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Discover it Cash Back Credit Card vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

Chase Freedom Unlimited wins out against the Discover it Cash Back card due to its simplicity. You'll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, plus you'll earn a $150 sign-up bonus. Get the scoop on both these cards with this in-depth comparison review.

The Verdict

Chase Freedom Unlimited is the better cash-back card in the long run

If you're looking for a no-fuss cash-back rewards card, Chase Freedom Unlimited is a better bet than the Discover it Cash Back credit card.

It offers a flat 1.5% cash-back rate—among the best in the industry—and it doesn't charge an annual fee.

There are no rotating bonus categories that need to be opted into and remembered and no limit on the amount of cash-back you can earn—both of which are true for the Discover it card, but which limits rewards in the 5% categories to $75 each quarter.

Plus, if you're planning a big purchase, the Freedom Unlimited comes with 0% interest for a generous 15 months (as opposed to just 14 months for the Discover it card).

And it's not hard to earn Chase Freedom Unlimited's $150 sign-up bonus: Just spend $500 within three months of opening the Freedom Unlimited card—about $167 a month).

The Discover it card, on the other hand, doesn't offer a sign-up bonus at all.

For its simplicity, flat 1.5% cash back, and no annual fee, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card is a winner (check out that in-depth review!).

Why One Is Stronger That The Other

Besides the cash back, the Chase Freedom Unlimited also offers a $150 sign-up bonus

If your card offered a sign-up bonus, did you earn the sign-up bonus?

Chase's Freedom Unlimited is a relatively recent addition to its cash-back card lineup, offering a simplified alternative to the Chase Freedom card.

Instead of rotating 5% bonus categories, you'll earn a sweet 1.5% back on all purchases—no need to opt-in or remember the bonus categories each quarter.

Plus, you can easily earn $150 when you spend $500 within three months of opening the card. We love that!

More than a year of 0% interest. With the Chase Freedom Unlimited, you'll have 15 months of 0% interest—which is great if you are planning a big purchase, or looking to transfer a balance from a higher-interest card while you work to pay off debt.

After this introductory period, the interest varies depending on your credit score, ranging from 14.24%-23.24%.

No need to keep track of changing bonus categories. The Freedom Unlimited is aptly named—this can become your go-to credit card, absolving you from having to remember which categories are earning bonus cash-back each quarter.

Plus, you'll earn a higher base rate (1.5%) on all purchases—even those that are rarely included in the 5% categories.

If most of your spending isn't in the top bonus categories, you'll end up better off this way.

People love Chase Freedom Unlimited because of its simplified 1.5% cash back on everything

Using the Chase Freedom Unlimited card "throws $ back at you!" says one user. "The cash back is unbelievable! Best choice I've ever made in a card hands down."

Another user, Mahy, says she is "loving this card…it is the only card that give me more cash back than any other credit card that I use."

Consumers agree that the card's simplicity—with a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase, no limit—is a big draw.

"I have the older card [Chase Freedom], which gives me 5x points back during each three-month quarter. The newer version of this card did away with the quarters and just gives you points for every purchase," says Steph C., who prefers the Freedom Unlimited over the Freedom, since she doesn't have to opt-in to bonus categories each quarter.

The biggest customer complaint about the Chase Freedom Unlimited is its low cash back in certain categories

Indeed it is possible to earn a higher cash-back rate on certain categories of purchases, such as restaurants and dining, gas, and even groceries, with other cash-back cards that offer higher rates in those areas.

"The only thing I would change [about the Chase Freedom Unlimited] is the percentage of the rewards because it is incredibly low," says Kristine D.

Another complaint some customers had was that the APR is on the higher side after the 15-month, 0% interest promotional period ends.

"They give 12 months interest-free which is nice but the APR is a tad on the higher side after that," says Noelle.

The takeaway

If you're all about a no-fuss approach to credit rewards, the Chase Freedom Unlimited wins for its 1.5% cash-back on all purchases, along with no annual fee and a 15-month 0% interest promotional period.

Counter Argument

Then again, the Discover it Cash Back credit card could be a better fit if you travel internationally

The Discover it cash rewards card doesn't have a foreign transaction fee, making it the better card to use when traveling abroad.

Save on foreign transaction fees. The Chase Freedom Unlimited, on the other hand, charges a 3% foreign transaction fee—effectively adding a 3% fee on top of all your expenses.

However, Discover cards aren't widely accepted around the world, so be sure to take a backup Visa or MasterCard with you just in case.

