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Updated July 1, 2015 10:35 AM PT

Discover It Card Review: Cash Back Rewards Promotion

Read more about Discover it® - Double Cash Back your first year from Discover, a CreditDonkey advertiser

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A generous cash back and promotional low interest offer makes the Discover It Card the go-to card to keep more money in your pocket. When you consider the rewards, low fees, and good customer service, it’s pretty easy to see why Discover It is one of the most popular cash back credit cards available.

Discover It

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 12 months, then a variable APR, currently 10.99% - 22.99%
  • 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

Easy to Use

Good cash back credit cards are easy to use and don’t require much thinking. As long as you pay attention to a few details, use the card frequently for your everyday shopping, and pay off your balance each month, you can rack up some nice savings.

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

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

What you need to know:

Cash Back Program
Every time you buy something with the Discover It card, you earn cash back. Sounds simple but really understanding how to make the most of the Discover It takes some practice if you’re not used to this type of card. You earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases in bonus categories that change every 3 months. This card earns an unlimited 1% on all other purchases. You have to sign up every 3 months to take advantage of the bonus categories, but it’s very simple to do.

For example, the bonus categories for July 2015 through September 2015 is Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com. For each period, you earn 5% cash back (instead of 1%) on up to $1,500 of purchases in the bonus categories (requires free & easy activation), a maximum of $75 cash back. Once you hit this $1,500 limit, the cash back percentage drops back down to 1%.

The 2013 bonus category calendar was as follows:

  • January - March 2013: Restaurants and Movies
  • April - June 2013: Home Improvement
  • July - September 2013: Gas Stations
  • October - December 2013: Online Shopping

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

The 2015 bonus category calendar is:

  • 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: Holiday Shopping (program details to be announced August 2015)

Benefits

  • Easy redemption: Discover lets you redeem your Cashback Bonus whenever you want with no minimum requirements. You can apply the rewards to your statement balance or have it deposited into your bank account.

  • Variety of options: You can also redeem your cash back for merchandise or gift cards from a variety of vendors. When redeeming rewards for gift cards, some offer additional value; for example, you can redeem $40 in rewards for a $50 gift card for some retailers.

  • Access to 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 can login with your user ID and password to access cash back bonuses at hundreds of stores. Participating vendors have a link to their site alongside the cash back percentage they offer. Click through the Discover Deals link to visit the retailer's site and you'll earn the specified percentage of cash back on qualifying purchases you make on the site with your Discover card.

Disadvantages

  • There’s a cap on how much you can earn: The 1% cash back you earn has no limit. But the 5% cash back stops adding up once you’ve earned $75 within the quarter (in other words, once you’ve purchased $1,500 worth of purchases in the bonus category), and then those items will give you just 1% back just like all your other purchases.

  • You need to pay attention: If you love to pay attention to deals and can keep track of the rotating bonus categories, you’ll love this card. But if you’re a bit disorganized and don’t have the patience for the details, you may want to get a card that has an even simpler rewards program, so you don’t end up feeling guilty about leaving potential rewards on the table.

Who It's Best For

  • Everyday shoppers: Discover It will pay off for cardholders open to paying attention to changing rewards categories and who always pay off their balance each month (otherwise the variable purchase APR applies, which is currently 10.99% to 22.99%, depending on your creditworthiness, and the interest charges will eat into whatever rewards you earn). Other plusses of this card: It has an introductory 0% APR on purchases that lasts 12 months, and there is no annual fee.

  • Cardholders with a balance: This card offers an introductory 0% APR on balance transfers (12 months). Then, the variable purchase APR applies, which is currently 10.99% to 22.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. Enjoy 12 months of 0% APR on balance transfers as a new cardholder- an excellent opportunity to pay down existing debt. 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.

    Tip: If you want a longer introductory period for balance transfers, check out this alternative Discover It balance transfer offer. Instead of 0% intro APR for 12 months on balance transfers and purchases, you get a 0% intro APR for 18 months on balance transfers (and 6 months on purchases).

Alternatives

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 certain categories that change every 3 months (on up to $1,500 worth of purchases, just like Discover It). The difference is the type of categories; Discover’s are usually broader while most of the Chase Freedom’s can sometime be brand specific, like Amazon, Starbucks, or Lowes. Take a look at past cashback calendars to see which card tends to represent your tastes. Also consider the fact that the Chase Freedom has a signup bonus of $100 after you spend $500 on the card in the first 3 months of owning it.

