Full Review of Discover it Secured Credit Card
Outstanding rewards for a secured credit card
Generous bonus for new cardmembers
Automatically converts to an unsecured card
Higher APR than some other secured cards
Comparatively low maximum credit limit
- Earn Cash Back Rewards: Few if any other secured cards offer rewards or benefits, so the Discover it Secured card essentially stands apart from the pack. You’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, on up to $1,000 spent each quarter in combined spend. You’ll also earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Cash Back Bonus: This secured card has another outstanding feature: new cardmembers qualify for Discover’s cash back match. After your first year as a cardmember, Discover will match all the cash back rewards you earned throughout the year, effectively doubling your rewards. Since the cash back rates are relatively generous as it is, this is a significant perk, especially for a secured card.
- Automatically Reviewed to Convert to an Unsecured Card: The Discover it Secured makes it easier than with some secured credit cards to transition to an unsecured card. With some secured cards, you must specifically apply for an unsecured card review, and so don’t benefit from an automatic review process to aid in transition from your secured card. With this card, after eight months as a cardholder, Discover automatically reviews your account to see if you’re eligible for an unsecured card. If that happens, the company will return your security deposit if you take the steps necessary to request an unsecured card and you’ll have all of its benefits going forward, with no separate applications or account closure required.
- Higher APR Than Some Other Secured Cards: You can’t expect a low APR with a secured credit card, given that you’ve applied for the card because your credit record is either thin or damaged. Still, the 22.99% APR on purchases of the Discover it Secured card is higher than the rate with some competing cards, even including some that also lack an annual fee. In addition, some other cards allow you to put down more as a deposit than does the Discover it Secured, and so allow you the benefit of a higher account limit.
- Comparatively Low Maximum Credit Limit: As a secured card, the Discover it Secured card requires you to put down a security deposit that serves as your credit limit, and is refunded when you drop or upgrade the card. For example, if you put down $200, your credit limit is $200. The maximum credit limit you can have with this card is $2,500. Assuming you might want more buying power, and be able to come up with the necessary deposit, other secured cards allow limits of $3,000 or even $5,000.
This Card is Best For
Seeks to maximize cash back earnings across spending categories
Resists or refuses an annual fee on principle or due to cost
Motivated to create positive credit history
This card’s an excellent option if you need to establish or rebuild your credit and you spend frequently on gas and dining out, since spending on both will earn you a decent 2% in cash back. Even if you aren’t a big driver or diner, the 1% cash back on all other purchases can really add up, especially in your first year with the card, when these rewards are matched at the end of the initial12 months of account opening.
This card also has appeal if you’re currently carrying a balance on another card with a high interest rate. If you transfer a balance during the eligibility window (around 3 months after getting the card), you'll receive an intro APR of 10.99% for 6 months on the balance transfer, which is almost certainly lower than what you’re currently paying.
There’s also a nice, albeit modest and one-time, perk if you miss a payment on the card. The $39 fee is forgiven on your first late payment, though not the interest charges you’ll incur on the balance by not paying it off in full by the deadline.
Discover it Secured Credit Card One-Time Offer
The Discover it Secured card has a lucrative bonus, particularly for a secured credit card. At the end of your first year as a cardmember, Discover automatically matches all of the cash back you earned over the course of the first year of account opening. If you earned $200 in cash back for the year, that means you’ll actually receive $400 in total rewards.
Rewards Earning Details
With this card, you’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, on up to $1,000 spent per quarter. The establishments at which you can earn the dining rewards include full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, and fast-food locations. At the 2% rate, that means you could earn up to $20 per quarter in rewards, or $80 per year.
You’ll also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases, with no limit on how much you can earn.
Rewards Redemption Details
Your cash back is redeemable for statement credits, cash deposits to your bank account, gift cards, charitable donations, or at checkout on Amazon.com.
The rewards are worth the same face-value amount regardless of your redemption method. You can redeem your rewards at any time, for any amount, and they never expire.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To get the most value from your card, maximize the purchases you make with it that earn its highest rate of 2%. That means using the card every time you buy gas and whenever you get food out, even if it’s only a fast-food meal, which qualifies for the restaurant rate.
If you live in a typical household, you should fairly easily reach the $1,000 quarterly limit on purchases eligible for this high rate. Since the average household spends $1,977 per year (or about $500 a quarter) on gasoline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, fuel purchases might readily get you half-way to the limit. With $3,459 a year (or about $800 a quarter) the average spending per household on food outside the home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you likely spend the rest of the $1,000 quarterly limit, and more, on dining out. Over the course of a year, using your Discover it Secured card to pay for all that gas could you earn you about $40 in cash back, with dining out kicking in about another $60 a year in rewards.
You should also use the card for every other transaction you can, however small. While you’ll make only 1% cash back on those other purchases, there’s no limit to how much you can earn. For example, you’d earn $25 in rewards if you spend $2,500 per year at the 1% cash back rate—and that sum is relatively easy to hit if you use the card rather than cash or check for most purchases.
Finally, there’s the card’s cash back match for the first year. With the above scenario, you’d earn about $25 in cash back over the course of the year, and then have that total matched after the year is over, for a total of $50 in rewards.
It might even be worth considering the cash back matching bonus if you plan a major expense and are flexible about when you make it. A large purchase made in the 11th month you have the card, when you’re still eligible for the match on cash back earnings, which could yield twice the cash back bonus earned on that purchase compared with waiting a few weeks until you begin your second year with the card.
- Free FICO credit score
- Discover identity alerts and account monitoring
- Freeze it on/off switch to prevent unauthorized charges
When it comes to customer satisfaction, Discover leads the pack. In fact, it’s 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 you can contact customer service online.
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.
Hidden Fees to Watch Out For
Balance transfers are subject to an introductory fee of 3% of the amount of each transfer for transfers that post to your account during the introductory period. After the intro period a 5% fee will apply.
The Discover it Secured card is one of the most cost-effective cards on the market for those who can’t get a regular credit card and are seeking to build or repair credit. It’s essentially unique in offering rewards that would be respectable or better in a card that wasn’t a secured one: 2% cash back on gas and restaurant purchases, albeit with a $1,000 quarterly cap, along with 1% cash back on all other purchases, without a cap. And the card has no annual fee, either.
It also makes it relatively easy to transition to an unsecured—that is, typical—credit card. After eight months, the secured account is reviewed and the cardholder automatically considered for an unsecured card. If payments have been made on time, the account could be automatically upgraded to a card like the Discover it Chrome card.
There’s also an option to transfer balances from high-interest credit cards to this one. While that doesn’t trigger a period of 0% APR, as with some unsecured cards, it does qualify the cardholder to hold the balance for six months at 10.99% APR, which could be as little as half of what they’re paying with another card, especially if they have a less-than-stellar credit record.
You could also do worse than to carry this card along with you on a trip abroad, or use it to buy online from foreign vendors who will need to convert dollars to their own currency. The card imposes no foreign transaction fee, a less-than-universal perk even for unsecured cards, and rewards accrue on your purchases abroad.
Other secured cards do offer a somewhat lower APR than this card, so it might not be the best choice if you plan on carrying a balance on the card, or even fear you may need to do so.