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, you’ll get 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent) 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 the changing categories can take 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.
|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||16.74% to 27.74% variable APR||19.74% to 28.49% variable|
Discover it Cash Back vs. Chase Freedom Flex highlights
Welcome bonus winner: Discover it Cash Back
The Chase Freedom Flex offers a strong $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months. Among other top cash back cards, $200 is fairly standard.
The Discover it Cash Back, on the other hand, 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 are able to maximize the rotating categories each quarter will earn up to $300 in their first year. Discover will match you dollar for dollar, so you’ll receive an extra $300. You could potentially get matched even more if you continue to spend on your card, even after hitting the $1,500 spending cap, and earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
Rewards rate winner: Chase Freedom Flex
On the rotating categories front, the Discover it Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex are identical, with the same 5 percent cash back rate, quarterly spend cap at $1,500 and activation requirement. In the past, Discover released the categories featured in the Discover cash back calendar all at once at the beginning of the calendar year, allowing its cardholders to plan their purchases ahead of time. However, Discover has changed its release schedule to match Chase’s cash back calendar, and now discloses its bonus categories one quarter at a time.
With that slight advantage of Discover’s eliminated, coupled with the Freedom Flex’s other fixed bonus categories, the Chase card comes out on top. Particularly attractive are the Chase Freedom Flex’s 5 percent on travel booked via Chase Ultimate Rewards, which allows the Flex to function also a travel card, and 3 percent on dining.
Balance transfer offer winner: Discover it Cash Back
If you have credit card debt to pay off and are also interested in a balance transfer card, both cards are solid choices since they provide similar introductory 0 percent APR offers.
The 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 will rise to 5 percent. The Discover it Cash Back’s intro transfer fee is very similar — 3 percent for a time (see terms), then 5 percent.
The main advantage of the Discover it Cash Back is its regular APR of 16.74 percent to 27.74 percent (compared to the Freedom Flex’s 19.74 percent to 28.49 percent variable APR). Considering how high the average national credit card APR is right now, that lower bound is quite 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.
Foreign transaction winner: Discover it Cash Back
The Discover it Cash Back easily wins this round because it has no foreign transaction fees, whereas the Chase Freedom Flex charges a 3 percent fee for every purchase you make in a foreign country.
Which card earns the most?
Since the Freedom Flex and Discover it Cash Back share nearly identical rewards structure for their bonus categories, the real difference will come down to whether or not you’ll likely spend a lot in the Freedom Flex’s fixed bonus categories: Chase travel, dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstores.
For the most part, the Discover and Chase 5 percent cash back calendars include fairly universal categories such as grocery stores, gas stations, wholesale clubs, Amazon.com and Target.com. With a little bit of fiddling, you should be able to maximize the rotating categories each quarter.
Let’s pretend you only spent $1,500 per quarter ($500 a month) on your rotating categories. For both the Discover and Chase card, you’d earn $300 at the end of your first year. However, after adding in your welcome bonus on these cards, you’d end up with $600 in cash back with the Discover it Cash Back and $500 in cash back with the Chase Freedom Flex.
What if you’re planning a vacation soon? Earning rewards on travel purchases is 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 on travel ($350 for round-trip airfare, $360 for a single-occupancy room for three nights and $240 for a rental car).
At 1 percent cash back for all other purchases, the Discover it Cash Back would give you $309.50. Earning 5 percent cash back on Ultimate Rewards travel (assuming you booked your entire trip on the Chase portal), the Chase Freedom Flex would give you $347.50.
Why should you get the Discover it Cash Back?
At its heart, the Discover it Cash Back is a simpler card than the Freedom Flex, mostly because it earns a low 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 card is worth it.
Discover it Cash Back benefits include a Freeze it feature, in case you lose your card or it gets stolen, to stop any incoming purchases, cash advances or balance transfers if a fraudulent individual gets ahold of your card. The issuer also offers Social Security number alerts if it’s found on any dark websites, which you can activate for free.
If anything goes wrong, you’ll have access to Discover’s top ranking (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?
On the other hand, the Chase Freedom Flex is an equally great choice, though its year-round bonus categories give it an undeniable upper hand. The card can also be 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 travel 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 the Chase’s travel partners at a 1:1 ratio.
The Chase Freedom Flex benefits include with 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 and more. 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.
Recommended credit score
Like with the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll need a good to excellent FICO credit score to qualify for the Chase Freedom Flex, meaning your score must 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 the Chase 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.