Discover it Cash Back Review

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  • Good/
  • Excellent
Poor 500-599
Fair 600-699
Good 700-749
Excellent 750-850
Our Bottom Line:

With the Discover it® – Cash Back you’ll get a generous 5% cash back on select categories each quarter you activate ($1,500 max spend), 1% cash back on all other purchases and no annual fee. Discover will also match the cash back you’ve earned in year 1 and provide you an intro APR on purchases and balance transfers.

Intro APR Purchases N/A
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Intro APR Balance Transfers N/A
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Annual Fee N/A
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Update – This offer is now EXPIRED.

The Discover it® Cash Back offers one of the most generous cash back rewards programs in the credit card industry. You’ll get 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories each time you activate with a max spend of $1,500 per quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases.

And even though the card doesn’t offer a sign-up bonus, it matches your cash back earned in the first year. For example, you can turn $500 in cash back into $1,000 in the first year.

The card also offers an introductory APR of 0% APR for 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases, and none of the annoying fees that come with most other credit cards. 

Key facts

  • Best for those with good or excellent credit: If your credit isn’t in these ranges, there are other credit card offers you should investigate.
  • Introductory offer: Discover it® Cash Back has a unique introductory offer. Rather than paying a flat amount for a certain amount of purchases within the first three months of opening the account, they instead provide a cash back match on all the cash back you earn in the first year of having the card.
  • 5% cash back on rotating categories: Categories change each quarter, but they include the kind of spending your likely to do on a regular basis. Like groceries, gas stations, ridesharing, and restaurants.  $1,500 max spend per quarter; activation required.
  • Unlimited cash back. Applies to 1% cash back on purchases other than quarterly rotating categories. In addition, cash back rewards never expire.
  • Introductory APR: 0% APR for 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases.
  • Variable APR: 11.99% - 22.99% Variable

Discover it® Cash Back in-depth analysis

Industry-leading cash back rewards

Discover it® Cash Back has one of the highest quarterly cash back offers at 5%. What’s more, though the categories change each quarter, they’re offered for products and services you’re likely to use every day, rather than unusual ones you’ll need to change your spending patterns to get the full benefit from.

In 2020, the 5% Cash back bonus quarterly categories for up to $1,500 for purchases are:

  • January to March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS (excludes Walmart and Target) 
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and Wholesale Clubs 
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal 
  • October to December: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com

*You must activate each quarter to take advantage of the 5% cash back categories.

Other cash back tiers

Apart from the quarterly categories, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Caps on cash back

Quarterly 5% cash back spending categories are limited to purchases not to exceed $1,500. That puts a cap of $75 per quarter on this part of the cash back offer.

However, there is no limit on how much cash back you can earn with 1% cash back paid on all other purchases. 

Cash back redemption options 

One of the major advantages of the Discover it® Cash Back is the number of redemption options to redeem your cash back rewards. There are at least five: 

  • Select gift cards with $5 free added to each card, starting at $20.
  • Pay with rewards at Amazon.com check out.
  • Make a charitable contribution to your favorite charity.
  • Apply cash rewards toward your Discover it® balance.
  • Deposit any amount into your bank account.

The number of options to redeem your cash back rewards makes this a true cash back card. Discover it® doesn’t limit your redemption options to a narrow number of choices you may have little interest in. 

Cash back rewards don’t expire 

Your cash back rewards don’t expire. Discover it® will even credit your account with your cash back bonus balance if your account is closed or you have not used it within 18 months.

This is very different from most rewards cards, where you’ll forfeit rewards if you close your account or if the account remains inactive for an extended period of time.

Sign-up bonus

Discover it® Cash Back does not have a flat dollar sign-up bonus paid after you spend a certain amount of money within the first few months of opening the card. Instead, they offer a cash back match on all cash rewards accumulated in the first year you have the account.

If you accumulate $1,000 in cash back rewards over the course of the first year, Discover it® will fully match that amount, by adding another $1,000. 

It may be a little bit more difficult to get the full benefit of that sign-up bonus compared to most other credit card sign-up bonus programs – or at least more complicated to track. But if you’re a frequent card user, the ultimate amount of the sign-up bonus can be much higher than the typical $200 to $500 offered by competing cards. 

Interest rates and fees 

After the 0% introductory APR, the standard rate on purchases is 11.99% - 22.99% Variable. The cash advance APR is 26.49% Variable.

There is a 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

There is a cash advance fee of the greater of $10 or 5% of the amount transferred.

Late fee (waived on the first late payment) and returned payment fee, $39.

Annual fee

There is no annual fee on the Discover it® Cash Back.

