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Updated July 7, 2016

Discover It Card Review: Cash Back Rewards Promotion

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by the card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer.
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With bonus cash back, low interest rate and no annual fee, Discover It is a good card for many. Is it right for you? Read on for the pros and cons.

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Overall Score

4.4

Rewards

4.5

Interest Rates

4.0

Fees

4.5

Benefits

4.5
5-point scale (the higher, the better)

Pros and Cons

  • 5% bonus rotating categories
  • Full 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months, then a variable APR, currently 11.24% - 23.24%
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • No annual fee
  • Some merchants don't accept Discover

Bottom Line

Excellent cash back credit card with no annual fee and low interest rate

The Discover It is a card that's hard to beat. It offers a generous 5% cash back on rotating categories, introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers, and late payment leniency. It also has no annual fee.

Plus, as a promotional offer for new cardmembers, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your 1st year, automatically.

But to use this card efficiently, you'll have to pay attention to details. And you'll rack up some nice savings.

How do you know whether Discover It deserves to be your new go-to card? CreditDonkey's in-depth review of this cash back credit card will help you decide.

How Discover It Works

Every time you buy something with the Discover It card, you earn cash back. Sounds simple, but Discover It puts an enticing twist on it.

Every three months, you earn 5% cash back (instead of the standard 1%) on up to $1,500 of combined purchases in select bonus categories. This equals a maximum of $75 cash back each quarter in bonus categories (or $300 a year). Once you hit this $1,500 limit, the cash back percentage drops back down to 1%. All other purchases earn 1% cash back with no cap.

To get the most value out of the Discover It card, make sure you pay close attention to the spending categories each quarter. See if they fit with your lifestyle and normal spending patterns (for example, if you spend mostly on groceries, then another cashback card may be better suited for you).

The 2016 bonus category calendar is:

  • January - March 2016: Gas Stations and Ground Transportation
  • April - June 2016: Restaurants and Movies
  • July - September 2016: Home Improvement Stores and Amazon.com
  • October - December 2016: Amazon.com, Department Stores and Sam's Club

The 2017 bonus category calendar is:

  • January - March 2017: Gas Stations, Ground Transportation & Wholesale Clubs

It is important to remember that you MUST activate the 5% bonus categories at the beginning of each 3-month period. Activation is free and easy through your account center online or by phone.

For historical reference ONLY, here are the bonus categories for past years:

The 2015 bonus category calendar was:

  • January - March 2015: Gas Stations and Ground Transportation
  • April - June 2015: Restaurants and Movies
  • July - September 2015: Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com
  • October - December 2015: Amazon.com, Department Stores, and Clothing Stores

The 2014 bonus category calendar was:

  • January - March 2014: Restaurants and Movie
  • April - June 2014: Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores, and Bed Bath & Beyond®
  • July - September 2014: Gas Stations
  • October - December 2014: Online Shopping and Department Stores

Discover It Benefits

The 5% cash back in bonus categories is only the tip of the many benefits Discover It offers. Here are all the other things you stand to gain with this card.

  • 100% cash back match for the first year: As a promotional offer for new cardmembers, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. This is an amazing deal to take advantage of if you're planning on some large purchases in the near future.

  • Easy and flexible redemption: Discover lets you redeem your Cashback Bonus whenever you want with no minimum requirements. You can apply the rewards to your statement balance, have it deposited into your bank account, exchange for gift cards, or even use the cash back to check out directly on Amazon.

    Tip: In our opinion, the best value is redeeming for gift cards from select retailers. In particular, the ones that offer extra money. For example, you can redeem $40 in rewards for a $50 gift card from some retailers.

  • Shop Discover Deals for better rewards: An added bonus for Discover cardholders is Discover Deals, which offers another opportunity to earn more cash back on online purchases. Just visit Discover.com to register (or download the Discover Mobile App) and then you access cash back bonuses at almost 200 online stores (such as Macy's, Target, and Apple). Participating vendors have a link to their site alongside the cash back percentage they offer. Most offer 5% cash back when you buy with your Discover card, but some go as high as 20%.

  • Low fees: There are very few fees associated with the Discover It card. There's no annual fee, which can save you quite a bit of money each year compared to what you could be paying elsewhere. In addition, many of the annoying usage fees charged by other credit cards don't apply to the Discover It: there are no overlimit fees, pay by phone fees, or foreign transaction fees.

  • Late payment leniency: If you ever miss a payment on the card, Discover is quite lenient. You don't owe a late fee on your first late payment, and Discover never increases your card APR because of late payments.

