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Discover it Cash Back Card Review

Dayana Yochim

Written by Dayana Yochim
Edited by Carolyn Kimball
Fact-checked by Andrea Coombes

March 12, 2024

Why trust us? has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

The Discover it Year One incentive is 🔥. (You'll earn double the cash back on every dollar you earn for your anniversary.) But the $1,500 quarterly spending cap is a wet blanket.

The 5% cash back rate Discover it pays on new spending categories every three months isn't the headline here. The main selling point is the bonus cash the Discover it Cash Back Card pays loyal customers at the one-year mark — an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match on every thing you've earned the previous 12 months. (P.S.: The same new cardholder perk also applies to the Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card.)

Whether the Discover it card is worth hanging onto after the honeymoon period depends. The rotating 5% bonus categories are only useful if they align with your spending plans, and the high rate applies only up to $1,500 in eligible purchases each quarter. Plus, all purchases that don't qualify for the bonus rate earn just 1% cash back.

» Compare 5% Cash Back Cards: See our picks for the best 5% cash back cards in different spending categories.

The basics: Earn 5% cash back at select places (changes quarterly), such as grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, wholesale clubs, select streaming services,, PayPal purchases, etc., and 1% cash back on all other purchases. New cardmember offers: 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. Plus, get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, automatically.

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dining Dining
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Best for Rewards Rotators

Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back Logo
Cashback Per Year
Annual Fee
Welcome Bonus
2X Rewards your first year
Want to compare more cards? Use our full calculator.

Discover it Cash Back pros and cons

thumb_up_off_alt Pros

  • 5% cash back on quarterly rotating spending categories
  • Dollar-for-dollar match on all earned rewards at the end of your first year
  • 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months
  • Free Social Security number alerts
  • Accepted lots of places. Really!
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • Preapproval available

thumb_down_off_alt Cons

  • 5% cash back category changes quarterly
  • 5% applies to up to $1,500 in spending each quarter
  • Low 1% cash back rate on all non-bonus spending
  • Requires reward category activation
  • No extra protections like rental/travel insurance

Discover it Cash Back cashback rewards spending categories

The following table shows the cashback rewards rate per $1 spent in the six most common spending categories. The “Bonus Rate” refers to the amount you can earn in excess of the card’s standard rewards rate.

Some cashback cards limit the spending amount eligible for the bonus rate (aka the “Spend Cap”). Once you hit that cap (e.g., $1,500 spending in a particular category during a defined time period), the rewards rate on future purchases in that category reverts to the lower “Default Rate.”

Category Default Rate Bonus Rate Bonus Spend Cap Bonus Spend Period (Months)
Gas 1.00% 5.00% $1,500 3
Travel 1.00% - - -
Dining 1.00% - - -
Entertainment 1.00% - - -
Pharmacy 1.00% - - -
Groceries 1.00% - - -
Other Purchases 1.00% - - -

Note: The Discover it Cash Back card pays 5% cash back on different spending categories throughout the year. We update the cash back rates in the credit card rewards calculator each quarter when Discover it announces the new bonus categories. Not all of the potential bonus categories are reflected in the table above. See the Discover it 5% Cashback Bonus calendar for more details about eligible purchases.

Year one bonus cash offer: The Discover it card automatically pays an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match on all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. This earnings match is not reflected in the credit card calculator.

What we like

The Year One matching rewards on every dollar you earn turns the 1% cashback base rate to 2%, and doubles the $300 annual max you can earn on 5% rewards categories to $600. Plus there is no limit to how much Discover will match.

The 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers is a nice addition to the Discover it welcome wagon.

Unlike some tight-lipped issuers, Discover announces the 5% quarterly rewards categories one month in advance, meaning you can actually plan ahead for big purchases. (Here’s the 5% Cashback Bonus calendar.) Examples of previous 5% cashback category mashups: jewelry stores, drug stores and select streaming services; a delightful pairing of restaurants and wholesale clubs.

Rewards can be redeemed at any time for any amount. Redemption options include direct deposit to a bank account, applying earnings as a statement credit and using rewards at checkout at and Paypal.

Discover makes it easy for charitable-minded cardholders to donate rewards earnings, though your benevolence is limited to select charities.

Discover makes a point to reassure applicants that it’s accepted by 99% of places in the U.S. that take credit cards, and also in 200 countries and territories. (Discover had kind of a rep in the past when it wasn’t as widely accepted.)

No foreign transaction fees here! None of the Discover credit cards charge foreign transaction fees, which typically range from 2.7%-3%.

What we don't like

Spending caps. Why’d you have to go and ruin a good thing, Discover? Couldn’t you have at least upped the 5% rewards spending cap to $2,500 a quarter like some other cards?

And another thing (sorry, we can’t let it go): The $1,500 quarterly spending cap on the 5% bonus categories limits your cashback earnings in that category to $75 per quarter; $300 a year. At least you’ll get an additional $300 (plus matching dollars on whatever you earned at the 1% rate) at the end of Year One. Starting at year two, you’ll want to reevaluate what you’ll get out of the relationship. (See what the competition has to offer in the 5% cash back credit card space.

Yet another thing to put on the to-do list: Remember to activate the cashback bonus (5%) each quarter by the deadline or you’ll have to settle for the very sad 1% rate.

