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Discover Credit Cards: An Overview

John Ganotis

John Ganotis | Blog

Apr 13, 2018 | Updated May 09, 2018

In the past decade, Discover has really stepped up their credit card game with their “it” family of cards. They’re known for having great U.S.-based customer service, which comes in handy if you need to call them. All Discover cards have no annual fee.

Is there a Discover card that’s right for you? There are three main categories of cards: cards for good or excellent credit, cards for students, and a card for people with bad credit.

For Good or Excellent Credit

Discover it

The regular Discover it card has rotating 5% bonus reward categories, which change every quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back. The amount of cash back you can earn in the 5% category is usually capped at $1,500 in spending each quarter. About a month before the new quarter begins, Discover sends an email with a link to click to activate the upcoming quarter’s 5% category. If you don’t activate it you won’t earn 5% in the bonus category. With Discover’s Cashback Bonus, it effectively earns 2–10% cash back the first year, depending on where you spend. These are the 2018 categories:

Quarter 5% Cash Back Category
January – March Gas Stations & Wholesale Clubs
April – June Grocery Stores
July – September Restaurants
October – December Amazon.com & Wholesale Clubs
Discover it®
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Discover it®

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.99%–23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more - up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.99%–23.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Discover it Chrome

This card earns 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations on the first $1,000 spent across both categories, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. With the Cashback Bonus, that’s effectively 4% at restaurants and gas stations for the first year.

Discover it® Chrome
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Discover it® Chrome

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.99%–23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations every quarter-no sign-ups needed.* 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases & balance transfers for 12 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.99% - 23.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Discover it Miles

The Discover it Miles earns “miles” instead of cash back, although they aren’t specifically travel rewards: you don’t earn more miles for travel purchases, and there’s no advantage to redeeming the miles for travel. This is essentially a cash back card that earns an unlimited 1.5% on all purchases. Similarly to the Cashback Match, Discover will double miles earned in the first year.

Discover it® Miles
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Discover it® Miles

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 11.99%–23.99% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Exclusive Double Miles Offer: At the end of your first year-when other Miles cards charge an annual fee-Discover doubles all the Miles you’ve earned.*
  • No annual fee & unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases. 0% intro APR on purchases for 14 months-then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 11.74%–23.74%.
  • 100 Miles = $1 value. Redeem Miles in any amount toward travel purchases on your statement. Or get cash as a direct deposit to your bank account.*
  • Discover pays you back for your in-flight Wi-Fi fees-up to $30 a year-with an automatic statement credit.*
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • Free overnight shipping of replacement cards to any U.S. street address at your request. And you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.*
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms and other info by clicking “Apply Now.” See complete Discover it® Miles details.

NHL Discover it Card

Other than savings at Shop.NHL.com and a discount on an NHL.TV subscription, this card is pretty much the same as the regular Discover it above. It’s designed for hockey fans, and cardholders get to pick a favorite team for the card design.

NHL Discover it® Card
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NHL Discover it® Card

For People with
Good Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 10.99% to 22.99% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • Choose your favorite team & show your pride! Plus get 10% off at Shop.NHL.com
  • New! Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically—only for new cardmembers.*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.*
  • 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 12 months—then a variable purchase APR applies, currently 10.99% — 22.99%. A 3% fee applies to each transferred balance.
  • New Freeze It on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by Mobile App & online.*
  • Track your recent FICO® Credit Scores for free in one easy-to-read chart on monthly statements & online.* Plus get 100% U.S.-based service.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • *See rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking "Apply." ©NHL

For College Students

Discover offers two options for college students that are similar to the regular cards they offer for non-students. They also both come with a “good grades bonus,” which means Discover will give you a $20 statement credit each for school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher (for up to five years after opening the account).

