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Discover vs. Mastercard: Which is best for me?
There are major differences between the networks.
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.
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.
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.
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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
- 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.
- Only one travel card.
- No tiered travel rewards.
- Lags behind Mastercard and Visa in international acceptance.
Mastercard pros and cons
- 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.
- Benefits vary considerably between card issuers.
- Visa offers more cobranded airline cards.
Compare Mastercard and Discover credit cards
Discover or Mastercard?
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:
- Get a stellar balance transfer intro APR with the Citi Simplicity® Card. Then, earn consistent rewards with the Discover it® Miles Travel Credit Card.
- Earn top-notch cash back in certain categories with the Discover it® Cash Back. For other spending, use the Citi® Double Cash Card
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.
Frequently asked questions
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