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Discover Credit Cards: Seven Options, Endless Rewards

Does it really pay to discover? The Discover Card isn't the most popular choice for credit cards in America, due in part to the perception that it isn't accepted as widely as other cards. However, the Discover It card yields valuable rewards, but to make the most of these rewards you need to know what you're getting into. We've taken a look at the seven available credit cards from Discover and broken them down into their component parts so that you can easily see whom the target demographic is, what rates and fees to expect, and what kind of rewards the cards can give you. Smart spending, especially in the first year, will not only improve your overall credit score but net great returns on cash back or miles.

What is Discover?

The Discover Card has an interesting history. Unlike many credit cards, it was not originally issued by a bank. Instead, Sears launched the card in 1985 in an attempt to grow what the company had to offer its customers. This eventually led to Discover Bank, and later to the Discover Debit card in 2005. Today, Discover is the fourth largest credit card brand in the United States, trailing behind Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. The company offers seven types of credit cards with enough variety to fit the needs of any type of consumer, from big spenders to students.

Cash Back Credit Cards

There are three cash back credit cards offered by Discover: the Discover It, the NHL Discover Card, and the Discover It Gas and Restaurant Card.

Discover It

The Discover It card offers great all-around benefits and cash back rewards.

  • 5% cash back in rotating categories up to $1,500 per quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Discover matches all of your cash back earned at the end of the first year
  • 0% APR for 14 months
  • Rewards never expire
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Discover It

While the It card is sometimes criticized for lacking a one-time bonus for spending a certain amount within the first three months, the end-of-year cash back match is better. If you receive $200 in cash back rewards throughout the first year, Discover will match you dollar-for-dollar so you receive an additional bonus of $200 on top of that.

The rotating categories can vary from year to year, but usually include gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, wholesale clubs, and more.

Discover It Rates and Fees

The It card has no purchase APR for 0% for 14 months, after which the standard purchase APR takes over. This can range from 11.99% to 23.99 variable. The balance transfer APR is the same as the purchase APR. Other rates are as follows:

  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5% of each advance, whichever is greater
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each transfer
  • Late payment: $0 for the first late payment, $37 for every late payment after

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Target Demographic

The target demographic for a cash back rewards card is usually families. To actually reach the $1,500 limit on the 5% cash back rewards, you'll need to spend $30,000 per year. The categories are catered toward outlets where families might shop more than young singles, making this card a much better option for a mom with two kids than for a fresh college graduate.

NHL Discover It 5% Card

The NHL Discover It card is the perfect card for NHL fans. It yields the following rewards:

  • 10% savings at NHL.com
  • 10% off your NHL.TV subscription
  • 5% cash back in rotating categories up to $1,500 per quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Discover matches all of your cash back earned at the end of the first year
  • 0% APR for 14 months
  • Rewards never expire
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

NHL Discover It 5% Card

The NHL Discover It card is similar to the standard It card in almost every way, save for the NHL-centric benefits it offers. If you're a die-hard NHL fan, the 10% savings can add up quickly and let you fill your house with merch. The rotating categories are the same for all Discover cash back cards, so you'll still need to shop frequently at gas stations, restaurants, and other similar locations to make the most of your cash back rewards.

NHL Discover It Rates and Fees

The NHL Discover It card shares the Discover It's benefit of no purchase APR for 0% for 14 months, after which the standard purchase APR takes over. This can range from 11.99% to 23.99 variable. The balance transfer APR is the same as the purchase APR. Other rates are as follows:

  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5% of each advance, whichever is greater
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each transfer
  • Late payment: $0 for the first late payment, $37 for every late payment after

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Target Demographic

While this cash back card clearly caters to NHL fans, it would be difficult for a single person to utilize this card to its fullest extent. Like most other cash back cards, it's still aimed at families, albeit maybe families with a hockey-crazy dad.

Discover It Gas and Restaurant Card

The Discover It Gas and Restaurant Card is custom-made for people who spend a lot of money each year at gas stations and restaurants, like frequent travelers.

