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- Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex℠ both offer 5 percent cash back when you activate on up to $1,500 spent in categories that rotate quarterly, then 1 percent.
- The Discover it Cash Back welcome bonus opportunity could give it an edge for the first year, but Freedom Flex's additional reward categories will likely earn you more rewards long term.
- Neither card charges an annual fee, but only Discover it Cash Back is a no-foreign-transaction-fee free card.
With either card, you’ll earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in bonus category purchases each quarter you activate (then 1 percent). Freedom Flex goes on to offer some additional rewards tiers as well.
You must enroll in the 5 percent bonus categories each quarter and tracking the changing categories can take more work than many people are willing to put into earning rewards. Those who are willing to put in the extra effort, however, can earn up to $300 a year just by maximizing the 5 percent rotating categories.
|Discover it Cash Back||Chase Freedom Flex|
|Welcome bonus||Cashback Match™ — Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year||$200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months|
|Intro APR offer||0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers||0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers|
|Regular variable APR||17.24% to 28.24% variable APR||20.49% to 29.24% variable|
Discover it Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom Flex highlights
Welcome bonus winner: Discover it Cash Back
Discover it Cash Back will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year as part of the issuer’s Cashback Match™ program. Cardholders who max out the rotating categories each quarter will earn $300 on those purchases alone annually. At the end of your first year, Discover will match you dollar-for-dollar, so you’ll receive an extra $300, bringing your total earnings for the first year to $600. You could potentially earn even more if you spend on the card beyond the bonus category caps or on purchases outside the quarterly categories.
Chase Freedom Flex, on the other hand, offers a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months. It’s not a bad offer and is fairly standard among other no-annual-fee cash back cards, but it pales in comparison to what you could earn with the Discover card.
Rewards rate winner: Chase Freedom Flex
On the rotating categories front, Discover it Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex are identical, with the same 5 percent cash back rate, quarterly spend cap of $1,500 (then you earn 1 percent on those purchases) and activation requirement. In the past, Discover released all the categories to be featured in the Discover cash back calendar at the beginning of the calendar year, allowing its cardholders to plan their purchases ahead of time. However, Discover has changed its release schedule and now discloses its bonus categories one quarter at a time, the same way the Chase cash back calendar is announced.
With that slight advantage of Discover’s eliminated, coupled with Freedom Flex’s other fixed rewards tiers, the Chase card comes out on top. Particularly attractive are Chase Freedom Flex’s 5 percent on travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent on dining.
Furthermore, your Freedom Flex “cash back” accumulates as Chase Ultimate Rewards points rather than straight cash back. That makes this card a powerful addition to a travel rewards-earning strategy and commonly earns it a place in the Chase trifecta.
Balance transfer offer winner: Discover it Cash Back
Discover it Cash Back wins this category because of its regular APR of 17.24 percent to 28.24 percent, significantly lower than Freedom Flex’s ongoing variable APR of 20.49 percent to 29.24 percent. Considering how high the average national credit card APR is right now, the lower end of the Discover it Cash Back range is rare. It can also make a huge difference for cardholders who have an unpaid balance after the end of the intro APR period but are still intent on paying their debt off.
Freedom Flex offers an intro balance transfer fee of 3 percent (or $5, whichever is greater) for the first 60 days, after which the fee rises to 5 percent (or $5, whichever is greater). The Discover it Cash Back’s intro transfer fee is similar — 3 percent for a time (see terms), then 5 percent.
Foreign transaction winner: Discover it Cash Back
Discover it Cash Back easily wins this round because it charges no foreign transaction fees, whereas the Chase Freedom Flex charges a 3 percent fee for every purchase you make in a foreign currency. The internet puts the global marketplace at your fingertips these days, so remember to use a no-foreign-transaction fee card if you’re shopping online from home with a merchant that conducts business in a foreign currency.
Which card earns the most?
Freedom Flex has greater rewards earning potential thanks to its tiered categories beyond the rotating 5 percent options. Earn unlimited 5 percent on travel purchased through the Chase travel portal, 3 percent on dining at restaurants (including takeout and delivery), 3 percent at drugstores and 1 percent on other purchases.
The Discover it Cash Back and Freedom Flex 5 percent cash back calendars have historically included common spending categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, Amazon.com and Target.com. With some planning, you should be able to maximize your rewards in the rotating categories each quarter.
