Editorial Review

Discover it Balance Transfer Review: A Debt Zapper With Rewards

You'd expect a balance transfer card to offer a lengthy 0% introductory APR period. But this card also gives you cash back — and a reason to hold onto it long-term.

Sara RathnerAugust 23, 2019

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take

3.6

NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: This is the rare balance-transfer card with value beyond its 0% APR period. Be aware, however, that the 0% period for purchases is a lot shorter than for transfers.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

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

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Annual Fee
$0
Annual Fee
$0
Intro APR
0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Pros & Cons

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

Alternate Pick: Flat-rate cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

Get 2% cash back on everything

This card is a match for the Discover it® Balance Transfer in terms of annual fee ($0), balance transfer fee (3%) and the length of the 0% APR period for balance transfers. But its rewards are simpler: 2% cash back on everything: 1% when you buy it, and 1% when you pay it off.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

16.74% - 26.74%* Variable APR

Regular APR

14.24% - 25.24% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months

Intro APR

0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months

Intro APR

0%* on purchases and balance transfers for 20 billing cycles*

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

Full Review

If you're chipping away at high-interest credit card debt, moving it to the Discover it® Balance Transfer can get you a nice, long time to pay it off without interest.

The card also limits fees — although it does charge a transfer fee. Plus, it offers a rare feature for a balance-transfer card:  elevated rewards on everyday spending. That gives you a good reason to keep the card around long after paying off your transferred balance.

However, unlike many zero-percent cards, the Discover it® Balance Transfer isn't a great choice for financing a large purchase. And if rewards aren't important to you, you can find cards with even longer interest-free windows on balance transfers.

NERD TIP: Discover offers a similar card with the same rewards structure but a 0% introductory APR period that's longer for purchases and shorter for balance transfers. That card is known as the Discover it® Cash Back.

Discover it® Balance Transfer: Basics

  • Card type: Balance transfer and cash back.

  • Annual fee: $0.

  • Intro APR: 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.

  • Ongoing rewards:

    • 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter (requires activation); 1% after that. Bonus categories in the past have included gas stations, wholesale clubs, restaurants and more. (See below for current categories.)

    • 1% cash back on all other purchases. (Note: Rewards are earned only on purchases, not on balance transfers.)

  • Redemption options: Cash back can be redeemed for a direct deposit into any account, a statement credit on your card, gift cards and eCertificates, charitable donations, or shopping on Amazon.com. There's no minimum redemption requirement unless you redeem for gift certificates or eCertificates, which do require a minimum of $20.

    • For the Amazon option, sign in to your Amazon account and link it to your card. You can pay with your Discover it® Balance Transfer card and apply cash-back rewards when you check out.

  • Sign-up bonus: Discover offers a unique sign-up bonus for new cardmembers in their first year, which the issuer phrases this way: "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."

  • Balance transfer fee: 3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)

  • Foreign transaction fees: None

  • Other benefits: 

Benefits of the Discover it® Balance Transfer

  • Generous 0% intro APR period: The Discover it® Balance Transfer offers one of the longest 0% introductory APR periods for transfers: 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 24.99% Variable APR.

  • Low fees: As with all Discover cards, there's no annual fee. And the intro 3% balance transfer fee is on the low end of the 3%–5% range typically charged by balance transfer cards. Keep in mind, though, that 3% still comes out to $30 for every $1,000 you transfer. And after the introductory period, balance transfers will cost you 5%, or $50 for every $1,000 you transfer. Also, unlike many other cards that offer cash-back rewards, the Discover it® Balance Transfer charges no foreign transaction fee — although as a Discover card, international acceptance is limited when compared with Visa and Mastercard.

  • High rewards rate: Other credit cards also offer the dual benefits of a 0% intro APR period plus rewards. But few of them can match the 5% cash-back rate that the Discover it® Balance Transfer offers on up to $1,500 in combined spending on bonus categories per quarter (after activation). The current categories on this card:

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2019

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)

Grocery stores

Q2 (April 1 – June 30)

• Gas stations. • Uber and Lyft.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

• Amazon.com. • Target (in store and online). • Walmart.com.

  • Potentially lucrative sign-up bonus: Discover's unique bonus allows cardmembers to essentially chart their own course for a personalized sign-up bonus in the first year of having the card.

NERD TIP: Keep in mind that if you’re using the balance transfer option on the Discover it® Balance Transfer card, you may want to avoid making new purchases with it entirely, and instead use the card solely for paying off debt — and that might mean missing out on the rich sign-up bonus offer, which you're eligible for only in your first year.

Drawbacks and alternatives

The Discover it® Balance Transfer is a solid choice, but depending on what you're looking for in a balance transfer card, there are some other promising options available.

You can get a longer 0% period for TRANSFERS

  • The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers an intro APR of 0% on Purchases for 12 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.74% - 26.74% Variable APR. The annual fee is $0,  and the card charges no late fees or penalty APRs. However, the balance transfer fee is on the high end at 5%, and the card offers no rewards.

  • The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card also provides a lengthy 0% intro APR period: 0% on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 20 billing cycles, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. The 3% balance transfer fee matches that of the introductory balance transfer fee on the Discover it® Balance Transfer. But this card lacks a rewards program and is not yet available in many states. (See the list of eligible states in our review.)

A flat-rate card may offer higher rewards

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has an introductory APR of 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 15.99% - 25.99% Variable APR. There is, however, no 0% intro APR period for purchases. This card's balance transfer fee is 3%. What makes this card especially attractive is its flat-rate rewards, which makes it a good choice for someone not interested in keeping track of bonus categories. You'll earn 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay. If simplicity is important to you, the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer could fit the bill.

To see how these options compare vs. other cards, visit the NerdWallet best credit cards roundup.

Should you get the Discover it® Balance Transfer card?

If you want a long time to pay down a credit card balance while still earning cash back on new purchases, the Discover it® Balance Transfer is tough to beat. The introductory balance transfer fee is comparatively low, and the cash-back earning potential is promising.

But if you're more focused on paying down debt than earning rewards, look into a card with an even longer balance transfer period — just keep your eye on the balance transfer fee.