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Chase Freedom Flex vs. Discover it® Cash Back: 6 Factors To Consider

Updated Sep 15, 2020 | Published Dec 17, 201910 min read

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At a glance

The Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it® Cash Back are solid rewards cards, both offering 5% cash back in categories that rotate every three months (up to $1,500 spent per quarter). The other terms are great too, with no annual fees and fairly long introductory APRs. One of them would probably fit well in your wallet.

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The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Insider tip

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ (Review) has replaced the Chase Freedom® (Review). The Freedom Flex adds a host of new rewards, and it uses the Mastercard network, rather than Visa. Current Freedom cardholders who’d prefer the Freedom Flex can contact Chase to request a product change, or may apply for the Freedom Flex separately in order to get the introductory bonus.

The Chase Freedom Flex℠ and Discover it® Cash Back are iconic, both occupying an interesting niche in the credit card world: 5% cash back bonus categories, that rotate every three months.

They’re similar in a lot of important ways, like having no annual fees and names that are also inspirational phrases (just kidding). But there are also a few differences that could draw you to one or the other.

What are you likely to buy? How much will you spend in your first year? And do you care about extra benefits, or the card issuer?

Overall, they’re both great cash back cards. They’re some of the most rewarding on the market, and the right one for you will depend on your lifestyle and spending habits. Overall, though, the Freedom Flex comes out on top with relative ease.

We’ll break down the main features of the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it® Cash Back below, but first, a quick rundown of the basics.

Chase Freedom Flex Discover it® Cash Back
Rewards
  • 5% cash back on:
    • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
    • Grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases; up to $12,000 spent in the first year)
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories, up to $1,500 in spending each quarter, then 1%
  • 3% cash back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • 5% cash back in changing reward categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter (then 1%; activation required)
  • 1% cash back everywhere else
Introductory Bonus
  • $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months
  • Cashback Match: All cash back earned in the first year is doubled
Benefits
  • Shopping and travel protections
  • Free credit score
  • Social Security number and credit report alerts
  • Free credit score
Introductory Purchase APR
  • 0% for 15 months, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable
  • See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
Introductory Balance Transfer APR
  • N/A
  • See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
Network
  • Mastercard

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Discover it® Cash Back

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APRSee Terms

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

Quick Guide

What credit scores do I need to get the Discover it® Cash Back and Chase Freedom Flex?

These cards are generally accessible to people with good credit or better, meaning a FICO Score 8 of at least 670. But take note that credit card approvals rely on more factors than just credit scores, like income.

Card issuers may have their own standards as well, like Chase's infamous 5/24 rule: It states that if you've been approved for five or more consumer cards in the last 24 months (from any issuers), you typically won't be approved for any more Chase cards.

1. Rewards

Rotating Bonus Categoriese

Here’s the main course.

Each card offers 5% cash back in categories that change every three months, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. That comes to a max of $75 cash back per month at the 5% rate; $300 per year.

Insider tip

For more details, explore our deep dives of the Chase Freedom Flex and Discover it® Cash Back rotating reward categories.

Here are the categories from 2019 and 2020. What catches your eye?

Chase Freedom Flex Categories

Quarter 2019 Categories 2020 Categories
January – March
  • Gas Stations
  • Tolls
  • Drugstores
  • Gas Stations
  • Streaming Services
  • Internet, Cable, Phone Services
April – June
  • Grocery Stores
  • Home Improvement Stores
  • Grocery Stores
  • Streaming Services
  • Fitness Club & Gym Memberships
July – September
  • Gas Stations
  • Streaming Services
  • Amazon
  • Whole Foods Market
October – December
  • Department Stores
  • PayPal
  • Chase Pay
  • Walmart
  • PayPal

Along with that, you’ll also get:

  • 5% cash back on:
    • Travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
    • Lyft rides (through March 2022)
    • Grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart purchases; up to $12,000 spent in the first year)
  • 3% cash back at:
    • Restaurants
    • Drugstores
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Discover it® Cash Back Categories

Quarter 2019 Categories 2020 Categories
January – March
  • Grocery Stores
  • Grocery Stores
  • CVS
  • Walgreens
April – June
  • Gas Stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Gas Stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Wholesale Clubs
July – September
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
October – December
  • Amazon.com
  • Target
  • Walmart.com
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com

Activating Categories

You need to activate your bonus categories each quarter before you start earning 5% cash back. You can activate before the quarter starts, and the deadline is usually a few weeks before the quarter ends.