Balance-transfer fee hike alert: The 3% balance transfer fee applies only for a limited time. Any transfers made after the deadline will incur a 5% fee.

This isn’t the card to use for extra rental car or travel insurance or extended warranty protections. Those perks aren’t offered.

May not travel well globally. Although Discover cards are widely accepted domestically, the network is still in the expansion stage in some countries. Before stepping on the plane, check the Discover International Acceptance Map.

The bottom line

Is the Discover it Cash Back the best rewards card for your wallet? The answer depends entirely on your spending patterns. Let the numbers speak for themselves: Use the Cashback Credit Card Calculator to see which credit card pays back the highest rewards based on how much you spend each month.

Discover it Cash Back fine print

Read up on the card's terms and conditions. Bookmark the Discover it 5% Cashback Bonus calendar. Discover announces each quarter's 5% bonus categories a month in advance. More details on the rewards program.

Does the Discover it Cash Back charge an annual fee?

No, there is no annual fee for the Discover it Cash Back.

tips_and_updates Trivia time!

How common are annual fees? Roughly 17% of the consumer cash back cards we review charge an annual fee. They range from $39 to $99, with an average annual fee of $67.

Does the Discover it Cash Back offer a welcome bonus?

Yes, the Discover it Cash Back has a welcome bonus of 2X Rewards your first year.

tips_and_updates Fun fact

More than half (55%) of the consumer cash back credit cards we track in the database offer a welcome bonus, ranging from $30 up to $300. The average sign-up bonus for new cardholders is $197, with the median being $200.

How much cash back can I earn with the Discover it Cash Back?

The average American that spends $1000 per month will earn $187.20 in cash back per year using the Discover it Cash Back. For comparison, the average annual rewards payout from the cashback credit cards in the database is $191.26, and $180 is the median.

These calculations are based on average consumer spending data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the reward payout rates from the providers we track. Of course, you’re so much more than an average data point (aka “consumer unit,” in BLS parlance). The amount you can earn in cashback rewards using the Discover it Cash Back depends entirely on your unique spending habits.

Find out exactly how much you’ll rake in with the Discover it Cash Back by tailoring the spending inputs in the calculator above.

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The results of the Credit Card Rewards Calculator are based on the monthly spending amounts you enter and the annual dollar value of the rewards each credit card program pays per $1 spent. Credit card companies often express this payout amount as a percentage (e.g., 1.5% of every dollar spent) or on a points basis (e.g. ,1.5 points for every dollar spent). We converted all of them to a dollar amount (“Cash Back Per Year”) to make comparing offers easier.

To calculate the amount of cash back you could earn per year, we factored in:

  • Spend category inputs: The default dollar values for each “Spend Category” in the Best Cashback Credit Cards tool — gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment, pharmacy, other — are based on average American spending data from the Consumer Expenditure Surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. We also include additional spend categories (such as streaming services, online shopping, utilities, transit, Amazon and more) to help you see which rewards cards are most closely aligned with your actual spending patterns. We encourage you to customize the monthly spend inputs for the most accurate results.
  • Tiered rewards rates: If a rewards credit card pays higher cashback rates on certain spending categories (also called “Bonus Rewards”), that difference is reflected in the total “Cash Back Per Year” tally.
  • Rewards spending caps: Some cards impose category- or time-based limits (monthly, quarterly, annually) that affect the amount of rewards you can earn. For example, a card may pay 3% cash back on groceries on up to $1,000 of spending each quarter, then revert to the base/default rewards rate until the following quarter. We accounted for bonus spending caps and timeframe in the calculations.
  • Default rewards rates: Purchases that exceed a spending cap are usually subject to a lower default rewards rate (e.g., 1% or 1.5%). We mathed that out too.
  • Annual fees: If a rewards card charges an annual fee, we deducted that amount from the “Cash Back Per Year” total to provide a true accounting of a card’s annual rewards payout.

What’s not included in the “Cash Back Per Year” total is the cash value of any sign-up/introductory bonus. We highlight any Welcome Bonus separately. While sign-up bonuses can be the most lucrative part of getting a new cashback rewards credit card, not everyone will want or be able to do what it takes to earn the extra cash. (It usually requires spending a certain amount in a specified time period after the card is activated.)

About the Editorial Team

Dayana Yochim
Dayana Yochim

Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool,, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on "Today," "Good Morning America," CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic.

Carolyn Kimball
Carolyn Kimball

Carolyn Kimball is Managing Editor for Reink Media Group and the lead editor for content on Carolyn has more than 20 years of writing and editing experience at major media outlets including NerdWallet, the Los Angeles Times and the San Jose Mercury News. She specializes in coverage of personal financial products and services, wielding her editing skills to clarify complex (some might say befuddling) topics to help consumers make informed decisions about their money.

Andrea Coombes
Andrea Coombes

Andrea Coombes has 20+ years of experience helping people reach their financial goals. Her personal finance articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, MarketWatch, Forbes, and other publications, and she's shared her expertise on CBS, NPR, "Marketplace," and more. She's been a financial coach and certified consumer credit counselor, and is working on becoming a Certified Financial Planner. She knows that owning pets isn't necessarily the best financial decision; her dog and two cats would argue this point.