Credit Cards Cash Back Credit Cards

Discover it® Cash Back Review [2024]: Impressive Welcome Offer, Less Impressive Rewards Cap

Although it takes some strategizing to make the most of it, this card could still be worth a spot in your wallet.

Updated June 20, 2024
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Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back
4.7

OUR VIEW

It’s hard to argue with the Discover it® Cash Back(Rates and fees) rewards rate of up to 5% cash back. That’s one of the highest cashback rates available. There are issues with the card, though. The highest rate is only available on rotating categories that Discover picks each quarter (not you), and the elevated earnings are capped at $1,500 each quarter. And you have to enroll in those higher rate rotating categories each quarter.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give this card some consideration, though. It has a very impressive welcome offer — Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.. And its category picks are generally useful.

If you’re willing to activate your cashback categories each quarter and pay attention to whether you’ve reached the spending cap (then potentially shift your spending to a higher-earning card), this card is worth considering.

Pros

$0 annual fee
Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
Dark web monitoring and other privacy protection services

Cons

Requires you to activate the highest-earning category each quarter
Not accepted as widely overseas as Visa or Mastercard
How we evaluate products

Card basics

Card type Cash Back
Credit card issuer Discover
Annual fee $0
Welcome offer Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
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.
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Intro APR 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)
Foreign transaction fee 0%

Who should get the Discover it Cash Back?

You should get the Discover it Cash Back card if you’re willing to put in some effort to get the highest cashback rewards you can. And that’s because to make the most of this card, you have to pay attention to it. It’s not a card you can use on automatic pilot and get the most out of it.

And those rewards can definitely pay off. Assuming that the reward category matches your spending, the cap is $1,500, and if you spend up to the cap, you would earn $75 in cash back per quarter, or $300 per year. And keep in mind that Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year meaning you could earn $600 in cash back your first year just by maxing out this top reward category.

Once you reach the cap, you receive 1% on all other purchases. Which isn’t the best rate. So ideally, you would move your spending over to a higher earning card.

For example, you could move all purchases that don’t earn the highest cashback rate to the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, which allows you to earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases. That’s one of the best rates on a flat-rate card, and you could maximize your spending with just two cards.

Or you could go with something like the Chase Freedom Flex®. It offers 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories you activate (on up to $1,500 spent) and travel purchased through Chase Travel℠. So if both cards happen to have the same elevated earnings category during a quarter, you could use one up to the cap, then switch to the other card and use that up to the cap.

If the categories don’t overlap, you could use both cards and just use whatever card is best for each category.

Is this a little confusing? Absolutely. But if you’re dedicated to getting the most out of every penny you spend, consider using two rotating bonus category cards. Just don’t forget to activate your categories each quarter (and you have to do that with most cards of this type).

So tl;dr: You need to be willing to juggle cards and keep track of quarterly categories to really use this card effectively. If you’re not that type of person, I would just go straight to the Wells Fargo Active Cash card (or something similar) and call it a day.

Other key benefits

Impressive welcome offer

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. That’s huge. Most issuers offer a set amount of cash back or points that you earn by meeting a minimum spending level. For example, an issuer will give $250 in cash rewards for spending $500 in 90 days. With those offers, there’s a limit to how much you can earn, but there isn’t a limit in place with Discover’s welcome offer.

Introductory APRs

The Discover it Cash Back offers two intro APR offers:

  • 0% intro APR (annual percentage rate) on new purchases within the first 15 months as a cardmember (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers (then 18.24% - 28.24% Variable)

The intro APR offer on purchases is competitive with other cards. I wouldn’t recommend this card for a balance transfer, though, as the introductory period is relatively short.

Instead, I’d look for a card with a longer 0% intro APR period — the Citi Simplicity® Card offers a 0% intro APR for 21 months on balance transfers (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)), for example.

Credit and privacy monitoring

Discover offers a few options for monitoring your financial well-being:

  • Free FICO Score: Monitor your credit easily so you can see how your borrowing behavior affects your credit score over time.
  • SSN alerts: You can opt-in to receive optional SSN alerts that tell you if your Social Security number is found on the dark web.
  • Privacy protection: You can activate assistance with removing your personal info from certain people-search websites.

While other issuers offer credit monitoring services to some degree, Discover’s privacy protection really sets it apart. You typically have to pay a fee to get help with removing your personal information from people-search sites. These sites often sell your data, which leads to annoying spam calls and texts.

You can contact these sites to get your information removed yourself, but the process is often confusing and time-consuming.

While I wouldn’t apply for a Discover card just for this feature, I would definitely take advantage of it. You need to activate it through the Discover app.

