Discover Rewards program guide for 2024


This series of articles about credit cards, points and miles, and budgeting for travel is brought to you in partnership with The Points Guy.

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All information about Discover it Miles, Discover it Cash Back, The NHL Discover It Credit Card, Discover it Chrome Gas and Restaurants Credit Card, Discover it Student Chrome, Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card and Discover it Secured Credit Card has been collected independently by Lonely Planet. These cards are not available through Lonely Planet. Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

When comparing the most aspirational award redemptions, Discover Rewards often flies under the radar. While Discover Rewards offers appealing features like no-annual-fee cards, simple redemptions, cashback match and generous earn rates on everyday purchases, it doesn’t boast the same lucrative awards as its rivals. 

Unlike major credit card companies, Discover may not offer as many opportunities for consumers to earn and redeem rewards in their everyday spending. Discover Rewards has no travel partners for miles transfers, and all rewards are worth a flat one cent each. 

Despite these shortcomings, the Discover Rewards program is beneficial to many consumers. The program offers various credit cards with high cash-back earnings in popular spending categories. All rewards are matched during the first year, offering a lucrative opportunity to maximize every dollar spent. This means you’re essentially earning two dollars’ worth of rewards for every dollar spent.

As an added bonus, Discover credit cardholders don’t pay annual or foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad. With other credit cards offering limited redemption options and restrictions on bonus rewards, Discover stands out by providing flexibility and transparency in its rewards program. Here’s everything you need to know about the Discover rewards program:

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Use your Discover card for high earn rates on everyday purchases © sturti / Getty

Pros and cons of Discover rewards

There are many pros and cons to the Discover rewards program. While the program offers high rewards potential on everyday spending, the rewards are essentially cash back and not as valuable as airline miles or transferable rewards. Discover cards also lack welcome bonuses, which are lucrative on other travel rewards cards. However, Discover rewards can still offer a lot of value. Here’s a look at the main pros and cons to consider:

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Pros

  • High rewards potential on everyday spending: Discover cards offer generous category bonuses and high earn rates on all spending. 
  • No annual fee: All Discover cards lack annual fees, making it a cost-effective option for those who don’t want to pay for the privilege of earning rewards.
  • Double rewards during the first year of card membership: At the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will match all the rewards you’ve earned.
  • No foreign transaction fees: All Discover cards waive foreign transaction fees on purchases abroad.

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Cons

  • Miles are equivalent to cash-back rewards: Discover rewards cards may earn miles but are not transferable to airlines. Instead, they’re worth just one cent each towards statement credits.
  • No welcome bonuses: Discover credit cards currently don’t offer welcome bonuses for new cardholders. 
  • Limited travel benefits: Discover cards don’t offer extensive travel benefits, such as travel insurance and airport lounge access.
  • Lower acceptance abroad: Discover cards are generally less accepted outside the US, making them less suitable for international travel.

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How to earn Discover rewards

You can earn Discover rewards by using your Discover credit card for everyday spending, taking advantage of category bonuses and maximizing the first-year rewards match. For example, the Discover it Miles card earns 1.5 miles per dollar spent. Meanwhile, the Discover it Cash Back earns 5% cash back rewards on rotating category bonuses, typically on a quarterly basis. To maximize your rewards, keep an eye on these categories and use your Discover card for eligible purchases during those periods. Here’s a list of all the ways to earn Discover rewards:

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Discover’s 5% cash back rewards calendar

The Discover 5% cash back calendar is a distinctive feature of Discover’s credit card rewards program. It’s designed to help Discover It cardholders earn more cashback rewards on their everyday spending. The calendar typically includes rotating categories that are eligible for 5% cashback rewards every quarter. These categories often encompass common expenses like groceries, gas, dining, online shopping, or home improvement stores.

Cardholders can earn up to 5% cashback on purchases made within these specific categories during their respective quarters, up to $75 per quarter. It’s a great way to maximize rewards, as cardholders can adapt their spending to align with the categories in any given quarter. To make the most of the 5% calendar, cardholders should regularly check Discover’s website or app for the latest calendar updates so they can plan their spending accordingly and take full advantage of the available rewards.