  • Introductory APR: Discover It has an introductory 0% APR on purchases for 14 months (after that, the variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.24% to 23.24%, depending on your creditworthiness).

    It also offers an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers for 14 months. Then, the variable purchase APR applies. This is an excellent opportunity for new cardholders to pay down existing debt. Keep in mind, there is a 3% balance transfer fee, but it's usually much lower than the cost of letting month after month of interest build by leaving the balance on another credit card.

Other Perks

Discover also offers a whole slew of other perks that may come in handy:

  • Free FICO Credit Score: Get your FICO Credit Score on your monthly statements and online for free. The FICO credit score will be based on the information from your TransUnion credit report. And getting the score from Discover will not impact your credit score.
  • Purchase protection: Eligible purchases are protected from theft and damage for 90 days and up to $500
  • Price protection: Find a lower price on an eligible item you purchased within 90 days of the purchase date and Discover will cover the difference.
  • Extended warranties: Extend the manufacturer's warranty by up to 1 year on eligible purchases.
  • Return Guarantee: Regardless of the store's policy, Discover will refund the cost of eligible items up to $500 if you decide to return it within 90 days.
  • Fraud protection: Rest assured knowing Discover has a $0 fraud liability policy and that you won't be accountable for unauthorized purchases on your account.
  • Travel insurance: A variety of travel insurance options is available to Discover cardholders, including flight accident insurance and auto rental insurance.
  • U.S. customer service: Discover prides itself on delivering great customer service for its cardholders. This card offers 24-hour live customer support - a rare feature in today's outsourced economy. Customer service representatives are trained to help you maximize your rewards. When you call in, you can explain what you want to do with your rewards and the representative will find the best possible deal for you.

Disadvantages

This card has a whole list of benefits, but here are a few points you may want to consider when deciding whether the Discover It is right for you.

  • There's a cap on how much you can earn: The 1% cash back you earn has no limit. But the 5% cash back is only for the first $1,500 worth of purchases in the bonus categories each quarter (which equals $75 in cash back), and then you go back to just 1%, just like all your other purchases.

  • You need to pay attention to rotating categories: If you're good at staying on top of deals and can keep track of the rotating bonus categories, you'll love this card. But if you're a bit disorganized and it seems like a hassle to sign up for the bonus categories every 3 months, you may want to get a card that has a simpler rewards structure.

  • Discover is not accepted everywhere: Discover is not as widely accepted as Visa or MasterCard, and you may run into problems at smaller merchants. For this reason, this card is great to have to get the high cash back in bonus categories, but you would most likely need an additional card.

Alternatives

It's always a smart idea to compare a card to a few other similar cards to see which one best suits your needs. Here are 3 other cards that you may consider instead.

If the bonus categories don't match your lifestyle:
There is a similar cash back card on the market. The Chase Freedom card has a similar setup: 1% back on regular purchases and 5% on bonus categories that change every 3 months (on up to $1,500 worth of combined purchases, just like Discover It). The key difference is the type of categories (Discover it vs Chase Freedom). Take a look at past cash back calendars to see which card better fits your taste and lifestyle.

 

Discover It

Chase Freedom

 

Interest Rates and Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 14 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 14 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Purchase APR11.24% to 23.24% Variable* based on your creditworthiness and other factors14.24% to 23.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR11.24% to 23.24% Variable* based on your creditworthiness and other factors14.24% to 23.24% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Cash Back DealIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers).Introductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $150 Bonus after spending $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: 1% cash back on all other purchases.Cash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Cash BackBonus Cash Back: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that change each quarter (requires free and easy sign-up for 5% Cashback Bonus)*
Limitations apply*. See issuer's website for additional program details.
Bonus Categories for 2016:
January - March 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations and for Ground Transportation
April - June 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Restaurants and Movies
July - September 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Home Improvement Stores and Amazon.com
October - December 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Amazon.com, Department Stores and Sam's Club
Bonus Categories for 2017:
January - March 2017: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations, Ground Transportation & Wholesale Clubs
Bonus Cash Back: Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate. Enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like gas stations, restaurants, and wholesale clubs. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bonus Categories for 2016:
Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2016): Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including parking, tolls, and Amtrak® purchases)
Q2 (April 1 - June 30, 2016): Grocery stores (not including Walmart®, Target®, discount or warehouse club store purchases)
Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2016): Restaurants and Wholesale Clubs
Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2016): Department Stores, Wholesale Clubs and Drug Stores

Discover It: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees were obtained on December 2, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Chase Freedom: Pricing information including interest rates, benefits and fees were obtained on July 4, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® Cashback Match™ and Chase Freedom have been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

