Cash back battle: Discover it Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom Flex

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The Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex℠ are two of the most popular cash back cards on the market, both offering a rotating categories rewards structure and no annual fee.

With either card, get 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 a quarter on rotating categories purchases (then 1 %, activation required) and an unlimited 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. You have to enroll in the 5 percent bonus categories each quarter, and tracking categories can require more work than many people are willing to put into earning rewards. However, those who are willing to put in the extra effort can earn up to $300 a year just by maximizing the 5 percent rotating categories.

Here’s the breakdown:

Discover it Cash Back Chase Freedom Flex
Annual fee $0 $0
Welcome bonus Discover will match how much cash back you earn at the end of your first year $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months
Rewards structure 5% cash back on rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter); 1% on all other purchases – activation required. 5% cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500, then 1 percent); 5% back on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases; 5% on Lyft rides (through March 2022); Earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target® or Walmart® purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 3% on dining; 3% on drugstore purchases; 1% on all other purchases
Intro APR offer intro 0% APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers Intro 0% APR for 15 months on purchases
Regular variable APR 11.99% – 22.99% 14.99% – 24.74%
Balance transfer fee 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)* N/A

Which card is right for you?

Both the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back offer a lot of value, and you really can’t go wrong with either option. However, each card lends itself to certain situations and spending habits.

Let’s say you’ve jumped on the Marie Kondo train and have decided that your old living room furniture from college no longer brings you joy. You’re planning on buying a new set, but you know it will cost a couple grand total. The Freedom Flex offers a slightly longer introductory purchase APR period, but the Discover it Cash Back offers the possibility of a lower regular variable APR — if you have an excellent credit score, you could qualify for as low as a 11.99 percent variable APR (ranges up to 22.99 percent variable). With the Freedom Flex, you have an extra month to pay off any purchases, but the Discover it Cash Back will probably provide the best long-term APR.

On the other hand, the Freedom Flex can be more easily paired with other cards 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 your other card before redeeming. That way, you can utilize the redemption boost that Chase offers when Preferred and Reserve cardholders use the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal or transfer points over to one of their travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.

Freedom Flex welcome bonus vs. Discover’s Cashback Match

The Freedom Flex offers a strong $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months.

The Discover it Cash Back, on the other hand, will match the amount of cash back you earn at the end of your first year as part of the issuer’s Cashback Match program. Both welcome bonuses add a lot of value to their respective cards, but you might just get more value out of the Freedom Flex thanks to the added rewards category and a high spending cap.

Freedom Flex: Better for existing Chase cardholders

The Freedom Flex is most likely a better option for those who already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card as Chase allows users to transfer points between credit card accounts owned by the same user.

If you spend $1,600 each month solely within the 5 percent rotating category, for example, here is what your Freedom Flex earnings could be worth:

When paired with the CSP When paired with the CSR
First-year value* $727.50 $873
Typical yearly value* $540 $648

*When you redeem for travel through the Chase travel portal.

If you already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve, adding the no annual fee Freedom Flex to your wallet could give your yearly earnings a major boost.

Discover it Cash Back: Better as a balance transfer card

When specifically comparing the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back, it’s not hard to see the Freedom Flex offers way more in terms of rewards and bonuses. Yet the one thing it does lack is an introductory APR period on balance transfers — that’s where the Discover it Cash Back comes in handy.

If you have credit card debt to pay off and are interested in using a balance transfer credit card to do so, the Discover it Cash Back is a solid choice; receive a zero percent intro APR for 14 months on balance transfers (and purchases) with a variable APR of 11.99 percent to 22.99 percent. Additionally, the card’s rewards structure and unique welcome bonus make it worthwhile to keep in your wallet long after debt payoff.

The bottom line

You really can’t go wrong with either card option, but the right choice for you depends on what your needs are.

Both the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back offer a rotating rewards structure with activation, welcome bonus and low-interest APR offer on purchases, with the Freedom Flex offering much more in terms of rewards categories.

Existing Chase Sapphire Preferred and Reserve cardmembers will find more long-term value by adding the Freedom Flex to their wallet, but those looking to pay off credit card debt should stick to the Discover it Cash Back.

For more comparisons, check out our compare credit cards page.