Best Overall, Best for Travel

Discover it® Miles

Rating as a Discover Card
4.8
Discover it® Miles
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn unlimited 1.5 miles for every dollar spent.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 14 Months
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 10.99% for 14 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Discover it Miles card is our pick for the best overall Discover card and best travel rewards option due to its earning potential over the course of a year, outpacing all the other consumer cards in Discover's lineup. Its generous miles earning structure across all spending categories can deliver significant value with normal spending. Redemption can take the form of statement credits for travel expenses or simply cash back.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • First-year points earned are matched
    • Flexible rewards redemption options
    • Decent 0% introductory offer on purchases

    Cons

    • A less-than-ideal card for frequent travelers
    • Mediocre introductory APR offer on balance transfers
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn unlimited 1.5 Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases.
    • Only Discover automatically matches all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year.
    • Use your card to pay for airfare, hotels, rideshares, and more with no blackout dates. Then easily redeem miles as a statement credit for travel or get cash.
    • No annual fee.

Best for Business

Discover it® Business Card

Rating as a Discover Card
4.4
Discover it® Business Card
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 12.99% - 20.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 1.5% cash back on every dollar spent on all purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 12 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 5% of the amount of each transfer
Cash Advance APR (%) 24.99%
Cash Advance Fee Either $10 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    We chose the Discover it Business card as the best business card because of its flat cash-back earning structure on all business expenditures, which delivers solid value to small businesses. Discover's business card offers the same cash-back match as its consumer cards, enabling business owners to double their cash back in the first year. Also like Discover's consumer cards, there is no annual fee for the Discover it Business card.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Flat cash-back rewards
    • Introductory APR offer
    • First year cash back match bonus

    Cons

    • Limited benefits
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases.
    • Only Discover automatically matches ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year.
    • Use your card to pay for airfare, hotels, rideshares & more with no blackout dates. Then easily redeem miles as a statement credit for travel or get cash.
    • No annual fee.

Best Cash Back

Discover it® Cash Back

Rating as a Discover Card
4.4
Discover it® Cash Back
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 14 Months
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 14 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Discover it Cash Back card is Investopedia's choice for best cash-back card due to its generous 5% cash-back earning structure on spending categories that rotate each quarter, with a base rate of cash back on all other spending. There is a cap of $1,500 on eligible spending in the bonus categories each quarter, but the earnings can add up since they cover popular types of spending such as gasoline and restaurants and large online merchants like Amazon. For cardholders willing to stay on top of the bonus opportunities, the potential earnings can be significant.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Outstanding cash-back rewards on select categories
    • First-year cash-back rewards are matched
    • Decent 0% introductory offer on purchases and eligible balance transfers

    Cons

    • Limited options for high-rate rewards
    • Categories must be activated
    • Relatively few benefits
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
    • Earn 5% cash back on your everday purchases at different places each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
    • No annual fee.
    • See if you're pre-approved – with no harm to your credit to check.

Best for gas and dining

Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurants

Rating as a Discover Card
4.3
Discover it® Chrome Gas & Restaurants
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 11.99% - 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate 2% at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, 1% on all other purchases.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 14 Months
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 14 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Discover it Chrome card is the obvious choice for the Discover card that offers the best rewards earnings for gasoline and restaurant spending since its reward structure is purpose-built to favor those popular spending categories. Discover's cash-back match on first year earnings further sweetens the deal on this no-annual-fee card meant for foodies and frequent drivers

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Above-the-norm rewards at gas stations and restaurants
    • Valuable cash back match offer for the first year
    • 0% APR for 14 months on new purchases and balance transfers
    • No penalty APR

    Cons

    • Cash back rewards are capped each quarter
    • Limited benefits beyond rewards
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year!
    • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.
    • Your cash back never expires. Redeem your rewards in any amount, at any time.
    • Free Social Security number alerts.

