Best overall cash back card

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for balance transfers

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best overall student card

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 5% Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 21.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best travel card

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 1.5X Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase - with no annual fee.
Intro bonus
Discover Match® 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for gas station purchases

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn cash back on your next road trip with 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
11.99% - 22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
Good to Excellent (670 - 850)

Best for students building credit

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
12.99% - 21.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

Best for building credit

Apply now
On Discover's secure site
See Rates & Fees, Terms Apply
Rewards rate
  • 2% Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
  • 1% Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
Intro bonus
Cashback Match™ 
Annual fee
$0
Regular APR
22.99% Variable
Recommended credit
No Credit History 

The information about the NHL® Discover it® and Discover it® Business Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.


Bankrate’s guide to Discover credit cards

Discover Financial Services operates one of the largest digital banks in the United States, Discover Bank, and a global payment network.  In addition to credit cards, Discover offers customers products within Discover Bank, like deposits and personal, student and home equity loans. Discover emphasizes value, customer service and security and claims to be the only issuer without annual fees on any card.

Discover consistently ranks at or near the top among national issuers for credit card customer service. Discover finished a close second to American Express in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study after taking the top spot in five of the six previous years.

Get to know Discover credit cards, and the Discover company itself, with help from Bankrate.

Bankrate’s picks for best Discover credit cards

Card Name Best For Cash Back Highlights Bankrate Review Score
Discover it® Cash Back Best overall cash back card 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter when you activate (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Balance Transfer Best for balance transfers 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter when you activate (up to $1,500 in combined quarterly purchases, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 4.6 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Student Cash Back Best overall student card 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter when you activate (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Miles Best Discover travel card Unlimited 1.5X miles for every $1 spent 3.8 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® chrome Best for gas purchases 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 3.9 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Student chrome Students building credit 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 4.1 / 5
(Read full card review)
Discover it® Secured Credit Card Best Discover card for building credit 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases 4.0 / 5
(Read full card review)
NHL® Discover it® Best for hockey fans 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter when you activate (up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1%) with 1% on all other purchases. Coming Soon
Discover it® Business Credit Card Best for small businesses Unlimited 1.5% cash back for every $1 spent 4.2 / 5
(Read full card review)

What is Discover?

The story of Discover Financial Services begins with the Discover Card, launched in 1986 as a subsidiary of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

The Discover network had just 1 million merchants in 1989 but had grown to 50 million accepted locations by 2020. You can see just how far Discover has expanded its territory on the company’s international acceptance map.

According to Discover’s Annual Report, their credit cards were responsible for roughly $142.8 billion in sales worldwide in 2020. Still, Discover felt the impact of COVID-19. Its net income went from $2.96 billion in 2019 to $1.14 billion in the past year.

Historical highlights

  • 1986: The Discover Card launches.
  • 1989: Discover Network reaches the 1 million mark of merchants accepting Discover.
  • 1993-1995: Discover spins off from Sears and launches its website.
  • 2000: The Greenwood Trust Company becomes Discover Bank.
  • 2006: Helps found the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council.
  • 2007: Introduces Discover Motiva, the first credit card to give cash rewards for good credit management.
  • 2008: Discover acquires Diners Club International, allowing broader global acceptance.
  • 2009: Introduces the Spend Analyzer tool and iPhone app, the first mobile account monitoring tools.
  • 2012: Discover cards first issued internationally, with banks in Ecuador and Russia.
  • 2013: The flagship Discover it Card is first offered. Discover becomes the first major credit card issuer to provide free FICO® Scores on monthly cardmember statements.
  • 2017: Announces free security alert service to cardmembers if their Social Security Numbers are found on risky websites.
  • 2019: Discover issues contactless credit cards.

What features do Discover cards offer?

Discover cardholders can expect features including:

Limited fees

  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • No overlimit fee
  • No penalty APR and no fee on your first late payment (up to $40 after)

Security

  • $0 fraud liability for unauthorized purchases
  • 24/7 account monitoring
  • Free credit activity and Social Security Number fraud alerts
  • Discover Freeze it® account lock
  • Free overnight card delivery by request if lost or stolen

Customer service

  • U.S.-based customer service
  • Free FICO® Credit Scorecard
  • Year-end spending summary
  • Recurring charges dashboard

What are the benefits of a Discover card?

Discover’s focus on customer service, ongoing value and security makes their cards reliable options for both new and multi-cardholders. Notable Discover benefits include:

Low fees and APR

One of Discover’s longtime appeals has been that there are no annual fees or foreign transaction fees on any card. Plus, Discover waives your first late fee (up to $40 after that) and doesn’t charge a penalty APR in case you miss a payment. Although you should try not to carry a balance on any credit card, variable APRs on Discover cards tend to compare favorably with current credit card interest rates if you have good or excellent  credit.

