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Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back

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Images By Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images
woman at grocery slef checkout
Images By Tang Ming Tung/Getty Images
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Choosing the best rewards card can seem like a difficult task, but if you know the type of spender you are, you can make it a bit easier on yourself. One such battle we often see is between flat-rate cash back cards and bonus category cash back cards.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card and Discover it® Cash Back to see how these different types of rewards cards stack up against one another. In essence, you’ll earn more with the Discover card’s 5 percent back rate — but only if you ensure your spending matches up with the rotating bonus categories. The Quicksilver, on the other hand, comes in second place due to its lower cash back rate — though there are still plenty of features that make the card worth having.

Main details

Capital One Quicksilver Discover it Cash Back
Welcome bonus $200 cash bonus after spending $500 on purchases within the first three months Automatic Cashback Match after your first year
Rewards rate
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases
  • 5% back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
  • 5% cash back after activation on rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1%)
  • 1% back on all other purchases
Intro APR offer 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (16.49% to 26.49% variable APR after) 0% intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months (14.24% to 25.24% variable APR after)
Annual fee $0 $0

Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back highlights

Welcome bonus winner: Discover it Cash Back (with a caveat)

As a welcome bonus, the Discover it Cash Back will match all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year through a program called Cashback Match. So if you end up earning $100 in cash back rewards, for example, Discover would award you an additional $100 in cash back, for a total of $200 in rewards. Since there’s no cap on the amount of rewards you can earn and get matched, the Discover card is the clear winner here.

However, if you want a straightforward, predictable welcome bonus — or if you don’t think you’ll earn at least $100 in cash back by the end of your first year — the Quicksilver is your card.

Rewards rate winner: Discover it Cash Back (also with a caveat)

The Discover it Cash Back has rotating bonus categories that change each quarter, meaning you can get 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating category purchases each quarter upon activation, then 1 percent (as well 1 percent cash back on all other purchases).

Discover cash back calendar bonus categories tend to cover things like groceries, gas stations, restaurants and online stores like Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart. (For July through September 2022, for example, you can earn heightened cash back at restaurants and on PayPal purchases.) The catch is that you have to spend on the right bonus categories at the right time to get the higher rate of cash back.

If you’d prefer no-fuss cash back, the Quicksilver would be ideal. Although you’ll only earn 1.5 percent back on all purchases, your earnings are unlimited and there are no categories to activate or keep track of. Further, if you can easily spend a good chunk of money on hotels and rental cars in the Capital One Travel portal, you might end up earning more with the Quicksilver.

Which card earns the most?

In terms of which cash back card earns the most, it really comes down to whether you’re diligent about maximizing bonus category spending with the Discover it Cash Back. Here’s how your cash back comes out if you spend about $7,300 per year on each card and in one or more of the bonus categories.

Capital One Quicksilver vs. Discover it Cash Back spending example

Spending category Spending Capital One Quicksilver Discover it Cash Back
Groceries, fitness clubs and gym memberships $1,500 $22.50 $75
Gas stations and Target $1,500 $22.50 $75
Restaurants and PayPal $1,500 $22.50 $75
Amazon.com and digital wallets $1,500 $22.50 $75
Miscellaneous $300 $4.50 $3
Hotels and rental cars (via Capital One Travel) $1,000 $50 $10
Total $7,300 $144.5 $313

From this example, you can see that the Discover it Cash Back far surpasses the Quicksilver in terms of rewards earnings thanks to its bonus category rate — and that’s not even including any rewards you’d earn from non-category spending. In this example, you’d also get an additional $313 from Discover’s Cashback Match program, making your total cash back earnings equal to $626 for the first year.

If you meet the welcome bonus spending requirements for the Quicksilver, your total cash back for the first year would be just under $345.

Why should you get the Capital One Quicksilver?

Additional benefits

Although this card doesn’t offer as high of a cash back rate as the Discover card (other than its 5 percent rate on select travel through the Capital One portal), it’s still a respectable option for people who don’t want to go through the trouble of tracking their spending.

With no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, plus a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (16.49 percent to 26.49 percent variable APR after), there are plenty of reasons to get the Quicksilver.

Basically, the Quicksilver could bring a lot of value to the right cardholder. If you’d like to learn more about the Capital One Quicksilver and its benefits, read through our Capital One Quicksilver Card benefits guide.

Redemption options

You can redeem your cash back rewards in several ways, including:

  • Check
  • Statement credit
  • Gift cards
  • Past credit card purchases
  • Online purchases at checkout on Amazon.com and PayPal

You can also receive your cash back automatically at a set time each year or at a certain cash value.

Recommended credit score

You’ll need good to excellent credit (or a score between 670 and 850) to qualify for this card.

Why should you get the Discover it Cash Back?

Additional benefits

Like the Quicksilver card, the Discover it Cash Back is light on fees. There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fees — but even better, there’s no penalty APR or late fee the first time you make a late payment (after which you’ll owe up to $41).

Of course, there’s a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (14.24 percent to 25.24 percent variable APR after). But you also get $0 fraud liability, access to the Identity Alerts program and Discover’s Freeze it feature.

It also doesn’t hurt that Discover is known for its customer service, with high ratings in the renowned J.D. Power credit card satisfaction survey from year to year. For more information on this card’s benefits, consider reading through our Discover it Cash Back card benefits guide.

Redemption options

Here’s how you can redeem cash back earned with this Discover card:

  • Cash (as a direct deposit into your account of choice)
  • Statement credit
  • Gift card
  • Amazon.com or PayPal.com purchase
  • Charitable donation

Recommended credit score

Similar to the Quicksilver, you need good to excellent credit to qualify for this card.

The bottom line

Both of these cash back credit cards offer plenty of perks and benefits aside from their rewards. The best option for you will really depend on your spending habits and how much effort you’re willing to put forth into optimizing your cash back.

For the set-it-and-forget crowd, the Capital One Quicksilver will yield a respectable amount of cash back with its flat-rate structure. Though, those who are dead set on tracking bonus categories stand to earn more rewards with the Discover it Cash Back, both in the first year of card ownership and beyond.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
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