The Discover Card is one of the most popular and rewarding credit cards available. With competitive cash back rewards, excellent benefits, and no annual fee, it’s easy to see why the Discover Card is a top choice for many consumers. This detailed review will cover everything you need to know about the Discover Card, including pros and cons, rewards, features, application process, and more.
The Discover Card has been around since 1986 and has grown into one of the largest credit card issuers in the United States. Unlike American Express and Mastercard which operate through banks, Discover issues its own credit cards directly to consumers. This allows Discover to offer some of the most competitive rewards programs and cardholder benefits in the industry.
Some key highlights of the Discover Card include:
- Cashback Match – Discover will match all the cash back rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year. This essentially doubles your rewards.
- 5% Cashback Bonus – Earn 5% cash back in quarterly rotating bonus categories.
- No Annual Fee – There is no annual fee for the Discover Card.
- 0% Intro APR – Get 0% intro APR for 6 months on purchases and balance transfers.
- Good for Students – Discover offers student-friendly credit cards with cash back and good grades rewards.
- Top Ranked Customer Service – Discover frequently is rated as having some of the best customer service compared to other credit card companies.
In this comprehensive Discover Card review, we’ll take an in-depth look at the rewards programs, benefits, fees, customer service, application requirements, and more to see if the Discover Card is the right choice for your needs and budget.
How the Discover Card Works
The Discover Card operates as a traditional credit card on the Discover network. While not as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard, most merchants that take credit cards will accept Discover as well. Places that are more likely not to accept Discover are smaller shops, independent retailers, and some international vendors. However, acceptance rates are very high among major retailers.
You can use the Discover Card anywhere that accepts Discover. This includes in-person transactions, online payments, phone/mail orders, etc. Discover cards also work with contactless pay options like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and the Discover Mobile app.
Like other credit cards, you’ll get a statement each month that you’ll pay in full or make a minimum payment on. Discover reports your balance, payment history, credit limit, and other details to the three main credit bureaus each month. This helps build your credit history as you responsibly use and pay off your card.
Discover Card Rewards and Bonuses
The rewards program is one of the main reasons the Discover Card is so popular. Discover offers a straightforward cash back program along with lucrative quarterly bonuses.
5% Cashback Bonus Categories
The Discover Card offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter (then 1% after that) on rotating quarterly categories. These 5% bonus categories include:
- January – March: Grocery stores
- April – June: Gas stations, Uber, Lyft
- July – September: Restaurants
- October – December: Amazon.com
The ability to earn 5% cash back on common purchases is very valuable. It’s easy to maximize these bonus categories each quarter.
You must activate the 5% cashback category each quarter to earn the bonus. This takes just a few clicks online or in the mobile app.
1% Cash Back on All Other Purchases
The Discover Card earns an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases with no caps. While 1% isn’t the highest flat-rate offered, when combined with the quarterly bonuses, it provides strong rewards earnings overall.
One of the best perks of the Discover Card is Cashback Match. Discover will automatically match all the cash back rewards you’ve earned at the end of your first year with the card. This essentially doubles your rewards.
For example, if you earn $300 cash back within your first 12 months, Discover will match it with another $300 for $600 total. This provides huge value from your rewards, especially in the first year.
No Cap on Cashback Earnings
There is no maximum cap on how much total cash back you can earn each year with the Discover Card. This is better than cards that limit you to just $1,000 or $1,500 per year. Big spenders can maximize rewards.
Redeeming Cash Back
Cash back rewards can be redeemed in any amount at any time. Redemptions start at just $20 cash back. You can redeem as credits to your statement, direct deposit to your bank, gift cards, Amazon.com credits, donations, and more.
Discover Card Benefits
In addition to the rewards, the Discover Card comes with an excellent selection of benefits and protections.
No Annual Fee
There is no annual fee to have the Discover Card. This makes it easy and economical to keep long term. Other cash back cards often charge annual fees upwards of $95/year, which eat into your rewards.
0% Intro APR
New Discover cardmembers can enjoy 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 6 months. This intro period gives you time to pay off large expenses or transferred balances over time without interest. Just be sure to pay the full statement balance each month before intro APR expires to avoid deferred interest.
Balance Transfer Offer
Along with 0% intro APR, Discover offers an intro balance transfer offer. You can transfer high-interest balances from other credit cards and pay no balance transfer fee for 6 months. After that, the fee is 3% (minimum $10). This can save you a lot on interest and fees when consolidating debt.
Discover offers a free credit scorecard to all cardholders, even if you’re not a formal Discover credit checking member. This lets you monitor your FICO credit score each month to watch for changes.
Freeze It On/Off
You can freeze your Discover Card when not in use and instantly unfreeze it as needed. This adds security when your card is inactive for periods of time.
$0 Fraud Liability
Discover provides complete $0 fraud liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges. Discover also monitors for identity theft and alerts you of any suspicious activity.
