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NerdWallet’s Best Discover Credit Cards of 2019

Jan. 17, 2019
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Discover’s credit cards don’t charge annual fees and offer new cardholders a unique bonus in which the issuer matches all rewards earned in the first year. Nowadays you can use Discover in nearly as many places in the U.S. as Visa and Mastercard, although acceptance internationally is still quite limited. Here are our top picks among Discover credit cards.

For everyday spending: Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Cash back match at the end of your first year
    • Bonus cash back categories
    • No annual fee
    • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers

    Cons

    • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
    • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 14 months
  • Additional Information
    • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
    • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
    • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
    • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • No annual fee.
    • View Rates and Fees

Why we like it

The Discover it® Cash Back offers excellent value whether you use it as your go-to-card for all expenses or you combine it with other cards and use it only in its 5% categories.

Pros and cons

Pros: You earn 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 spent each quarter, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. (See the current categories.) The annual fee is $0. The lengthy introductory 0% APR period gives you plenty of breathing room for a major purchase. And the unique bonus for new cardholders — Discover’s signature “cash-back match” — gets more valuable the more you use the card.

Cons: Keeping track of the changing bonus categories — and remembering to activate them — can be a hassle. The categories themselves usually include common expenses, but they can still be hit-or-miss. If they don’t align with your spending, you’ll get only limited value from the card.

» MORE: Read our review of the Discover it® Cash Back

For balance transfers: Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Bonus cash back categories
    • No annual fee
    • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Cons

    • Slightly less merchant acceptance for Discover in US - acceptance outside of US can be an issue
    • If you value simplicity, a flat rate cash back card may be better

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months
  • Additional Information
    • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
    • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
    • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
    • 100% U.S. based customer service.
    • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • No annual fee.
    • View Rates and Fees

Why we like it

The Discover it® Balance Transfer has two of the three elements of an ideal balance transfer credit card: a $0 annual fee and a 0% introductory APR period for transfers. It does charge a balance transfer fee, although it’s in line with industry standards. Also, unlike many balance transfer cards, this card offers robust rewards.

Pros and cons

Pros: The 0% intro APR period for transfers is one of the longest available at 18 months. Further, this is the rare balance transfer card that gives you a reason to hang on to it after the 0% period ends. It offers the same rewards program as the Discover it® Cash Back, outlined above — same rates, structure, categories, etc. The new cardmember bonus is the same, too.

Cons: The 3% balance transfer fee is on the low end, but some cards charge no fee at all or waive it for a time. The 0% period for purchases is considerably shorter than for transfers. And the rewards have the same hassle factor as with the Discover it® Cash Back.

» MORE: Read our review of the Discover it® Balance Transfer

For travel: Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

Discover it® Miles

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 690
    850
    Good - Excellent
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Rewards can be redeemed for travel or cash back at equal value
    • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee
    • Sign-up bonus
    • Flexible redemption options

    Cons

    • No luxury perks
    • Other cards offer higher rewards rates
    • Discover cards not widely accepted outside the U.S.
    • Requires good/excellent credit

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 14 months
  • Additional Information
    • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
    • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
    • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
    • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
    • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
    • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • No Annual Fee.
    • View Rates and Fees

Why we like it

The simple rewards structure, decent rewards rate and $0 annual fee on the Discover it® Miles provide solid value for less-than-hardcore travelers who do most of their traveling in the U.S.

Pros and cons

Pros: If you value simplicity, you’ll appreciate this card’s easy-to-understand terms. You earn 1.5 miles per $1 spent on all purchases. Miles can be redeemed at a value of 1 cent apiece for statement credit against travel purchases. That means you can book however you want, then use miles to pay for it, without restrictions or blackout dates. You can also redeem miles for cash back at the same rate. And don’t forget the new cardholder bonus: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!

Cons: Like all of Discover’s offerings, this card charges no foreign transaction fees — but Discover cards have limited international acceptance. You’ll want to pack a backup payment option if you’e heading abroad.

» MORE: Read our review of the Discover it® Miles

For college students: Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    689
    Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Earn 5% Cash Back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate
    • Qualify with average credit
    • Bonus cash back categories
    • No annual fee
    • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 15.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
  • Additional Information
    • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
    • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
    • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
    • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 15.24% - 24.24%.
    • View Rates and Fees

Why we like it

This isn’t your typical bare-bones student credit card. On top of building credit with the Discover it® Student Cash Back, you earn perks and rewards. The low fees also make it an ideal card for students.

Pros and cons

Pros: This card offers the same cash-back rewards program and the same new-cardmember bonus as the Discover it® Cash Back and Discover it® Balance Transfer. You get an introductory 0% APR period for purchases and even an incentive to keep your grades up — a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years. The annual fee is $0, and the card waives the late fee the first time you’re late with a payment.

Cons: College students may be less able than other cardholders to capitalize on certain bonus categories, such as grocery stores. Activating and tracking bonus categories can be a hassle. For students planning to study abroad, Discover’s limited international acceptance is also not ideal.

» MORE: Read our review of the Discover it® Student Cash Back

For building or rebuilding credit: Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

Discover it® Secured

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 300
    629
    Poor
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • No annual fee
    • Reports to the three major credit bureaus
    • Offers rewards and a sign-up bonus
    • Chance to upgrade to unsecured account after 8 months

    Cons

    • Requires minimum deposit of $200
    • Discover cards not widely accepted outside the U.S.

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 25.24% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 27.24%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

    Intro APR

    • 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
  • Additional Information
    • No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • It’s a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
    • Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit from $200-$2500 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
    • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
    • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
    • We automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • View Rates and Fees

Why we like it

The Discover it® Secured is a rarity: a card for building or rebuilding credit that pays you rewards. It also has a clear process for upgrading to a better card when your credit improves.

Pros and cons

Pros: Cardholders earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in spending per quarter on gas and restaurant purchases, and an unlimited 1% back on all other purchases. Plus, Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. Your payment activity is reported to all three credit bureaus — essential for building credit. After eight months, the issuer begins reviewing your account for possible upgrade to an unsecured card that doesn’t require a security deposit.

Cons: Since this is a secured card, you have to put down a security deposit equal to your credit line. You can get this money back when you close or upgrade your account, but pulling together the $200 minimum deposit and keeping the money tied up can be a challenge for some.

» MORE: Read our review of the Discover it® Secured