Who should get the Discover it Cash Back?

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Searching for a cash back credit card means finding a card with a decent rewards structure and other card perks that fit your lifestyle. If you want to earn cash back on some of your top spending categories without paying an annual fee, you should check out the Discover it® Cash Back card.

With this card, not only can you get a great cash back rate on top common spending categories, but you can also take advantage of other benefits the card offers, too. If Discover it Cash Back card is on your shortlist, here’s what you should know to see if it will work for your needs.

What does the Discover it Cash Back card offer?

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back after activation on rotating categories each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent), 1 percent for all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Cashback Match—all the cash you earn in the first year will be matched
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for the first 14 months
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for the first 14 months
  • Regular APR: 11.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable

When it comes down to it, the Discover it Cash Back card offers cash back seekers ample opportunity to earn respectable rewards on rotating bonus categories each quarter. At 5 percent cash back (on up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent on all other purchases), these bonus categories tend to be areas many people spend a fair amount of their budget on, such as:

  • Gas stations
  • Grocery stores
  • Drugstores like CVS and Walgreens
  • Restaurants
  • Target.com, Amazon.com and Walmart.com

As you can see, you could easily max out the $1,500 limit for at least one or more of the quarter bonus categories. The only caveat is that you’ve got to activate your bonus category each quarter to start earning cash back on your corresponding spending.

If you want to know the exact timing for the bonus categories, here’s a look at the 2020 and 2021 bonus categories for all four quarters:

Quarter 2020 Discover it categories 2021 Discover it categories
Q1: January through March
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
Q2: April through June
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Uber and Lyft
  • Gas stations
  • Wholesale clubs
  • Select streaming services
Q3: July through September
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Q4: October through December
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com

From this table, you can see that the bonus categories are pretty much the same for 2020 and 2021. You’ll notice that streaming services replaced Lyft in Q2 from 2020 to 2021. Due to the pandemic, many issuers offered more rewards on streaming services, and Discover followed suit.

Welcome bonus and 0 percent introductory APR offer

In addition to the generous rewards structure for this card, Discover will match the cash back you earn for the first year of card ownership. For high spenders, this can be much higher than the traditional cash back sign-up bonus of around $200.

Another nice feature is the 0 percent introductory APR offer. You won’t have to pay interest on balance transfers or purchases for the first 14 months of having the card. Once the 14-month promotional rate is over, the interest rate is 11.99 percent to 22.99 percent variable.

Earning rewards with the Discover it Cash Back card

You can earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in purchases in different categories each quarter based on Discover’s 5 percent cash back calendar. You have to activate the bonus each quarter to take advantage of this rate.

If you forget to activate a bonus category or go over the $1,500 spending limit in a bonus category, you’ll only earn 1 percent cash back on your purchases—whether they are in a bonus category or not. So if you get this card, make sure you stay on top of the task of activating your bonus categories each quarter.

To make sure you’ve activated each quarter’s bonus categories, you can go to the cash back calendar page on the Discover website and click “log in to see if you’re activated.”

Along with the first-year cash back match offer and the ongoing rewards cash back, Discover also currently offers a $50 referral bonus if you refer a friend to select Discover cards, including the Discover it Cash Back. You can earn up to $500 for a total of 10 referrals each year.

Redeeming rewards with the Discover it Cash back card

When you are ready to redeem your rewards with the Discover it Cash back card, you can get cash deposited into your account or a statement credit to your card balance. You can also use your rewards towards gift cards (available increments of $5 up to $200), charitable donations to select charities or payments toward Amazon.com and PayPal purchases.

Discover it Cash Back benefits

Though the Discover it Cash Back card is not a premium credit card by any means, it does offer some benefits that can make it attractive as an entry-level rewards card. For instance, there are no foreign transaction fees, and the card is accepted in 185 countries. If you should lose your card, there’s a 24/7 customer service line and free overnight shipping for card replacements.

Discover offers other features that can be helpful in the fight against identity fraud and overall good “credit hygiene.” Your monthly Discover card statement gives you access to your FICO score at no cost, and you can opt into Discover’s notification service that alerts you if your Social Security number is found on the dark web or any malicious websites.

Finally, if your card is ever lost or stolen, Discover can freeze any new purchases, transfers or cash advances on your account. If there are ever any unauthorized transactions or purchases on your card, Discover’s $0 Fraud Liability benefit means you won’t be held responsible for those transactions.

How does the Discover it Cash Back card compare to other high-earning cash back cards?

The Discover it Cash Back does offer a high cash back rate on the rotating bonus categories with a small offering of card perks that could be seen as helpful—but are becoming standard offerings across similar cards anyway. If you like higher rates of cash back, there are other cards to compare the Discover it Cash Back card to, including:

The Chase Freedom Flex card has no annual fee and has an impressive cash back structure:

  • Earn 5 percent cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year
  • 5 percent cash back on activated bonus category purchases each quarter (up to $1,500 in purchases, then 1 percent) and on Chase Ultimate Rewards travel purchases
  • 5 percent cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
  • 3 percent cash back on dining (including restaurants, takeout and eligible delivery services) and drugstore purchases
  • 1 percent cash back on all other purchases

Plus, there’s a $200 cash bonus after spending $500 within your first three months and a 0 percent introductory APR offer for 15 months. After the 15 months, the regular APR is 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent variable.

The Citi Custom Card card also features a 5 percent cash back rate on up to $500 each billing cycle, then 1 percent, on your top spending category each billing cycle. There’s a welcome bonus of 20,000 ThankYou points—worth $200 in cash back—after spending $750 on purchases in the first three months.

Finally, the Capital One SavorOne card offers a decent cash back rate for “food and fun” categories like groceries, dining out, streaming and event tickets:

  • 3 percent on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services and grocery store purchases (excluding superstores like Walmart and Target)
  • 1 percent on all other purchases
  • 8 percent cash back on purchases from Vivid Seats (until January 2023)

All of these cards offer slightly different takes on rewards structures, welcome bonuses and other perks with no annual fee. If you are shopping around for a higher-earning cash back card, these are comparable cards you should consider if the Discover it Cash Back card is not a good fit for you.

Is the Discover it Cash Back worth it?

Because the Discover it Cash Back Cash card is one of the higher-earning cash back cards without an annual fee on the market, you could stand to earn quite a bit of cash back—especially with the first-year match. But what do you stand to earn?

By strategically making purchases in qualifying categories until you hit the $1,500 cap each quarter, you can earn $75 per quarter ($300 per year) on bonus category spending. Using our average consumer spend of $15,900, that leaves $9,900 spent on 1 percent purchases. Total, that’s $399 per year. With the first-year match, you’d earn $798.

Who should get the Discover it Cash Back?

The Discover It Cash Back card is for anyone whose spending patterns match up well with the cash back bonus categories offered on the card. If your goal is to earn the most cash back with no annual fee, this card could fit the bill because of the higher rewards rate and the automatic Cashback Match for the first year.

Plus, the introductory APR offered on both balance transfers and purchases could help those who have a lot of spending on the horizon or are looking to pay down high-interest debt.

Although the Discover it Cash Back card isn’t the fanciest, feature-rich card, it has enough to offer so that you’ll come out with a net gain. Since there’s no annual fee, provided you pay little to no interest on your balances, you will still come out ahead with this card.

*All information about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

Written by
Aja McClanahan
Personal Finance Writer
Aja McClanahan is an author, blogger and speaker on personal finance and entrepreneurship. Aja is the author of "How a Mother Should Talk About Money with Her Daughter."
Edited by
Senior Editor, Credit Card Product News
Reviewed by
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