Discover it® Cash Back Review: 5% Rewards That Require Some Effort

Updated: June 11, 2024

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MoneyGeek’s Take

The Discover it® Cash Back Card is for savvy spenders looking to maximize cash back on everyday purchases. It lets you earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter (like gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants) and comes with an unlimited cash back match offer in the first year — both features unique to Discovery. The card offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months. Although bonus categories are capped and require activation, this card offers a compelling way to earn high rewards from your purchases.

Discover it® Cash Back Card
Credit Card logo for Discover it® Cash Back Card
MoneyGeek Rating
3.8/ of 5

Rewards Rate
5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined quarterly...
APR
17.24%–28.24% variable
Annual Fee
$0
Recommended Credit
670–850 (Good to Excellent)

Discover it® Cash Back Card Overview

The Discover it® Cash Back Card has a dynamic cash back program ideal for consumers who are strategic with their spending. With 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter, it caters to those willing to plan their purchases to get high rewards. Beyond its rotating rewards, the card’s first-year cash back match can significantly amplify the rewards earned. It also offers a 0% introductory APR period on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, a welcome feature for anyone with a large upcoming expense or existing balances.

However, the card requires a proactive approach to maximize benefits due to the quarterly cap on bonus categories and the need for activation. The low regular cash back rate outside of bonus categories may also lead consumers to consider other cards for non-category spending.

If you prefer a more straightforward rewards structure without the need to track rotating categories, flat-rate cash back cards may be more suitable.

>> MORE: MoneyGeek's Best Cash Back Cards

Discover it® Cash Back Card Details

Features
Details

Card Uses

  • Balance Transfer
  • Zero Interest
  • Cash Back

Annual Fee

$0

Introductory Offer

Unlimited cash back match during your first year

Introductory APRs

0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers

Rewards

  • 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter
  • 1% on all other purchases

Rewards Program Overview

The Discover it® Cash Back Card is designed for those who want to earn significant cash back on their everyday purchases. With this card, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in rotating categories each quarter.

Note that the bonus categories change every year. Review the cash back calendar below for the bonus rewards categories.

Quarter & Dates
Bonus Rewards Categories

Q1: January 1–March 31

Restaurants, Drugstores

Q2: April 1–June 30

Gas stations/EV charging stations, Home improvement stores, Public transit

Q3: July 1–September 30

To be announced (In 2023: Gas stations, digital wallets)

Q4: October 1–December 31

To be announced (In 2023: Amazon, Target)

Activation is required to earn the 5% rate; all other purchases get 1% cash back. The cash back you earn does not expire and can be redeemed anytime.

You can receive your cash back as statement credit, gift cards, donations or an electronic deposit to any account you designate. This flexibility ensures that you can use your rewards in the way that best suits your financial needs and preferences.

Benefits: Reasons to Consider This Card

Get high rewards from common spending categories with the Discover it® Cash Back Card. Here's why it's a smart choice for your wallet:

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    5% Cash Back

    The card lets you earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases). Hitting the cap could mean earning up to $75 in cash back every three months, which adds up to $300 annually without considering other purchases. It’s rare to find a cash back card with a 5% rate, which adds to the card’s appeal.

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    Financial Flexibility

    The Discover it® Cash Back lets you take advantage of a 15-month 0% introductory APR period on purchases and balance transfers. This time frame allows you to manage large expenses or reduce your existing debt without accruing interest, potentially saving you hundreds in interest charges.

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    Cash Back Match

    The cash back match at the end of your first year can effectively double your rewards. If you earn $300 in cash back, Discover will match it, potentially giving you a higher amount than the standard $200 welcome bonus from other cash back cards.

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    No Annual Fee

    The Discover it® Cash Back has no annual fee, making it a cost-effective choice for those who want to earn rewards without worrying about offsetting a yearly charge.

Drawbacks: Reasons to Consider a Different Card

The Discover it® Cash Back card is great for people who don't mind doing some work to get maximum rewards on their purchases. However, it may not work if you want automatic cash back.

