Compare Credit Cards: Chase Freedom vs. Discover it

It's a close call between these two cards with quarterly-rotating rewards categories.

Erin El IssaJanuary 5, 2015

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If you love rewards credit cards, but you’re so over piddly 1% to 2% rewards rates, have we got a showdown for you. Two of the best 5% rewards cards in the industry — the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® Cash Back — are going head-to-head for your reading pleasure. Here’s what you need to know to determine which 5% rewards card is the best option for you.

Chase Freedom® vs. Discover it® Cash Back: Rewards

Chase Freedom®

The Chase Freedom® offers 5% back in categories that change every three months, on up to $1,500 in spending quarterly. The current categories:

Chase Freedom® bonus rewards categories for 2020

Q1 (Jan. 1 - March 31)

• Gas stations. • Select streaming services. • Internet, cable and phone services.

Q2 (April 1 - June 30)

• Grocery stores. • Gym memberships and fitness clubs. • Select streaming services.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Amazon.com. • Whole Foods Market.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

TBD (In 2019, department stores, PayPal and Chase Pay.).

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For any spending above the $1,500 cap, you’ll receive 1% back. You’ll also receive 1% back on all other purchases. The Chase Freedom® offers a cash signup bonus: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

Cardholders can also use the Chase Ultimate Rewards site to get up to 10% cash back on online purchases.

Discover it® Cash Back

The Discover it® Cash Back also offers 5% back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending quarterly. The current categories:

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2020

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)

• Grocery stores. • CVS. • Walgreens.

Q2 (April 1 – June 30)

• Gas stations. • Uber and Lyft. • Wholesale clubs. • June only: Home Depot

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Amazon.com. • Target.com. • Walmart.com.

For any spending above the $1,500 cap, you’ll get 1% back, and you’ll also get 1% back on all other purchases. For new cardholders, there isn't a sign-up bonus, per se, but there's an offer that might be even more lucrative: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.

Chase Freedom® vs. Discover it® Cash Back: Fees

The Chase Freedom® has an annual fee of $0 and foreign transaction fees of 3%. It offers an introductory APR of 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR.

The Discover it® Cash Back has an annual fee of $0 and no foreign transaction fees. That said, Discover isn’t as readily accepted overseas as Visa or MasterCard (see our list of countries that accept Discover). Its APR is 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Chase Freedom® vs. Discover it® Cash Back: Additional benefits

The Chase Freedom® is a great card to go along with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. You can earn rewards in the 5% quarterly bonus categories and transfer them to the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to redeem for travel at a rate of 1.25 cents per point through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

The Discover it® Cash Back will waive your first late payment fee, and it doesn’t have penalty APRs or over-the-limit fees. It gives cardholders their free FICO scores on monthly statements and online.

The bottom line: Should I get the Chase Freedom® or Discover it® Cash Back?

If you spend in line with one card’s bonus categories, you should choose that card. Otherwise, go with the Chase Freedom® if you also have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and you want the cash bonus, and the Discover it® Cash Back if you’re an avid online shopper and/or may use your credit card in a foreign country that accepts Discover.

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