If you don't want the hassle of rotating categories:
The Discover it Chrome has a more straightforward cash back program. This card is good to consider if most of your monthly expenses go toward eating out at restaurants and gas. Here is a side-by-side comparison to help:

 

Discover It

Discover it Chrome

Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: 1% cash back on all other purchases.Cash Back Rewards: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations every quarter-no sign-ups needed.* 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
Bonus Cash BackBonus Cash Back: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that change each quarter (requires free and easy sign-up for 5% Cashback Bonus)*
Limitations apply*. See issuer's website for additional program details.
Bonus Categories for 2016:
January - March 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations and for Ground Transportation
April - June 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Restaurants and Movies
July - September 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Home Improvement Stores and Amazon.com
October - December 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Amazon.com, Department Stores and Sam's Club
Bonus Categories for 2017:
January - March 2017: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations, Ground Transportation & Wholesale Clubs
 
Gas Gas Rewards: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations every quarter - no signups needed*.
Restaurant Dining Rewards: 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations every quarter - no signups needed*.

Discover It: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees were obtained on December 2, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Discover it Chrome: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees were obtained on December 2, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® Cashback Match™ and Discover it® chrome have been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Tip: Another card to consider is the Citi Double Cash. But unlike the Discover It, the Citi Double Cash does not have a signup bonus (Discover It or Citi Double Cash).

If you want to earn travel rewards instead of cash back:
Want to travel more? Discover has a no annual fee travel rewards credit card called the Discover It Miles. Instead of earning cash back, you earn miles that you can redeem toward travel purchases (Discover It or Discover It Miles).

 

Discover It

Discover it Miles

Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
Cash Back DealIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers). 
Airline Deal Introductory Bonus Airline Rewards: Discover will match all the miles you've earned at the end of your first year (only for new cardmembers).
Cash BackCash Back Rewards: 1% cash back on all other purchases. 
Bonus Cash BackBonus Cash Back: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that change each quarter (requires free and easy sign-up for 5% Cashback Bonus)*
Limitations apply*. See issuer's website for additional program details.
Bonus Categories for 2016:
January - March 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations and for Ground Transportation
April - June 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Restaurants and Movies
July - September 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Home Improvement Stores and Amazon.com
October - December 2016: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Amazon.com, Department Stores and Sam's Club
Bonus Categories for 2017:
January - March 2017: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations, Ground Transportation & Wholesale Clubs
 
Travel Travel Rewards: 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases. Redeem Miles in any amount to credit travel purchases from your statement, or get cash at any time.
Airline Airline Rewards: 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases.
Bonus Airline Rewards Bonus Airline Rewards: Discover pays you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees-up to $30 a year-with an automatic statement credit.*

Discover It: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees were obtained on December 2, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Discover it Miles: Pricing information including interest rates, rewards, benefits and fees were obtained on December 2, 2016 from published websites and are believed to be accurate, but not guaranteed.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® Cashback Match™ and Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card have been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bottom Line

To recap, here are the pros and cons when considering Discover It:

Pros:

  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in categories that change each quarter; earn full 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases
  • 100% match on cash back at the end of your first year
  • Introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons:

  • Some merchants don't accept Discover

In our opinion, this card doesn't have much in the way of cons. With a high 5% cash back and no annual fee, the Discover It Card is hard to beat. The fact that Discover will match every single cent of cash back earned for the first year is just icing on the cake. Remember that you have to pay close attention to the rotating bonus categories in order to get the best value out of this card.

The main downside is that some merchants don't accept Discover, so we suggest you also have another card in your wallet.

    Learn more about Discover credit cards

David R is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Write to David R at davidr@creditdonkey.com. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped families make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions. (read more)

Editorial Note: This content is not provided by Discover. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by Discover.

Disclaimer: This content was first published on January 11, 2013. This content may have been updated on July 7, 2016. Information including APR, terms and benefits may vary, be out of date, or not applicable to you. Information is provided without warranty. Please check Discover website for updated information.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: The information for the Discover it® Cashback Match™, Chase Freedom, Citi® Double Cash Card, Discover it® chrome, and Discover it® Miles - Unlimited 1.5x Rewards Card have been collected independently by CreditDonkey. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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CreditDonkey is a credit card comparison website. We publish data-driven analysis to help you save money & make savvy financial decisions.

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed on this page are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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CreditDonkey does not know your individual circumstances and provides information for general educational purposes only. CreditDonkey is not a substitute for, and should not be used as, professional legal, credit or financial advice. You should consult your own professional advisors for such advice.