And here’s an important difference: Once you activate your categories with the Chase Freedom Flex card, you’ll earn 5% back on all eligible purchases going back to the start of the quarter. But the Discover it® Cash Back only earns 5% back after you activate; previous purchases won’t be counted.

This could cost you some cash back, but Discover gives you quite a bit of warning, and will send alerts. So it shouldn’t be too hard to activate on time, and this isn’t a big factor overall.

Planning Ahead

There’s no telling exactly what the bonus categories will be until the issuers reveal them. But you can expect them to include some common purchases like gas and groceries at some point. The other categories are a bit more variable, sometimes including online services like Amazon, PayPal, Uber/Lyft, and streaming platforms.

Discover is pretty good about letting you know the categories ahead of time, releasing all its 2020 categories by November 2019. But Chase plays it closer to the vest, usually only revealing the next quarter’s categories for the Freedom Flex a few weeks in advance.

Additional Rewards

While the Discover it® Cash Back’s rewards start and end with its rotating bonus categories (plus the 1% you get on everything else), the Freedom Flex adds massive value with competitive rates in several additional spending categories.

You’ll earn 5% back on Lyft rides (through March 2022), groceries (not including Target or Walmart purchases; up to $12,000 spent in the first year) and travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, as well as 3% back at restaurants and drugstores.

Those travel and grocery rates are on the higher end of what’s currently available, but the card’s 3% categories are equally notable. Drugstores aren’t commonly covered, and even the esteemed Chase Sapphire Reserve® (Review) only earns 3X points per dollar on dining purchases, and that comes at a $550 annual fee.

Redeeming

These cards have some interesting redemption options. If you want to keep it simple, you can just go for cash back or bank deposit redemptions: That’d give you a straight value of 5% cash back in the bonus categories, or $5 for every $100 you spend. If you don’t care much about credit card reward options, you can leave it at that and jump to the next section.

But you can find more value if you dig a bit deeper.

The Discover it® Cash Back card’s edge is providing a minimum $5 bonus for every gift card redemption. So if you’re planning a purchase from a specific merchant, have a gift to give, or know you’ll make use of the gift card somehow, this method gives you a bit extra.

Discover gift card redemptions (as of December 2019).

Discover gift card redemptions (as of December 2019).

The Chase Freedom Flex has a more complicated (and potentially more valuable) advantage. You can transfer your rewards to some other Chase credit cards — those in the Ultimate Rewards family. And, if you transfer to certain cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, you could then get a bonus on certain travel redemptions; or you could transfer yet again to an airline or hotel loyalty program, where you can find the best deals.

With a smart travel booking you could double your effective reward rate, giving you a 10% cash back equivalent or more!

The Verdict

Chase snags an easy victory thanks largely to its non-rotating bonus categories, which the Discover lacks completely.

It’s unfortunate that Chase doesn’t announce its rotating categories until just before the quarter begins, but unless you’re planning every purchase months in advance, this drawback will pale in comparison to how much more you’re getting with the Freedom Flex.

The Discover it® Cash Back’s transparency can be helpful for planning, making the card a bit more user friendly. But the Chase Freedom Flex is more forgiving, providing retroactive rewards if you forget to activate. And if you have certain other Chase cards it could gain an even more significant lead than it already has.

Don’t forget, you could even apply for both cards. That’d give you wide bonus category coverage, and since they have no annual fees you wouldn’t have to worry if don’t use one or the other for a while.

Insider tip

The other big-name 5% rotating category cards are the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card, which lets you choose your own categories, and the Citi® Dividend card, which you can’t apply for directly but can product change to. And then there’s the Discover it® Student Cash Back (Review), which is pretty similar to the basic Discover it® Cash Back card, with the same 5% categories. If you’re looking for a student credit card, or know someone who is, it’s hard to beat.

2. Signup Bonus

If the reward categories are the main course, the signup bonus is the side dish you’ve been looking forward to all day. Not quite as important, but definitely worth considering.

You’ve got an interesting choice here.

