Best Discover Cards for Earning Cash Back [2024]: Cash In on Your Purchases

CREDIT CARDS - CASH BACK CREDIT CARDS
Discover has numerous cards that offer cash back — but you need to know how to maximize these rewards to truly take advantage of this benefit.
Updated April 22, 2024
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Best Ways to Earn Cash Back with Discover Credit Cards

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You can use the power of cashback rewards with Discover’s lineup of credit cards. Among them, the Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Chrome, and Discover it® Balance Transfer stand out for their exceptional benefits.

Let’s delve into the unique advantages and lucrative cashback opportunities these cards, along with other Discover cash back credit cards, can help you earn to make your everyday purchases more rewarding.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • Several Discover credit cards offer cashback opportunities that can serve different needs.
  • The Discover it® Cash Back enables cardholders to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • The Discover it® Chrome, on the other hand, helps you earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • The Discover it® Miles doesn’t offer traditional cash back, but it helps you automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase

The best Discover cards for cash back

  1. Discover it® Cash Back
  2. Discover it® Student Cash Back
  3. Discover it® Chrome
  4. Discover it® Student Chrome
  5. Discover it® Balance Transfer
  6. Discover it® Secured Credit Card
  7. Discover it® Miles

Compare the best Discover cash back credit cards

Credit card Best for Rewards rate Annual fee

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back
4.7
People seeking to optimize cashback rewards, who are also willing to manage reward categories and activate quarterly bonuses Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. $0

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back
4.5
Students who want to take advantage of cashback rewards and don’t mind keeping track of rotating categories Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. $0

Discover it® Chrome

Discover it® Chrome
4.2
People seeking stable rewards rates on common purchases Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. $0

Discover it® Student Chrome

Discover it® Student Chrome
4.55
Students who want to benefit from a stable cashback rate on common purchases Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. $0
Discover it® Balance Transfer
4.6

People looking for introductory APR offers and cashback rewards in one card 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (up to quarterly maximum, once activated) and 1% cash back on all other purchases $0

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
5.0
People building build credit who want to earn cash back on their purchases Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. $0

Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles
4.0
Frequent travelers who prefer to earn miles on their purchases Automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase $0

Discover it® Cash Back

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Elevated cash back on rotating categories
  • Intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
Cons
  • Spending cap for the elevated rewards rate

The Discover it Cash Back is one of best cash back credit cards as long as you keep track of and activate its rotating bonus categories to maximize the potential rewards you can earn.

Why we like it: This card helps you earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Additionally, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

You can also benefit from 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable) and 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable). Keep in mind that there’s an intro balance transfer fee of 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms).

The best part is that the Discover it Cash Back has a $0 annual fee.

What we don’t like: Rotating categories and quarterly activations aren’t always the easiest to track.

Learn more in our Discover it Cash Back review.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Elevated cash back on rotating categories
  • Intro APR offer on purchases
Cons
  • Elevated rewards on rotating categories are capped

The Discover it Student Cash Back is a great choice if you're attending school — as long as you don't mind activating the rotating bonus categories to maximize your cash back.

Why we like it: This card helps you earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Just like the non-student version, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Additionally, you could use its 0% intro APR offer on purchases for 6 months, (then 18.24% - 27.24% Variable).

The Discover it Student Cash Back has a $0 annual fee. This, along with its other benefits, makes it one of the best credit cards for students.

What we don’t like: There’s a limit to how much you can earn with the higher rewards rate on rotating categories each quarter you activate.

Learn more in our Discover it Student Cash Back review.

Discover it® Chrome

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Higher cash back on unchanging common categories
  • Intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
Cons
  • Spending cap for the elevated rewards rate
  • Rewards rates are lower than some Discover cards

The Discover it Chrome is a cash back card that makes it simple and easy to earn rewards on common everyday spending without having to activate rotating spending categories.

Why we like it: You can earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This means that you don’t have to worry about rotating categories.

You can further boost your rewards as Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

The Discover it Chrome offers 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable) and 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 18 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable). Balance transfers have a fee of 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms).

This card has a $0 annual fee, making it easy to keep it in your wallet year after year.

What we don’t like: This card doesn’t have the highest earning potential compared to other rewards cards. There’s also a quarterly spending cap on its bonus categories.

