The Discover It card was my first ever rewards card. I have had this card since college and I haven’t looked back. Discover is known for its great US-based customer service, cash back rewards, fair terms, and helpful perks. My Discover card has grown with me since college and has therefore become a long-term keeper card.
Discover primarily works with those who have thin credit files (or none at all). Their target market makes their cards great for those who are new to credit and those who are rebuilding.
Keep reading to see why I recommend the Discover It as a first credit card.
The Discover It has no annual fee and it earns 5% cash back on quarterly rotating categories. The categories for 2019 are as follows:
- 1st Quarter: Grocery Stores
- 2nd Quarter: Gas Stations
- 3rd Quarter: Restaurants
- 4th Quarter: Amazon.com
Your mileage may vary with earning. If Discover is your first card, you will likely be able to find most (if not all) of the categories useful. If you have a lot of other cards, incorporating this one might be difficult. This is especially true if you have cards that earn transferable currencies (like Chase Ultimate Rewards).
Instead of a normal sign-up bonus, Discover will match the cash back you earn in your first year of card-membership. In other words, the 5% categories become 10% categories for the first year. Not many other cards will get you that much value in rewards.
As a cash back card, redemption is not complicated. But some methods are more generous than others.
Unlike many other credit cards, this is probably the most profitable option for redemption. Many gift cards are discounted at least 10%, making your cash back go further. The more cash you redeem, the larger the discount is. For example, you can redeem $40 for a $50 Starbucks gift card.
My favorite way to redeem cash back is to put it in your bank account. This way, you can do anything you want with the cash. I like to redeem this way because I can move the cash into my brokerage account for investments. If you choose to invest your cash back, it has the potential to grow for the rest of your life.
Statement credits are the easiest way to redeem cash back. If you want to redeem for current purchases, this will credit your account.
Discover lets cardholders use their cash back on Amazon.com. Like the other cash redemption methods, each dollar is worth face value on Amazon.
If you’re feeling generous, donations to charity are a great way to redeem. Like redeeming for gift cards, Discover will match a small percentage of what you donate for some charities.
Monthly TransUnion Score
Everyone can use their credit score. Discover gives you your official TransUnion score every month for no additional cost. This perk was vital for me when I was starting out as it let me keep track of my credit score and progress. Today, its still one of my favorite perks.
This feature lets you see how much you have spent on your Discover card. You can also break down your expenditures by categories or view a specific time period. For example, if you want to know how much you spent at restaurants in 2018, the Spend Analyzer will tell you.
While this benefit doesn’t do much, a credit card’s aesthetics mean a lot for some people. Discover offers over 140 different card designs.
NHL fans are also in luck because Discover has a card design for each team. Even though Discover is the official credit card of the NHL, there are no additional hockey-related benefits.
US Based Customer Service
US Based customer service is becoming increasingly rare. Many issuers want to save money and outsourced customer service is usually one of the first ways large companies do so. Discover prides itself on keeping their customer service in the United States and it’s paying off for them and cardholders.
Discover won the 2018 JD Power Credit Card Satisfaction award primarily because of its customer service.
Rules & Regulations
Discover has one rule about product changes and one about getting another Discover card:
You can’t product change your Discover It to a Discover It Miles until having your card open for 12 months.
You also can’t get a second Discover card unless you’ve had your first one open for 12 months. This means that you need to choose between the Discover It and the Discover It Miles wisely.
Like the American Express Platinum Card, Discover It has different “flavors” for different people.
This version has two bonus categories instead of the 5% categories. You earn 2% cash back at Restaurants and Gas Stations on up to $1,000 per quarter. I don’t recommend this version because there are cash back cards that will earn you 2% on all purchases.
Discover has student versions of its regular It card and the Chrome version. But the student versions are easier to get approved for and you will receive a smaller credit limit. Either student version can “graduate” to the regular or Chrome version once you prove your creditworthiness or finish school.
The student version also offers a $20 bonus for each semester you maintain a 3.00 GPA. This bonus can net you up to $60 per school year (assuming you take fall, spring, and summer classes).
I don’t normally review secured cards on PYCR, but this variant is the same as the Chrome version. The only difference is that you must give Discover a set amount of money upon being approved for the card. That amount serves as your credit limit.
Upon proving yourself, Discover will “graduate” your secured card to an unsecured card. At that point, you will get your initial deposit back.
I only recommend this version if you can’t get approved for the regular Discover It.
If the Discover It is not for you, read this section to find an alternative.
This card is Chase’s version of the Discover It. Both cards earn 5x cash back on rotating quarterly categories. However, the Chase Freedom is harder to get approved for because Chase isn’t as friendly to those with thinner files.
If you also have a Chase Sapphire or Chase Ink Business Preferred card, the Freedom is the better card. The Freedom will earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead of cash back. Those points can be transferred to Chase’s travel partners or redeemed using their portal.
If cash back is more attractive to you than points, the decision depends on the categories for both cards.
This new Citi card has no annual fee and is a great option for aspiring international travelers. The Rewards + earns 2x Thank You (TY) points at Gas Stations and at Grocery Stores. But the real earnings come from small purchases. Citi rounds up the amount of points earned to the nearest 10 for all purchases.
The Rewards + comes with a 15,000-point sign-up bonus. It can be earned after spending just $1,000 in the first three months.
For beginners and rebuilders alike, my suggestion for a first credit card is the Discover It. Discover’s perks, redemption methods, and different flavors are great for many types of people who are starting out.
If you get approved for this card, use it wisely for 6-12 months and then apply for another no-annual fee card. This way, you will have a foundation to build upon for years to come.
When I got my Discover It, my only other card was a Chase Slate that I had for about 4 months. But they approved me with a paltry $500 limit and a sky-high APR. Since then, my credit limit has increased to almost five figures and my APR is much lower. My Discover is was my first real credit card and my oldest account. I keep it around because it has no annual fee and its doing wonders for my average age of accounts.