Discover it Balance Transfer Review: A Debt Zapper With Rewards

You expect a balance transfer card to offer a lengthy introductory APR period. But this card also gives you cash back — and a reason to hold on to it long-term.
Sara RathnerSep 24, 2021

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Our Take

4.7

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: This is the rare balance transfer card with value beyond its introductory APR period. Be aware, however, that the intro period for purchases is a lot shorter than for transfers.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

on Discover's website

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

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

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No annual fee
  • Intro APR period
  • Bonus categories
  • Cash rewards

Cons

  • Requires good/excellent credit

Alternate Pick: Flat-rate cash back

Citi® Double Cash Card
NerdWallet rating 

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

NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Annual fee

$0

Annual fee

$0*

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.49% - 24.49%* Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

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

Intro APR

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

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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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.

It also 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.

One thing to be aware of, though, is that unlike other some other 0% intro APR cards, the Discover it® Balance Transfer isn't a great choice for financing a large new purchase. And while the card does limit certain common fees, there is one fee you’re going to want to pay attention to: a balance transfer fee that increases over time from 3% to 5% after several months.

Nerdy tip: Discover's balance-transfer card is currently available online only through NerdWallet.

Discover it® Balance Transfer: Basics

Card type: Balance transfer and cash back.

Annual fee: $0.

Intro APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% 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 and via PayPal. There's no minimum redemption requirement unless you redeem for gift certificates or eCertificates, which do require a minimum of $5.

  • 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. The PayPal option also requires that you link accounts.

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

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

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Other benefits: 

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

Why you might want 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% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

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). All other purchases earn 1% back. The current 5% categories on this card:

Discover bonus rewards categories for 2021

Q1 (Jan. 1–March 31)

• Grocery stores*. • CVS. • Walgreens.

*The grocery stores category includes Walmart Grocery Pickup & Delivery, but not grocery purchases inside Walmart or at other superstores such as Target or wholesale clubs.

Q2 (April 1–June 30)

• Gas stations. • Wholesale clubs. • Select streaming services.

Q3 (July 1–Sept. 30)

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

Q4 (Oct. 1–Dec. 31)

• Amazon.com. • Target.com. • 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.

Keep in mind, though, 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.

Why you might want a different card

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

The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers a longer 0% APR period for transfers — and a matching one for purchases. You get 0%* intro APR for 20 billing cycles on purchases and balance transfers*, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 24.49%* Variable APR. The annual fee is $0*. There are no rewards, however.

A flat-rate card may better suit your spending

The Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer has an introductory APR of 0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR. There is, however, no 0% intro APR period for purchases. What makes it especially attractive is its flat-rate rewards, which make the card 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, then 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 versus other cards, visit the NerdWallet best credit cards roundup.

Should you apply?

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.