 

Discover it® - Double Cash Back your first year

Chase Freedom®

 
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically-only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more-up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze It(SM) on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking "Apply."
  • Named a Best Card for Cash Back by MONEY® Magazine
  • Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn a $25 Bonus after you add your first authorized user and make a purchase within this same 3-month period
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the intro period, a variable APR of 13.99-22.99%
  • Unlimited 1% Cash Back on every purchase
  • 5% Total Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter
  • You'll enjoy new 5% categories every 3 months like Gas stations, Restaurants and Amazon.com. It's free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter!
  • No annual fee and rewards never expire as long as your account is open
 

Interest Rates & Fees

Introductory APR for Purchases0% introductory APR for 12 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Introductory APR for Balance Transfers0% introductory APR for 12 months0% introductory APR for 15 months
Purchase APR10.99% to 22.99% Variable* based on your creditworthiness and other factors13.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Balance Transfers APR10.99% to 22.99% Variable* based on your creditworthiness and other factors13.99% to 22.99% Variable based on your creditworthiness and other factors
Annual Fee$0 annual fee$0 annual fee
 

Benefits and Features

Introductory Bonus Cash BackIntroductory Bonus Cash Back: Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically-only for new cardmembers*Introductory Bonus Cash Back: Earn a $100 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
Cash Back RewardsCash Back Rewards: 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more-up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.Cash Back Rewards: Unlimited 1% Cash Back on every purchase
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)*
Bonus Categories for 2015:
January - March: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations and Ground Transportation
April - June: 5% on up to $1,500 in Restaurant and Movie purchases
July - September: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases in Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com
October - December: Holiday Shopping (Program Details TBA August 2015)
Limitations apply*. See Issuer's Website for additional program details.
Bonus Cash Back: 5% Total Cash Back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter It's free and easy to activate your bonus each quarter.
Bonus Categories for 2015:
Q1 (January 1 – March 31, 2015): Grocery stores (not including Walmart® and Target® purchases), movie theaters and Starbucks® stores
Q2 (April 1 – June 30, 2015): Restaurants, Bed Bath & Beyond®, H&M®, and Overstock.com®
Q3 (July 1 – September 30, 2015): Gas stations and Kohl's®
Q4 (October 1 – December 31, 2015): Amazon.com and more
Smart Chip

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.

If you don't want to deal with categories that change every quarter, you may want to consider the Discover it Chrome. Another reason to consider the Chrome is if most of your monthly expenses goes 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: 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more-up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 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)*
Bonus Categories for 2015:
January - March: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases at Gas Stations and Ground Transportation
April - June: 5% on up to $1,500 in Restaurant and Movie purchases
July - September: 5% on up to $1,500 in purchases in Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com
October - December: Holiday Shopping (Program Details TBA August 2015)
Limitations apply*. See Issuer's Website for additional program details.
 
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*.

Other Discover It Perks

  • 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.
  • 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 types of travel insurance are available to Discover cardholders including flight accident insurance and auto rental insurance.
  • US 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 computerized 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.

Pros

  • Earns 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories throughout the year.
  • Earns full 1% cash back rewards on all other purchases.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months (then a variable APR, currently 10.99%-22.99%)
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Cons

  • Some merchants don't accept Discover
  • 5% bonus rate only applies to $1,500 of purchases per period.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking to save money and avoid fees, the Discover It Card is hard to beat. It combines a fantastic cash back program with a simple and lenient fee structure which make this card overall a great deal. Since some merchants don't accept Discover, we suggest you also have another card in your wallet.

Next Step: View the issuer's official application, terms, and details

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Follow @CreditDonkey or write to David R at davidr@creditdonkey.com
David R is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. 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. This site may be compensated through the Advertiser's affiliate programs.

Disclaimer: This content was first published on January 11, 2013. This content may have been updated on July 1, 2015. 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.

More Articles in Reviews

Discover it - Double Cash Back your first year
Apply for Discover it - Double Cash Back your first year
At Discover's Secure Site
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically-only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more-up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% - 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze It(SM) on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking "Apply."
  • Go to issuer's official application, terms, and details
Introductory Bonus Cash BackCash Back RewardsBonus Cash BackNo Limits on RewardsExtended WarrantyPurchase ProtectionReturn Protection$0 Fraud Liability
Intro APR for PurchasesIntro APR for Balance TransferRegular APRAnnual Fee
0% for 12 months
0% for 12 months
10.99% - 22.99% Variable*
$0

Compare Discover It to:

Chase Freedom

Chase Freedom®

Blue Cash Everyday Card from American Express

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Discover it Chrome - Double Cash Back your first year

Discover it® Chrome - Double Cash Back your first year


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Discover it Chrome

Do you eat out and drive a lot? If you want cash back rewards without having to think too much, the Discover It Chrome could be the right fit for you.
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About CreditDonkey®
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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.