Discover it

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Hard to top the first-year cash-back match offer.

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You won’t earn one of those huge sign-up bonuses other cards offer, but if you’re looking for a no-frills cash-back card, the Discover it credit card does come with one intriguing feature: Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.

For example: You earn $200 through your spending, get another $200 after your first anniversary. It’s that simple.

Discover pays 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter, like restaurants and gas stations. You’ll earn 1% percent cash back on all other purchases.

Review

For those who regularly buy big in a specific category, a card dedicated to earning specialized rewards might be best paired with the Discover it to maximize your benefits.

The rewards match is a nice perk, but you have to wait until the end of the year to receive it, and it’s only for the first year. There aren’t many additional perks or bonuses that come with this card — like travel protections, discounts at retailers or other incentives offered by some card merchants. Still, if you’re looking for a simple cash-back card that also lets you increase your earnings with rotating categories, this may the card for you.

Watch out for the quarterly maximum on the 5% cash-back reward categories, though. You’ll only earn that top rate on the first $1,500 in purchase you make.

Say, for example, the quarterly rotating category includes home improvement stores and wholesale clubs. Pay $1,500 for a riding lawnmower and you get $75 cash back. But all other purchases you make that quarter at the hardware store or your big-box club will earn the standard 1%.

Who should get this card

The Discover it card is ideal for anyone who wants an uncomplicated cash-back program, is looking to avoid annual cardholder fees or who wants to skip paying interest on first-year purchases and balance transfers.

But you’ll have to keep track of which categories offer that 5% bonus — and how much you spend in those categories.

Advantages
  • Cardholders receive 5% back on rotating categories like gas stations, wholesale clubs and supermarkets.
  • The Discover it card automatically gives 1% back on all other purchases not included in the rotating categories.
  • Cardholders automatically receive a match of all the cash back they've earned at the end of their first year.
  • First late payment fee is waived, after that it’s up to $37.
Disadvantages
  • Discover is not accepted as widely as other cards like Visa and Mastercard.
  • Those looking to receive higher cash-back incentives at the places they spend the most may want to consider a card with a targeted reward program.
  • The rotating categories offering 5% back change every three months, which may be confusing for those who aren’t monitoring it.
  • Other cash-back cards may ultimately result in more money back depending on how you spend.

Fees and APR

  • There is no annual fee on this credit card.
  • You’ll pay no foreign transaction fee if you use this card overseas.
  • The balance transfer fee is 3% of the amount transferred.
  • Enjoy a 0% APR introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. Following the intro period, the standard APR is a variable 11.99% to 23.99% based on your creditworthiness.

Extras, perks and using rewards

This card comes with a generous introductory offer, which is good for anyone looking to pay off another high-interest credit card or finance a big purchase cheaply over time. The 14-month intro offer is not the best balance transfer on the market, but combined with the other benefits of this card, it makes the Discover it all the more attractive.

You can redeem your rewards at any time in any amount as a credit on your statement, an electronic bank deposit, for gift cards through Discover partners (in $20 increments) or use to shop on Amazon.com.

How this card compares

Card Details
  • 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 like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • 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 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 15 months

If you’re up for the challenge of tracking bonus rewards categories, Chase Freedom can give you some real cash-back bang for your buck. For travel junkies and road warriors, this card is ideal when paired with an eligible Chase card to reap maximum travel rewards on your spending.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Card Details
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 15 months

There are other cards that offer better rewards, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash-back on everything is an excellent reward coming from a no-annual-fee credit card.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.