  • 2% cash back up to $1,000 each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Discover matches all of your cash back earned at the end of the first year
  • 0% APR for 14 months
  • Rewards never expire
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Discover It Gas and Restaurant Card

There are a few major differences between the Gas and Restaurant card and Discover's other cash back cards. The first is the $1,000 limit on 2% cash back; not only is this hard to reach with the lower reward amount (you need to spend $50,000 per quarter), but it also means you have a maximum annual limit of $4,000 at 2% cash back, compared to the maximum of $6,000 at 5% cash back offered by the two other cash back cards.

Of course, the unlimited 1% cash back is still in effect. An easy way to remember this is that you receive $1 cash back for every $100 you spend. If you can utilize the card in such a way that you maximize your cash back rewards in the first year, Discover's cash back match will yield major returns.

Discover It Gas and Rewards Card Rates and Fees

All Discover It cards have roughly the same rates and fees:

  • Intro purchase APR of 0% for 14 months, then standard APR of 11.99% to 23.99% variable
  • Balance transfer APR of 0% for 14 months, then standard APR of 11.99% to 23.99% variable
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5% of each advance, whichever is greater
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each transfer
  • Late payment: $0 for the first late payment, $37 for every late payment after

Target Demographic

This card is aimed at people who spend a lot of money on gas and at restaurants. If you're a frequent traveler who prefers cash back over miles, then this may be the card for you; after all, between the expenses to keep your car on the road and the money you'll spend at restaurants to keep yourself fed, the rewards will stack up quickly. This card can also be beneficial to families, though; Sunday dinners can be expensive when you're paying for three or four people, and all those trips to soccer practice can be taxing on the gas tank.

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Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Discover has a single travel rewards card: the Discover It Miles Card.

Discover It Miles Travel Credit Card

The Discover It Miles card is on par with many of the top travel rewards cards on the market, but has a few benefits that set it apart.

  • Unlimited 1.5x miles for every dollar spent on all purchases
  • Discover matches all the miles you've earned at the end of the first year
  • No blackout dates
  • 0% APR for 14 months
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees

Discover It Miles Travel Credit Card

The Discover It Miles card offers 1.5x miles for every dollar you spend on any and all purchases, with absolutely no limits. If you like to travel (or you just want to use a credit card and maybe have your vacation airfare covered once per year), this is a powerful card to use. The promotional APR makes it even more useful.

Discover's unique matching program can help you earn a tremendous amount of miles for free. Once you get this card, smart spending in the first year will allow you to get multiple free flights. Even if you aren't able to utilize them right away, there's no need to fret—your miles never expire.

Discover It Miles Rates and Fees

The Discover It Miles card follows roughly the same rate setup as the cash back cards, with a few differences:

  • Intro purchase APR of 0% percent for 14 months, after which the standard rate takes over
  • Intro balance transfer APR of 10.99% for 14 months, and then the rate increases to 11.99% to 23.99%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99% variable
  • Cash advance fee: $10 or 5% of the advance, whichever is greater
  • Balance transfer fee: 3% of each transfer
  • Late payment: one-time late payment forgiveness, $37 after that

Target Demographic

Do you travel for work? Do you enjoy spending your leisure time far from home? If so, this is the card for you. Because the Discover It Miles card applies the 1.5x rate to all purchases, even people who don't shop that often can earn a lot of miles over the course of a year. Anyone with any interest in traveling and owning a credit card can benefit from the Discover It Miles travel credit card.

Student Credit Cards

Discover offers two student-focused credit cards: the Chrome Card for students and the Student It card.

Chrome Card for Students

Even though it's a student-centric credit card, the Chrome Card for students offers several worthwhile benefits.

