Credit Cards Credit Card Reviews

Discover it Balance Transfer Credit Card Review

overall rating
3.9

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The Discover it Balance Transfer Card is not currently open for application. The terms noted below were the latest offered but may be subject to change should Discover re-introduce the product.

With no annual fee and introductory balance-transfer and double-cash-back offers for new cardmembers, the Discover it Balance Transfer is a fine choice for paying off credit card debt while also earning generous cash back rewards. You’ll get a generous 18 months at 0% APR on balance transfers, while earning above-average rewards on purchases, albeit in rotating spending categories for which you must enroll.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

overall rating
3.9
Discover it® Balance Transfer

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
INTRO BALANCE TRANSFER APR 0% for 18 Months
INTRO PURCHASE APR 0% for 6 Months
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
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.
how this card stacks up
When compared among all balance transfer cards in our database:
Low Introductory Interest
Low Fees
Low Long Term Interest
Security/Customer Experience
Benefits
worst best

The Discover it Balance Transfer is not one of our top-rated balance transfer credit cards. You can review our list of the best balance transfer credit cards for what we think are better options.

Full Review of Discover it Balance Transfer Credit Card

Pros
  • Generous cash back rewards in frequent spending areas

  • Fairly long 0% APR offer for balance transfers

  • Double cash back, in effect, for new cardmembers

  • No penalty APR

Cons
  • The best rewards rates require registration

  • Limited additional perks

  • Relatively brief 0% APR offer for new purchases

Pros Explained

  • Fairly Long 0% APR Offer for Balance Transfers: Like many credit cards, the Discover It Balance Transfer allows you to transfer high-interest debt from other cards to your new one and pay no interest on it for a specified period. This card’s 0% APR period for such a balance transfer is 18 months posted to your account during the eligibility period. That places it in the middle of the range of such offers, between cards that offer a year or 14 months and those that offer 21 months or even two years. There are, however, fees for such transfers—of 3% for those made within a few months of opening the account (the exact length of time varies) and 5% thereafter. While many issuers charge comparable fees, cards are available that charge less, or not at all, for balance transfers. For example, the Chase Slate card waives balance transfer fees on transfers made within 60 days of opening an account. Then, the fee is $5 or 5% of the amount of the transfer, whichever is greater. 
  • Earn 5% Cash Back: With this card, you can earn 5% cash back on rotating spending categories. The categories change from time to time, and change with each quarter. For 2020, the rotating categories, by quarter, were: groceries; Walgreens and CVS; gas stations, Uber, Lyft and wholesale clubs; restaurants and Paypal; and purchases made at Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com. (However, there's an inconvenient catch to qualifying for those rates. See Cons.)
  • Double Cash Back, In Effect, for New Cardmembers: After your first year as a cardmember, Discover will match all of the cash back you earned during the year. For example, if you earned $500 in cash back rewards, Discover would double it to $1,000. That bonus could essentially deliver an extraordinary 10% cash back on rewards from the rotating categories that earn the already generous 5% cash back rate. 
  • No Penalty APR: Unlike most cards, the APR doesn't increase to a penalty rate—usually the highest interest rate charged on the card—after you’ve been in arrears on payments for 60 days or more.

Cons Explained

  • The Best Rewards Rates Require Registration and Are Capped: To earn rewards at the 5% rate, you have to manually activate the spending category each quarter. If you forget to do so, your purchases within that category will only earn 1% cash back, like all other purchases. Having to keep track of, and register for, the activation periods for particular spending categories is an added burden to getting the most from this card.
  • There's also a cap of $1,500 on the quarterly spending that’s eligible for the 5% rate, after which remaining spending in the category for the quarter earns the standard 1% cash back. Since the cap is relatively high, though, many households likely won’t exceed it within three months of spending.
  • Limited Benefits: Beyond its rewards, the Discover it Balance Transfer credit card has limited perks. Other cards—even those with no annual fees—typically offer a number of robust further benefits, including rental-car insurance coverage, travel insurance, and extended warranty protection. You may want to also carry another card for select purchases where you require these and other extras.
  • Relatively Brief 0% APR Offer for New Purchases: With this card, you’ll get 0% APR on purchases for six months after opening an account. While that gives you some time to finance a major purchase without worrying about interest fees, that’s a shorter time period than many other cards offer. For instance, the Citi Simplicity card offers 0% APR on purchases for 12 months, giving you a full year to pay off your charges.

This Card is Best For

  • Avatar for Cash Back Strategist Persona
    Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
    Cash Back Strategist
  • Avatar for Annual Fee Averse Persona
    Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
    Annual Fee Averse
  • Avatar for Balance Carrier Persona
    Tends to pay less than balance in full and so accumulates debt on card
    Balance Carrier

This Discover It Balance Transfer is a strong choice if you want a card with no annual fee that delivers both lucrative rewards on everyday spending and the ability to get a fairly long interest-free period on balances you transfer to the card.