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    Rotating Categories Limitation

    The 5% cash back applies to rotating categories each quarter, which may not always match your spending habits. Although Discover often provides multiple bonus categories at a given time, the categories change per quarter. This gives you less predictability compared to cards like the Capital One SavorOne that provide bonus cash back on non-changing categories.

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    Activation Required

    You must actively enroll each quarter to earn the 5% cash back. Missing the activation means you'll default to the lower 1% rate.

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    Lower Regular Rate

    Outside of the bonus categories, the card's regular cash back rate is relatively low at 1%. Aside from the rotating nature of the categories, they also come with a $1,500 per quarter cap. If you spend heavily on specific categories, you may benefit from a card that doesn’t cap the rewards you earn. Likewise, if your purchases tend to come from various categories, a flat-rate card like the Citi Double Cash® may be a better choice.

How Discover it® Cash Back Compares

We compare the Discover it® Cash Back with similar cash back cards to help you weigh this card against the competition.

Discover it® Chrome: The Discover it® Chrome is a similar card from Discover, but it focuses on providing 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants. There’s a $1,000 combined cap on those bonus categories, and all other purchases receive 1% cash back. If you want to enjoy the cash back match feature and spend heavily on gas and dining out, the Discover it® Chrome can be an alternative.

>> MORE: Discover it® Chrome vs. Discover it® Cash Back Card

Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards: The Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card offers unlimited 3% cash back on restaurants, entertainment and grocery stores. You may find this card more lucrative despite its lower rate since it provides uncapped rewards on everyday categories.

>> MORE: Discover it® Cash Back Card vs. Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card

Cards You Can Pair With Discover it® Cash Back

With its rotating 5% categories, a natural pair for the Discover it Cash Back card is a flat-rate cash back card. You can use the Discover card for purchases that fall into its bonus categories to get 5% cash back. For all other purchases, you can use the flat-rate cash back card.

The key to this strategy is finding a cash back card with a high flat rate, like the Citi Double Cash® or the Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card, offering 2% cash back on all purchases.

Is Discover it® Cash Back Right for You?

The Discover it® Cash Back Card could be a smart choice if you're proactive with your finances. If you regularly spend in the card's rotating categories and don't mind activating them quarterly, you'll benefit from the 5% cash back. This card is also ideal if you have a large purchase on the horizon or existing debt, thanks to the 0% introductory APR for 15 months. However, if you prefer a card with a high, non-rotating cash back rate, or if tracking category activation seems tedious, you might want to consider other options.

BEST CASH BACK CARDS OF 2024

If the Discover it® Cash Back does not work for you, our list of the best cash back credit cards could help you find one that matches your spending habits and lifestyle.

How We Evaluated the Discover it® Cash Back Card

In evaluating the Discover it® Cash Back Card, MoneyGeek considered a range of features, prioritizing the card's cash back capabilities. Here's how the weights were applied to the card's Cash Back Score, from highest to lowest percentage:

  • Cash Back Offer: 50% (A 5 rating represents the most favorable cash back terms)
  • Regular APR: 15% (A 5 rating indicates a highly competitive APR)
  • Intro Purchase APR: 15% (A 5 rating denotes an advantageous introductory APR on purchases)
  • Issuer Satisfaction: 5% (A 5 rating reflects top-tier customer satisfaction)
  • Penalties: 5% (A 5 rating means minimal penalty fees and rates)
  • Effective Reward Rate: 5% (A 5 rating signifies a high rewards earning potential)
  • Recommended Credit: 5% (A 5 rating suggests the card is accessible to a wide range of credit scores)

This card was one of 60 reviewed, ensuring a comprehensive comparison across the market.

About Doug Milnes, CFA


Doug Milnes, CFA headshot

Doug Milnes is a CFA charter holder with over 10 years of experience in corporate finance and the Head of Credit Cards at MoneyGeek. Formerly, he performed valuations for Duff and Phelps and financial planning and analysis for various companies. His analysis has been cited by U.S. News and World Report, The Hill, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and many other outlets.

Milnes holds a master’s degree in data science from Northwestern University. He geeks out on helping people feel on top of their credit card use, from managing debt to optimizing rewards.


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