Discover it Cash Back Review [2021]: Big Rewards and a Generous Cashback Match

You can earn 5% back on specific spending categories, plus a cashback match in your first year.
Last updated Nov 12, 2021 | By Christy Rakoczy

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When it comes to credit card cashback rewards programs, you can't beat a card that gives 5% back. And that's exactly what's on offer with the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card. There is a catch though: The 5% cash back spending category changes quarterly, and you have to remember to activate the bonus category each quarter.

Because you have to sign into your account and activate your bonus to get the maximum cash back, this card is best for people willing to do a bit of added legwork to maximize their credit card rewards. But with a $0 annual fee and a generous welcome offer, this extra effort is well worth it. Read on to learn more about the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card and its benefits.

5% Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

up to 5% cash back

Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits

  • Up to 5% cash back
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers
  • Cash back match your first year
  • No foreign transaction fees

Drawbacks

  • Rotating bonus categories to track
Card Details
  • Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year
  • 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (including gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and Amazon.com), up to quarterly maximum; 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Intro purchase 0% offer: 0% for 14 months then 11.99% to 22.99% (variable)
  • Intro balance transfer 0% offer: 0% (for transfers that post to your account by by January 10, 2022) for 14 months then 11.99% to 22.99% (variable)

In this Discover it Cash Back Card review:

Who should get the Discover it Cash Back?

The Discover it Cash Back is a great credit card if you want to earn cash back on purchases, rather than earning points or miles. The card is best for you if you spend within the categories where you can earn bonus cash back — and if you're willing to pay attention to rotating categories.

People looking for the simplest credit card rewards program or who want the highest cash back on all purchases should consider a different cashback card. The Discover it Cash Back requires a little more work to maximize rewards because you need to activate bonus categories and time your spending. But if you don't mind making the effort, you'll be generously rewarded — especially in your first year as a cardmember when you can earn a cashback match from Discover.

Card basics

Card type Cash Back
Credit card issuer Discover
Annual fee $0
Intro bonus Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year
Rewards rate Up to 5% cash back
Recommended credit score Excellent, Good
Intro APR 0% APR for 14 months, then 11.99% to 22.99% (variable)
Foreign transaction fee None

Discover it Cash Back benefits and perks

  • Generous intro offer: You will automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
  • Introductory APR: New cardholders will pay 0% APR (annual percentage rate) on new purchases within the first 14 months as a cardmember (then 11.99% to 22.99% (variable)).
  • Rewards rate: You can earn up to 5% cash back cash back on specific categories of spending, which change quarterly. This is one of the highest cashback rates available.
  • Free FICO Score: Monitor your credit easily so you can see how your borrowing behavior affects your credit score over time.
  • No fees: There's a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fee. There's also no penalty fee for your first late payment. Though you will be charged a late fee for subsequent late payments. 
  • 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.

Drawbacks to the Discover it Cash Back Card

  • Bonus earnings cap: There is a spending cap on bonus category purchases. Cardmembers can earn 5% on rotating categories (up to quarterly maximum). For 2021, the quarterly maximum is $1,500. 
  • Tracking spending categories: With this card, you need to activate quarterly categories and track your spending to get the most value. For some people, this can be a hassle. Though others may be happy to do it in order to earn bonus cash back. 
  • No extended warranty protection: Discover used to offer extended warranty protection to its cardmembers, but this benefit was discontinued in 2018.
  • Worldwide acceptance:  Discover cards not as widely accepted worldwide as Mastercard,  Visa, or American Express cards. If you plan to use this card while you travel, 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 Card.

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: $670

Year two earnings: $335

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. If you shop within the 5% bonus categories each quarter, you are likely to get much more value from this card. 

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 category each quarter. You can earn 5% cash back after you've activated your bonus. For 2021, the Discover Cashback Calendar bonus categories include:

  • Grocery stores, Walgreens, CVS (January to March)
  • Gas stations, wholesale clubs, select streaming services (April to June)
  • Restaurants and PayPal transactions (July to September)
  • Purchases at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com (October to December)

In the past, Discover has also offered bonus cash back on rideshare services like Uber and Lyft. Check Discover's bonus cash back calendar each year 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 extra rewards.

You also get 1% on all other purchases. And you automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. Try to sign up 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

While the Discover it Cash Back Card requires a bit of extra effort to earn bonus rewards, the redemption process is simple. That's because you earn cash back on spending rather than earning points or miles that you have to figure out the value of.

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. If you choose, you can also redeem your rewards for a gift card or e-certificate, but there's a $20 minimum on these options. Just log into your account via Discover.com or the Discover mobile app whenever you're ready and request your money.

Discover it Cash Back Card FAQs

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 5% cash back each quarter and shop in the appropriate categories where you can earn the bonus. You also Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, which makes this card a great option.

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 Discover offers on non-bonus everyday purchases.

Is there a limit on cash back with Discover?

There’s a limit on bonus cash back you can earn. You can earn 5% back within the bonus category each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum. Plus, you’ll still score 1% back on other purchases — and there’s no limit on the total cash back you can earn each year.

Additionally, you Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.

Does Discover match my cash back every year?

Discover matches your cash back at the end of your first year as cardmember.

Do Discover it Cash Back rewards expire?

Discover it Cash Back rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains active.

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

To get approved for the Discover it Cash Back Card, you'll likely need a good to excellent credit score. A good credit score typically falls within the 670-739, though approval will be at Discover's discretion. 


Other cards to consider

Not convinced the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card is right for you? Check out these other great cashback credit cards:

  • Chase Freedom Unlimited Card: This card also charges a $0 annual fee and offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases (then 14.99% to 23.74% (variable)). The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers earning categories of 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases, and 1.5% on all other purchases. You'll also earn a $200 cash back bonus after spending $500 in the first 3 months, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including target or walmart; up to $12,000 in the first year) — but there's no cashback match, unlike with Discover.
  • Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card: This credit card offers 1.5% cash back as its standard cashback rate. It also offers a $0 annual fee, and it comes with a generous welcome offer — you can earn $200 cash back after spending $500 in the first 3 months of account opening. It provides a 0% APR for 15 months on purchases (then 14.99% to 24.99% (variable)).

The bottom line is that the best credit card for you depends upon your unique situation and needs. For some, a flat-rate cashback credit card may make the most sense, while others may appreciate the flexibility of activating a different bonus category each quarter.

5% Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back

Special Offer

Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

See how these cards compare:

Chase Freedom Unlimited
Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • $200 sign-up bonus
  • Bonus rewards on travel, dining, and drugstores
  • 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $12k in your first year)
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • $200 early spend bonus
  • No annual fee
  • 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day

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.