Discover Credit Cards

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated May 25, 2018

In the past decade, Discover has really stepped up their credit card game with their “it” family of cards. They’re known for having great U.S.-based customer service, which comes in handy if you need to call them. All Discover cards have no annual fee.

Is there a Discover card that’s right for you? There are three main categories of cards: cards for good or excellent credit, cards for students, and a card for people with bad credit.

For Good or Excellent Credit

The regular Discover it card has rotating 5% bonus reward categories, which change every quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. The amount of cash back you can earn in the 5% category is usually capped at $1,500 in spending each quarter. About a month before the new quarter begins, Discover sends an email with a link to click to activate the upcoming quarter’s 5% category. If you don’t activate it you won’t earn 5% in the bonus category. With Discover’s Cashback Bonus, it effectively earns 2–10% cash back the first year, depending on where you spend. These are the 2018 categories:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs
April – June Grocery Stores
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs

 

This card earns 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on the first $1,000 spent across both categories, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. With the Cashback Bonus, that’s effectively 4% at restaurants and gas stations for the first year.

 

The Discover it Miles earns “miles” instead of cash back, although they aren’t specifically travel rewards: you don’t earn more miles for travel purchases, and there’s no advantage to redeeming the miles for travel. This is essentially a cash back card that earns an unlimited 1.5% on all purchases. Similarly to the Cashback Match, Discover will double miles earned in the first year.

 

Other than savings at Shop.NHL.com and a discount on an NHL.TV subscription, this card is pretty much the same as the regular Discover it above. It’s designed for hockey fans, and cardholders get to pick a favorite team for the card design.

For College Students

Discover offers two options for college students that are similar to the regular cards they offer for non-students. They also both come with a “good grades bonus,” which means Discover will give you a $20 statement credit each for school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher (for up to five years after opening the account).

 

For Bad Credit

This is Discover’s secured credit card offering for people with bad credit histories. It earns rewards, which is rare among secured cards. You’ll need to provide bank account details on the application. This bank account be used to fund the security deposit. If you use the card responsibly, Discover may refund the security deposit and keep the account open, effectively making it an unsecured card. However, if you want to switch to a different Discover product you’ll need to close this account and apply for the other account separately.

Rewards

All Discover cards earn rewards in one form or another, and you can redeem cash back as a statement credit. There are other options for redeeming rewards, like applying them to a purchase at Amazon.com checkout, but then you won’t be earning rewards on the purchase.

Discover also offers the option to redeem for gift cards. This can get you higher value for your cash back than you’d get with a statement credit because you will always get at least $5 added to each card, in addition to the cash back amount you redeem. This is different from most credit card issuers, where you’ll usually get a lower rewards value when you redeem for gift cards.

Introductory APRs

Most Discover credit cards come with an introductory offer that can be used for balance transfers or new purchases. This can be useful if you want to save money while paying off existing debt, or make a big purchase and pay it off over time while earning rewards.

Free Credit Score

With all of their cards, Discover offers a free FICO® Credit Score and a Credit Scorecard, which shows the areas where you can change behavior to increase your credit scores. This credit score is based on your TransUnion credit report.

Cash Back Bonus

All Discover cards currently offer Cashback Match, which is a program where Discover will double cash back you earn in the first year. This extra cash back is awarded after the first year the credit card account is open.

Benefits

All Discover cards come with the same set of benefits, which has been drastically reduced. Cardholders get:

  • Price Protection: If you buy an eligible item and find it being advertised for a lesser price elsewhere, you can be reimbursed for the difference.
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Discover will alert you if your SSN is found on any of thousands of risky websites.
  • Freeze it: Easily freeze and unfreeze your account, online or from the mobile app.
  • Cash at Checkout: Get cash at checkout at participating merchants, by charging an extra amount over your purchase.
  • Zero Fraud Liability for Unauthorized Purchases: You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized purchases on your account (contact customer support immediately).

How to Apply

To apply for any Discover card you’ll need to provide standard personal information like your name and address, a social security number, annual income, and the amount you pay for housing per month. You can fill out a credit card application on their website, or by calling 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683).

Loans and Banking Services

In addition to credit cards, Discover Bank offers checking accounts and personal loans, including personal loans, home equity loans, and student loans. You may get special loan offers from Discover once you establish a banking relationship with them for credit cards.

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