Best Student

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Rating as a Discover Card
4.3
Discover it® Student Cash Back
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 17.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on rotating quarterly categories, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases — automatically.
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 6 Months
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 10.99% for 6 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    The Discover it Student Cash Back card is our pick for best student option from Discover because of its enhanced cash back on the same popular rotating spending categories as the standard consumer version of the card (with the same $1,500 cap on eligible spending), and then a base rate of earnings on all other spending. The cash-back match then doubles all the cash back earned in the first year, making this a great rewards value for students. The lack of an annual fee also makes this a student-friendly option.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • High rewards on rotating spending categories, such as groceries and restaurants
    • Potential for a large bonus the first year with cash back match
    • Introductory 0% APR for six months on purchases
    • Reward for maintaining good grades

    Cons

    • Rotating-category rate requires quarterly registration
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • Cashback Match - Discover will automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year. There's no limit to how much they'll match.
    • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, select rideshares and online shopping, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.
    • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • Get $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next five years.

Best for No Credit

Discover it® Secured

Rating as a Discover Card
3.9
Discover it® Secured
Full Review
Apply Now
On Discover's Website
Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Poor - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 22.99% variable
Annual Fee $0
Minimum Deposit to Activate $200
Pay deposit in installments No
Allows upgrade to unsecured card Yes
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 10.99% for 6 Months
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • WHY WE CHOSE THIS CARD

    We selected the Discover it Secured card as the best card option from Discover for consumers with no credit or bad credit, as it considers applicants with those credit profiles and its security deposit requirement starts as low as $200. With on-time payments, Discover will automatically review accounts for eligibility to graduate to a non-secured card in as little as eight months.

  • PROS & CONS

    Pros

    • Outstanding rewards for a secured credit card
    • Cash-back is matched at the end of the first year
    • Discover reviews your account after a period of responsible usage to determine eligibility for transition to an unsecured card
    • No annual or foreign transaction fees

    Cons

    • Discover cards not as widely accepted outside the U.S. as Visa and Mastercard
  • HIGHLIGHTS
    • No annual fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
    • It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
    • Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if Discover can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
    • Get 100% U.S.-based customer service and get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO Credit Score.

What Is the History of Discover?

Discover was launched in 1985 and made its public debut in a Super Bowl commercial in early 1986. It is both a card network and a direct issuer of cards to consumers through Discover Bank, formerly Greenwood Trust Company. The Discover network ranks fourth in terms of dollar volume of processing and merchant acceptance, behind Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, and sixth in terms of cards issued. Discover was originally owned by Sears, Roebuck and Company (the largest retailer in the world at that time) and was part of the Sears Financial Network that also included Dean Witter Reynolds and Coldwell Banker as its brokerage and real-estate arms. Discover disrupted the card industry by issuing no-annual-fee cards and offering higher than normal credit lines. It later introduced its innovative Cashback rewards program, which was novel for its time.

What Kinds of Credit Cards Does Discover Issue?

Discover issues cards exclusively on its network-branded platform and doesn't issue Visa, Mastercard, or American Express network-branded cards. Discover primarily issues cash-back rewards cards to consumers, students, and small-business owners. It also offers a secured card product for those with lower credit scores or no credit history.

What Type of Credit Is Required for Discover?

Discover generally requires good or better credit for its card products but also offers a few cards for those with little credit history, such as students. 

How Does Discover's Cashback Rewards Program Work?

Discover offers cards that primarily earn cash back but also one that offers generic airline miles (Discover it Miles). Discover's Cashback rewards program provides a percentage back on all purchases, with 5% cash back on rotating spending categories and merchants on eligible spending up to $1,500 each quarter (with 1% after that) and 1% on all other spending.

The following Discover cards earn those Cashback rewards:

  • Discover it Cash Back
  • Discover it Balance Transfer
  • Discover it Student Cash Back
  • NHL Discover it

Several other Discover cards have a different cash-back rewards structure. The Discover it Chrome and Chrome Student cards offer 2% cash back on restaurant and gas purchases and 1% on other spending. The Discover it Business card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases.

How Good Is Discover's Customer Service?

Discover received top marks for its customer service, scoring 842 out of 1,000 points, in the 2019 J.D. Power U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, putting it first among national card issuers. The average score was 806. Discover has held this top spot for several years and features it in its national television advertising.

