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Discover it, Then Double it: A Cash-Back Bonanza for New Cardholders

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Discover it, then Double it

As 5% cash-back cards, the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ and the Discover it® - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer are up against a tough slate of competitors. With Discover’s double cash-back bonus for new cardholders, however, it’s easy to see why these cards are worth considering for everyday spending.

Let’s examine the two options and compare them with other top-tier cash-back cards to see whether they’re right for you.

Discover it® - Cashback Match™ and Discover it® - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer: Benefits and basics

There are actually two versions of this card, but there’s only one difference between them: the introductory APR offer.

With the more popular Discover it® - Cashback Match™, you’ll get 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.49% - 23.49% Variable APR.
With the Discover it® - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer, you’ll receive 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.49% - 23.49% Variable APR.

Other than that, the cards share the same rewards structure, including 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent quarterly in rotating categories, 1% cash back on everything else, and a rewards bonus you won’t find anywhere else. As Discover puts it: Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Those who want to transfer high-interest credit card debt should choose the Discover it® - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer, while those who are planning on a large purchase and want more time to pay it off interest-free would do better with the Discover it® - Cashback Match™.

For simplicity, we’ll refer to just one card — the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ — moving forward in discussing the benefits of both cards.

5% cash back on everyday spending

Both cards offer 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories, up to $1,500 spent per quarter. The current bonus categories are:

DISCOVER BONUS CATEGORIES FOR 2017
Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)Gas stations, ground transportation and wholesale clubs
Q2 (April 1 – June 30)Home improvement stores and wholesale clubs
Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)To be announced
Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)To be announced

If your spending aligns with that of American households on average, you’ll probably be able to take advantage of most, if not all, of the card’s bonus categories.

Access to Discover Deals

One of the Nerds’ favorite online bonus malls, Discover Deals offers cardholders an extra 5% to 20% cash back at more than 200 online retailers. You can also access in-store coupons and bonus cash-back offers. Because Discover’s double cash-back bonus also counts on Discover Deals purchases, it should be easy to start racking up the cash rewards.

Extra perks

If the rewards aren’t enough to hook you, the other benefits may do the trick. These cards offer free access to your FICO score, no foreign transaction fees and the Freeze It℠ feature, which prevents someone else from using your card if it’s lost or stolen. Plus, Discover won’t charge you a fee for your first late payment or raise your APR for paying late. You’ll get all of that with a $0 annual fee.

Discover it® - Cashback Match™: Pitfalls and other possibilities

While the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ is a solid cash-back option, it isn’t perfect. Here are some drawbacks to consider:

Great bonus — but you have to wait for it 

While the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ offers to match your cash back at the end of your first year, you might not want to wait that long. The Chase Freedom®, on the other hand, offers a sign-up bonus you can earn within just a few months: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening.

The Chase Freedom® also offers 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories, on up to $1,500 spent per quarter, and 1% back on all other spending. The categories are usually similar to those of the Discover it® - Cashback Match™. It has a $0 annual fee, and you’ll get access to the Chase Ultimate Rewards site, where you can get up to 10% cash back on your online purchases. What’s more, you’ll receive 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.49% - 24.24% Variable APR.

For more information on the Chase Freedom®, check out our full review.

Categories may not fit your spending

While the bonus categories for the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ fit some budgets, they might not fit yours. If that’s the case, consider the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. This card lets you choose two 5% cash-back categories and one 2% cash-back category. The 5% cash back is limited to $2,000 in purchases per quarter.

The U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card’s annual fee is $0, but its introductory 0% APR doesn’t stack up well against the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ or the Chase Freedom®. It has an APR of 0% for 12 months on balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 23.49% Variable.

If you’re still interested, read our full review.

It can be a hassle to remember the categories

If you want to maximize your rewards with the Discover it® - Cashback Match™, you have to be sure to activate your 5% bonus every quarter and keep those categories in mind every time you shop. If you’d rather avoid the hassle, consider the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer. This card offers a flat 1% cash back on every purchase and another 1% cash back when you pay it off. This gives it the highest ongoing rewards rate of any other cash-back credit card.

With the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer, you’ll also get free access to your FICO score, a $0 annual fee and a solid balance transfer promotion: 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR.

For more details, see our full review.

Is the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ right for you?

If you’re looking for a solid cash-back credit card with a chance to maximize your cash back far beyond 5%, the Discover it® - Cashback Match™ with its double-cash-back bonus and Discover Deals is hard to ignore. If you want that, plus a longer balance-transfer period, go for the Discover it® - 21 Month Balance Transfer Offer.

If, however, you’re looking to get a bonus sooner, you want a wider variety of categories to earn bonus cash on, or you prefer a flat-rate cash-back card, there are plenty of options to choose from.

Ben Luthi is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email:bluthi@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @benluthi.

This post was updated. It was originally published March 17, 2015.


Image via iStock.