Valuable rewards

After activating Discover’s quarterly rotating bonus categories, cardholders can earn 5% cash back (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%) on eligible purchases. Categories for the third quarter of 2021 (July-September) are restaurants and PayPal. In the fourth quarter (October-December), the categories rotate to Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com. Discover’s rotating bonus category credit cards include:

  • Discover it® Cash Back
  • Discover it® Student Cash Back
  • NHL® Discover it®

Specialized spenders can earn a steady 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1 percent) and 1 percent on all other purchases with these cards:

  • Discover it® chrome
  • Discover it® Student chrome
  • Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Only two Discover cards earn unlimited flat-rate rewards:

  • Discover it® Miles — Unlimited 1.5X Miles for every $1 spent
  • Discover it® Business Credit Card — Unlimited 1.5 percent cash back for every $1 spent

Discover rewards redemption options

You can redeem your cash back rewards for:

  • A statement credit
  • A bank account direct deposit
  • Direct payment at Amazon.com and PayPal checkouts
  • A physical or digital Partner Gift Card with 5% to 20% added value to each gift card (depending on merchant). Partner Gift Cards range from $5 to $200 in increments of $5.
  • A charitable donation

You can use any Discover Miles you earn with the Discover it Miles card to cover travel purchases or Amazon.com and PayPal purchases at the checkout screen. In addition, you can convert miles at a 1:1 rate for cash back as bank account direct deposit. Discover has also announced that your miles can now be used to cover your credit card bill, including the minimum payment.

Discover rewards don’t expire for the life of your account. Unlike a few issuers, Discover will credit your account with your cash back or miles balance rather than forfeit your rewards if your account is closed or unused for 18 months.

Cashback Match™

Rather than the traditional sign-up bonus that many cards offer when you spend a certain amount after opening your account (usually three months), Discover’s Cashback Match feature matches the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first 12 months.

Security and customer service

Account security is a point of emphasis for Discover. Beyond the standard $0 liability for unauthorized purchases, Discover offers free overnight card replacement and an instant account lock feature called Freeze It® through its mobile app and website. Although credit bureaus like Experian and other credit monitoring services can also search thousands of risky sites for your Social Security Number, Discover is one of the few issuers that provides this deep web account monitoring alert service for free.

Rewards and benefits for less-than-perfect credit

Discover cash back cards offer rewards programs and Cashback Match, even Discover’s secured and student cards. This means first-time credit cardholders and those with lower credit scores can earn cash back rewards with a first-year bonus to cap it off.

What are the drawbacks of a Discover card?

Lower merchant acceptance compared to Visa or Mastercard

Since Discover uses its own network (like American Express), it isn’t accepted by as many merchants worldwide as cards in the largest two networks. However, the February 2020 Nilson Report stated 99 percent of U.S. merchants that accept credit cards take Discover.

Internationally, Discover’s 18 network alliances mean that 48 million merchants accept Discover cards in over 200 countries and territories.

No purchase protection, extended warranty or standard travel benefits

Although these common card perks are offered on many major cards, Discover discontinued their purchase protection, extended warranty and auto rental collision insurance features in 2018. Discover it Miles doesn’t provide standard travel features like airline loyalty program mile transfer, concierge services, priority boarding, travel accident insurance or luggage protection.

If you’re a traveler who leans on these perks, you may want to look at other travel credit cards.

Limited balance transfer offers

When Discover temporarily discontinued the Discover it® Balance Transfer card in 2020, it no longer offered a credit card designed solely for balance transfers. The card recently became available again.

Some Discover cards currently include balance transfer offers, but the term lengths tend to be shorter than the 15-month or 18-month offers available with top balance transfer cards.

No consumer flat-rate cash back cards

The only flat-rate cash back card Discover offers is the Discover it Business Credit Card and its unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. The Discover it Miles (unlimited 1.5x Miles on all purchases) offers the option of redeeming Miles for cash back at a rate of 1 cent per Mile.

How many Discover cards can you have?

Discover customers can hold a maximum of two credit card accounts with five authorized users on each. You can apply for a second card after their existing account has been open for 12 billing cycles.

Many issuers impose similar time windows and card limits.

How we chose our top Discover credit cards

Bankrate’s personal finance experts have evaluated the top Discover cards according to our 5-star rating system. The list of criteria for rating credit cards includes:

Rewards

Whether the card offers cash back, travel points/miles or multi-purpose rewards for eligible purchases and the potential returns based on rewards rate (1 percent cash back per $1 spent, 1 mile per $1 spent, and so on).

Perks and benefits

Whether the card offers extras such as retail discounts, extended warranties on purchases, travel insurance and financial management tools.

Annual fee

Whether the card charges an annual fee and if so, how much the card’s overall value and benefits might offset the fee.

Introductory offers

Whether the card has a sign-up bonus, welcome offer or similar sign-up incentive and how much it adds to the card’s overall value.

Variable APR

How the card’s annual percentage rate (APR) compares with current averages as an indicator of cost and value.

Foreign transaction fee

Whether the card charges a foreign transaction fee for international purchases and how the fee affects the card’s overall value.

Learn more about Discover cards and rewards programs


Have questions for our credit cards editors? Feel free to send us an email, find us on Facebook, or Tweet us @Bankrate.

Frequently Asked Questions

about the author
Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s degree concentrated in Finance, Joey worked at “Big Four” (Ernst and Young) accounting firm before exploring the world of credit cards. Over the past two years, he’s shared his expertise and has brought understanding to complex topics as a writer and editor for sites like Bankrate, CreditCards.com and NextAdvisor. Hi...
about the editor
Former Senior Editor Barry Bridges has been writing about credit cards, personal loans, mortgages and other personal finance products since 2017. Before joining Bankrate, he was an award-winning newspaper journalist in his native North Carolina.

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.