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Discover Cashback Match bonus

The Discover Cashback Match bonus is a valuable feature of the Discover rewards program. With this bonus, all rewards earned during your first year as a Discover cardholder will be matched, effectively doubling the amount of cash back you earn. This means that if you earn $100 in cash-back rewards, Discover will match it and give you an additional $100 at the end of the cardmember year. There is no limit to how much cash back you can earn during this promotional period.

It’s a great way to maximize your rewards and get more value from your purchases. Whether you’re earning cash back on everyday expenses or big-ticket items, the cashback match bonus can help you make the most of your rewards.

Refer a friend

Discover is one of the few banks that allow customers to earn credit card rewards by referring their friends. You can access your unique referral link by logging into your Discover account and navigating to the referral page. From there, you can copy your link and send it to friends and family. If they’re approved and make a purchase within three months, you’ll both receive a cash reward. At the moment, Discover is offering up to $100 per successful referral. 

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Discover Rewards credit cards

Discover offers a variety of rewards credit cards, including cash back, gas and restaurant, travel, student, secured and NHL® branded credit cards. There’s something for virtually every type of consumer. It’s worth noting that all of these cards are essentially cash-back cards; even the mileage rewards are cash-back equivalent. Here’s a closer look at each card:

Earn unlimited 1.5 miles per dollar on all purchases with the Discover it Miles card
Earn unlimited 1.5 miles per dollar on all purchases with the Discover it Miles card © welcomeinside / Getty

Discover it Miles

The Discover it Miles card earns unlimited 1.5 miles per dollar on everything, allowing you to accumulate points quickly for your dream vacation. Unlike many travel credit cards, this one doesn’t charge any annual fee or foreign transaction fees. This means extra savings when making purchases overseas! Your hard-earned Miles won’t expire and can be used at any point in time for travel purchases, providing flexibility unmatched by others. While none of these cards offer welcome bonuses, they also carry no annual fees.

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Discover it Cash Back

The Discover it Cash Back credit card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases and 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter (up to $75). With no annual fee, the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card offers an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back earned at the end of the first year.

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NHL Discover It Credit Card

The NHL Discover It Credit Card is the same as the Discover Cash Back Card, except with your favorite National Hockey League team’s logo on it. The card earns unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases while enjoying a whopping 5% in certain categories that change each quarter, enhancing the overall value of this unique credit card.

The lack of an annual fee boosts its appeal even further for those who are passionate about the NHL and want to express their fandom every time they make a payment or transaction.

Being part of the Discover Rewards Program, you also have access to redeem your rewards through direct deposit, statement credits, or gift cards from partner brands.

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Pumping gas at a gas station
Gas station purchases earn 2% cash back until you reach the $1,000 limit on combined spending for each quarter with the Gas & Restaurants Credit Card © Mindful Media / Getty

Gas & Restaurants Credit Card

The Discover it Chrome Gas and Restaurants Credit Card makes dining out and fueling up more rewarding. Both gas station purchases and restaurant bills earn a generous 2% cash back until you reach the $1,000 limit on combined spending for each quarter.

With no annual fees to worry about, your rewards won’t be offset by extra costs.

Whether you’re commuting daily or enjoying a night out, this card turns routine expenses into useful cashback bonuses. Rewards never expire and can be redeemed at any time in any amount.

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Student Chrome Credit Card

The Discover it Student Chrome credit card is specifically designed for students, offering them a great way to earn cash back on their purchases. With this card, students can enjoy 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.

Plus, like all Discover credit cards, there’s no annual fee to worry about. It’s a fantastic option for students who want to start building their credit history while earning rewards along the way.

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to make the most of your spending with the Discover it Student Chrome credit card.

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Discover it Student Cash Back

The Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card is designed for students looking to earn cash back on their purchases. The card has no annual fee and earns 5% cash back on up to $1,500 spent in rotating bonus categories each quarter. All other purchases earn 1% cash back.

