Key takeaways

  • The Discover it® Cash Back is a great rewards card for those who like to maximize cash back rewards.
  • Discover's Cashback Match welcome bonus essentially doubles the rewards you earn at the end of the first year.
  • The Discover it® Cash Back can be a great choice for those looking for a good introductory APR offer.
  • This card may not be a good fit for those who don't like rotating bonus categories.

Finding the best cash back credit card can feel daunting. There are so many rewards credit cards out there to choose from, and with multiple issuers offering competitive rewards and benefits, it can be difficult to figure out the right card for you.

Discover offers several cash back credit cards, including the popular Discover it® Cash Back. If you want a card you can keep for the long haul, there are many reasons to consider it over all the others. Here are a few reasons we love this card — and why you might love it, too.

What to love about the Discover it® Cash Back

Rotating rewards you can maximize

One major benefit of this card is the way it doles out rewards. When you sign up for the Discover it® Cash Back, you earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating categories each quarter (activation required), after which you earn 1 percent back. The issuer releases its featured bonus categories on its cash back calendar once a quarter, rather than all at once like it did in the past.

Discover customers do have to activate the 5 percent categories each quarter in order to start earning rewards on them. If you’d like to maximize the card’s rotating categories, we recommend setting a calendar reminder to activate them at the start of each quarter. Once activated, it should be fairly manageable to fulfill the $1,500 spending cap, especially since Discover always includes categories consumers can easily utilize such as grocery stores, gas stations, streaming services and digital wallet purchases.

Cashback Match

Another reason to sign up for the Discover it® Cash Back is its Cashback Match™ program. This program essentially doubles all the rewards you earn after the first year regardless of how much you spend and how much cash back you earn.

Let’s explore an example to see how many rewards the Cashback Match can potentially earn you. If you reach the spending cap of each quarter’s bonus categories of $1,500, you’ll earn $75 cash back every three months. You can also spend an additional $1,000 on your card each month, which earns a total of $120 in 12 months. At the end of year one, you would have earned $420 in cash back rewards, which Discover would match the cash back, bringing your end of first year total to $840 with no extra work on your part.

For more clarity, the math is broken down in the following table:

Discover it® Cash Back rewards rate Annual cash back rewards
5 percent on rotating bonus categories (activation required), on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent $500 (spend per month) x 0.05 (5 percent cash back) x 12 months = $300
1 percent on all other purchases $1,000 (spend per month) x 0.01 (1 percent cash back) x 12 months = $120

Introductory APR offer

Though the Discover it® Cash Back is mostly known for its rewards program, the card also has a good intro APR offer for more than a year. New customers who sign up for this card can get a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 17.24 percent to 28.24 percent.

This makes the Discover it® Cash Back a great option if you want to pay down large purchases like that new laundry machine or living room couch without interest over time. It’s also a great way to consolidate and pay down debt compiled from other high-interest cards.

Why you might consider another cash back credit card

The Discover it® Cash Back is excellent by all standards, particularly as a card with no annual fee, but there are a few areas where it may fall short of other cards. In fact, the Discover it® Cash Back is only worth it if you spend time and effort toward activating and maximizing its rotating bonus categories. If you don’t, you’ll find it difficult to experience the benefits with the card.

Also note that the Discover it® Cash Back does not have a traditional sign-up bonus, which can be a bit of a drag. Compared to those cards, with more straightforward welcome bonuses, the Discover it® Cash Back requires more energy from the cardholder to earn a first-year welcome bonus over $200. If you don’t want to go through the trouble, you should look for a card with a simpler welcome offer achievable with a spending goal.

If you have serious credit card debt that may take you longer than a few months to pay off (check out our balance transfer calculator to know exactly how long), we recommend looking into balance transfer credit cards instead. Some of those cards offer an intro APR for even longer to give you more time to resolve your debt.

For instance, the Citi® Double Cash Card* can be a good alternative. Its 2 percent cash back rate (1 percent when you buy, plus another 1 percent when you pay off purchases) gives you much more flexibility than the Discover it® Cash Back card. It also offers a 0 percent intro APR period for 18 months on qualifying balance transfers (after that, the variable APR will be 19.24 percent to 29.24 percent). It also has no annual fee, keeping the card’s cost low.

The bottom line

The Discover it® Cash Back could be your dream card if you’re looking for boosted cash back rates without paying an annual fee — and you don’t mind organizing your purchases around rotating bonus categories in order to get it.

Regardless, there are many excellent cash back credit cards on the market today, but that doesn’t mean there is one “best” card for everyone. Some cards suit different kinds of needs better than others, which is why you should shop around and compare credit cards before you make your decision.

*All information about the Citi® Double Cash Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.