The rewards—of 5% cash back on spending in categories like groceries and gas, and at certain major retailers—can be lucrative, especially given the match on all cash back earned in your first year with the card. However, the 5% rewards go only to shoppers who are well-organized; the categories eligible for the higher rate rotate every month, and you must register every quarter in order to earn it. 

Transferred balances can be carried at 0% APR for 18 months, a longer period than with many no-annual-fee cards that offer hefty rewards. There’s a balance-transfer fee, however. You can also enjoy 0% APR on new purchases, but only for the first six months you own the card; be sure you can pay off purchases within that relatively short period before embarking on a spending spree inspired by the interest-free offer. 

Discover it Balance Transfer Credit Card Bonus

Discover's bonus works differently than most other offers. With many credit cards, you have to spend a certain amount within the first three months of opening an account to qualify for a bonus. 

Discover, however, has no such spending minimum. Instead, the company will automatically match all of the cash back you earned during your first year as a cardmember. If you earned $250 in cash back rewards, Discover will match it, giving you a total of $500 in rewards.

There's no limit on the rewards that are eligible for this doubling up of cash back. 

Rewards Earning Details

For a card with no annual fee, the Discover it Balance Transfer card's rewards are generous, albeit selective about the spending that earns the highest cash-back rate. You'll earn 5% cash back on purchases in rotating spending categories, up to $1,500 spent each quarter. That means you can earn up to $75 per quarter at the 5% cash back rate. 

As an added perk, you'll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn. 

Rewards Redemption Details

You can receive your cash back as a credit to your account, where they can be applied to your balance at any time, or sent electronically to your bank account. There’s also an option to use them directly as payment at certain retailers, including Amazon.com, or to direct them to charities. An additional, potentially lucrative option is to exchange the cash back for a gift card at Discover partners. A bonus of at least $5—it varies by the merchant—is added to the value of the gift card for every $20 you redeem. So redeeming $20 in rewards would yield a gift card that’s valued at $25 or more. Partners include American Eagle, Banana Republic, Gap, L.L. Bean, Bath and Body Works, Omaha Steaks, Old Navy, Black Angus, Foot Locker, Nike, and Under Armour.

You must accrue at least $20 in rewards to redeem them for gift cards. For the other redemption methods, you can redeem rewards when you have earned as little as one cent.  

How to Maximize Your Rewards

The best way to get the most value from this card is to use it to max out the 5% cash back categories each quarter, and then use it for all other purchases for the rest of the year—and especially for the first year. That means keeping track of what those categories are, being sure to enroll at the start of each quarter to ensure you will receive them.

Categories that earn the 5% rate may change from year to year, but here’s the list for 2019:

  • January to March: Grocery stores
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber, and Lyft and wholesale clubs
  • July to September: Restaurants and PayPal
  • October to December: Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com

Because the categories revolve, you can boost benefits by delaying purchases when you can. For example, in 2020, you could put off a major purchase planned for September at Walmart to the next month, when the 5% rate kicks in at that retailer. A graduation dinner planned for late June might be pushed to July, to take advantage of the 5% rate for restaurants in the third quarter of the year. 

Some spending eligible for the higher rate cannot be easily delayed, of course, such as groceries and gas. And many people will be hard pressed to reach the spending limit in some quarter’s categories. As examples, $1,500 in spending in three months is about a third more than the average household spends on groceries, nearly twice what they spend in restaurants, and about three times their gasoline expenditures, according to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Such figures make high rewards on rotating quarterly categories less lucrative on an annual basis than may first appear. Still, even if you spent just half the limit every quarter, you’d still earn a respectable $150 a year in rewards at the premium rate. Charging to the card the spending of an average household on groceries, eating out, gas, for the other three-quarters of the year, and entertainment expenses for the entire year, would yield a further $135 in rewards at the 1% cash back rate. 

That gives you a total of about $300. In the first year, thanks to Discover's cash back match program for new cardmembers, those rewards would be doubled, giving you $600 in rewards at the end of your first year as a cardholder. 

If you shop at some of Discover's gift-card partners, you can increase your benefits still more by using your rewards to buy gift cards, at the minimum bonus of 25% of the value. Using even half of your $600 in annual rewards in such a way would boost your benefit by $75, and your total rewards value for the year to $675.

Standard Benefits

  • Free FICO credit score
  • Discover identity alerts and account monitoring
  • Freeze it on/off switch to prevent unauthorized charges

Cardholder Experience

When it comes to customer satisfaction, Discover leads the pack. In fact, it is the highest ranking card issuer according to the J.D. Power Credit Card Customer Satisfaction study. It has a score of 842, compared with the average of 806 in the survey. 

Discover says its customer service is based in the United States. It's available over the phone, on its website, or through the mobile app. Help is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-DISCOVER or contact customer service online. 

Security Features

Discover, as with many other card issuers, allows you to freeze and unfreeze your account as needed and to monitor your credit report online or through the mobile app. The company will notify you if there is suspicious activity, and you’re never responsible for unauthorized charges, which are also standard features. 