Transfer a balance more cheaply. The Discover it charges a 3% fee on all balance transfers, which is far less than the 5% you'll incur with the Chase Freedom Unlimited. If you transfer $15,000, you'll pay an extra $300 with the Freedom Unlimited.

Earn up to 5% cash back. The Discover it cash rewards card offers a rotating set of bonus categories that earn 5% cash back.

From October through December, cardholders earn 5% back at Amazon.com and Target.

If you spend a lot of money in these bonus categories (which change every quarter), you'll earn a higher cash-back rate than with the Freedom Unlimited's 1.5% flat rate. (However, be aware that the bonus cash-back is capped at $70 a quarter).

Plus, your cash-back is matched your first year. New cardholders enjoy an added benefit: They receive a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash rewards earned throughout the year.

At what age did you get your first credit card?

This only applies for the first year you have the card.

But it means that your effective cash-back rate for everyday purchases becomes 2%, and you'll earn a whopping 10% on bonus categories.

That beats the Freedom Unlimited's 1.5% cash-back—but, again, this only applies for the first year.

People love the Discover it because of the double cash-back bonus

Discover it cardholders who maximize the dollar-for-dollar match of all cash-back earned in their first year of having the card say they can really rake it in.

Grant, for example, earned a whopping $1,024 in extra cash back.

The 5% categories were doubled to 10% cash back for that first year, and he also got a match for all the cash back he earned while shopping online using Discover Deals.

And all regular purchases earn an effective 2% cash back rate—but just for that first year.

"The cash back on both of my Discover cards, has, in fact, been doubled!" Jessi said. "Awesome promotion, and awesome to see that it posted right on time, with no extra effort on my part."

The biggest customer complaint about Discover it is that it isn't accepted widely

While the Discover it rewards credit card doesn't charge a foreign transaction fee—which is good—customers complained that Discover cards aren't widely accepted internationally, particularly in Europe.

Other customers, including Annabel from Florida, complained that the minimum payments are higher with Discover than other credit card companies.

The takeaway

The Discover it cash rewards credit cardis a better bet for those who travel internationally and spend a lot in the 5% bonus categories and want to see their cash-back matched at the end of their first year.

About the Card and the Company

Chase Freedom Unlimited's ads feature comedy star, Ellie Kemper

Chase

JP Morgan Chase is one of the top four banks in America. It has tapped Ellie Kemper, the comedy star of "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," to appear in its commercials for the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

The ads showcase how you can spend your Chase card on anything and earn unlimited 1.5% cash-back.

Discover

Discover is the fifth-largest credit card company, with 57 million cardholders.

You might recall the TV commercials featuring "twins" that highlights that the Discover it cards provide free FICO scores.

Services Offered

Chase and Discover offer cash-back with 0% interest

Both Chase and Discover offer a generous (over a year) 0% interest promotional rate for balance transfers and new purchases.

The good and the bad about Chase's services

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card gives you an extra month of 0% interest—for a maximum of 15 billing cycles.

This is pretty generous by today's standards, although there are some cards offering up to 18 months of 0% interest.

But it charges a higher balance transfer fee. While you won't be charged interest during those 15 months, you will be charged 5% of however much you transfer onto the Unlimited card.

The Discover card only charges 3%, making it a better deal if you can give up the extra month of 0% interest.

The good and the bad about Discover it Cash Back's services

The Discover it Cash Back card offers a 0% promotional interest rate period of 14 months—helpful if you are planning a large purchase such as bedroom furniture or a new swing set for your kids.

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But it also charges a balance transfer fee. This one incurs a 3% fee on the initial balance transfer amount as well.

Quit worrying about your credit. Discover lets you view your FICO credit score for free on your monthly statements and when you log into your online account.

If you're working on improving your credit score—or simply want to be careful in the wake of the Equifax and other breaches—this is a great feature that would normally cost at least $20 a month.

The takeaway

Both cash-back cards have no annual fee, but Chase Freedom Unlimited gives you an extra month of 0% interest.

Rewards and Bonuses

Only the Freedom Unlimited card offers a $150 sign-up bonus

When it comes to earning a sign-up bonus by spending a certain amount of money on your new credit card, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card comes out ahead

The good and the bad about the Freedom Unlimited's rewards and bonuses

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card's $150 sign-up bonus is a good one, and you'll only need to spend $500 in the first three months to earn it.

The good and the bad about Discover it Cash Back card's rewards and bonuses

The Discover it Cash Back card, on the other hand, doesn't offer a sign-up bonus at all. That's the bad news.

