Discover It Cash vs. Discover It Miles

Discover It Cash vs. Discover It Miles

The Discover It Cash and Discover It Miles cards are two different products that have very similar, yet distinct features. First, understand that neither one earns you actual miles or points transferrable to frequent flyer programs. But that doesn’t mean you’re not getting a great deal. It only means that you are not getting miles. What you get is cash back and your redemption rate is always fixed at one cent per dollar. But the upside is that you will also get real miles and points when you book your flight or hotel. These are the common features.

SECURITY

  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch on either the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases
  • $0 Fraud Liability Guarantee which means you’re never responsible for unauthorized purchases on your credit card
  • Free overnight shipping for card replacement to any U.S. street address at your request

VALUE

  • Paying late won’t raise your APR
  • No late fee for your first late payment
  • No overlimit fee
  • No foreign transaction fee

SERVICE

  • Track your FICO  Credit Scores for free on monthly statements and online
  • 100% U.S.-based customer service available day or night
  • Accepted where you shop at 9.6 million merchants nationwide
  • Pay your bill up to midnight (ET) the day it’s due by phone or online

So far, comparing Discover It Cash and Discover It Miles has been like comparing a pair of twins – they look identical. However, the rewards sections are a completely different story.

DISCOVER IT CASH REWARDS

Discover it® - Cashback Match™
Discover it® - Cashback Match™
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Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants, Amazon.com, wholesale clubs and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
1% cash back on all other purchases.
Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earn dollar for dollar at the end of your first year.

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year—only for new cardmembers
  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you sign up
  • 1% cash back or more on all other purchases
  • Redeem your rewards for cash in any amount at any time
  • Your cash back never expires
  • Use your cash back instantly at Amazon.com

DISCOVER IT MILES REWARDS

Discover it® Miles Card
Discover it® Miles Card
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Get unlimited 1.5x Miles on every dollar you spend on purchases.
No annual fee.
We'll match all the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year (new cardmembers only). For example, 30,000 Miles turns to 60,000 Miles.

  • 1.5x miles on every dollar you spend on purchases
  • Get an automatic match of all the miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year—only for new cardmembers
  • No blackout dates (fly any airline at any time)
  • Redeem your miles for any amount as a credit for travel purchases on your statement or get the cash at any time
  • Get up to $30 back each year for in-flight Wi-Fi purchases

As you can see, the only common feature for both cards as far as rewards is that Discover will double all the miles and points you earn at the end of the first year, and this makes them outstanding credit card products.

Why You Might Prefer Discover It Cash

At first glance, Discover it Cash has poorer value than Discover It Miles. It only offers 1 percent cash back (2 percent at the end of the first year), while Discover It Miles has 1.5 percent cash back (3% after at the end of the first year). But there is more than meets the eye.

Discover It Cash has one feature that Discover It Miles doesn’t: the 5 percent bonus cash back in quarterly rotating categories.

2017 Discover Quarterly Rotating Categories

While 5% cash back is not too shabby, it gets even better. At the end of the first year Discover will double it, so eventually you will get 10% cash back for using your Discover It Cash card within the rotating categories. This is already a terrific deal, but there is more.

Discover 5% cash back rotating categories
Discover  offers 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter

Discover Deals

Discover Deals is a Discover online portal where you can earn additional cash back with over 200 online stores. The reason why it’s terrific is that not only will you earn cash back for making purchases through the Discover Deals portal, but you keep earning your regular cash back too, which will also be doubled at the end of your first year.

Earn additional rewards at Discover Deals
Earn additional rewards at Discover Deals

Maximizing Your Cash Back

Here is an example of how you can maximize your cash back by using your Discover It Cash card on the Discover Deals shopping portal.

In the second quarter of 2017 there is one rotating category: restaurants. That can turn out a very lucrative category if you eat out a lot.

Earn 5% cash back for buying at Ace Hardware store on the Discover Deals portal
Earn 5% cash back for buying at Ace Hardware store on the Discover Deals portal

If you have an upcoming home improvement project, buy what you need via the portal with a Discover It Cash card and earn the following cash back:

  • 5% for using the Discover It Cash card at home improvement stores in the 3rd quarter.
  • 5% cash back for buying at Ace Hardware store on the Discover Deals portal
  • At the end of the first year of having your card, Discover will double your total earnings to 20 percent. If you spend $500, for example, you will receive $100 cash back.

So, as we can see, Discover It Cash is a really strong credit card that allows you to earn a lot of cash back, at least in the first year of membership since Discover doubles your earnings. That doesn’t mean, however, that this card is indisputably preferable to Discover It Miles, as the miles version has its own unique advantages.

Why You Might Prefer Discover It Miles

While not a true miles earning card, Discover It Miles primarily appeals to people who want to save money on travel. You don’t need to travel to get cash back, as it will work for all your expenses. Getting paid for normal expenses takes a different step, but it also means that this card will work for anyone, including people who are not interested in travel at all.

Discover It Miles does not offer the 5% rotating category bonuses, but using Discover Deals will also double your bonus. What you do get, however, is a simple 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase you make, and these earnings will turn into the 3 percent cash back at the end of the first year. In terms of simplicity, it’s hard to go wrong with this card, especially because there is no annual fee.

The way it works is you use the card for tickets on any airline or for any other travel expenses like hotels, car rentals, tours, excursions, even subway and taxi rides, and as long as your expenses code as travel, you can redeem the miles for a statement credit within 180 days. If not — you can deposit your miles into your banking account, so travel or no travel, you will still get your cash back.

There is also icing on the cake. You will get a $30 onboard WiFi credit every year, upon the anniversary. The credit is valid for any Wi-Fi service in the sky, and it is yours for as long as you are a cardholder. Think of this benefit as a credit card paying you an annual fee for a change.

What If I Like Both Cards?

You can have them. Discover allows you to have different credit cards in their portfolio, and these are two different products. Use Discover It Cash for 5 percent rotating quarterly bonuses, and use Discover It Miles for all other purchases in order to get the 3 percent cash back. Don’t forget to use Discover Deals portal with both cards to earn additional rewards. Have the best of both worlds and maybe see more of the world.