Discover it for Students

Discover it® for Students
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Discover it® for Students

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 14.24%–23.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter like gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and more-up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* 100% U.S.-based service any time. Text alerts when payment is due & a free mobile app to stay on top of your account.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text-and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card
  • 0% intro APR* on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.99% - 22.99%.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Discover it Chrome for Students

Discover it® Chrome for Students
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Discover it® Chrome for Students

For People with
No Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 14.24%–23.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at restaurants and gas stations every quarter-no sign-ups needed.* 1% cash back on all your other purchases.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* 100% U.S.-based service any time. Text alerts when payment is due & a free mobile app to stay on top of your account.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text-and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • 0% intro APR* on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.24%–23.24%.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

For Bad Credit

This is Discover’s secured credit card offering for people with bad credit histories. It earns rewards, which is rare among secured cards. You’ll need to provide bank account details on the application. This bank account be used to fund the security deposit. If you use the card responsibly, Discover may refund the security deposit and keep the account open, effectively making it an unsecured card. However, if you want to switch to a different Discover product you’ll need to close this account and apply for the other account separately.

Discover it Secured

Discover it® Secured Credit Card
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Discover it® Secured Credit Card

For People with
Bad Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 24.24% Variable
Quick Card Facts
  • Double all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year automatically - only for new cardmembers*
  • 2% cash back at restaurants and on gas - up to $1,000 per quarter.* 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • New Freeze ItSM on/off switch lets you prevent new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers on misplaced cards in seconds by mobile app & online.*
  • Free FICO® Credit Score on statements, online & by mobile app.* And 100% U.S.-based service any time.
  • No annual fee. No overlimit fee. No foreign transaction fee. No late fee on first late payment & paying late won't raise your APR.*
  • Each Discover purchase is monitored. If it's unusual, you're alerted by e-mail, phone or text and never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your Discover card.
  • *See rates, rewards, free FICO® Credit Score terms & other info by clicking “Apply.”

Rewards

All Discover cards earn rewards in one form or another, and you can redeem cash back as a statement credit. There are other options for redeeming rewards, like applying them to a purchase at Amazon.com checkout, but then you won’t be earning rewards on the purchase.

Discover also offers the option to redeem for gift cards. This can get you higher value for your cash back than you’d get with a statement credit because you will always get at least $5 added to each card, in addition to the cash back amount you redeem. This is different from most credit card issuers, where you’ll usually get a lower rewards value when you redeem for gift cards.

Introductory APRs

Most Discover credit cards come with an introductory offer that can be used for balance transfers or new purchases. This can be useful if you want to save money while paying off existing debt, or make a big purchase and pay it off over time while earning rewards.

Free Credit Score

With all of their cards, Discover offers a free FICO® Credit Score and a Credit Scorecard, which shows the areas where you can change behavior to increase your credit scores. This credit score is based on your TransUnion credit report.

Cash Back Bonus

All Discover cards currently offer Cashback Match, which is a program where Discover will double cash back you earn in the first year. This extra cash back is awarded after the first year the credit card account is open.

Benefits

All Discover cards come with the same set of benefits, which has been drastically reduced. Cardholders get:

  • Price Protection: If you buy an eligible item and find it being advertised for a lesser price elsewhere, you can be reimbursed for the difference.
  • Social Security Number Alerts: Discover will alert you if your SSN is found on any of thousands of risky websites.
  • Freeze it: Easily freeze and unfreeze your account, online or from the mobile app.
  • Cash at Checkout: Get cash at checkout at participating merchants, by charging an extra amount over your purchase.
  • Zero Fraud Liability for Unauthorized Purchases: You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized purchases on your account (contact customer support immediately).

How to Apply

To apply for any Discover card you’ll need to provide standard personal information like your name and address, a social security number, annual income, and the amount you pay for housing per month. You can fill out a credit card application on their website, or by calling 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683).

Loans and Banking Services

In addition to credit cards, Discover Bank offers checking accounts and personal loans, including personal loans, home equity loans, and student loans. You may get special loan offers from Discover once you establish a banking relationship with them for credit cards.

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