  • 2% cash back on gas and restaurants up to $1,000 each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Discover matches your cash back at the end of the first year
  • 0% intro APR for six months
  • $20 cash back each school year grades are above 3.0 for five years
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Chrome Card for Students

College students sometimes need incentives to study rather than go out and put their new credit card to use, and the Chrome card offers just that. By keeping their GPA above 3.0, students can earn $20 cash back each school year for up to five years after opening the account. That's a total of $100 cash back over a span of five years—not a tremendous amount, but not insignificant.

Like Discover's other cards, the Chrome Card will match all of the cash back you've earned at the end of the first year. The card is perfect for students because of where the rewards are applied: gas stations and restaurants. Between going home for the holidays and feeding themselves during all-night study sessions, students can put the Chrome Card to good use.

Discover Chrome Card for Students Rates and Fees

Because the card is aimed at students, the rates and fees are a bit different.

  • Intro purchase APR of 0% for six months, after which the standard rate of 13.99% to 22.99% applies
  • Intro balance transfer APR of 10.99% for six months, after which the standard rate applies
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99%
  • One-time late payment forgiveness after which every missed payment is a $37 fee

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Target Demographic

The demographic for this card is undeniable college-age students. The rewards are toned down to encourage smart spending, but also to teach proper credit card usage. Because the rewards don't expire, students don't feel pressured to redeem them too quickly. After all, college students have enough deadlines to worry about.

Discover Student It Card

The Discover Student It card is a lot like the Chrome Card, but with better cash back rewards.

  • 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on everything else
  • Discover matches all cash back earned at the end of the first year
  • 0% intro APR for six months
  • $20 cash back each school year if GPA is above 3.0 for five years
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Discover Student It Card

The Discover Student It card is a lot like the Chrome card: shorter intro APR times and rewards for good grades. There is one glaring difference, though. The Discover Student It card has rotating categories, which not only yield higher cash back amounts but also help students learn about another aspect of rewards credit cards. Because the rotating categories have to be activated, students have to put in effort to earn the rewards.

Students that use their card intelligently can earn a large amount of cash back at the end of the first year. While it won't help pay off student loans, it may take the sting out of grocery shopping.

Discover Student It Card Rates and Fees

The rates and fees for the Student It card are similar to those of the Chrome card.

  • 0% introductory APR for six months, after which the rate increases to anywhere from 13.99% to 22.99%
  • 10.99% balance transfer APR for six months, after which the standard rate applies
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99%
  • One-time late payment forgiveness after which every missed payment is a $37 fee

Target Demographic

The Student It card is aimed at students that not only want a credit card, but a credit card they can earn rewards from. While the Chrome Card technically fits that bill, it pales in comparison to what the Discover It offers. The Discover It card's 5% cash back allows students to earn a lot of cash back, especially within the first year.

Secured Credit Cards

Discover offers a single card for those with poor credit that need help rebuilding. Here's what you need to know.

Discover It Secured Credit Card

Despite being a secured card, the Secured Card still offers rewards.

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 each quarter
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • Discover will match all your cash back earned at the end of the first year
  • No annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

Discover It Secured Credit Card

There are a few other benefits to this card that you should be aware of. The card requires a refundable security deposit when you apply for it, but it helps you by providing access to your FICO credit score for free. This deposit is also your credit limit. Because you make a deposit, you can't default on the amount you borrow. Worst case scenario, you don't improve your credit, but you can't hurt it.

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Discover also monitors your social security number by scanning thousands of risky websites for any mention of it. If your credit score tanked because of identity theft, this feature will be particularly useful.

Discover It Secured Credit Card Rates and Fees

The Discover It Secured Card lacks an introductory purchase APR rate.

  • Purchase APR of 23.99%
  • Balance transfer APR of 10.99% for six months before the rate increases to 23.99%
  • Cash advance APR: 25.99%
  • One-time forgiveness for late payments and $37 for every missed payment after

Target Demographic

If you have no credit or bad credit, a secured credit card can help you begin (re)building your credit score. It takes time, but secured credit cards restrict spending to a smaller amount so you can't get buried in credit card debt.