Card Signup Bonus What You Get
Chase Freedom Flex $200 bonus for spending $500 in the first 3 months Less overall value, but less spending required
Discover it® Cash Back Cashback Match: All cash back earned in the first year is doubled (awarded after the first year) More overall value, but more spending required

The Verdict

There is no clear winner here. These cards have different kinds of signup bonuses that are valuable in their own ways.

So, what’s your game? Do you want cash back fast? The Chase Freedom Flex gives you that, with a 40% return as soon as you can spend $500 within the first three months of account opening.

The Discover it® Cash Back makes you wait. You won’t get your bonus until the end of your first year. And you’ll only get a 10% cash back equivalent at the most, when the 5% rate is doubled. But if you max out the 5% spending limit each quarter ($1,500), you’ll spend $6,000 and earn $600 in cash back during your first year. $300 of that won’t show up til the end of your first year.

If you max out the Chase Freedom Flex’s rotating 5% categories and get the intro bonus, you’ll earn $500 in cash back the first year: $300 from the 5% rate, and $200 from the bonus. And your cash back rewards will be available more quickly, typically about one billing period after you earn them. But remember — the Freedom Flex has other categories, too. Provided you can max out the rotating categories and use its other categories, the Freedom Flex can likely benefit you more overall.

But that’s big-picture thinking. Compared head-to-head, the Discover’s signup bonus offers more potential value, period. Is that worth passing up a plethora of additional rewards categories? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on how you spend.

3. Shopping Portals

An easy comparison here: Chase has a shopping portal, and Discover doesn’t.

What is a shopping portal? It’s a way to earn extra rewards or get discounts at specific merchants with your credit card.

Chase provides the Shop through Chase marketplace for many of its cards, including the Freedom Flex. Just select the deal you want, and be sure to make your purchase through the merchant website that pops up. You’ll earn extra cash back on top of what you’d normally get, which could mean some pretty hefty reward rates.

Shop through Chase deals (as of December 2019).

Shop through Chase deals (as of December 2019).

And the Freedom Flex doesn’t just feature Shop through Chase. It also has the Chase Offers program, which provides discounts at retailers based on how you spend with the card.

The Verdict

Chase wins here, of course. The Freedom Flex has a lot more to offer outside the 5% bonus categories, while the Discover it® Cash Back card does not.

Discover used to offer an excellent shopping portal with its cards — Discover Deals — but no longer.

A lot of people probably don’t care about shopping portals, or even know they exist. But they’re potentially quite valuable, and worth exploring if you want to squeeze your credit card for all its worth, or just find out everything it has to offer.

4. Benefits

You won’t find many exciting perks on either card. But you can get some useful services and protections that, if something doesn’t go quite right, could be just what you need.

The Chase Freedom Flex has a nice selection of World Elite Mastercard benefits for a no annual fee card. Perks include:

  • DoorDash membership: Get a free membership (DashPass) for three months, and then a 50% discount for the next nine months; DashPass provides free delivery and reduced service fees on orders over $12.
  • Credit Journey: An easy way to monitor your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Cell Phone Protection: Get up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year in protection against covered theft or damage for phones listed on your monthly phone bill when you pay it with your Freedom Flex.
  • Purchase Protection: Eligible purchases are covered against damage and theft (terms apply).
  • Extended Warranty: Eligible manufacturer’s warranties can be extended (terms apply).
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Get secondary coverage for eligible rental cars when you decline the rental company’s own insurance.
  • Roadside Assistance: Call for help on the road if you need a tow, jumpstart, tire change, and more; third-party fees apply.
  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance: Get reimbursed for eligible non-refundable passenger fares if your trip is cut short for a covered reason, like sickness or severe weather.
  • Travel and Emergency Assistance Services: In a jam? Call for medical and legal referrals while traveling, along with emergency services.

The Discover it® Cash Back card doesn’t offer any shopping or travel protections, but you will get some useful credit report and SSN benefits:

  • Credit Scorecard: A handy way to keep track of your FICO Score 8, based on your TransUnion credit report.
  • Social Security number alerts: Get notified if your SSN is found being used on thousands of risky dark web sites.
  • New inquiry and new account alerts: Get notified if any new credit inquiries or accounts appear on your Experian credit report.
  • Cash at checkout: Get cash back at checkout, like a debit card, at participating merchants (counted as part of the purchase).