Let’s pretend you only spent $1,500 per quarter ($500 a month) in your rotating categories. For both the Discover and Chase cards, you’d earn $300 at the end of your first year. However, after adding in your welcome bonuses on these cards, you’d end up with $600 in cash back with Discover it Cash Back and $500 in cash back with Freedom Flex.
But what if you’re planning a vacation soon? Earning rewards on travel purchases would be a huge advantage — travel tends to be quite expensive and is a good opportunity to earn more rewards than you normally would on everyday purchases.
Perhaps you still spend $1,500 each quarter on your 5 percent categories, as well as $950 during the year on travel ($350 for airfare, $360 for three nights in hotels and $240 for a rental car).
At 1 percent cash back for all other purchases, the Discover it Cash Back would earn you just $9.50 for those travel purchases, bringing your yearly earning to $309.50 (minus the welcome bonus). On the other hand, assuming you booked everything through the Chase portal with your Freedom Flex card, you’d earn 5 percent back on those purchases or $47.50, for a total yearly earning of $347.50 (again, minus the welcome bonus).
It may be difficult to beat Discover it Cash Back’s first year earning when you figure in the welcome bonus, but on an ongoing basis Freedom Flex offers more potential rewards.
Why should you get the Discover it Cash Back?
At its heart, Discover it Cash Back is a simpler card than Freedom Flex, mostly because it earns a flat 1 percent on all other purchases and offers the standard redemption options for its cash back rewards. If you want a relatively straightforward credit card experience, keeping you on your toes just enough with its rotating categories, the Discover it Cash Back card is worth it.
Discover it Cash Back benefits include a Freeze it feature, in case you lose your card or it’s stolen, to stop any incoming purchases, cash advances or balance transfers. The issuer also offers Social Security number alerts if your number is found on any dark websites as well as access to your FICO credit score.
If anything goes wrong, you’ll have access to Discover’s top notch (according to J.D. Power) customer service, 24/7.
After you’ve amassed a good amount of cash back rewards, you can redeem them — for pretty standard redemption options. The possibilities include: direct deposit, statement credit, gift cards (starting from $5 to $200), Amazon.com or Paypal.com purchases and charitable donations.
Recommended credit score
Though Discover does not specify a minimum credit score, you’ll likely need at least a good credit score, which is 670 to 739 on the FICO scoring model. The higher your score the better — especially if you want to qualify for a regular APR closer to the lower bound.
Why should you get the Chase Freedom Flex?
Chase Freedom Flex is an equally great choice, though its year-round rewards tiers give it an undeniable upper hand. Perhaps most attractive, though, is that you can easily pair this no-annual-fee card with other cards that earn Ultimate Rewards to help you maximize value across the board. If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®, for example, you can transfer your Freedom Flex rewards over to those travel cards.
Doing so means you can utilize the redemption boost that Chase offers when Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cardholders use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal to book travel — a 25 percent boost for Preferred cardholders and a 50 percent boost if you have the Reserve card. It also opens the door to the best possible redemption value: Transferring points to one of Chase’s travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.
The Chase Freedom Flex benefits include trip cancellation and interruption insurance, a rarity among no-annual-fee credit cards, that covers your trip up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip if your trip is canceled or shortened due to illness, severe weather or another covered reason. Other protections include extended warranty protection, purchase protection and cellphone protection.
Though officially considered a cash back card, the Freedom Flex earns its rewards as Ultimate Rewards points (which is why it’s so convenient alongside another Ultimate Rewards card), allowing you to redeem your cash back for much more than just the standard redemption choices.
Other than statement credit or direct deposit, you can redeem your rewards for travel, Amazon.com and PayPal purchases, gift cards (over 175 brands), merchandise, Apple products and more.
Your best redemption value comes from moving Freedom Flex points under a premium Chase card and then transferring them to travel partners. According to Bankrate’s latest valuations, that makes each point worth about $.02 each.
Recommended credit score
You’ll need a good to excellent FICO credit score to qualify for the Chase Freedom Flex, meaning your score should be at least 670.
The bottom line
You really can’t go wrong with either cash back credit card option, but the right choice for you depends on your spending habits each month. Both Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back offer a rotating rewards structure (5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 spent in the quarterly rotating categories, then 1 percent; activation required), welcome bonus and low-interest APR offer on purchases. Freedom Flex also offers much more in terms of rewards categories.
Existing Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardmembers will find more long-term value by adding Freedom Flex to their wallets, but those anticipating carrying a balance from time to time should stick to Discover it Cash Back with its lower ongoing APR.
*The information about Chase Freedom Flex℠ has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.