Discover it® Cash Back vs. Discover it® Balance Transfer

5 min read

Choosing between the Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover it® Balance Transfer credit cards can be tough. Both cards feature the exact same rewards rates and sign up bonus, so the main difference lies in their introductory APR periods.

If you plan to transfer a balance to your new card, the Discover it Balance Transfer offers an 18-month zero percent APR on balance transfers (13.49 percent ⁠—24.49 percent variable APR thereafter) compared to the Discover it Cash Back’s 14-month introductory APR offer (13.49 percent ⁠—24.49 percent variable APR after that).

Card comparison overview

 Features Discover it Cash Back Discover it Balance Transfer
Welcome bonus Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year with no limit and no sign up necessary. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year with no limit and no sign up necessary.
Rewards rate Earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in different categories each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, then 1 percent) and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases Earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in different categories each quarter (up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, then 1 percent) and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
Introductory APR Zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 14 months, then 13.49 percent to 24.49 percent standard variable APR Zero percent intro APR for six months on purchases and 18 months on balance transfers (13.49 percent to 24.49 percent variable APR after that)
Annual fee $0 $0

Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it Balance Transfer highlights

With the exact same rewards structures and Discover’s fantastic Cashback Match™ welcome offer, the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Balance Transfer credit cards may be neck and neck for a place in your wallet. Here’s a breakdown of the two cards:

Sign-up bonus winner: Tie

Both the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Balance Transfer benefit from Discover’s Cashback Match™ offer. This means Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year with no limit. You don’t even have to worry about activating or requesting the match at the end of the year — Discover will add it to your account automatically.

Rewards rate winner: Tie

Just like the welcome bonus, the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Balance Transfer both feature the same ongoing rewards rate. Each quarter, you’ll be able to activate rotating bonus categories that earn you 5 percent cash back up to the quarterly maximum, then 1 percent. These categories include things like groceries, restaurants, gas stations, travel and online retailers. If you forget to activate or make purchases outside the rotating categories, you’ll earn 1 percent back on every purchase with no limit.

Annual fee winner: Tie

You’ll have a hard time beating the $0 annual fee on both of these cards. Whichever card you choose, either is sure to be a staple in your wallet for years.

Balance transfer fee winner: Tie

Both credit cards come with a 3 percent intro balance transfer fee, and a fee up to 5 percent for all future balance transfers. For balance transfers in general, the Discover it Balance Transfer takes the cake for its longer introductory APR period for balance transfers.

Introductory APR period winner: It depends

If you have a balance on another card that you want to transfer, the Discover it Balance Transfer is your best option. Offering a zero percent introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfer (13.49 percent— 24.49 percent variable APR after that), the Balance Transfer card will give you the most time to pay off your balance without paying interest.

However, if you’re looking for a card that will give you plenty of time to pay off a large purchase without paying interest, the Discover it Cash Back should be your choice. You’ll have a 14-month zero percent introductory APR after you open your card (then 13.49 percent — 24.49 percent variable APR thereafter), a timeframe that blows away the six-months on purchases offered with the Discover it Balance Transfer card.

Which card earns the most?

The Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Balance Transfer both earn exceptional rewards for low-cost credit cards. You can’t lose with either card because they have the exact same rewards rates and welcome bonuses. Using either card exclusively for at least the first full year will guarantee that you earn a big cash back bonus after your first year of card ownership.

Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it Balance Transfer

Let’s say you use your credit card for $3,000 in purchases each month. If you completely forget to activate the bonus category each quarter, you’ll earn 1 percent cash back on every purchase automatically. This sends you home with $360 in cash back, annually.

However, you’ll boost your rewards if you set a calendar reminder to activate your bonus categories each quarter. Using the example above, you’ll earn $300 worth of cash back annually from your bonus category spending (up to the $1,500 quarterly cap) and another $300 from the rest of your spending (which earns 1 percent back). This brings you to a total of $600 in cash back earned each year. Plus, with Discover’s first-year Cashback Match™ welcome offer, you could get double that without lifting a finger.

Why you should get the Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back is great for people who want a low-cost rewards card with the ability to earn big rewards for their everyday spending. With no annual fee and a zero percent introductory APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 14 months (13.49 percent ⁠—24.49 percent variable APR thereafter), your cost to carry this card will be next to nothing, giving you ample time to rack up cash back rewards (as long as you’re willing to activate the bonus categories every quarter).

Additional benefits

You’ll have the ability to freeze your account from either the mobile app or website. Discover will also monitor your credit and provide credit score updates for free. If you ever have a problem or question, you can chat with Discover’s U.S.-based customer support team.

Redemption options

You can redeem your cash back rewards for gift cards and eCertificates, make a charitable donation, get statement credit on your account, receive an electronic deposit to a bank account or make purchases at merchants.

Recommended credit score

The Discover it Cash Back requires a good to excellent credit score to qualify (between 670 and 850).

Why you should get the Discover it Balance Transfer

If you’re trying to knock out your credit card debt from a different high-interest credit card, the Discover it Balance Transfer gives you plenty of time to pay your balance in full before you pay any interest. With a zero percent introductory APR for 18 months on balance transfers (13.49 percent ⁠—24.49 percent variable APR after), you can pay off your credit card debt more easily with this card.

Additional benefits

Just like the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll be able to freeze your account from the mobile app or website and have access to free credit monitoring, FICO® Score reports and Discover’s U.S.-based customer support team.

Redemption options

You can redeem your rewards for gift cards and eCertificates, statement credit, merchandise, an electronic deposit to a bank account or donate to select charities.

Recommended credit score

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

Bottom line

There is no clear cut winner between the Discover it Balance Transfer and Cash Back credit cards. Instead, the best choice for you will depend on how you plan to use your card.

If you want to pay off your existing credit card debt with a balance transfer, the Discover it Balance Transfer will best suit you. But if you need to make a big purchase and pay it off over time, the Discover it Cash Back should be your choice.