Discover it Cash Back Review: 5% Rewards Are Worth a Little Work

This card offers a high rewards rate in rotating categories, a good 0% APR offer and an unusual bonus that could become a windfall.
Claire TsosieJul 1, 2021

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Our Take

4.8

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: If you don't mind keeping track of bonus categories that change every three months, this card is a winner either as an everyday card or as part of a multicard rewards-maximizing strategy.

Discover it® Cash Back

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

Annual fee

$0

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

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: Simple, rich rewards

Citi® Double Cash Card
NerdWallet rating 

Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer

2% cash back, no activation required

Not in the mood to activate categories or keep track of what you're earning where? This card makes it easy. You get 2% cash back on every purchase — 1% when you buy something and 1% when you pay the bill.

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

13.99% - 23.99% Variable APR

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months

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

The features a high cash-back rate in rotating quarterly categories — but you don't get those rewards automatically, activation is required and spending caps apply.

Even so, for people who prefer cash back and don’t mind putting in a little work, this -annual-fee card is well worth it.

» MORE:

Card type: .

Annual fee: .

Sign-up bonus:

Rewards:

Redemption: You can redeem cash back in any amount, except in the case of gift certificates and eCertificates, which start at $5. Redemption options include:

Foreign transaction fees: None.

Balance transfer fee: A 3% introductory fee and up to 5% on future balance transfers. Terms apply.

Other benefits:

» MORE:

The card's current quarterly bonus categories are listed below:

» MORE:

The robust rewards and benefits on the make it one of the most valuable everyday cash-back cards available.

You would be hard-pressed to find a card with no annual fee that earns more than 5% cash back in bonus categories, which for the have recently included things like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more.

If you max out the 5% rotating quarterly category rewards each year on this card — that is, if you activated and spent up to $1,500 in those categories each quarter all year — you would earn $300 in bonus cash back, plus 1% back on every other purchase. For many shoppers, those lucrative ongoing rewards make this card a keeper.

The comes with an uncommon sign-up bonus for new cardmembers in their first year:

For example, if you earned $500 in rewards, Discover will give you another $500 in cash back at the end of your first consecutive 12 months of being a cardholder. For folks who plan to do a lot of spending on the card during that time, this unusual offer could prove incredibly valuable.

The offers plenty of breathing room for paying off balances after opening the account. It comes with a generous introductory offer: . The balance transfer fee is an introductory 3% of the amount transferred, but can be as high as 5% on future balance transfers (see terms). That's on par with other balance transfer cards.

If you want to make a large purchase and pay it off over time, this is an especially valuable perk. Just keep in mind that if you're using the card as a balance transfer option, you'll likely want to avoid making new purchases with it, and instead use the card solely for paying off debt. That might mean missing out on the rich sign-up bonus offer.

Looking at cards that offer 5% cash-back rewards on rotating quarterly categories? Chances are the has been on your radar, too. At first glance, this card seems like a mirror image of the . But if you look a bit closer, a few important differences stand out.

For more information about how these cards differ, read NerdWallet's article

The  isn’t the best fit for everyone. Here’s why you might want to look elsewhere.

With rotating bonus categories that require quarterly activation, the is a relatively complicated card. If you want something more straightforward, try the .

This card offers an impressive 2% cash back on everything — 1% back on purchases and 1% back when you pay them off. With it, you can rake in big rewards for everyday spending without having to mess with bonus categories. Its annual fee is .

With the , you don't have a say in which categories earn 5% cash back. With the , it's a different story. You earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice (from among six options); 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (on up to $2,500 per quarter in combine spending in the 3% and 2% categories, then 1%); and 1% cash back on everything else. For the 3% category, you can choose from gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drugstores or home improvement/furnishings, and you can change the category each month.

If you want to see how these cards compare with other rewards cards, refer to our list of.

If you prefer a no-fuss card, you might want to pass on the . But if you’re willing to put in some extra effort for top-notch cash-back rewards, it might be the perfect fit for you.

Cashback Match details from Discover: No purchase minimums. After the first 12 consecutive billing periods that your new account is open, we will match all of the cash back rewards you've earned and apply them to your account in the following one or two billing periods. If your account is closed or no longer in the cash back reward program at the time we calculate your potential award, your cash back will not be matched. You've earned cash back rewards when they have posted to your account by the end of the 12th consecutive billing period. This promotional offer may not be offered in the future. This exclusive offer is available only to new cardmembers.

Frequently asked questions