American Express vs. Discover: Which is best for me?

Compare welcome offers, rewards and secondary benefits.

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If you’re choosing between American Express and Discover, there are a few factors to consider. You’ll want to look at welcome offers, rewards and secondary benefits. Overall, American Express is better for travel cards, while Discover is better for cashback cards.

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What features and services do American Express and Discover offer?

American Express and Discover are credit card networks and issuers. This means they can easily keep secondary benefits relatively uniform throughout their products.

That’s different than Visa or Mastercard, which are card networks only. Their benefits can change drastically depending on the issuer — for example, Chase, Bank of America, etc.

Compare American Express and Discover credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
7x points on Hilton Honors purchases, 5x at US restaurants, US supermarkets and US gas stations, 3x on all other purchases
17.49% to 26.49% variable
$0
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
3x points on directly-booked flights; 4x at restaurants; 4x at US supermarkets on up to $25,000 annually (then 1x points)
See Rates & Fees
$250
35,000 bonus Membership Rewards® Points when you spend $2,000 in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$95
Earn $250 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles for all other purchases
17.49% to 26.49% variable
$195
Earn 75,000 miles and 5,000 MQMs after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months plus $100 when you make a Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees
2x miles on Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
17.49% to 26.49% variable
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 60,000 miles after spending $2,000 in the first 3 months, plus $50 when you make a direct Delta purchase in the same timeframe. Rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 14 months (then 13.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn 5% back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories every quarter you activate, then 1% thereafter. Earn 1% back on all other purchases.
1.5x miles on all purchases
0% intro for the first 14 months (then 13.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5x miles on all purchases - from airfare and hotels to groceries and online shopping.
2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined quarterly, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 14 months (then 13.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn 2% cash back on gas and dining on your first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After that earn 1% in these categories and on all other purchases.
2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
24.74% variable
$0
2% cashback at restaurants or gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus 1% cash back on all other credit card purchases.
2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 6 months (then 14.74% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Earn 2% cash back on gas and dining on your first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After that earn 1% in these categories and on all other purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

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Key benefits you’ll find with both American Express and Discover

Consider each cards’ benefits:

  • Welcome offer.
    American Express typically has welcome offers you can earn by spending a certain amount on your card within a few months. Discover has a unique signup-bonus structure where it’ll match rewards earned in your first year.
  • Annual fee.
    Amex offers no-annual-fee cards, as well as travel products that cost hundreds of dollars a year. None of Discover’s credit cards have annual fees.
  • Rewards.
    Amex offers a few cashback cards. It also offers cards that give you Membership Rewards points or rewards for travel programs. Its strongest categories include groceries, airfare and hotels. Most of Discover’s cards are cashback products. There’s one travel card, the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card that comes with 1.5x miles on all purchases. Key categories include gas stations and restaurants.
  • Intro APR.
    A few Amex cards offer 0% intro APRs. Almost every Discover card has an intro APR. Zero-interest periods vary, so check each card’s terms.

Secondary benefits: American Express and Discover

The secondary benefits vary considerably between the providers.

Discover offers nothing in purchase protection or travel insurance. Rather, it carves out a unique niche by providing tools that help customers use credit responsibly.

If you want purchase protection and travel insurance, Amex is the way to go. Typically, these benefits get stronger with high-annual-fee cards.

Pro tip

Amex offers no price protection, which reimburses you a portion of your purchase price if you buy a product and find a lower price elsewhere.

For this benefit, look for Visa or Mastercard credit cards.

Pros and cons of American Express and Discover credit cards

No card provider is perfect. Here are a few factors to weigh as you decide between Amex and Discover.

American Express pros and cons

Pros

  • More travel cards than Discover, including cobranded hotel and airline products.
  • No foreign transaction fees with travel cards.
  • Excellent cards for grocery spending.
  • More business credit cards.

Cons

  • May require a higher credit score and annual income.
  • Some products are charge cards, so you must pay off your entire balance each month.
  • No card with rotating cashback categories.
  • No student or secured credit card.
  • Not as widely accepted globally as Visa or Mastercard.

Discover pros and cons

Pros

  • No annual, overlimit or foreign transaction fees with any card
  • You could earn a great first-year signup bonus depending on your spending.
  • A few cards with rotating 5% cashback categories.
  • Offers a student and secured credit card.

Cons

  • Only one travel card.
  • No tiered travel rewards.
  • Lacks purchase protection and travel insurance.
  • Not as widely accepted globally as Visa or Mastercard.
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The verdict

The winner

American Express is an excellent choice for a travel card. It’s the clear favorite if you want purchase protection or travel insurance.

If you want a cashback card, Discover is a contender. It has cards that offer strong cash back in quarterly rotating categories. It’s a stellar choice for a student or secured card, and it offers unique secondary benefits.

Best of both worlds

The provider’s cards are very different, so there’s plenty of room to pair cards from both sides.

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Bottom line

Though Amex and Discover overlap in a few regards, they largely offer cards with big differences.

If you’re not sure either provider is right for you, consider other credit card companies.

Frequently asked questions

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