Editorial Review

Discover it Balance Transfer Review: A Debt Zapper With Rewards

You 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 on to it long-term.

Sara RathnerDecember 3, 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

4.7

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

13.49% - 24.49% 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

13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

16.24% - 26.24% Variable APR

Regular APR

13.99% - 24.99% 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 18 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.

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.

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 13.49% - 24.49% 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 $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. The PayPal option also requires that you link accounts.

  • 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: 

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% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.49% - 24.49% 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 2019 and 2020

2019 categories

2020 categories

Q1 (Jan. 1 – March 31)

• Grocery stores.

• Grocery stores. • CVS. • Walgreens.

Q2 (April 1 – June 30)

• Gas stations. • Uber and Lyft.

• Gas stations. • Uber and Lyft. • Wholesale clubs.

Q3 (July 1 – Sept. 30)

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

• Restaurants. • PayPal.

Q4 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)

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

• 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.

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.

Discover it® Balance Transfer vs. Chase Freedom®

Looking at cards that offer 5% cash-back rewards on rotating quarterly categories? Chances are the Chase Freedom® has been on your radar, too. If you’re looking for a balance transfer card that also earns rewards, note that a few important differences stand out.

What these cards have in common

  • 5% cash back in rotating quarterly bonus categories on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% back.

  • A variety of bonus categories. Historically, they’ve ranged from broad options like restaurants and gas stations to specific retailers like Walgreens or Amazon.com. Past bonus categories can help you see what types of categories to expect in the future.

  • Requirement to activate quarterly categories.

  • No annual fee.

What's different about the Chase Freedom®

  • Sign-up bonus can be earned quickly: Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening. (With the Discover it® Balance Transfer, you have to wait until the end of the first year to get your bonus.)

  • Different introductory 0% APR offers: The Chase Freedom® offers 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, and then the ongoing APR of 16.49% - 25.24% Variable APR. Meanwhile, the Discover it® Balance Transfer offers 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 0% on Balance Transfers for 18 months, and then the ongoing APR of 13.49% - 24.49% Variable APR.

  • Rewards can be earned retroactively if you activate the categories by the 14th date of the third month of the quarter; this is not the case with the Discover it® Balance Transfer.

  • It charges foreign transaction fees.

  • Bonus categories aren't announced all at once: Unlike eligible Discover cards, the Chase Freedom® doesn't reveal its full slate of quarterly bonus categories for the entire year. Category announcements come only a couple of weeks before the start of a new quarter, which can make it harder to time your purchases.

For more information about how these cards differ, read NerdWallet's article comparing the Discover it® Balance Transfer and the Chase Freedom®.

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.

Balance transfer fees

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.

If cutting back on fees is your goal, a no-fee balance transfer card can help. The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card offers 0% Intro on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 15 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. It charges a $0 balance transfer fee; plus it offers ongoing rewards and a welcome offer: Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months. Terms Apply. The annual fee is $0.

You can get a longer 0% period for TRANSFERS

The Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever offers an intro APR of 0% on Balance Transfers for 21 months and 0% on Purchases for 12 months, and then the ongoing APR of 16.24% - 26.24% 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.

a flat-rate card may better suit your spending

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 15.49% - 25.49% Variable APR. There is, however, no 0% intro APR period for purchases. This card's balance transfer fee is 3%. What makes it especially attractive is its flat-rate rewards, which makes 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.

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.

Information about the Amex EveryDay® Credit Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet and has not been provided or reviewed by the issuer of this card.

Comments

NerdWallet reviews are the result of independent research by our editorial team while cardholder reviews are contributions from independent users not affiliated with NerdWallet. Banks, issuers and credit card companies are not responsible for any content posted on the NerdWallet site, nor do they endorse or guarantee any posted comments or reviews.

Write a review

Read Our Posting Guidelines
user avatar
Overall Rating:
Select your rating
undefined reviews

Some of the reviews on the NerdWallet site were purchased through a third party provider. Users who post a review directly on the NerdWallet site will not be compensated in any way. Please see our Terms of Use and Posting Guidelines for more information.