Fees to Watch Out For

In general, the Discover it Balance Transfer card doesn't come with a lot of fees. However, you should pay attention to its balance-transfer fees if you’re planning on transferring debt from elsewhere to the card. 

Our Verdict

Its combination of generous cash back rewards in select categories and an introductory 12-month match on all rewards makes the Discover It Balance Transfer card an alluring choice even if you don't plan to use the 0% APR debt-transfer offer for which it's named.

Outstanding rewards can be rare on cards that also offer an ample balance-transfer program, as this card does. You'll get 18 months at 0% APR, giving you plenty of time to pay off high-interest debt. However, its 0% APR offer on new purchases is, at six months, shorter than those of some other balance-transfer cards, and it charges fees on balance transfers, which some other cards do not impose. You may want to shop around for other cards if you're seeking a card with long and inexpensive 0% APR offers on balance transfers and new purchases, and aren’t sure you’ll benefit heavily from the Discover It Balance Transfer's rotating high-rewards categories. 

While the absence of a foreign transaction fee is a nice plus, Discover cards have limited acceptability abroad, and the company's card lacks such travel perks as insurance coverage for rental cars. Travelers should consider carrying another card on trips, and especially those outside the U.S.

Compare This Card
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CURRENT CARD
Discover it® Balance Transfer
overall rating
3.9
Discover it® Balance Transfer
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
Balance Transfer Fee 3% if completed by October 10, 2020, and up to 5% for transfers made thereafter.
Investopedia Credit Card Rating Methodology
Investopedia is committed to delivering the best credit card recommendations in the industry. We’ll tell you when a card is good, we’ll tell you when a card is bad, and we’ll only call a card the best if we would recommend it to our friends or family members.
Overall Star Rating Explained
To rate credit cards we objectively assess, score and weight nearly 100 individual card features which roll up into five major feature sets: fees, interest, rewards, benefits and security/customer service. Here’s how we weighted those feature sets for the overall star rating of a card:
We have applied our proprietary rating methodology to every generally-accepted credit card in the U.S. domestic market to allow consumers to make fully informed choices. It’s important to note that for our overall score that we make a number of assumptions about how you would be using your credit card:
  1. While we make no assumption as to whether balances are carried on a given card we do assign varying weights to all credit cards’ introductory APR (if present) in addition to the regular, long term purchase and balance transfer interest rates.
  2. We utilize BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) income and average category spending data to calculate annual earnings rates for rewards cards that offer cash back, points or miles rewards at a set rate on all spending or in consideration of bonus rewards for certain spending categories, like gasoline, groceries, restaurants or travel.
  3. We determine the maximum points value of rewards cards by dividing the points, cash back or miles required to exchange for the retail price of the most valuable redemption option (for example, in the case of a card that offers a domestic roundtrip airline ticket as a redemption option vs. another redemption option of lesser value that requires the same amount of points or miles to acquire, we would base the rewards value on the airline ticket).
  • Cards that are selected best overall in their respective categories generally feature most if not all of the following attributes:
  • Low or Reasonable Fees Credit card fees come in many forms but the primary ones involve those for annual card membership and balance transfer. There are a myriad of reward and non-reward card options that charge no annual fee but for the many that do assess an annual fee the cost is often justified by their lucrative ongoing rewards and initial signup bonuses. Balance transfer fees are occasionally waived during introductory periods with certain cards, a factor which is heavily and positively weighted in our scoring model for cards offering this benefit. When charged, balance transfer fees range between 3% - 5%, which we grade accordingly. Other standard fees can generally be avoided, such as those for paying late or taking cash advances but we rate those relative to other cards in the market for reference, though with less weight assigned
  • Competitive Interest Many cards offer 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for varying lengths and then revert to a permanent or regular APR (based on a variable rate tied to the prime rate) that applies to any balances not paid in full. We rate both introductory APR percentage and length (in months) along with the midpoint of the variable regular APR interest rate range.
  • Valuable Rewards Credit card reward programs can be based on cash back, points or travel rewards (which can be generic or travel partner-specific, as with airline and hotel co-brand card programs). For cards that offer rewards we determine the value per dollar spent along with average redemption values and assign more favorable ratings to cards that offer superior consumer value. We also assign value to sign-up bonus offers and their initial spending requirements, when present.
  • Excellent Benefits Credit card benefits cover a range of offerings like concierge service, TSA Pre-check, auto rental coverage, travel accident insurance, lost luggage assistance and free credit scores. We rate cards on the number and level of over a dozen standard and upscale benefits and provide extra weighting emphasis for those travel-related perks that apply to premium travel cards when present.
  • Solid Security/Customer Service Security and customer service features like lost or stolen card replacement, being able to lock one’s card from an issuer app and 24 hour customer support are becoming more standard across the card market and we provide a significant amount of weighting to features in this area.
  • You can also read the full version of our methodology for a more in-depth look at how we assess cards and award them the best in various categories.