24/7 US-Based Customer Service
Discover has award-winning customer service available 24/7/365 to answer any card questions and assist with managing your account.
Extensive Security Benefits
Discover offers top security protections like 24/7 active monitoring, encrypted card numbers, free credit reports and scores, zero liability fraud coverage, and more.
Discover Card Fees
The Discover Card stands out from competitors by having no annual fee. This provides great long term value. Here are the only other potential fees to be aware of:
- APR: The standard purchase and balance transfer APR is 12.99% to 23.99% variable
- Balance Transfer Fee: 3% intro fee for 6 months, then 5% fee (minimum $10)
- Cash Advance Fee: 3% or $10 minimum
- Foreign Transaction Fee: None
- Late Payment Fee: Up to $40
- Returned Payment Fee: Up to $40
Avoiding interest by paying in full each month allows you to maximize rewards without paying penalty fees or interest.
How to Apply for a Discover Card
Applying for a Discover Card is quick and easy, usually taking just a few minutes to complete the online application.
To qualify for the Discover Card you need:
- Good credit (680+ FICO score is recommended)
- No recent bankruptcies
- Steady income
- Be at least 18 years old
The online application will ask for your personal info, employment, income, social security number, and any loans/credit accounts. Discover may use this info to make a soft credit check which won’t hurt your scores.
After submitting the application, you’ll get an instant decision letting you know if you’re approved or denied. If approved, you can begin using your new card once received in the mail.
College students, even with little or no credit history, may qualify for the Discover Student credit card. This card earns cash back and rewards good grades.
Discover Credit Card Pros
Here are some of the top advantages of the Discover Card:
Excellent Rewards – 5% quarterly bonus categories and 1% flat rate provide generous rewards potential. Cashback Match doubles rewards in year 1.
No Annual Fee – There is no fee each year, adding extra savings.
0% Intro APR – 6 months no interest on purchases and balance transfers.
Good for Students – Discover offers student cards and rewards good grades.
Wide Acceptance – Taken nearly everywhere in the U.S. that accepts credit cards.
Top Rated Service – Discover frequently ranks highest in customer satisfaction.
Free Credit Scores – All cardholders get free access to FICO credit scores.
Freeze Card Ability – Freeze/unfreeze your card instantly through the app.
No Foreign Transaction Fees – No extra charges on international purchases.
Discover Card Cons
Here are a few potential disadvantages to consider about the Discover Card:
Smaller Acceptance Abroad – Less widely accepted outside the U.S. compared to Visa/Mastercard.
Rotating Categories – 5% categories change each quarter, requiring activation.
High APR – Above-average interest rates from 12.99% to 23.99% variable APR.
3% BT Fee – Balance transfers cost 3% after the 6 month intro period.
Credit Inquiries – Application involves a hard credit check which can temporarily lower credit scores.
No Sign-up Bonus – Some cards offer large sign-up bonuses, but not Discover currently.
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While these may be cons for some, they likely won’t outweigh the positives for most cardholders. Just be aware of these factors when deciding.
Discover Card FAQs
Still have some questions about the Discover Card? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Does Discover report to credit bureaus?
Yes, Discover reports your credit limits, balances, payment history, and other card activity to all three credit bureaus each month. Responsible use helps build your credit profile.
Can Discover cards be used internationally?
Yes, Discover cards work internationally, but acceptance may be more limited compared to Visa and Mastercard. Discover has no foreign transaction fees.
Is there roadside assistance with the Discover Card?
Yes, Discover provides complimentary 24/7 roadside assistance as a cardholder benefit. This includes services like towing, fuel/fluid delivery, jump starts, flat tire changes, and locksmith service.
Does Discover offer virtual card numbers?
Yes, you can generate virtual card numbers through your account for use with online transactions instead of your actual card number for added security.
Is there travel insurance with the Discover Card?
Yes, Discover provides basic travel accident insurance and auto rental insurance. There are also no foreign transaction fees.
Are there any blackout dates for redeeming Discover cash back?
No, Discover cash back rewards have no blackout dates for redemption. You can redeem at any time no matter when earned.
Is the Discover Card Right for You?
The Discover Card makes an excellent option for anyone looking for a straightforward cash back credit card. With generous rewards on purchases, no annual fee, and great benefits, it provides strong overall value. College students can also start building credit with the Discover Student card.
Just be aware acceptance is limited internationally and the APR is relatively high. But as long as you pay balances off monthly, the Discover Card gives you a chance to earn cash back on all your spending without needing to juggle bonus categories.
Overall, the Discover Card deserves its reputation as a leading cash back credit card that’s easy to maximize for rewards.
For consumers wanting a cash back credit card with excellent rewards potential, the Discover Card should be high on your list. Between the rotating 5% bonus categories, 100% Cashback Match welcome bonus, no annual fee, and solid benefits, it’s easy to get great value from the Discover Card. Just be sure to pay off balances in full each month to avoid interest charges. Overall an excellent card for earning cash back on your daily spending.