Discover’s a great company with some solid cash back rewards card options – however, between their two big offerings – the Discover it and Discover it Chrome – it can be hard to decide which one might be best for you.
Basically, the main differences come down to the way their cash back programs are structured – both cards give you you unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, but Discover it gives you bonus categories (which rotate every quarter) that let you earn 5%. The Discover it Chrome, meanwhile, gives you a simple 2% cash back on gas station and restaurant spending as a bonus. Beyond that, the cards have a few minor differences that might help you make up your mind regarding which Discover credit card to get. Let’s take a look.
Overview of the Discover It Credit Card
Why It’s Good
The Discover it card works not unlike the Chase Freedom Unlimited – a cash back rewards card that gives you 1% unlimited cash back on every purchase, but reserves 5% bonus rewards for one or two select bonus categories that change out every quarter. This is a great option for folks who really want to maximize their rewards, and aren’t afraid to do their homework. While you have to activate the categories each quarter, those who don’t mind doing a bit of maintenance on their credit card usage will be glad to have the option to earn a little bit more.
Overview of Discover It Chrome Credit Card
Why It’s Good
If you don’t want to mess around with micromanaging your spending categories, and just want a simple, no-frills cash back solution, the Discover it Chrome is a pretty decent option. It’s especially good for people who do a lot of driving or eating out – you know you’ll get a lot of mileage (no pun intended) out of the Chrome’s permanent bonus categories.
Differences Between Discover It and Discover It Chrome
Like we said before, the major difference between the Discover it and Discover it Chrome boils down to their cash back rewards programs. The Discover it gives you 5% cash back on certain bonus categories, but they change out every quarter; the Discover it Chrome just gives you 2% back on restaurants and gas purchases.
Otherwise, the cards are virtually identical in every way that counts, from fees to signup bonuses and more. That being said, there are some minor tweaks that might influence your decision one way or another regarding which card to get.
The Discover it card has no annual fee, and no interest for 14 months – both of which are pretty great incentives for new cardholders. Essentially, the card is basically free for more than a year to maintain, and all you have to do after that is pay interest on your balance. There’s also no foreign transaction fee, which is nice if you’re spending overseas.
Once your introductory period is over, the card charges anywhere from 13.49% to 24.49%, depending on credit trustworthiness – if you’ve got good credit, that lower end of the spectrum is pretty nice to see.
Just like with the Discover it card, the Discover it Chrome features virtually the exact same fee structure. There’s no annual fee, and a 14-month 0% introductory APR period. The Chrome also features no foreign transaction fees, so both cards are pretty much tied when it comes to costs and fees. The variable APR is the same as the Discover it too, at 13.49% to 24.49%.
As previously mentioned, the rewards are where these two cards really stand out. The Discover it card gives you 1% unlimited cash back, but 5% rewards for bonus categories that change out each quarter. Just keep track of them with Discover’s nifty spending calendar, and you can make sure to use that card more for gas, restaurants, wholesale clubs, and more. Here’s the rub: you can only get that 5% cash back on the first $1,500 you spend on those categories each quarter, though. So don’t get too trigger-happy at the gas pump; you may be wasting your money for fewer rewards.With the Discover it Chrome, you don’t get 5% cash back in your bonus categories, which is a shame; however, you do get a persistent 2% cashback on dining and gas, which never goes away. Granted, that 2% rewards tier expires when you go over $1,000 each quarter, so be careful when you spend. Otherwise, the Discover it Chrome card shares a baseline of 1% unlimited cash back with the Discover it Card – both cards let you earn a bit more for their bonus categories, but are pretty fixated on otherwise giving you small rewards with no limits.
What the Discover it and Discover it Chrome cards lack in persistent, long-term bonus rewards, they make up for in robust signup bonuses. After your first year, the Discover it card matches all the cash back rewards you’ve accumulated thus far. This makes for a nice boost in your rewards balance, and a good way to train you how best to use the card’s spending categories.
Like the Discover it, the Discover it Chrome also incentivizes first-year spending by matching your accumulated cash back rewards at the end of the year. The more you spend, the more you get in matching rewards. While the lower cash back rate may make it seem like you don’t earn as much as the Discover it, it’s possible you’ll earn more by sheer virtue of using the persistent 2% tier more often.
While the Discover it has one of the highest cash back rewards rates we’ve seen in a card (5%), there are a number of caveats that keep you from just aggressively building up beaucoup rewards. For one thing, the tier caps out at $1,500 a quarter; if you’re committed to following the categories, that may not seem like much, and it hampers your ability to earn extra rewards. What’s more, the rotating nature of the Discover it’s rewards categories means you have to be a bit more eagle-eyed if you want to maximize your rewards potential. That means checking the aforementioned rewards calendar, remembering what categories are in play this quarter, and so on. If you want to be more relaxed with your card usage, this might not be ideal.Right off the bat, the major drawback with the Discover it Chrome is clear – you only get one lower-end bonus tier (Protip: 2% is less than 5%), and the quarterly cap for it is lower than the Discover it ($1,000 as opposed to $1,500). This means that the Discover it Chrome doesn’t really offer you the same level of rewards potential as the Discover it. While the Discover it Chrome is a better card for those who don’t want to have to fuss around with bonus categories, it can be dispiriting to hit that $1,000 spending cap each quarter (we all buy a lot of food and gas, so it’s a bit easier to reach that threshold). Once you do, you’re just stuck with 1% cash back rewards until the next quarter.
Who should get these cards?
The Discover it card is fantastic for those cardholders who don’t mind putting in a little extra work to get the most out of their rewards. While some of us just like to spend and forget, it’s possible that you want to make sure you’re squeezing the most value out of every dollar you spend, especially on cards like these. If you’re willing to keep track of which categories offer some bonus rewards each quarter, and tailor your spending accordingly, it’s possible you get 5% cash back on up to $6,000 worth of expenses each year.
The Discover it Chrome is preferable for those cardholders who want to be a little more hands-off with their spending – it rewards you a little bit more each quarter for commonly-used spending categories like gas and dining, and gives you 1% cash back on everything else. For all intents and purposes, this is a great all-around card you can use all year round – as opposed to the Discover it, which is best when you want to have a card dedicated to specific spending.
Which card should you get?
Honestly, the differences between the Discover it and Discover it Chrome are relatively marginal, and they serve two distinct purposes. However, there’s a case to be made for getting both, and making use of both of them to really rack up some rewards.
Hear us out: get the Discover it, and keep track of the spending bonus categories they offer each quarter. Make a special effort to use that card only for those categories, and mine the 5% for all its worth. In the meantime, use the Discover it Chrome as an all-purpose spending card, especially when you use it on gas and restaurant expenses.
Whether you just get one card, or decide to commit to both, Discover has put out some fantastic rewards cards that should give cardholders a pretty decent return on investment. Both have no annual fee, a generous introductory APR period, and a beautiful signup bonus that pays off the more you spend on those cards.