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Discover vs. Mastercard: Which is best for me?

There are major differences between the networks.

While Discover’s cards have similar features, such as their fees and signup bonuses, Mastercard has many more products. Benefits vary widely depending on the card issuer.

What features and services do Discover and Mastercard offer?

When deciding between Discover and Mastercard, consider these key benefits:

  • Annual fee.
    None of Discover’s cards have annual fees.Mastercard products have varied costs, from no annual fee to $995 a year and more.
  • Rewards.
    Every Discover card has rewards. There are three main reward structures: 1.5% rewards, 2% cash back and 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories.Mastercard has a wider variety of reward structures. Some products have no rewards at all, such as the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®. Other cards offer powerful cashback or travel points, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card and the Citi Prestige® Credit Card.
  • Signup bonus.
    Discover offers unique signup bonuses: It’ll match rewards earned during your first card year, which can yield big bonuses if you’re patient.Mastercard typically has traditional signup bonuses: Spend a certain amount on your card within the first few months to qualify.
  • Intro APR.
    Almost every Discover card has an intro APR. You’ll find zero-interest periods as long as 14 months.Many Mastercard products offer no intro APRs. But others offer the best intro APRs on the market — as long as 18 to 21 months.

If you’re still unsure about the winner, you can break the tie by comparing secondary benefits.

Discover secondary perks

Unlike most other card networks, Discover’s secondary benefits aren’t geared toward purchases and travel. Rather, they help you build credit responsibly.

Other Discover benefits to consider

  • No overlimit fees.
    Some providers will ding you for overlimit transactions. Per the Credit CARD Act of 2009, you must opt in for overlimit protection.
  • No foreign transaction fees.
    While this is common in travel cards, it’s unusual for cashback cards.

Pro tip

For Mastercard products, the issuer will determine the overlimit fee. Foreign transaction fees are common, but they’re usually waived for travel cards.

  • Free Social Security number (SSN) alerts.
    You’ll be alerted if Discover sees your SSN on high-risk websites, or if new accounts are added to your Experian credit report.
  • Freeze it.
    If your card is lost or stolen, you can freeze your card via the Discover website or mobile app.
  • Free monthly FICO score.
    Many other providers offer only “FAKO” — or non-FICO — credit scores. Discover pulls your credit score from TransUnion data.
  • Free overnight card delivery upon request.
    Many issuers won’t expedite card delivery, or they’ll charge for it.
  • Cash at checkout.
    At select retailers, you can take out cash as you use your card at the register. Each transaction will accrue interest at the purchase APR, not the cash advance rate.

Mastercard secondary perks

Mastercard products are much better choices if you’re seeking purchase protection and travel insurance. You’ll typically find more benefits with mid-tier products such as Platinum and World Mastercards.

Standard Mastercard perks

  • Extended warranties.
    Mastercard will double the original manufacturer warranty on eligible items you buy with your card.
  • Price protection.
    Buy an eligible item with your Mastercard. If you find a lower price elsewhere within 60 days, you may be compensated the price difference.
  • Car rental collision damage waiver insurance.
    This covers your rental vehicle against damage or theft. Just pay with your Mastercard and decline the insurance at the rental counter.
  • Mastercard Global Service.
    Call if you need emergency assistance while traveling: emergency card replacements, cash advances and more.
  • Roadside assistance.
    Access tire changes, towing, gas delivery and more when you’re stuck on the side of the road. Charges will be billed to your Mastercard.
  • Travel accident insurance.
    On eligible fares you book with your Mastercard, you’ll receive coverage for accidental death or dismemberment.

Standard Mastercard perks that depend on the card issuer

  • Purchase assurance.
    Most items you buy with your Mastercard will be covered against damage or theft within 90 days of your purchase. This benefit is commonly known as purchase protection.
  • Satisfaction guarantee.
    This is Mastercard’s version of return protection. If you buy an eligible item and want to return it within 60 days of purchase, and the merchant doesn’t take it back, you may be reimbursed for the cost of the item — up to $250.

