Key takeaways

  • The Discover it® Cash Back is a great rewards card for those who like to maximize cash back rewards.
  • Discover’s Cashback Match welcome bonus essentially doubles the rewards you earn at the end of the first year.
  • The Discover it Cash Back can be a great choice for those looking for a good introductory APR offer, but it likely won't be a good fit for those who don’t like rotating bonus categories.

Finding the best cash back credit card can feel daunting. There are so many rewards credit cards out there to choose from, and with multiple issuers offering competitive rewards and benefits, it can be difficult to figure out the right card for you.

Discover offers several cash back credit cards, including the popular Discover it® Cash Back. If you want a card you can keep for the long haul, there are many reasons to consider it over others. Here are a few reasons to love this card:

Rotating rewards you can maximize

One major benefit of this card is the way it doles out rewards. Discover it Cash Back cardholders earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating categories each quarter (activation required), after which you earn 1 percent back. The issuer releases its featured bonus categories on its cash back calendar once a quarter, rather than all at once like it did in the past.

While you do have to activate the 5 percent categories each quarter in order to start earning rewards on them, it’s simple to do via your online account. If you’d like to maximize the card’s rotating categories, we recommend setting a calendar reminder to activate as soon as you’re able each quarter, which is generally about three weeks before the start of the next quarter). Once activated, make a plan to maximize your rewards by spending up the full $1,500 cap. Discover usually features categories consumers can easily use such as grocery stores, gas stations, streaming services and digital wallet purchases.

Cashback Match

Another reason to sign up for Discover it Cash Back is its Cashback Match program. This program essentially doubles all the rewards you earn at the end of your first year regardless of how much you spend and how much cash back you earn.

Let’s explore an example to see how many rewards the Cashback Match can potentially earn you. If you activate and reach the spending cap of $1,500 for each quarter’s bonus categories, you’ll earn $75 cash back every three months on those purchases alone. Let’s say you also spend an additional $1,000 on your card each month, which earns a total of $120 in 12 months. At the end of year one, you would have earned $420 in cash back rewards. Thanks to Cashback Match, Discover would automatically match the cash back, bringing your end-of-the-first-year total to $840 with no extra work on your part.

For more clarity, the math is broken down in the following table:

Discover it® Cash Back rewards rate Annual cash back rewards
5 percent on rotating bonus categories (activation required), on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent $500 (spend per month) x 0.05 (5 percent cash back) x 12 months = $300
1 percent on all other purchases $1,000 (spend per month) x 0.01 (1 percent cash back) x 12 months = $120

Introductory APR offer

Though the Discover it Cash Back is mostly known for its rewards program, the card also has a good introductory annual percentage rate (APR) offer. New cardholders can take advantage of a 0 percent introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 18.24 percent to 28.24 percent.

This makes Discover it Cash Back a great option if you want to pay down large purchases, like that new laundry machine or living room sofa, without interest over time. It’s also a great way to consolidate and pay down debt compiled from other high-interest cards.

Why you might consider another cash back credit card

Discover it Cash Back is excellent by many standards, particularly as a card with no annual fee, but there are a few areas where it may fall short of other cards. In fact, the Discover it Cash Back card is only worth it if you spend time and effort toward activating and maximizing its rotating bonus categories. If you don’t, you won’t fully maximize the benefits of the card.

Also note that the Discover it Cash Back does not have a traditional welcome bonus, which can be a bit of a drag. Compared to cards with more straightforward welcome bonuses, the Discover it Cash Back requires waiting to receive the bonus until after the end of your first year. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, you should look for a card with a simpler welcome offer achievable with a spending goal in a certain timeframe.

Lastly, If you have serious credit card debt that may take you longer than 15 months to pay off (check out our balance transfer calculator to know exactly how long you need), we recommend looking into other balance transfer credit cards instead. Some of those cards offer an intro APR for even longer to give you more time to resolve your debt.

For instance, the Citi Double Cash® Card can be a good alternative. Its 2 percent cash back rate (1 percent when you buy, plus another 1 percent when you pay off purchases) gives you much more flexibility than the Discover it Cash Back card. It also offers a 0 percent intro APR period for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers (after that, the variable APR will be 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent). It also has no annual fee, keeping the card’s cost low.

The bottom line

Discover it Cash Back could be your dream card if you’re looking for boosted cash back rates without paying an annual fee — and you don’t mind organizing your purchases around rotating bonus categories in order to get it.

Regardless, there are many excellent cash back credit cards on the market today, but that doesn’t mean there is one “best” card for everyone. Some cards suit different kinds of needs better than others, which is why you should shop around and compare credit cards before you make your decision.