Drawbacks

The primary drawback to any Discover card is its more limited worldwide acceptance than a Mastercard or Visa. It is accepted more places worldwide than American Express, though. If you plan to use this card while you travel (which is worth considering since it has a 0% foreign transaction fee), make sure it's accepted at your destination before your trip.

Earning and redeeming cash back

Potential earnings in years one and two

Here's a look at how your cash back can add up with the Discover it® Cash Back.

Remember, this is an estimation. The actual value will be determined by how much you spend and in which categories you spend.

Year one earnings: $1,070

Year two earnings: $535

These values are based on the FinanceBuzz Credit Card Rewards Valuation Model, which takes a look at points earned via spending, the welcome bonus, and the annual fee.

Note that the values above do not account for bonus category spending.

Best ways to earn

The best way to earn the maximum cash back with your Discover it Cash Back card is to shop within the bonus categories each quarter. You can earn 5% cash back cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.

For 2024, the Discover Cashback Calendar bonus categories include:

  • Restaurants and drugstores (January to March)
  • Gas stations and electric vehicle charging stations, home improvement stores, and public transit (April to June)
  • Walmart and grocery stores (July to September)
  • To be announced (October to December)

For 2023, the Discover Cashback Calendar bonus categories included:

  • Grocery stores, drug stores, and select streaming services (January to March)
  • Restaurants and wholesale clubs (April to June)
  • Gas stations and digital wallets (July to September)
  • Purchases at Amazon.com and Target (October to December)

Check Discover's bonus cash back calendar each quarter to see what the bonus categories are. Then log into your account to activate the bonus — or ensure the activation was done properly — so you can earn your bonus rewards.

You also get 1% on all other purchases, and Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Try to apply for the card at a time when you know you'll be charging a lot in order to maximize your cash back.

Maximizing your redemptions

Discover it Cash Back redemption options include:

  • Statement credits
  • Deposits to eligible checking or savings accounts
  • Gift cards
  • Charitable donations
  • Pay with Cashback Bonus at select merchants (Amazon and PayPal)

Since you're getting a flat percentage of cash back, you can simply redeem your rewards anytime you feel like it. There’s no minimum amount required to redeem cash back as a statement credit or bank account deposit, and your rewards don't expire as long as your account remains active. Just log into your account via Discover.com or the Discover mobile app whenever you're ready to redeem your rewards.

A unique alternative

If you like the idea of bonus categories but don’t like the idea of activating them each quarter, the Citi Custom Cash® Card is worth a look. It’s unique in this category in that you earn 5% cash back on purchases in your top eligible spending category each billing cycle (up to the first $500 spent, then 1% cash back). And you don’t have to choose the category — it's automatic.

Its welcome offer isn’t as strong as the Discover it Cash Back’s, though — you just earn earn $200 in cash back after you spend $1500 on purchases in the first 6 months of account opening. This bonus offer will be fulfilled as 20,000 ThankYou® points, which can be redeemed for $200 cash back.

FAQ

Is the Discover it Cash Back a good credit card?

Discover it Cash Back is a good credit card. Just make sure you activate the appropriate categories each quarter and shop where you can earn the bonus.

This card is also a great option as Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

If you don't remember to activate the bonus cashback categories and aren't earning a cashback match, you should be able to find a card — like the Citi Double Cash® Card, for instance — that offers flat-rate cash back and better rewards than the standard 1% back on all other purchases Discover offers.

Is there a limit on cash back with Discover?

There’s a limit on bonus cash back you can earn. 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.

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

Does Discover match my cash back every year?

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

Do Discover it Cash Back rewards expire?

Discover it Cash Back rewards don’t expire.

What credit score do you need for the Discover it Cash Back card?

The Discover it Cash Back is best for people with average to excellent credit scores. That typically means a FICO score of 670 or higher. Keep in mind that approval is at Discover’s discretion, and having a certain credit score is not a guarantee of your overall creditworthiness or acceptance.

Bottom line

The Discover it Cash Back requires effort to use effectively, but if you don’t mind that, it’s worth a look. It works well alongside other flat-rate or rotating bonus cards so you can get the most out of every purchase. But if that doesn’t seem like your cup of tea, check out some of our other picks for the best cash back card.

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

Melinda Sineriz, ABFP™

Melinda Sineriz is a Lead Editor at FinanceBuzz and an Accredited Behavioral Finance Professional™ designee. Melinda has a B.A. in English from Miami University and a master’s degree from Bard College. Before focusing on personal finance content, she worked in insurance for six years, educating clients on Medicare supplements, life insurance, long-term care, and annuities.

Author Details

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.