Learn more in our Discover it Chrome review.

Discover it® Student Chrome

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Higher cash back on stable everyday categories
  • Intro purchase APR offer
Cons
  • Spending cap for elevated rewards
  • Rewards rates are lower than some Discover cards

The Discover it Student Chrome is a great rewards credit card for students who want the same cashback benefits of the standard Discover it Chrome. This includes earning elevated cash back on common eligible purchases without worrying about quarterly bonus category activation.

Why we like it: Students using this card can earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.

This card has more benefits as Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

On top of that, the Discover it Student Chrome offers 0% intro APR for 6 months on purchases (then 18.24% - 27.24% Variable). The Discover it Student Chrome has a $0 annual fee.

What we don’t like: Similar to the non-student version, this card doesn’t have the best rewards rate and caps your rewards on its bonus categories.

Learn more in our Discover it Student Chrome review.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Higher cash back on categories that change every quarter
  • Intro APR offers on purchases and balance transfers
Cons
  • Spending cap for the elevated rewards rate

If you want to transfer existing debt to lower the interest charges you pay, consider the Discover it Balance Transfer. This card not only provides you the chance to earn generous rewards, but you can also enjoy introductory APR offers on purchases and balance transfers.

Why we like it: You can earn 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (up to quarterly maximum, once activated) and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.

Whether you use this card to earn rewards or use its intro APR offers, you’d get these benefits for a $0 annual fee.

What we don’t like: Like many similar Discover cards, there’s a quarterly spending cap on rotating categories that you activate.

Learn more in our Discover it Balance Transfer review.

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Opportunity to earn cashback rewards using a secured card
  • Refundable security deposit
Cons
  • Spending cap for the elevated rewards rate
  • Security deposit requirement

The Discover it Secured Credit Card can be a good choice for someone working on building their credit. This card is one of the few secured credit cards available that offer generous cash back.

Why we like it: You can earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

What we don’t like: Like most secured cards, the Discover it Secured Credit Card requires you to place a deposit equal to your line of credit. Keep in mind that Discover considers various factors when considering your creditworthiness, not only your security deposit.

Your security deposit is refundable, so you can eventually get back the deposit you've put down as you establish credit and become eligible for an unsecured card.

Learn more in our Discover it Secured Credit Card review.

Discover it® Miles

Pros
  • $0 annual fee
  • Opportunity to earn miles for travel redemptions
  • No foreign transaction fees
Cons
  • Discover isn’t widely accepted abroad

The Discover it Miles gives you the option to earn miles for purchases — but you can also redeem your miles for cash rewards in the form of statement credits.

Why we like it: You can automatically earn unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar of every purchase. Plus, Discover will match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

The Discover it Miles offers 0% intro APR on purchases for 15 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable). It also offers 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 15 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable). The balance transfer fee is 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms).

You can use the miles you earn from this card to book travel through the Discover portal with no blackout dates. You can also redeem them toward your monthly bill, at Amazon.com checkout, or through PayPal. Your miles never expire and won’t be lost even if you close your account, making it a great travel credit card to earn free trips.

What we don’t like: The Discover card network isn’t as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard worldwide. Depending on your travel itinerary, you might run into issues having your card accepted in other countries.

Learn more in our Discover it Miles review.

How to choose the best Discover card for earning cash back

Consider these factors to help you decide which Discover card is best for you.

Spending categories

Look for a Discover cash back card with bonus categories that align with your everyday expenses. This can help you maximize your earning potential on purchases you’re already making.

To help determine if a card with rotating categories would work for you, consider the Discover cashback calendar to see which categories have come up in the past.

Student cards

Student cards are nearly identical to their non-student versions, but they’re specifically designed with students in mind. That means they might not have as strict of credit requirements. However, you must be an eligible student to qualify.

Secured cards

A secured card can have many of the same benefits as an unsecured card, but you typically have to put down a security deposit if you’re approved. The security deposit acts as your credit limit. In some cases, with responsible card usage, you might be able to graduate to an unsecured card version and have your security deposit refunded.

The Discover 5% cashback calendar

Cards such as the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Student Cash Back offer cash back on rotating bonus categories. You have to manually activate these categories each quarter to take advantage of them, so cardholders need to know the schedule to get the most out of these bonus rewards.