Each card also has zero liability protection and fraud protections, which are standard on most credit cards.

The Verdict

Chase wins the benefit round, unless you have a special interest in Social Security number alerts.

Chase has a more standard set of benefits; if you want the Discover it® Cash Back card’s benefits, you can get most of them for free from other sources.

Extra card benefits matter to some people; other people, not so much. A lot of cardholders may not even know they’re available, but having your purchases covered against damage and getting reimbursed for interrupted trips could save you quite a bit of cash.

5. Introductory Interest Rates

0% introductory APRs allow you to pay off large purchases over time at no cost, giving you some extra breathing room. Or you can transfer a balance away from a high-interest card, saving money by avoiding interest charges.

The Discover it® Cash Back has a solid intro APR for both purchases and balance transfers, while the Chase Freedom Flex only has one for purchases.

Chase Freedom Flex Discover it® Cash Back
Introductory PurchaseAPR 0% for 15 months, then 14.99% - 23.74% Variable See Terms for See Terms, then See Terms
Introductory Balance Transfer APR N/A See Terms for See Terms then See Terms

The Verdict

The winner here depends on what you’re looking for. With the Discover it® Cash Back, you get a promotional offer for purchases and balance transfers. The Chase card offers a promotional rate for purchases only, though it may last a bit longer.

Planning to transfer a balance? The Discover is a good pick. Otherwise, the Freedom Flex takes the win.

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6. Other Features to Consider

These factors could play a role in some situations, for some people.

  • Foreign transaction fee: The Discover it® Cash Back doesn’t charge extra on purchases in foreign currency, while the Chase Freedom Flex does (3%). But if you’ll be traveling outside the country we suggest looking into travel credit cards, rather than one of these.
  • Network: Mastercard or Discover? This choice could matter if you plan to use the card outside the country, but otherwise it’s not usually a big deal. Mastercard has more acceptance worldwide, including Canada and Europe, but the Freedom Flex has that foreign transaction fee so it’s not a great pick for travel abroad. Discover cards don’t have great acceptance outside the U.S., although they can be used widely in Asia.
  • Issuer: Here, the choice is Chase or Discover (because Discover is both a network and a card issuer). Some people might prefer one or the other, for whatever reason. Or maybe you don’t care; it’s not a big deal, they’re both good as far as issuers go.
  • Customer support: It’s not controversial to say Discover’s customer support is better than Chase’s. Discover’s customer service is U.S.-based, and overall we’ve found them to be quite responsive and helpful. Discover always ranks highly in J.D. Power’s annual Credit Card Satisfaction Survey (first place in 2018 and 2019). Chase doesn’t do too bad, coming in fourth both years.

Chase Freedom Flex, or Discover it® Cash Back? Which Is Better?

An exceptional rewards program crowns the Chase Freedom Flex as this competition’s decisive winner.

They’re both excellent cards, with good reward rates and terms for no annual fee. But it’s hard to deny the extra value the Chase card’s non-rotating rewards categories provide.

With that said, the Discover it® Cash Back offers several advantages with more niche appeal, including a solid balance transfer offer and the ability to plan rotating category purchases ahead of time.

If you find yourself struggling to decide between them, why pick just one?

Most people will be fine with just one or the other, but if they each sound great and you’d use them enough, you can always apply for both. You’d have access to a wide variety of reward categories each year, although this could be a lot to keep track of.

We recommend starting with just one of them, however, especially if you’re new to credit. Take some time to decide how you like it, and if you really need another similar card. If you’re easily hitting the quarterly spending limits or the bonus categories aren’t giving you what you need, consider the other card.

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APR14.99% - 23.74% Variable

Discover it® Cash Back

Our rating
Min. credit levelGood
Details
Annual Fee$0
Regular APRSee Terms

The information related to Discover it® Cash Back has been collected by Credit Card Insider and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product.

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Brendan Harkness
Written by

Brendan Harkness

Brendan has been writing about personal finance for over eight years, and is now taking on the challenge of bringing high quality credit education to the masses. He makes sure that Credit Card Insider is covering the most important credit topics transparently and precisely, and that we have up-to-date reviews of credit cards so you can find cards that are right for you.

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