Discover Card: What You Need to Know

The Discover Card is issued through Discover Bank, formerly known as the Greenwood Trust Company.

Credit Limits

None of the Discover cards except the Secured Card has a set credit limit. Your personal limit will be determined based on your income, your credit score, and a number of other factors. Many users report lower credit limits than what competitor's cards offer.

The Secured Card's limit is based on the amount you deposit when you sign up. If you pay the minimum deposit of $200, then your credit limit will be $200. If you pay a deposit of $750, then your limit will be $750.

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Increasing Your Limit

If you maintain a good credit utilization ratio, pay your balance on time each month, and have no outstanding problems with your credit, Discover will likely automatically increase your credit limit each year. If you haven't received an increase and you believe you should have, contact the customer service line and request an increase. Most of the time, credit card companies are more than willing to increase your credit limit.

Perks

There are several benefits to using Discover as your go-to company beyond what their credit cards offer you. Discover offers the Freeze It feature that allows you to switch your account on and off with the press of a button. If you lose your card, this can be extremely useful; just turn off the account until you find it. Discover also provides access to your FICO credit score on your monthly statements, as well as 100% US-based customer service.

Discover also takes care of any liability for their customers. If someone makes an unauthorized purchase on your credit card, Discover won't hold you responsible.

Rewards System

Discover makes it easy to redeem your cash back or your miles. All you have to do is log into your account center and click the "Rewards" option in the navigation bar. If you select "See All," you can see every redemption offer available to you.

Some of these options include gift cards, paying with your rewards when you check out at Amazon.com, making a charitable donation, or depositing an amount into your bank or applying it to your Discover bill.

Promotions

Every Discover card except the Secured Credit card provides an introductory period with reduce purchase and/or balance transfer APR. If you're struggling with debt on another card, transferring your existing balance to a lower interest rate card can help you get ahead on paying it off.

How to Apply for a Discover Card

How to apply for a Discover card

Applying for a Discover card is a simple process. All you have to do is find the card you want to apply for and click the "Apply Now" button. You'll be taken to a screen where Discover asks your first and last name and tells you to choose a card design.

The next screen will ask your address, date of birth, social security number, employment status, total gross income, total available assets, monthly housing payment, email address, and primary phone number.

Once you enter in your information, click continue. Discover may ask for more information, but the application is done on a secure form. Any information you enter will be protected.

Eligibility Requirements

Discover looks primarily at your Equifax score, although the other unions do play a role. While there is no official credit score requirement to be approved, people have reported approval with credit scores as low as 645. Your employment, credit history, debt to income ratio, and a host of other factors will be included. Lack of employment will make it harder for you to be approved unless you are a college student, in which case the Chrome Card and Student It card are available.

How long does it take the Discover card to arrive once you're approved?

Once you're approved for a credit card, it will usually arrive within 7-10 business days. Most of the time, approval or denial will be instant. However, if the company is taking a bit longer to decide, you can check the status of your application through theDiscover website.

Managing Your Online Account

Discover provides an online account center where you can view your balances, recent transactions, redeem your rewards, make payments, and much more. You can access this online account from both your computer and via Discover's mobile app. The mobile app is the preferred method for most users, especially when using the Freeze It option.

Discover mobile app

Other features include the ability to change your email and text alerts, change your password, enable touch ID on your mobile device, and live chat with Discover agents.

Is the mobile app user friendly?

Despite the public perception of many mobile apps (read: clunky and unresponsive), Discover's mobile app is smooth and works, if not perfectly, then close to it. Out of 22,840 ratings on the App Store, the app scores 4.5 stars.

Payment Options

There are three basic payment methods for the Discover card: over the phone, online, and by mail. Online is the most preferred option and the fastest, although calling in to make a payment can be done if you can't reach a computer. Paying your balance by mail is a much slower and less reliable method. Payments need to be submitted by 5 PM EST to be credited to your account on that day.