Plus, for the first year of owning this credit card, Discover will match all the cash back earned dollar-for-dollar. This makes the Discover it® Student Cash Back Credit Card a smart choice for students who want to make their money go further while building good credit habits.

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Discover it Secured Credit Card

The Discover it Secured Credit Card. is designed to help users build or rebuild their credit. To open an account, customers must provide a minimum security deposit of $200, with the option to deposit up to $2,500.

Users can improve their credit scores over time by using this card responsibly and making timely payments. One major advantage of Discover’s secured credit card is that it has no annual fee, which makes it more affordable for those looking to establish or rebuild their credit history.

Additionally, Discover cardholders have the flexibility to redeem their rewards for cash at any time and in any amount they choose.

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With the Discover Rewards Program, you can redeem your points for gift cards
With the Discover Rewards Program, you can redeem your points for gift cards © Summer Hull / The Points Guy

How to redeem Discover rewards

You can redeem Discover rewards for cash back, gift cards, charitable contributions and Amazon and Paypal purchases. To redeem Discover rewards, follow these steps:

  • Log into your Discover account
  • Navigate to the “Rewards” tab at the top of the page
  • Choose between the redemption options. Discover It Miles cardholders can choose between travel credit, cash or pay your bill.

If you have Discover miles, they are worth one cent each and there is no minimum redemption amount. For example, 100 Discover miles are worth $1 towards travel purchases, cash or bill pay. This straightforward redemption is ideal for consumers who don’t want to learn about complicated airline loyalty programs, numerous award charts and their redemption rules. 

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Who should get a Discover rewards card?

A Discover rewards card can be a great addition to your wallet if you’re looking for straightforward cash-back rewards, no annual fee and waived foreign transaction fees on purchases made abroad. Discover offers seven credit cards for different consumer needs, including secured and student cards. Chances are, you can find one that fits your spending habits and rewards goals.

Individuals who want to maximize their cash-back earnings will appreciate Discover’s Cashback Match at the end of their first year. It’s also rare for no-annual-fee cash-back cards to waive foreign transaction fees. So, if you’re looking for that benefit, a Discover rewards card might be a great fit for you.

It’s worth noting that all Discover cards earn cash back, despite what the rewards might be marketed as. For example, the Discover It Miles Card earns “miles,” but these are not redeemable airline miles like you’d earn with an airline credit card. They’re also not transferable to airlines like the rewards from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or American Express® Gold Card*.

If you want more valuable rewards or a credit card with a generous welcome bonus, then you might also want to look for a car outside of the Discover rewards portfolio. But a Discover rewards card could be an excellent choice if you’re looking for easy ways to book travel with cash or points.

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Discover's rewards program is straightforward with everything equal to one cent
Discover’s rewards program is straightforward with everything equal to one cent © Ivan Pantic / Getty

FAQ

What is the Discover Rewards Program?

The Discover Rewards Program is a loyalty program that allows cardmembers to earn cash back for travel, restaurant purchases, Amazon and PayPal purchases.

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How can I build a credit history with my Discover card?

You can build a credit history by opening a Discover card, keeping your utilization rate below 30% and consistently paying it off on time.

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Are there any fees associated with transferring balances between different Discover cards?

Yes, balance transfer fees of around 3% typically apply when you move a debt from one credit card to another. Discover often runs 0% APR promotions on balance transfers, which can take the sting out of the balance transfer fee. Be sure to log in to your account and check if you’re targeted for offers like this. 

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Redeem your Discover Rewards easily online
Redeem your Discover rewards easily online © Nastasic / Getty

Can I use my cashback rewards directly on Amazon.com?

Yes! You can redeem rewards directly on Amazon.com using the Cashback Bonus earned through rotating quarterly bonus categories and unlimited Cashback Match offered in the first year.

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Is there an annual fee for owning a Discover Card?

No, Discover credit cards do not have annual fees.

*Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers. Enrollment may be required for select American Express benefits and offers. Visit americanexpress.com to learn more.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

This article was first published Oct 30, 2023 and updated Jun 27, 2024.



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