Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
The Discover it credit cards come in many different forms but they don’t all offer the same level of value. In this article, I’m going to focus on the Discover it vs Discover it Chrome and take a look at how it’s possible to earn up to $600 cash back the first year that you have the card. I’ll also offer comparisons to some of the other very popular cash back credit cards.
Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!
One of the drawbacks to the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Chrome is that they don’t come with a “true” sign-up bonus. For example, some cards mat offer you something like $150 back after you spend $1,000 in the first three months after account opening.
The bonus earnings is where both of these cards really shine, but the bonus earning structure is very different for each of these two cards.
The Discover it earns 5% back on quarterly categories (up to $1,500 in spend) while the Discover it Chrome earns 2% back on dining and gas purchases (up $1,000 per quarter).
I’ll compare each of them in detail.
Discover it bonus earnings
The Discover it earns 5% back on special quarterly categories which change each year. This means that every three months, you’ll need to keep tabs on which categories will offer you the 5% back.
Here’s a historical look at what the Discover it quarterly categories have been over the past five years.
- Q1: Gas Stations, Ground Transportation, and Wholesale Clubs
- Q2: Home Improvement Stores & Wholesale Clubs
- Q3: Restaurants
- Q4: Amazon.com & Target
Q1: Gas & Ground Transportation (including car rental)
Q2: Restaurants & movies
Q3: Home Improvement Stores & Amazon.com
Q4: Department Stores, Amazon.com, Sam’s Club
Q1: Gas & Ground Transportation (Car Rental, Taxi, Limo, Public Transport)
Q2: Restaurant & Movies
Q3: Home Improvement Stores, Department Stores, and Amazon.com
Q4: Amazon, Department Stores, Clothing Stores
Q1: Restaurants and Movies
Q2: Home Improvement Stores, Furniture Stores, Bed Bath Beyond
Q3: Gas stations
Q4: Online Purchases, Department Stores
Q1: Restaurants, Movies
Q2: Spring Style (shows a picture of a flower) Clothing and home improvement
Q3: Summer Fun (shows a picture of a gas pump handle) Gas stations
Q4: Holiday Shopping (shows a picture of a gift bow) Department stores, Amazon.com
H/T: My FICO
As you can see, it’s pretty common to see Amazon, restaurants, gas, and department stores.
Another great feature about the Discover it cash back calendar is that Discover is really good about revealing their schedule in advance which allows you to plan out your spending better to capitalize on rewards.
Discover it Chrome bonus earnings
The Discover it Chrome does not earn bonus points on quarterly categories.
Instead, you earn a simple 2% back on dining and gas purchases up to $1,000 per quarter (on combined purchases).
This offer two distinct advantages.
Don’t have to keep track of categories
This means that you don’t have to worry about keeping track of quarterly categories. For some people, having to constantly look up which bonus categories are active is just a pain and so they prefer cards that earn bonus points on consistent categories.
Don’t have to let rewards go to waste
Also, a lot of people don’t spend money on things like Amazon, home improvement stores, and department stores. For these people, it really does them no good to have a 5% bonus on those categories because they would not normally shop there.
That’s not only a waste of rewards space but it could provide unnecessary temptation to spend money at those places because of the rewards. After all, credit cards do make us spend more.
If you spend a lot on dining and gas year round, that 2% will add up to $80 worth of savings just based on the bonus categories alone.
But as I mentioned earlier, things get a lot sweeter with both of these cards.
Doubled cash back
What makes both the Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Chrome stick out is that Discover will double the rewards earned with each card at the end of the year.
This is an exceptional earning opportunity.
Discover it 10% on bonus categories
For the Discover it you’ll be getting 10% back on quarterly categories for the first year which is insanely high. If you spent $1,500 each quarter on the bonus categories, that’s $6,000 worth of total spend.
At 10% back, that means that you could earn a total of $600 cash back via the bonus categories alone.
This is why the lack of a sign-up bonus on the Discover it is not a big deal. You can still net more in rewards than those other cards with sign-up bonuses (more on that below).
Discover it Chrome 4% on dining and gas
The Discover it Chrome will earn 4% back on dining and gas for the first year which is very impressive. However, the $1,000 quarterly caps do severely limit these earnings.
