Discover it vs. Citi Double Cash: Sometimes, 2 Is Better Than 5

Double Cash has unlimited earning potential in exchange for very little work on your part. Getting cash back with the Discover it card is less of a sure thing. 
Jae Bratton
By Jae Bratton 
Edited by Erin Hurd

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Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

4.9

/5
 NerdWallet rating 

on Discover's website, or call 800-347-0264

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card

4.6

/5
 NerdWallet rating 

on Citibank's application

With the Citi® Double Cash Card, earning 2% cash back is practically foolproof. Its easy-to-understand rewards structure gives it the edge over another popular cash-back credit card, Discover it® Cash Back, especially for consumers who want to carry just one credit card.

Discover it® Cash Back’s rotating bonus categories earn 5% cash back each quarter (when activated), but that rewards rate comes with caveats and limitations that should temper expectations regarding the card’s earning potential.

But for some cardholders, the simplicity of less might be worth more in the long run. Citi® Double Cash Card earns 2% cash back on every purchase: You’ll get 1% cash back on all your purchases, and an additional 1% when you pay them off. At first blush, it appears to be the lesser credit card when compared with Discover it® Cash Back, but it will likely be more profitable for those who lack the interest or discipline to manage ever-changing rewards categories.

Here's how to decide which card is right for you.

At a glance

Discover it® Cash Back

Citi® Double Cash Card

Discover it® Cash Back
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

OR

Citi® Double Cash Card
NerdWallet rating 
Learn More

OR

Annual fee

$0.

$0.

Sign-up bonus

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. You could turn $150 cash back into $300.

None

Rewards

  • 5% back in rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter (requires activation).

  • 1% back on all other purchases.

  • 2% cash back, distributed in 2 stages:

    • 1% cash back for every dollar spent.

    • 1% cash back for every dollar paid off.

Why Citi® Double Cash Card is better for most people

Simplicity

Earning 2% cash back on every purchase with Citi® Double Cash Card is easy. With no bonus categories to keep track of, the only thing you’ll have to remember is to pay your monthly bill on time. This card rewards people who habitually pay their credit card balance in full — and serves as motivation for those who need an extra nudge to pay it off.

Rewards

A 2% cash-back rate across all purchases is almost impossible to beat, but that’s exactly what you’ll get with Citi® Double Cash Card. Say you rack up $2,000 in expenses in one month from day care tuition, a Netflix subscription and groceries. After you pay off the entire credit card balance, you’ll be rewarded with 4,000 ThankYou Points, which is equal to $40.

Points do not expire, and there is no cap on the number you can earn.

Redemption options

Rewards earned with Citi® Double Cash Card come in the form of ThankYou Points. ThankYou points are worth 1 cent apiece when you redeem for cash back in the form of a direct deposit, statement credit or paper check. For example, 1,000 ThankYou points will get you $10 in cash.

ThankYou Points can also be transferred to a few travel partners including JetBlue, Wyndham and Choice. In the cases of JetBlue and Wyndham, you'll only get 800 points per 1,000 ThankYou points transferred. But, at times, it's possible get more value from your points when you transfer them to partners. For example, NerdWallet values JetBlue points at 1.5 cents each, while ThankYou Points are worth 1 cent apiece for cash.

Why you might want Discover it® Cash Back

You’ll have to work harder to get cash back with Discover it® Cash Back, but if you’re willing and able to keep track of rotating bonus categories, the payoff could be big.

Bonus rewards

Discover it® Cash Back gives you a chance to earn 5% cash back on a select group of purchases, which changes every three months and is determined by the card issuer, not you, the cardholder. For example, if you pay for your Target runs with Discover it® Cash Back when Target is a bonus category, you’ll get 5% cash back every time you swipe. Discover’s bonus categories will find favor with many consumers as they tend to include popular merchants such as Target, Walmart, gas stations and grocery stores.

However, you must remember to opt in to, or "activate," the bonus categories each quarter by a certain date, and earnings are capped at $1,500 per category. After that, you can only get 1% cash back. The paltry 1% rate is also what you’ll earn if you forget to activate the bonus categories by the deadline.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Unlike some of its competitors, Discover announces all of the upcoming year’s bonus categories at one time rather than publicizing them before each new quarter.

Unlimited cash back match

The sign-up bonus for the Discover it® Cash Back is a unique one: 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. You could turn $150 cash back into $300. That offer, combined with strategic spending in the bonus categories, could result in a healthy cash-back payout that’ll have you celebrating on your one-year anniversary with the card.

Which card should you get?

For credit card minimalists, Citi® Double Cash Card is an excellent option that can be relied on to earn 2% cash back on any purchase with no cap. The complicated rewards structure of Discover it® Cash Back could cause some cardholders to miss out on getting 5% back and settle for 1% instead.

If you want to pair Citi® Double Cash Card with another card that earns elevated rewards, consider the Citi Custom Cash℠ Card. It earns 5% back in your highest spend category (from a list of 10) per billing cycle, up to $500 spent; after that, you earn 1%. Bonus categories include grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations, but you don’t have to keep track of them: Bonus categories automatically adjust every billing cycle.

Having two credit cards from the same issuer makes it easier to see your accounts in one place and gives you the ability to combine your points into one pot.

Find the right credit card for you.

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