The good news is that Discover will match all the cash-back you earn the first year you have the card, dollar for dollar.

That means even more cash in your wallet.

The takeaway

The Chase Freedom Unlimited card makes it easy to earn the $150 sign-up bonus—just spend $500 within 3 months.

The Discover card gives you a dollar-for-dollar match of your first-year cash-back earnings, but unless you're spending a lot in the 5% bonus categories (which change each quarter), you're better off with the Freedom Unlimited card

Benefits

Both Chase and Discover offer buyer protection benefits

In addition to cash-back, both credit card companies offer a variety of consumer protection benefits and insurance programs.

Chase Freedom Unlimited benefits

Get a 20% discount on travel redemptions. If you redeem your points for travel through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, you'll get a 20% discount.

Enjoy those Ultimate Rewards points as long as you like. A HUGE perk of Chase Ultimate Rewards is that every reward point will not expire, as long as your account remains open and that Chase makes it so easy to redeem them.

The reward point redemption system has an app and an easy to use website, too.

You won't have to run around trying to figure out how to take advantage of all your spending when the time comes.

Get purchase protection and other benefits. New purchases are protected for 120 days against damage or theft—up to $500 per claim.

You'll also get an extra year warranty on most items purchased with a Freedom Unlimited card.

Discover it Cash Back benefits

Monitor your credit for free. You'll get a free FICO Score on your monthly statements, enabling you to keep tabs on your credit score. This is helpful for those planning to buy a new house or car and working to improve their credit scores.

Lost your card? Freeze your account in seconds. You can freeze or unfreeze your account by logging online or via the mobile app. This gives cardholders peace of mind.

Earn extra cash-back when shopping online. Shop through Discover Deals and earn between 5%-20% in cash-back bonuses and instant savings when shopping online at major retailers.

You can also redeem cash-back on Amazon.com

Most popular online stores in the U.S.

The takeaway

Both Chase and Discover offer purchase protection and related benefits, but Discover does a better job of monitoring your credit and safeguarding your identity.

Costs and Fees

Neither card charges an annual fee

While both of these cash-back credit cards don't charge an annual fee, there are other fees to be aware of.

The good and the bad about Chase Freedom Unlimited's costs and fees

Earning unlimited 1.5% cash back without having to pay an annual fee is pretty sweet. But be aware of these fees.

High balance transfer fees. You'll pay 5% of the amount you transfer to the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which is higher than the Discover it Cash Back's 3% (which is closer to the average when it comes to balance transfer fees).

Pay on time. If your payment is received even a day late, you'll be on the hook for a $38 late fee payment. Other standard fees apply as well.

The good and the bad about Discover it Cash Back's costs and fees

The Discover it Cash Back does away with many unnecessary fees, including no foreign transaction fee.

No cost for keeping this in your wallet. You won't have to pay a fee each year to use this credit card.

Get a pass for paying late. You won't be charged a late fee on your first late payment, saving you around $38.

Watch for standard fees that still apply. While you won't pay interest on balance transfers for 14 months, there is a 3% fee applied to each transfer to your account.

The takeaway

While there is no annual fee, if you do a balance transfer you'll pay 2% more on the amount being transferred when you use the Freedom Unlimited card.

Customer Service

Discover offers better customer service than Chase

Here's the lowdown on customer service at these two credit card companies, with Discover earning greater points when it comes to providing helpful customer service.

The good and the bad about Chase's customer service

Chase scored average when it came to customer service on the J.D. Power 2106 study. On the Consumer Affairs website, it fared even worse—only earning one star out of five.

"A simple dispute takes forever and often can't be resolved," says Steve from San Jose, California. His account also got locked for no reason. "I spent almost half an hour on their toll-free number to have it unlocked."

Most common types of credit card complaints reported by consumers

The good and the bad about Discover's customer service

According to a 2016 study by J.D. Power, Discover ranked no. 1 in customer service.

"Customer service is available 24/7 via email, phone and chat, and the times I've reached out I received prompt, immediate and helpful responses," writes Jocelyn Baird on NextAdvisor.

Other customers weren't as happy with the customer service provided by Discover.

"My credit line was reduced without explanation and without notice," Jacob B. reports on the Better Business Bureau website.

He says he was current on payments and was never notified about the credit limit decrease, and that customer service reps he contacted were unhelpful.

William said that Discover's customer service reps didn't honor the purchase protection benefits outlined in his card benefits.

"A vendor robbed me of nearly $900 and Discover has basically told us there is nothing that can be done," he writes on Bottom of Form

The takeaway

Discover offers better customer service than Chase, but there are complaints about both credit card issuers.