If you spent $1,000 per quarter on gas and dining, that’s $4,000 total and 4% of that is $160.
That’s good but that’s not on par with the Discover it which as shown could net you up to $600 back.
Of course as already mentioned, it might be difficult for you to max out the 5% categories on the Discover it so it’s not always a straightforward comparison.
2% back on all purchases
Remember with these cards that’s it’s not just the bonus categories that are doubled. You also get the 2X end of year bonus on all of the non-bonus spending.
This means that you’ll be earning 2% back on all purchases for a year, which is a great return on par with the Citi DoubleCash.
So with the Discover it you’ll earn 10% back on rotating categories and 2% on all purchases. And with the Discover it Chrome, you’ll earn 4% back on dining and gas along with 2% back on all purchases.
Both of these earning rates have the potential to be super lucrative.
Earnings compared to other cards
The Discover it cards really do compete well with some of the other no annual fee cash back credit cards.
Below, I’ll show how much you could net by spending $6,000 on each card. I’ll assume the spend is in the highest earning categories on each card and if there is a cap to them, I’ll just use the non-bonused rate to complete the estimate. I’ll also include the value of the sign-up bonus as well.
Here’s what it looks like:
- Discover it Chrome = $160 + $40 = $200
- Citi Double Cash = $120 + $100 = $220
- Chase Freedom Unlimited = $90 + $150 = $235
- Wells Fargo Cash Wise = $90 + $200 = $290
- Amex Blue Cash EveryDay = .$180 + $150 = 330
- Chase Freedom = $300 + $150 = $450
- Discover it = $600
As you can see, the first year value for the Discover it is well beyond what all of these other no annual fee cash back credit cards have to offer. It’s not even close.
Now again, this makes the assumption that all of that $6,000 of spend is on quarterly bonus categories for cards like the Discover it and Freedom. In reality, spending is much more complex and varied than that, but it just shows you the potential for value that the Discover it offers.
It’s also worth noting that in year two, the Discover cards lose the double rewards and so the competition between the Discover cards and these other cards in the long-run is much more competitive. And if you’re a high spender, you might want to look into other cards for more valuable rewards.
In addition to the above, there are several other features to be aware of.
0% Intro APR
Discover it Cash Back
Discover it Chrome
Both cards offer extremely competitive rates for 0% intro APR periods and balance transfers.
Both of these cards will give you access to Discover Deals which is a shopping portal that will allow you to maximize your cash back rewards with every day online shopping.
Read more about that amazing shopping portal here.
Foreign transaction fees
Both cards do not have foreign transaction fees.
I wouldn’t necessarily want a Discover card to be my primary card to be used when traveling abroad. In some parts of the world Discover’s acceptance is growing but this is something to consider when thinking about using these cards abroad.
If you’re worried about this you can check this map for international Discover acceptance.
Both cards do not have an annual fee.
Both cards allow you to view your FICO score for free which is based on the TransUnion score.
Account Freeze Freeze it which allows you to instantly prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers on your account if you misplace your card.
Discover Identity Alerts
Discover Identity Alerts are offered by Discover Bank at no cost and provide:
- (a) daily monitoring of your Experian credit report and an alert when a new account is listed on your report;
- (b) daily monitoring of thousands of risky websites known for revealing personal information and an alert if your Social Security number is found on such a website.
It’s always nice to know that you have some sort of system looking out for you since you never know who or what might try to access your data so these are nice perks both cards offer.
Discover it vs Discover it Chrome
These two cards are nearly identical but there’s a major difference in the amount of total value that you can obtain via bonus spending.
- Potential for ridiculous value with bonus spending
- More well-rounded categories
- Strong competitor compared to other cards
Discover it Student
- Simpler rewards
- Better for those focused on dining and gas purchases
- Not a very strong competitor compared to other cards
I like the Discover it because I like the ability to earn maximum cash back on the 5% categories but I don’t think that it’s the best card for everyone. When deciding between these two cards it’s really important to breakdown your expenses to see which card would earn you more rewards back. And it’s really important to consider what other cash back credit cards might be a better for fit for maximizing value.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.