World Elite Mastercard benefits

  • Baggage insurance.
    Pay for an eligible trip with your Mastercard. You may be reimbursed if your baggage is lost, damaged or stolen.
  • Trip cancellation and interruption insurance.
    You may be reimbursed for nonrefundable change or cancellation fees if your trip is canceled or interrupted.
  • Concierge.
    Get 24/7 help finding gifts, tickets to popular shows, securing dining reservations and more.

Pros and cons of Discover and Mastercard credit cards

Each card network has strengths and weaknesses. While there’s no perfect card, you can mix and match products that complement each other.

Discover pros and cons

Pros

  • No annual, overlimit or foreign transaction fees with any card.
  • Unique signup-bonus structure.
  • A few cards offer 5% cash back in rotating categories.
  • Great secured and student cards.

Cons

  • Only one travel card.
  • No tiered travel rewards.
  • Lags behind Mastercard and Visa in international acceptance.

Mastercard pros and cons

Pros

  • Many more card options than Discover.
  • Great secured and student cards, and more choices to boot.
  • With select cards, you’ll find market-leading intro APRs (18 to 21 months).
  • Stronger travel cards than Discover.

Cons

  • Benefits vary considerably between card issuers.
  • Visa offers more cobranded airline cards.

Compare Mastercard and Discover credit cards

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Chase Freedom Flex℠
5% back in rotating categories up to $1,500 combined each activated quarter (then 1%), 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining and drugstores, and 1% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
$0
Get up to 5% cashback in rotating and newly added everyday categories. The refreshed Freedom Flex card has lots of earning potential.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card
N/A
0% intro for the first 18 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$0

Best of Finder 2021

An impressive 18 months intro APR on balance transfers and purchases, as well as no annual fee make this one of the top 0% APR cards available.
Citi® Double Cash Card
Up to 2% cash back on purchases (1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay)
13.99% to 23.99% variable
$0
Earn up to 2% on every purchase with no annual fee. This is the highest flat-rate cashback card on the market.
Citi Rewards+® Card
Earn 2x points at supermarkets and gas stations on up to $6,000 annually, then 1x points after that and on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.49% to 23.49% variable)
$0
Get 2x points on restaurants and gas with this unique no-annual-fee card. Your rewards round up to the nearest 10 points for each purchase!
Citi® Secured Mastercard®
N/A
22.49% variable
$0
A no annual fee secured card for people who are new to credit or have limited credit history.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
14.99% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
14.99% variable
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
First Progress Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
N/A
19.99% variable
$29
Build your credit with all three major credit bureaus.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare or cash back
14.99% variable
$995
Earn 2% point value when redeemed for airfare or cash back through the Luxury rewards program.
First Progress Platinum Select MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
N/A
13.99% variable
$39
No minimum credit score and no credit history required.
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
N/A
9.99% variable
$49
Build or rebuild your credit with this secured card.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Discover it® Cash Back
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 11.99% to 22.99% 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.
Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card
1.5x miles on all purchases
0% intro for the first 14 months (then 11.99% to 22.99% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5x miles on all purchases - from airfare and hotels to groceries and online shopping.
Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurant Card
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 11.99% to 22.99% 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.
Discover it® Secured
2% back on gas and dining up to $1,000 combined each activated quarter, then 1% after that and on all other purchases
22.99% 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.
Discover it® Chrome for Students
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 12.99% to 21.99% 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.
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Compare up to 4 providers

The verdict

Discover or Mastercard?

Ultimately, the right card depends on your needs.
Consider a Discover card if:
  • You think you could earn a healthy signup bonus — and you’re patient enough to wait for it.
  • You like Discover’s credit-building secondary benefits, such as free monthly FICO scores.
  • You’re drawn to the provider’s reward structures, such as 5% cash back in rotating categories.
  • You want a secured or student card.

You might prefer Mastercard if:

  • You want a powerful travel card.
  • You want purchase protection or travel insurance.
  • You’re looking for a market-leading intro APR.
  • You need a card that’s widely accepted abroad.

Best of both worlds

Both networks have plenty of products to choose from, and certain cards can complement each other. For example:

Bottom line

Discover and Mastercard have many differences. One card may better suit your needs over the other. You could also mix and match cards from both providers.

If you’re unsure whether either provider is right for you, consider other credit card companies.
Compare Mastercard vs Amex

Frequently asked questions

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