Capital One Credit Cards vs. Discover Credit Cards: Which is best for you?

Discover has a history of disrupting the credit card market. It offered some of the country’s first no-fee credit cards and is now expanding its lineup to include secured, travel rewards and cash back options. Capital One, meanwhile, is a well-known and trusted credit provider across the United States with its own stable of credit-building, miles-earning and cash rewards cards.

But which company’s credit offerings best meet your needs? Let’s break it down.

At a glance comparison

Before we dive into the details of features and benefits, here are the basics of each card. 

Credit building table

Capital One® Secured Mastercard®Discover it® Secured
Annual Fee$0$0
Security Deposit$49, $99 or $200 refundable deposit required for an initial credit line of $200. Cardholders can deposit more initially for a higher starting credit line.Choose your deposit amount. The initial deposit must be at least $200. Your initial credit line matches the deposit.
Increased CreditAfter making your first five monthly payments on time, you can access a higher credit line.After eight months, your account will be automatically reviewed for transition to a standard credit card account.
Standard APRStandard APR for purchases is 26.99%, variable with the prime rate.Standard APR is 24.49%, variable with the prime rate.

Cash back table

Capital One® Savor® Cash Rewards Credit Card Discover it® Cash Back
Annual Fee$0 for the first year, $95 for each following year$0
Rewards RatesUnlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment, 2% at grocery stores and 1% on all other purchases.5% cash back up to $1,500 quarterly in specific categories, and 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
Sign Up BonusOne-time $300 cash bonus when you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.Automatic, unlimited Cashback Match at the end of your first year.
Standard APR15.99% – 24.99% variable APR.Introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 14 months, then 13.49% to 24.49% variable APR.

Travel rewards table

Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit CardDiscover it® Miles
Annual Fee$0$0
Rewards RatesUnlimited 1.25x Venture Rewards miles for all purchases.Unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases.
Sign Up BonusEarn 20,000 bonus miles after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first three months after account opening.At the end of your first year, Discover will match all Miles earned.
Miles RedemptionAfter making a travel purchase, redeem your miles as a statement credit, and your miles never expire.Redeem Miles for statement credit on travel purchases, or convert them to cash.

Standout features

Now, let’s dig into some of the Capital One benefits.

  • Personalized payments for secured cards — Pick your own monthly due date and payment method — including check, online or in-person. This lets you take control of your credit rebuild by aligning credit payments with cash flow to ensure you’re always on time.
  • Complimentary concierge service — Savor cardholders enjoy 24/7/365 concierge service for dining, entertainment and travel bookings, helping you make the most of the cash back you’re earning everyday.
  • Venture Rewards miles transfer — Transfer miles earned on your VentureOne rewards card to popular travel partners including Qantas, Finnair and EVA Air, giving you the ability to spend miles where they offer the greatest benefit.
  • Virtual card numbers — Pay for purchases securely online with virtual card numbers from Eno. Your actual card number is kept secure, letting you pay for everyday purchases and big-ticket items online with confidence.

The top features of Discovery’s credit card options include:

  • Cash back on Discover it Secured — Unlike many credit-building cards, Discover offers 2% cash back up to $1,000 in purchases at gas stations and restaurants each quarter along with unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. As a result, you get rewarded even while you’re building better credit.
  • Rotating cash-back bonuses — The Discover it Cash Back card offers different bonus spending categories each quarter including gas stations, grocery stores and online shopping. You need to activate these bonuses each quarter, but they can significantly increase your cash back earnings over time.
  • No blackout dates — When you book travel with the Discover it Miles card, there are no blackout dates for airlines, hotels or rental cars. This makes it easier to get the vacation you want — when you want it.
  • Free Social Security number alerts — Discover automatically monitors thousands of Dark Web sites and will alert you if your Social Security number is used. With online fraud increasing, this can help reduce your risk of identity theft.

The case for Capital One credit cards

Capital One credit cards make it easy to start rebuilding your credit, earning cash back or generating travel miles with everyday purchases. While these cards typically come with higher APR than their Discover counterparts, you can access increased credit in just five months with Capital One’s Secured Mastercard, earn unlimited 4% cash back on dining and entertainment with Savor Rewards and quickly transfer miles to the travel partner of your choice with the company’s VentureOne card. 

The case for the Discover credit cards

While Discover’s cards offer no annual fee, the Discover it Cash Back card requires more work to maximize earnings and there’s no option to transfer reward miles. But there are advantages: The company’s secure credit card offers unlimited 1% cash back, the cash back card offers unlimited cash back matching in the first year and the travel card offers 1.5x miles on every purchase compared to Capital One’s travel card 1.25x.

In a nutshell

Both Capital One and Discover offer secure credit, cash back and travel rewards options for cardholders. If no fees and unlimited cash back or miles earning is your priority, Discover is the best decision. If you prefer greater miles flexibility, no-hassle cash back categories and a quicker path to increased credit, choose Capital One.

Doug Bonderud

An award-winning finance, technology and security writer, Doug has a knack for distilling complex concepts down into actionable, readable copy that generates interest and drives engagement