Late Payments

Sometimes things happen and you forget to make a Payment. Discover understands that, and forgives your first late payment with no penalty. Every late payment after that carries a fee of $37 on top of whatever your outstanding balance is.

Where to Pay

Just log into your Discover account either online or through the mobile app to make a payment. If you would rather pay over the phone, dial 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683.) This phone line is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

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Pros of Discover

Discover offers benefits that set it apart from the competition.

  • Discover charges no annual fee for any of their cards, and there are no foreign transaction fees.
  • The cash-back or miles you earn in the first year will be matched, effectively doubling your rewards for the first year you own the card.
  • The one-time late payment forgiveness is a rarity in the credit card industry.

Cons of Discover

These are the main points of concern we've discovered for those interested in using the Discover card.

  • Discover is the accepted by fewer merchants than other credit cards.
  • The rotating categories must be activated at the beginning of the three-month period to take advantage of them.
  • Cash advances face a higher set APR.

Customer Reviews

Here are what other customers have to say about Discover as a whole.

"Discover has my transactions available to see and download daily. I've had two cases of fraudulent activity and both times I've received a text from Discover with an easy "yes I made this purchase" and "no this wasn't me" response options and then been able to contact a representative within seconds. Discover not only gives me rewards (even at 1%), but it also makes me feel much less vulnerable and much more supported."

- Jillian (Consumer Affairs)

2 reviews of Discover

"The approved credit line was not the actual credit line I was permitted to use and there are no late or missed payments. This credit card is the worst and customer service representatives are rude. A block was placed on my cash advances after I took out less than half the permitted amount. I called to verify non fraudulent activity to no avail. The block was replaced for no reason at all. Why give out a credit card and not permit the user to use it? Can't use credit card or cash advances although no late payments. Company states it is a new account. Well so what? Why approve the amount then take it back? Get a Bank of America credit card which is much better and has better customer service."

- Lisa (Consumer Affairs)

Most Common Complaints

The most common complaints customers had with regard to the Discover cards were overwhelmingly about customer service. Customers felt that customer service representatives were unhelpful and, in some cases, rude. Many reviewers reported calling in only to have the representative have to put them on hold to look up information and behaving in ways that made it seem as though they weren't properly trained.

Another major complaint is that Discover doesn't honor promotions. Several users were unable to get a refund for their Secured card, but were offered no explanation why. While incidents like this happen, enough reviewers mentioned experiencing this that it is worth addressing.

FAQ

These are the most frequently asked questions customers had about the Discover card.

  • Do I need to have a bank account with Discover to get a credit card?

    Although Discover does offer banking options, it isn't necessary to have an account through the company in order to be approved for a Discover credit card.

  • How can I cancel my card?

    To close your Discover account and cancel your card, you just need to call the customer service number at 1-800-DISCOVER. Bear in mind that you can close your account without paying off your balance, but you will need to continue to make payments after closing it.

  • What can I use my Discover credit card for?

    You can use your Discover card for any purchase you would normally use a credit card for, although there are some merchants that will not accept Discover as a form of payment.

  • Where and what stores can I use my Discover credit card?

    Discover is accepted by more than 8 million merchants at nearly all of the 1,000 top online merchant platforms.

  • Can I use my card outside the United States?

    The Discover Card is accepted outside the United States and doesn't charge any foreign transaction fees. However, not all merchants will accept it.

  • How long does it take Discover to refund my credit card?

    Once you are approved for a refund or reimbursement, you should receive it within 15 days.

  • How can I check my Discover credit card balance?

    You can check your Discover credit card balance by logging into your online account or by checking the mobile app. You can also call 1-800-DISCOVER and enter your card number to find out your current balance.

  • Can I, if so, how do I withdraw money from Discover credit card?

    You can receive a cash advance from your Discover credit card. All you need to do is go to an ATM and enter your PIN to withdraw cash. You can also go into a bank, use a cash access check, or have your cash advance go directly into your checking account.

  • Can I get cash advance and are there any related fees?

