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Discover credit cards have numerous benefits for a wide variety of consumers, all with no annual fee. Take a look at our picks to see if one of these cards is right for you.
- Best for cash back: Discover it® Cash Back
- Best for balance transfers: Discover it® Cash Back balance transfer offer
- Best for travel: Discover it® Miles
- Best for students: Discover it® Student Cash Back
- Best for building credit: Discover it® Secured
Here’s why: Although the cash back system for the Discover it® card can be a little confusing at first, you can earn significant rewards if you spend in certain categories.
Many cash back credit cards offer the same flat cash back rate on all purchases, or consistently higher rates on purchases in certain categories — but the Discover it® credit card works a little differently.
This card offers a whopping 5% cash back on purchases in certain categories, up to a quarterly maximum amount of $1,500, then 1%. But there’s a catch: These categories change each quarter, and you have to log in to your Discover account to find out what these categories are — and you have to activate them. Otherwise, you’ll only earn a standard cash back rate of 1% on all purchases.
For 2020, bonus cash back categories include the following:
- January–March: Grocery stores, Walgreens and CVS
- April–June: Gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs
- July–September: Restaurants and PayPal
- October–December: Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com
When considering this card, make sure you’re likely to take advantage of these cash back offers, especially within the first year so that you can also take advantage of Cashback Match. With Cashback Match, Discover will match all of the cash back rewards you’ve earned — after the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open — and apply them to your account within the following one or two billing periods. For example, if you earned $200 in cash back rewards over the course of the first year your account is open, you’d get another $200 cash back bonus.
You can redeem your cash back rewards at any time as statement credit, a bank deposit, a donation to select charities, or payment with Cashback Bonus at Amazon.com. Once you have at least a $20 cash back balance, you can redeem your rewards for a gift certificate at certain merchants that partner with Discover, too.
For more details about how this cash back program operates, check out our Discover it® review.
Here’s why: You get a whopping 18 months with a 0% introductory balance transfer APR during the intro period — with the balance transfer APR a variable 13.49%–24.49% after that. The clock starts ticking on the 18-month intro period when you make your first balance transfer. Transfers must be made by March 10, 2020.
Be aware that there’s a balance transfer fee, too. During the intro period, which ends March 10, 2020, you’ll have to pay 3% of the amount of each transfer. Once the intro period ends, the balance transfer fee goes to 5% of the amount of each transfer. Make sure the amount of money you’ll save on interest if you transfer outweighs the balance transfer fee before you make any decisions.
One important thing to note: You can’t easily find this offer on Discover’s website. We found it by searching the internet for “Discover balance transfer” and clicking on an ad. We’re not sure how long this offer will be available, so be sure to do your own research and check the terms carefully.
Along with the balance transfer intro offer, terms we saw included a 0% intro purchase APR for six months from account opening — after which the variable APR goes to 13.49%—24.49%. While that might be a nice perk, you should be careful about spending more money while trying to pay off your balance transfer. The whole point of a balance transfer card is to pay down debt. Don’t let an intro purchase APR offer lure you into racking up more.
The cherry on top is that this card is the Discover it® Cash Back with a special balance transfer offer. It has the same cash back structure, and you’ll even be eligible for a cash back match at the end of your first year. That means once you’ve paid off your debt, you’ll have a pretty sweet cash back card.
Here’s why: Many travel rewards credit cards come with a pricey annual fee, but the Discover it® Miles card offers helpful travel rewards value without that upfront cost.
Every time you make a purchase with the Discover it® Miles card, you’ll earn 1.5 miles for every $1 you spend on purchases. You can redeem miles for cash as a deposit to your bank account or as statement credit for travel purchases made within the previous 180 days. There’s no expiration date on those miles as long as you keep the card open, so you can save up as many miles as you want before choosing to redeem.
Once you’re ready to book a trip, simply use your Discover it® Miles credit card to pay for it. Then, once the charge is applied to your credit card, you can log into your account and redeem your miles as a travel credit.
Each mile is worth 1 cent when you redeem. When combined with your 1.5 mile-earning rate on purchases, that means $100 in spending will translate to $1.50 in travel credits.
Interested in this card? Take a look at our Discover it® Miles review for more details.
Here’s why: The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers cash back on common essentials and rewards you for good grades, too.
There are two Discover credit cards directed at students: The Discover it® Student Cash Back card, and the Discover it® Chrome for Students card. While the Discover it® Chrome for Students card offers 2% cash back on your first $1,000 in combined gas stations and restaurant purchases each quarter (then 1%), the offer may be unattractive to students without a car or on a student meal plan.
That’s why we recommend the Discover it® Student Cash Back — it offers 5% cash back on more-useful categories on up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500, then 1% after that. These bonus categories change quarterly so you’ll need to remember to activate them each quarter, but they provide impressive rewards potential.
For 2020, categories include useful options like Amazon.com purchases (good for textbooks), Uber and Lyft purchases (for catching a ride when you’re late for class) and grocery store purchases (for when you want to skip cafeteria food once in a while).
The Discover it® Student Cash Back card also comes with two other great ways to maximize your rewards. First, you’ll get Cashback Match at the end of your first year, just like with the standard Discover it® Cash Back card. Second, and for students specifically, you can get a $20 statement credit each school year (for up to five consecutive years) if you maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.
Need more information to help you decide if this card is right for you? Read about our picks for the best credit cards for students.
Here’s why: The Discover it® Secured is a great option for folks looking to build their credit because it reports to all three major credit bureaus. That means it’s key to use your card wisely. You’ll even get access to a free FICO score through your Discover account so you can track your progress.
Like all secured cards, the Discover it® Secured requires a security deposit as collateral, which will serve as your credit limit. The minimum is $200. Your security deposit is refundable, and Discover also gives you a path to graduate to an unsecured card.
Another thing that’s special about this card? It has rewards, which is pretty rare for a secured card. You’ll earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants each quarter, plus 1% cash back on all other purchases. And you’ll get a cash back match at the end of your first year.
How we picked these cards
Discover aims its credit cards at a wide range of consumers, so we tried to pick categories that match the needs of as many people as possible. We hope there’s a card on this list that you’ll find useful.
After choosing our categories, we looked at what features each Discover credit card offers. Each of the credit cards we looked at has no annual fee but differs slightly, and we took these differences into consideration when choosing which is best in each category. For example, we looked at which Discover credit cards offer the best perks that could serve more students, not just the card that offers the best possible rewards.
How to make the most of Discover credit cards
Discover credit cards could be a great choice for people looking to minimize fees while still earning rewards. That’s because each of these cards comes with no annual fee, no late fees on your first late payment, no penalty APRs for late payments and no foreign transaction fees. You could also get great value from Discover’s first-year Cashback Match feature, and the free FICO® score available on your monthly statements — which can help you to keep track of your credit.
But don’t forget that Discover isn’t yet widely accepted around the world. In some countries, such as Chile, France and Indonesia, Discover cards are rarely accepted or not accepted at all. It’s a good idea to check with Discover before you travel to see if merchants in your destination will accept the card — but you should probably still carry alternative forms of payment when traveling abroad.
So while these Discover cards might be right for those looking for a great value at home, consider opting for another card if you’re traveling overseas. Other credit card networks, such as Visa and Mastercard, are more widely accepted abroad and feature plenty of options with no foreign transaction fees.