Methodology

Information Gathering

In order to track and assess the U.S. domestic credit card market, we gather scores of data points on nearly 300 cards. This data is collected manually from both card-issuer websites and publicly available sources. 

To ensure that our information is as up-to-date as possible, we deploy automated tools that monitor changes in such key data as annual percentage rates, introductory rates, introductory periods, bonus offers, rewards earnings rates, fees, and card benefits. We then rapidly make any needed updates to our card listings, reviews, and recommendations so that readers have the most reliable information and advice. 

Initial Scoring

Once we collect credit card data we organize it in our database according to features, which roll up into feature sets (such as rewards, interest, fees, benefits, and security/customer service). Each individual card feature is assigned a star rating score on a 1 to 5 scale using a prescribed formula. For instance, for a one-time bonus score we would use a formula like: If bonus is $500 or greater, then assign a score of 5; if $300-$499, then 4; and so forth. 

Weighting of Scores

Once all of a card’s features have received a score we apply a weighting factor to each feature to arrive at a weighted average score for the card (according to the general category in which it resides, such as travel rewards). 

This weighting process allows us to assign significantly more emphasis to the attributes important to a particular category and downplay those that are less relevant to it. That lets us objectively identify cards that stand out in their category and indicate why they do. For example, with travel rewards cards we apply significantly more weight to such travel-specific features as airport lounge access or primary rental car insurance than we do to attributes such as interest rates or fees that might be more strongly considered for other categories, such as balance-transfer cards.

Earnings Rates

Another critical factor we consider when rating and ranking travel cards and other types of rewards cards is the cards’ effective earnings rates. We first calculate the average value of points or miles for all the rewards cards in our database, a painstaking process that entails collecting all airline fare data by carrier across scores of popular domestic and international city-pairs along with per-night hotel charges at all major hotel brands. 

The required points and miles for air travel or hotel stays from the various reward programs is then used to calculate an effective earnings rate for each card. That allows our readers to make the most informed choices. By putting a card’s large one-time bonus or earnings rates into context across many dimensions and card features, readers can more readily weigh the card’s benefits relative to its costs. Uncovering the true but often opaque redemption value of rewards points or miles is, we feel, the only reliable way to make cogent choices among competing value-based cards.  

Card Features We Score

As mentioned above, we place significant weight on certain travel-related features in determining our ratings for each rewards card. Specifically, we base over 50% of our overall assessment score on the combination of the following factors:  

  • Maximum value of any one-time bonus, whether in points or miles.
  • Initial card spending required to earn any bonus.
  • Redemption value of the bonus miles or points.
  • Global card acceptance, as detailed by the four card networks (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover).
  • Options to redeem points or miles with travel partners, both airline and hotel.

Another consideration is the cards’ coverage, if any, in these travel-related areas: 

  • Car-rental collision insurance, whether primary or secondary.
  • Travel accident insurance.
  • Lost or delayed luggage insurance.
  • Insurance for trip cancellation, interruption, or delay.
  • Cell phone loss or damage coverage.
  • Roadside assistance and towing.
  • Emergency travel medical/dental benefits.

General, non-travel related features that we consider and score include:

  • Interest rates, including both introductory and regular APRs for purchases and balance transfers.
  • Fees, including those for annual membership, late payments, cash advances, and foreign transactions.
  • Security/customer service features.
  • Other non-travel benefits, such as access to credit scores, ID theft protection, and contactless payment capability.

How We Reach Our Final Assessments

We rely primarily on the objective scores created by our rating algorithms to determine which card is chosen as the best in each category or subcategory.

However, we may make some adjustments from time to time, to both features and weightings that could affect rankings, based on subjective input from our credit card experts. Any potential modifications will be consistent with Investopedia’s belief that consumers are best served by cards that:

  • Provide superior value in earning awards.
  • Charge reasonable interest rates in the event that the cardholder carries a balance from month to month.
  • Charge fewer and/or more reasonable fees.
  • Provide solid customer service, based on the number and quality of customer service features.
  • Have helpful and protective security features.