Discover card for that first year.

DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK CALENDAR

To maximize your Discover it® Cash Back rewards you need to opt in to quarterly bonus categories. Once you've opted in, you'll receive an automatic 5% cashback bonus on up to $1,500 in purchases made for that category.

The cashback calendar is subject to change next year, but for 2021, Discover is offering Discover it® Cash Back cardholders a 5% cashback bonus in the following categories:

  • January-March: Grocery stores (including Walmart grocery pickup and delivery but excluding all other Walmart purchases and all Target), Walgreens, and CVS
  • April-June: Gas stations, wholesale club purchases and select streaming services
  • July-September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October-December: Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com

To opt into the bonus categories, you simply need to log into your Discover account, visit the cashback calendar page and click "activate" each quarter.

POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES OF THE DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK CARD

As is the case with any rotating categories cash-back card, you have to be willing to use a bit of strategy if you want to realize the full potential rewards of this card. If you're not someone who wants to keep up with using your card in the quarterly bonus categories, you'd likely earn more rewards with a flat-rate credit card like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card that offers a flat 1.5% back on all your purchases. Or, if you're wanting a little strategy, but not one that changes quarterly, you might consider a tiered cash-back rewards card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express which offers 6% back on up to $6,000 in purchases at U.S. supermarkets (then 1%) and on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% back at U.S. gas stations and on transit; and 1% on everything else. (American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.)

DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK CARDHOLDER SCORES

CardRatings conducts a survey annually to learn what actual cardholders think of their cards. Here are the results:

2020 Scores 2019 Scores
Overall Score 87.7 88.7
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.8 8.8
Customer Service 8.8 8.9
Website/App Usability 8.6 8.7
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 9.2 9.3
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.6 8.8

HOW DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK COMPARES TO OTHER CREDIT CARDS

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠

Discover it® Cash Back offers a similiar rewards structure to that of competitor Chase Freedom Flex℠. Neither has an annual fee, so it could be a good strategy to carry both cards and cash in on the two sets of rotating bonus categories when you sign up each quarter. Bargain hunters could maximize their 5% rewards on both cards with just a little extra strategic planning. Chase, though, has not historically announced its full year of rotating categories up front, so you'll have to rely on historical categories to make a decision about this one.

In addition to the 5% rotating categories with Chase Freedom Flex℠, the card also offers 5% back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% back at restaurants and drugstores and 1% back on your other eligible purchases, so there's a lot of additional opportunities here to rack up rewards.

Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers its rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, which are transferable among different Chase products. If you already have a Chase Ultimate Rewards®-earning card in your wallet, like Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Freedom Unlimited®, for instance, it could pay to stick within the Chase family.

Lastly, when it comes to welcome bonuses, Chase Freedom Flex℠ offers you $200 cash back after you spend just $500 in the first three months, and 5% cash back on up to $12,000 spent on grocery store purchases during the first year (excludes Target and Walmart).

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer

The Discover it® Cash Back card is offering an introductory bonus where all cash back earned during the first year will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Discover. Combined with the quarterly bonus categories of 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases automatically. It effectively amounts to up to 10% cash back in bonus categories for your first year. Compared to the Citi card that earns 1% cash back when you make purchases and 1% when you pay at least the minimum balance due on time, the Discover it® Cash Back has a substantial edge in cash back earning potential, especially during your first year as a cardholder.

If you are interested in a card that has a stellar intro balance transfer offer, both the Discover it® Cash Back and Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer deserve your consideration. The Citi® Double Cash Card - 18 month BT offer gets the edge in this category with an introductory 0% balance transfer APR for the first 18 months (then 13.99% – 23.99% (Variable)), but the Discover it® Cash Back card still offers a stellar intro 0% balance transfer APR for 14 months (then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR).

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Discover it® Student Cash Back

With no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and cash back earned on every purchase both the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Student Cash Back cards are great options for rewards credit cards. Both cards earn cash back on rotating quarterly categories offering up to 5% back on purchases (up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate) and 1% earned on all other purchases. The similarities don’t stop there with both cards offering an introductory bonus where all cash back earned during the first year will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Discover. That means $100 in cash back is actually $200 in cash back after your first year.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is geared toward students looking to build their credit and student specific perks including a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years. The Discover it® Cash Back card is for individuals with more established credit and includes unique perks like a long intro offer of 14 months 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers, then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

IS DISCOVER IT® CASH BACK A GOOD CREDIT CARD?

Discover it® Cash Back is a solid choice for anyone who is willing to take a few minutes each quarter to sign up for the bonus categories and then spend strategically within those categories to maximize their rewards. With no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and that awesome first-year cash back match offer, it's a fantastic card for even the occasional credit card user.

Lastly, to add some fun to the decision-making surrounding a new credit card, Discover it® Cash Back gives cardholders the option to select their favorite card design from an array of eye-catching colors. Royal purple? Chocolate brown? Striking silver? In other words, this card can fit both your financial and personal style.

Survey Methodology: CardRatings commissioned Op4G in September and October 2020 to conduct surveys among 1,746 cardholders nationwide. CardRatings website analytics from Jan. 1, 2020-Aug. 31, 2020 were used to determine a selection of the most popular cards and additional cards were added to add survey breadth. Responses to each of nine questions were given on a scale of 1-10 and respondents' scores were then averaged under broad topics. To determine the overall score, responses from questions 1-8 were summed and the answer to "How likely are you to recommend this card to a friend, coworker or family member?" was double weighted.

To see the rates and fees for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, please visit the following link: See Rates and Fees; terms apply

Consumer Reviews

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2 Reviews
  1. Dana
     03/4/2014

    This card is amazing. All the other CC's harass my mailbox daily, but then offer me a credit limit $3000 less than Discover did. How is that even possible? I love the free FICO score checker I can use when I log in too. The other day they emailed me a $5 starbucks card for being a member. It really seems like they're kissing my ass but I don't care I love this card!


  2. joe
     01/6/2014

    card has many "NO"s but beware. If you're not planning on carrying a balance, you should find most of those things useless anyways.International fee is ZERO. rewards are at least 1% cashback but gifft card redemptions bumps the reward $$ to a higher percentage (redeem at 10% disc or 6% disc). Rotating categories are also helpful. effectively raising rewards rate on discount stores (walmart, target) to above 1%CON: no solid CB on supermarkets (gocery stores) gas only rotating. discover is not as accepted as Visa and MC, but sams club take them.


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