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2019 Discover cashback guide: How it works, best cashback cards
Double your cash back in your first year of card membership.
Discover offers a suite of cashback cards that include no-frills cards, cards for students with limited credit histories and a secured card for building credit. Depending on your choice, you can earn accelerated cash back in rotating or fixed categories — and double everything you earn within your first year.
Compare Discover cashback credit cards
A brief introduction to Discover cashback credit cards
There are seven Discover cashback cards at the time of this writing.
While that sounds like a lot, there are only three types of Discover cashback rewards structures to understand.
How cash back works for Discover’s personal credit cards
For personal credit cards, you have two cashback structures to choose from:
Rotating 5% cash back.
This could be a good option if you like to change things up. You’ll earn 5% cash back in different categories each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum of $1,500. After you reach the maximum, you’ll earn 1% cash back for the rest of the quarter.
Rotating categories might include grocery stores, gas stations, rideshare services, restaurants and Amazon.com.
To get 5% cash back, you need to activate your bonus categories each quarter. You can do this through your online Discover account or by calling 800-347-2683.
2% cash back.
Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After you reach the purchase maximum, you’ll earn 1% cash back for the rest of the quarter.
For all cards of these types, you’ll always earn at least 1% cash back, even if you’re not spending in bonus categories.
How cash back works for Discover’s business credit card
For business, there’s one Discover option: the Discover it® Business Card. It offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. Flat-rate rewards are a great choice if you don’t want to deal with various bonus reward categories.
With the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card, you’ll earn travel miles. However, you can redeem these miles for cash back if you want.
Best Discover cashback credit cards
Best for gas and restaurants: Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card
Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card
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.
Best for building credit: Discover it® Secured
Discover it® Secured
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.
Best Discover card for students: Discover it® Student Cash Back
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Earn 5% back in rotating categories each activated quarter up to $1,500, then 1% after that and on all other purchases.
Best credit card for NHL fans: NHL Discover it® Card
NHL Discover it® Card
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in rotating quarterly activated categories then 1% after that and on all other purchases.
Best overall: Discover it® Cash Back
Discover it® Cash BackRead more
How we chose our best cards
Discover largely makes things simple by offering just one card each for certain categories — secured, student and NHL cards, for example. Luckily, all of these cards are standouts compared to the competition due to their strong rewards and signup bonuses.
The provider’s flagship cashback cards are excellent choices, too, for the same reasons.
What’s changed in 2019
In 2019, Discover sticks to the same effective playbook it’s been using: offer no-annual-fee cards with strong rewards and one unique signup bonus. The provider blazes its own trail, and it’s worth a look if cards from other banks all look the same.
How to compare Discover cashback credit cards
Discover cashback credit cards are fairly similar. The main difference lies in the credit-score ranges they’re aimed at. You can narrow your options with three questions:
Are you a student?
Students can choose between two Discover cashback cards. For the highest value, consider the Discover it® Student Cash Back.
Do you want to build your credit score?
With the Discover it® Secured, you deposit a minimum of $200 to start building or rebuilding your credit score while earning cash back on your purchases.
Do you want the best Discover cashback cards?
The Discover it® Cash Back, NHL Discover it® Card and Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card offer good cash back. Pick the rewards structure that best matches your spending.
Typical benefits of a Discover cashback card
Each Discover cashback card comes with its own perks and features. But they share common benefits that include:
A cashback match.
Discover matches the entirety of the cash back you earn during your first year. And it doesn’t come with a maximum.
No annual fee.
You won’t pay an annual fee with any of Discover’s cashback cards. But you must put down a one-time deposit for the secured card.
Free FICO score.
Every Discover card allows you to access your FICO score for free either online or on your monthly statement.
Freeze your card.
If you lose your card, freeze it to prevent anyone from using it. You can unfreeze it at any time if it turns up.
US-based customer service.
Discover’s support team is in the US, and it earns positive reviews around the web.
Consider a card from another brand
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American ExpressRead more
Discover offers several cashback cards with uniform features — you get either accelerated cash back in rotating categories or lower cash back in fixed categories. Discover also matches the entire cashback amount you earn in your first card year, which can beat signup bonuses offered by most other providers.
To find the best card for your lifestyle and budget, consider other cashback credit cards before deciding.
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