Here are the categories of the 2024 Discover cashback calendar:

Discover 5% cashback categories for 2024
January through March Restaurants and drugstores
April through June Gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations, home improvement stores, and public transit
July through September To be announced
October through December To be announced

Here are past categories:

Discover 5% cashback categories for 2023
January through March Grocery stores, drugstores, and select streaming services
April through June Restaurants and wholesale clubs
July through September Gas stations and digital wallets
October through December Amazon.com and Target

Explore more 5% cash back credit cards.

Important things to know about Discover Cashback Match™

One of the single best benefits of signing up for a new Discover cashback card is that you can get your cash back matched in the first year as a new cardmember. This means if you earn $1,000 in cash back, Discover will match that amount and give you an extra $1,000.

Discover imposes no minimum or maximum limit on the amount of bonus cash back you can earn, and you automatically qualify for this bonus when you hit your one-year anniversary as a new cardholder.

This special bonus is available on multiple Discover credit cards, including the following:

  • Discover it Cash Back
  • Discover it Student Cash Back
  • Discover it Chrome
  • Discover it Chrome for Students
  • Discover it Secured
  • Discover it Miles (matching miles instead of cash back)
  • NHL Discover it

You should receive your bonus within one or two billing periods following the first 12 consecutive billing cycles after your new account is open. However, if you close your account or are no longer enrolled in the cashback rewards program when your bonus is calculated, you won't get the match.

How to access your Discover cashback rewards

Any cashback rewards you’ve earned in your most recent billing cycle will show up on the first page of your monthly statement. This helps you to keep track of how much money you're earning by using your Discover card.

You can also go online and sign into your Discover Account Center to see your available cash back at any time. This is listed under the Cashback Bonus Summary.

How to redeem your Discover cashback rewards

Redeeming your cash back is easy with Discover. Just sign into your Account Center and choose which redemption option works for you. Or redeem your cash back by calling 1-800-DISCOVER if you don't want to create an online account.

Options for redeeming cash back include:

  • Depositing cash into your bank account
  • Applying your cash back to your Discover bill
  • Using your cash back to make a charitable donation
  • Paying with your Discover cash back when checking out at Amazon.com or with PayPal
  • Putting your cash back onto a gift card


FAQ

What’s the best way to redeem Discover cash back?

Two of the best ways to redeem your Discover cash back include:

  1. Statement credits
  2. Deposits to eligible checking or savings accounts

Redeeming your cash back like this lets you use your rewards for just about anything. That could include investing your cash back if you deposit it into an eligible bank account.

How to earn cash back with Discover?

Most Discover cards provide rewards for making eligible purchases. Here are the Discover cards that earn cash back:

Which Discover card gives the most cash back?

The Discover it Cash Back is one of the best Discover cards for earning the most cashback rewards. You can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Earning cash back with Discover: bottom line

As you can see, you have tons of opportunities to earn cashback rewards as a Discover customer. You just need to pick the right Discover card for you.

The Discover it® Cash Back and the Discover it® Student Cash Back can work well if you want to earn cash back on rotating categories. The Discover it® Chrome or its student version, the Discover it® Student Chrome, can be better choices for earning smaller but consistent amounts of cash back.

The best Discover card for you just depends on your spending habits and whether you're interested in keeping track of and activating rotating bonuses.

Methodology

To determine the best Discover cash back credit cards, we evaluated various Discover cards based on several factors, including cashback rates, annual fees, intro APR offers, and specific perks such as bonus categories, redemption options, and more.

We kept in mind that every credit card user is unique, with their own spending habits and needs. Therefore, we identified the top Discover credit cards that offer significant value to various types of spenders. Keep in mind that our list doesn’t follow any certain order and is not meant to be a complete list of all available options. Instead, our recommendations aim to provide a useful starting point for someone who is researching Discover credit cards that meet their cashback needs.

Up To 5% Cash Back

4.7

Discover it® Cash Back

Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Yahia Barakah, CEPF Yahia Barakah, CEPF, is a Senior Editor at FinanceBuzz and has created finance-focused content since 2011. As a Certified Educator of Personal Finance, he has a background in institutional investment and asset management, as well as a deep passion for financial literacy.
Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.

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