    You can get a cash advance, although there is a fee of $10 or 5% of the advance, whichever is higher. Cash advances also have a set APR of 25.99%.

  • Can I pay for my Discover credit card with a gift, a different credit card? Or PayPal?

    You can only pay your credit card balance with a transfer from your bank account, a check, or by transferring your balance to another card that will accept transfers from Discover.

  • Can I use my Discover credit card without the card?

    You can use your Discover card online as long as you know the relevant information, but you will need the card on your person to use it in-store.

  • How to add an authorized user to Discover credit card?

    Log into your Account enter, click on your "Account Profile," and then click the "Add User" button.

  • Are there any upgrades on Discover credit card?

    Many Discover cards can be converted to Discover It, It Chrome, or It Miles. However, it is determined on a case by case basis. Just call 1-800-DISCOVER and let the representative know you want to convert your card.

  • How soon can I use my Discover credit card once I receive it?

    Once you receive and activate the card, you can begin using it right away.

  • How to contact Discover credit card services?

    Discover card services can be reached at 1-800-DISCOVER.

  • How to report stolen Discover credit card?

    You can report your card lost or stolen through your Account Center or by calling card services.

  • Can someone co-sign for a Discover credit card?

    No. Although Discover once allowed cosigners, the company has since removed this option.

  • Can I use my card online? Will I be charged for shipping if I use my card online?

    You can use your card online, but Discover does not provide any free shipping promotions. You will be charged shipping costs unless the retailer provides free shipping.

  • What credit score do I need to get approval for a visa card?

    Discover is not a Visa card. Approval for a Visa depends on that specific card's requirements, so it isn't possible to provide an answer.

  • What credit score do I have to maintain so my account is not closed?

    As long as you make your payments and do not default on your credit card, your account will remain open. If you are struggling with a poor credit score, consider applying for the Discover Secured Card.

  • Will my credit score drop when my account gets closed? 

    In some cases, your credit score may drop when an account closes. In others, closing an account may reduce your overall credit and help improve your score in the long run.

  • Which credit bureaus does Discover credit card report to?

    Discover reports to all of the credit bureaus.

  • Can I build my credit with the Discover credit card?

    Yes. Discover can help you build credit if you pay off your balance on time each month.

  • Is there an expiry date on the card?

    Yes. Discover credit cards expire.

  • Is there a credit insurance program and how will it cover me if I lose my job?

    While there is not a credit insurance program, Discover will work with you if you are unable to make payments on time due to extenuating circumstances.

  • Can I have two credit cards from Discover at the same time?

    You can have a maximum of two Discover cards at once, but it is advised that you wait for some time before applying for the second card.

  • Can I transfer money from my Discover credit card to another?

    You can perform a balance transfer.

  • Is it hard to get a Discover's credit card?

    Cardholders often report that Discover has stricter requirements for approval than other credit card companies.

  • How long does it take to receive the card once I have been approved for it?

    Once you have been approved for the Discover card, it should arrive within 7 to 10 business days.

  • What is the minimum credit score to be approved for a card?

    While there is no official credit score for approval, most rewards cards require you to have Excellent credit. Some users report approval with scores of 645.

  • How long does it take to get approved for the card?

    The decision on approval is usually instant, although it may take longer to determine in some instances.

  • Does my card have a rental car insurance?

    Discover will provide coverage to a limited number of cars of specific types, but Discover does not cover loss of use fees—only collision damage.

Thinking of Going With Discover? Our Verdict

Discover Credit Cards verdict

Discover provides a credit card for every demographic, and the cards are well balanced. While none of the cards offer the world-class benefits of the Amex Black or even something like the Barclay Elite MasterCard, Discover It provides a solid cash back or miles reward scheme. If you consider yourself a power-user or you're into "hacking" credit cards, Discover might not be the best option. However, if you're looking for a card for day-to-day use with a proven history and the ability to get rewards for money you're going to spend anyway, Discover might be the card for you.


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