Discover it Miles Review: Travel Rewards With a Cash-Back Twist

You get 1.5 miles per dollar spent on everything. Miles can be redeemed for travel or converted to cash back at the same penny-per-mile rate. Annual fee: $0.

Claire Tsosie, Sara RathnerOctober 23, 2020
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Our Take

4.1

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Frequent travelers or bigger spenders would probably get more value from a card with a higher rewards rate and more perks (and an annual fee), but this is a solid choice for budget-minded occasional travelers.

Discover it® Miles

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

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 14 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Rewards can be redeemed for travel or cash back at equal value

  • No annual fee or foreign transaction fee

  • Sign-up bonus

  • Flexible redemption options

Cons

  • No luxury perks

  • Other cards offer higher rewards rates

  • Discover cards not widely accepted outside the U.S.

  • Requires good/excellent credit

Alternate Pick: High-value points + transfers

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
NerdWallet rating 

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

2X on travel and dining

This card earns 2 points per dollar on travel and dining and 1 point per dollar on everything else. Points are worth 1.25 cents apiece when redeemed for travel booked through Chase, or you can transfer them to more than a dozen hotel and airline programs. There's a fantastic sign-up bonus, too — but also an annual fee.

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

14.99% - 23.74% Variable APR

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.99%* Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 14 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Intro APR

0%* intro APR on Purchases and Balance Transfers for 12 billing cycles*

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

Some travel credit cards give you the option of redeeming your points or miles for cash back rather than travel, but doing so usually means getting a lower value per point. The Discover it® Miles is a noteworthy exception. Each mile you earn with the card is worth 1 cent, regardless of whether you use it to pay for travel or convert it to cash back.

The Discover it® Miles earns 1.5 miles for every dollar spent — pretty good for a card with a $0 annual fee, but low compared with travel cards that charge an annual fee.

The flexible redemption options and unique sign-up bonus make this a good low-cost alternative for occasional travelers who want an easy-to-use credit card. But frequent fliers may get even more value out of a more robust travel card, especially if they travel overseas often.

Discover it® Miles: Basics

Card type: Travel.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.

Ongoing rewards: 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

Interest rate: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR.

Foreign transaction fee: None.

Other benefits:

Benefits of the Discover it® Miles

flexible redemption options

One one level, the Discover it® Miles works like a general travel credit card. You earn 1.5 cents per mile, and you can redeem miles at a value of 1 cent apiece for credit on your statement against travel purchases made within the past 180 days. (Eligible expenses include plane tickets, hotel stays, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuting costs and — as of transactions posted on or after June 9, 2020 — even restaurants and gas stations. However, you can also convert your miles to cash at the same rate, in the form of a direct deposit. Redeeming for cash gives you more flexibility, and there’s nothing stopping you from later spending that money on travel. But for some, earmarking miles specifically for a big trip might be more enticing.

No minimum redemption amount

Many credit cards require you to accumulate a certain amount in rewards — often $25 or more — before you can redeem. The Discover it® Miles allows redemptions as small as 1 point. Getting a penny back at a time is obviously not going to revolutionize your travel style. But the lack of a minimum redemption amount means you can reimburse yourself for smaller travel expenses, like cab fare.

A bonus offer with no limit

Discover's offer to new cardholders is as lucrative as you want to make it. The issuer describes it this way: "UNLIMITED BONUS: Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match." This effectively gives you 3 miles per dollar spent on everything in your first 12 months. If you spent $20,000 on the card in the first year, for example, you would earn $300 worth of miles, and the bonus would kick in $300 more. That’s nothing to sneeze at, especially on a card with an annual fee of $0.

A generous 0% APR period

The Discover it® Miles gives you an introductory APR of 0% intro APR on Purchases for 14 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 14 months, and then the ongoing APR of 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR. Most travel credit cards don’t have a 0% period. You can use this perk to pay off a big purchase — say, an upcoming trip — interest-free over time.

No foreign transaction fees

Like all Discover cards, the Discover it® Miles doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. This benefit could save you money the next time you travel abroad, or make an international purchase online. But bring a backup method of payment, too. Discover isn’t as widely accepted abroad as Visa and MasterCard.

Drawbacks of the Discover it® Miles

not good for bigger spenderS

The Discover it® Miles is a great card for people who don't plan to spend a whole lot. Because there's no annual fee to eat into your rewards, you come out ahead immediately. But bigger spenders would be better off with a card that charges a fee but offers a higher rewards rate.

For example, if you spend more than $19,000 a year, you'll get more value from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. That card gives you 2 miles per dollar spent on anything, with miles redeemable for travel expenses at a penny apiece. There's a big sign-up bonus but also an annual fee to consider.

Limited international acceptance

For a low-cost travel card that’s widely accepted around the world, check out the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, which operates on the Visa network. Like the Discover it® Miles, it offers 1.5 points per dollar spent, which you can redeem for 1 cent each on travel purchases. Among major issuers, it also has the most inclusive definition of what counts as a travel purchase.

No bonus rewards opportunities

Earning the same rewards rate on every purchase is certainly the simplest way to make your spending count, but it may not be the most lucrative. A card that earns more on specific spending categories can be the answer, although you’ll have to put in a little more effort remembering where to use the card. The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card earns 3 points per dollar on a broad range of common spending categories:

  • Dining, including restaurants, fast food, bars and ordering in.

  • Transportation costs, including gas stations, parking, commuter trains, taxis, limos, ferries and tolls.

  • Travel costs, including flights, train tickets, cruises, car rentals, hotels, timeshares, campgrounds and travel agencies.

  • Streaming services, including Apple Music, Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, Sirius XM Radio and Spotify.

Also see NerdWallet's best credit cards for options across credit card types.

Should you get the Discover it® Miles?

Among no-fee travel cards, the Discover it® Miles stands out for its versatility, thanks to the ability to redeem for travel and cash back at equal value. It’s not the best option for travelers who spend more time in hotels and planes than at home. But for vacationers looking for a low-maintenance card with flexible rewards, it’s worth consideration.

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