Travel perks

No specific travel perks or rewards are offered with the Discover it® Cash Back, since it’s not designed as a travel-related credit card.

Other benefits

  • Free FICO Score: Get your free TransUnion FICO score, as well as other important credit information. You’ll be able to see up to one year of recent scores online.
  • Freeze it: You can freeze your account in a matter of seconds to prevent unauthorized purchases. It can be done from both the website and the mobile app.
  • Discover Identity Alerts: Lets you know if your Social Security number is found on the dark web, or if any new credit or other accounts show up on your credit report.
  • $0 Fraud Liability: You won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges on your credit card.

 

Pros & cons

Pros

  • Cash back match — Discover offers a cash back match on all cash back earned in the first year of opening your account.
  • Intro APR — See Terms for the introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers.
  • Reward redemptions — Almost unlimited cash rewards redemption options.
  • No fees — No annual fee and no foreign transaction fees or over-limit fees.
  • Waived late fee — The first late fee is waived, and your rate will not be increased for late payments.

Cons

  • Limited cash back bonus — The 5% cash back bonus applies to only $1,500 in category purchases per quarter, limiting the benefit to $75 per quarter, or $300 per year. (Activation required)
  • No travel benefits — No specific rewards or benefits related to travel, though the Discover it Cash Back is not designed to be a travel credit card.

Discover it® Cash Back vs. Discover it® Travel Credit Card

Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Miles are two popular credit cards from the Discover it® family. They have certain similarities, but each serves a very different consumer purpose.

Here’s quick table that shows the main differences:

Card feature Discover it® Cash Back Credit CardDiscover it® Miles
Cash back5% on revolving quarterly categories, 1% on all other purchases ($1,500 max spend per quarter, activation required)1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases, including airfare, hotels, groceries and online shopping
Intro offerAll cash back earned in the first year receives a 100% matchAll miles earned in the first year receive a 100% match
APR11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR
Annual fee$0$0

Rates, fees and perks are virtually identical between the two cards. The primary difference is in the rewards. The Discover it® Cash Back pays cash rewards, including 5% on revolving quarterly categories, worth up to $300 per year.

The Discover it® Miles has no enhanced categories, but pays 1.5 miles for every dollar spent on all purchases. 

If you spend $24,000 per year on either card, you’ll earn $420 on the Discover it® Cash Back, or $360 on the Discover it® Miles, giving the cash back card a slight advantage.

Should you get the Discover it® Cash Back? 

Unlike so many other cash back rewards cards, the Discover it® Cash Back offers almost unlimited redemption options. This includes a statement credit on your Discover it® Cash Back, gift cards, contributions to charities, purchases through Amazon.com, and even deposits into your bank account. When consumers sign up for a cash back credit card, they expect cash, and that’s what they get with this card. 

The absence of a formal sign up bonus isn’t a problem with this card. As described in this review, it’s possible to get a larger first-year bonus with the Discover it® Cash Back than it is with most competing cards, because the match applies to all rewards earned in the first year, and because you also have a large measure of control over exactly how much that it’s.

The card also comes with an intro offer of 0% APR for 14 months on both balance transfers and purchases. That’s no small benefit when included with one of the most generous cash back rewards programs in the industry.

If the Discover it® Cash Back has any weaknesses at all, it’s the limit of $1,500 per quarter on 5% quarterly spending categories. That limits your enhanced cash back rewards to no more than $75 per quarter or $300 per year. But with all the other benefits this card offers, that limitation is easy to take.

Summary

The Discover it® Cash Back is one of the most popular cash back credit cards, which speaks volumes about the value of this card.

It’s not just the generous cash back rewards either, like 5% on rotating orderly categories, or the cash back match on all cash back earned within the first year. It’s also the fact that it’s a true cash back card.

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About the author

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Since 2009, Kevin Mercadante has been sharing his journey from a washed-up mortgage loan officer emerging from the Financial Meltdown as a contract/self-employed “slash worker” – accountant/blogger/freelance web content writer – on Out of Your Rut.com. He offers career strategies, from dealing with under-employment to transitioning into self-employment, and provides “Alt-retirement strategies” for the vast majority who won’t retire to the beach as millionaires. He also frequently discusses the big-picture trends that are putting the squeeze on the bottom 90%, offering work-arounds and expense cutting tips to help readers carve out more money to save in their budgets – a.k.a., breaking the “savings barrier” and transitioning from debtor to saver. He’s a regular contributor/staff writer for as many as a dozen financial blogs and websites, including Money Under 30, Investor Junkie and The Dough Roller.