Key Digital Services

Monitor your credit card usage on the go with mobile apps

Both Chase and Discover offer mobile apps for Apple and Android devices to help you monitor your credit card activity on the go.

The good and the bad about Chase's mobile app

Chase's mobile app makes it simple to check your account balances, transfer money, deposit checks, and pay bills while you're on the go.

To get started, text 24273, and you will receive a link to download the app on your Android or Apple device.

The app received good reviews overall, earning 4.5 stars on iTunes.

However, some users, including ahwman, complained that there is no Touch ID (the ability to use your fingerprint to log into your account) available on the iPad app.

The good and the bad about Discover's mobile app

The Discover mobile app can be downloaded on an iPhone or Android mobile phone. The app lets you view your statements, make a payment, and view your cash rewards.

Free, easy download. To download the app, text APP to DISCOV (347268) on your mobile device.

View your free credit score. Just log into the Discover app to view your FICO Score—making it simple to monitor your credit.

Don't worry—just "Freeze It." If your Discover card is lost or stolen, just log into the app and use "Freeze It" to freeze your card to prevent fraudulent transactions. You can just as easily unfreeze the card when it mysteriously turns up the next day.

The takeaway

Prevent fraud and keep track of spending by downloading the credit card company's mobile app.

How to Start Using Their Services

Go to the company website if you want to sign up for a cash-back credit card

The best way to sign up for a new cash-back credit card is to visit the card issuer's website.

You'll need your Social Security number handy, and you'll also have to enter information about your employer and salary.

Best way to begin with Chase Freedom Unlimited

You can sign up for the Chase Freedom Unlimited card on the Chase website. At the time of this writing, the card is offering a $150 bonus when you spend $500 within three months.

Note that you'll need an excellent credit score (over 700) to qualify for this card.

How best to begin with Discover it Cash Back Card

You can visit the Discover website to sign up for the Discover it Cash Back card.

The card is easier to get approved for than the Chase Freedom Unlimited card. You'll need a good credit score of 645 or higher to qualify.

FAQ

  • What does each card provider offer new customers as incentives?

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers a $150 sign-up bonus when you spend $500 in three months. The Discover it Cash Back card does not offer a sign-up bonus.

  • What does each card provider offer as ongoing incentives for loyal customers?

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases, with no cap. The Discover it Cash Back card gives you 5% back in rotating categories (you need to opt-in to earn this extra cash) and 1% cash back on everything else.

  • Which offers a better 0% interest promotion?

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited—you'll get 15 months as opposed to 14 months with the Discover it Cash Back card.

  • What are the interest rates for each card provider?

    After the introductory period, Chase Freedom Unlimited between 15.49%-24.49% interest, depending on your credit. Discover it Cash Back charges between 11.99%-23.99% after the introductory period.

  • Does either card have an annual fee?

    No.

  • What about a foreign transaction fee?

    The Chase Freedom Unlimited charges a 3% foreign transaction fee, while the Discover it Cash Back card does not charge a foreign transaction fee.

  • Which offers the better balance transfer fee?

    The Discover it Cash Back card—it charges only 3% while the Chase Freedom Unlimited card charges 5% of the amount being transferred.

  • What credit score range should you be in before applying for each card?

    You'll need an excellent credit score (over 700) to qualify for the Chase Freedom Unlimited Card. The Discover it Cash Back card is easier to qualify for—you'll only need a good credit score of 645 or higher.

  • How do I cancel each card?

    If you'd like to cancel either your Chase Freedom Unlimited or your Discover it Cash Back credit cards, just call the customer service number on the back of your credit card—that way, you'll reach a customer service agent who specializes in your credit card.

    With both cards, you'll have to pay off your balance before the account can be closed. Be sure to redeem any cash-back available before closing the account, or you risk forfeiting it.

Unless you travel internationally often or are planning to transfer a large balance, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is better for your wallet

Both the Chase Freedom Unlimited and Discover it Cash Back credit cards don't charge an annual fee—but the Chase Freedom Unlimited wins out due to its simplicity.

You'll earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase, with no limitations or exclusions.

You don't have to opt into or remember bonus cash-back categories, plus you'll earn a $150 sign-up bonus.

So unless you're transferring a large balance or you travel abroad a lot, the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card is the smart choice for your wallet.

What's worked best for your wallet?

Is that bonus and simplicity by Chase worth it?

Or, are you a Discover it fan and we've missed the boat?

Let us know!


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