This article was originally published in mid-2021 and reflects the card’s details and writer’s experiences at that time. See our current guide to Discover it® Cash Back for updated rewards rates and card details.

Key takeaways

  • Using a 0% intro APR credit card can be a smart way to fund a large purchase or vacation, as long as you're able to pay it off before the promotional period ends.
  • The Discover it® Cash Back card offers a 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (then 18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR), as well as a unique cash back rewards structure that includes rotating categories and a Cashback Match program.
  • Beyond its intro APR, the Discover it Cash Back card excels at offering solid rewards on everyday purchases.

In 2016, I was desperately in need of a vacation. My freelance career was growing, but I didn’t have the kind of cash flow that would allow me to book the trip I wanted to take.

So I decided to fund my vacation — a week-long music, comedy and tabletop gaming cruise — by applying for the Discover it® Cash Back card. Discover approved my application within minutes and as soon as my new credit card arrived in the mail, I used it to book my cruise.

Why did I put a $2,535 cruise ticket on a credit card? Because Discover it Cash Back was a good option thanks to a nice intro APR offer. Today, it comes with 15 months of a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers (18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR thereafter). If you’re in a situation where you want to make a big purchase but don’t quite have enough cash to cover it (or would rather cushion the blow by splitting up payments), a 0 percent intro APR card can allow you to make your purchase and pay off your balance before it starts to accrue interest.

Using an intro APR card to fund a large purchase

Booking a cruise on the Discover it Cash Back turned out to be a good choice for me. But it’s important to remember that using a card to fund a large purchase can be a risky move. If you don’t pay off your big purchase in full before the intro APR period ends, you’ll start accruing interest on your unpaid balance, making your purchase more expensive in the long run.

In my case, I was able to take myself on that much-needed vacation knowing I could make payments each month to pay it off in full before the zero-interest promotional rate expired. But if you miss a credit card payment, your issuer could pull your promotional interest rate and start charging you regular interest right away. Be sure to make at least the minimum credit card payment on time, every time.

Making the most of a card after the intro APR period

How does the Discover it Cash Back card fit into my life now that my vacation — and my zero-interest promotional rate — is over?

I usually use the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card for the majority of my day-to-day spending since I like the simplicity of a card that gives me 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase.

But that doesn’t mean the Discover it card never makes it out of my wallet. I use my Discover card for purchases that I make with my partner, and the credit card bill gets paid out of a joint bank account. It’s a good way of designating “yours, mine and ours” spending — and for us, it’s an excellent way of earning cash back on bonus categories like restaurants and others since that’s where a lot of the “ours” spending is going these days.

Taking advantage of the Discover it Cash Back’s unique rewards structure

There’s more to the Discover it Cash Back card than its intro APR on purchases and balance transfers — a lot more.

The Discover it Cash Back card has a great cash back rewards structure. Cardholders who activate earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent on purchases in quarterly rotating categories, then 1 percent. This works out to $300 in cash back each year if you maximize your rotating cash back categories each quarter.

Discover’s cash back categories include places like grocery stores and gas stations as well as specific retailers. My partner and I particularly enjoy leaning into restaurant spending when that comes around as the quarter’s bonus category.

If you want to know which categories will earn higher cash back, you can view Discover’s historical and current cash back calendar to plan your shopping. Further, Discover’s Cashback Match program will match all the cash back rewards you earn at the end of your first year. So if you max out your categories each quarter and earn $300 in cash back, Discover will match it with another $300.

Other 0% intro APR cards to consider

If you’re thinking about using a 0 percent intro APR credit card to book a cruise or make a large purchase, you might also want to consider the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card. The Citi Diamond Preferred Card is currently offering a 0 percent intro APR for 12 months on purchases and 21 months on balance transfers (18.24 percent to 28.99 percent variable APR thereafter) — making it one of the best 0 percent interest cards on the market for balance transfers. Balance transfers must be completed within four months of account opening.

Unfortunately, the Citi Diamond Preferred Card doesn’t offer any rewards on purchases, which means that if you want to use a zero-interest credit card offer to fund a vacation while also earning rewards, you’re going to have to look into some other options.

The Chase Freedom Unlimited®, for example, offers a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (20.49 percent to 29.24 percent variable thereafter) — as well as 5 percent cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 5 percent back on Lyft purchases (through March 2025), 3 percent back on dining and drugstore purchases and 1.5 percent back on all other purchases.

Of course, you could always go with my choice of the Discover it Cash Back. Years ago, it allowed me to book and pay off a vacation without paying interest. Now, it’s helping me earn heightened rewards on everyday purchases. If you’re interested in a rotating category card with an intro APR offer, the Discover it Cash Back is hard to beat.