Discover vs. Mastercard: Which is best for me?

There are major differences between the networks.

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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.

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.

These perks are fairly common but depend on your card issuer:
You’re more likely to find the following benefits with World Elite Mastercards:

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
N/A
26.99% variable
$0
A no-annual-fee card for average credit. Earn a higher credit line after five on-time payments.
N/A
26.99% variable
$0
Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time.
1% cash back on all purchases, 1.25% for months you pay on time
26.99% variable
$0
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases or get 1.25% cash back for months you pay on time.
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1% for cash back
16.49% variable
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
1x points on all purchases with 2% point value when you redeem for airfare and 1.5% for cash back
16.49% variable
$495
Receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.

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

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

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