Are There Any Discover Cards Worth Getting If You’re Looking for Frequent Flyer Miles or Free Travel?

We read (and write) so much about Chase credit cards (and to a lesser extent Amex cards) but none of us travel bloggery types write at all about Discover cards. This would seem a bit odd, since they’re pretty widely advertised. In fact, I hadn’t really thought much about the Discover cards at all until I was considering my next card churn and wondering if there were any good card opportunities I’ve missed.

Since I haven’t read much about the Discover cards, I thought it might be helpful to sum up two of the cards here. Spoiler alert: neither one of them is a hidden gem, but if you’re careful about what you use them for, you can earn more than 5% cash back each year.


It’s like the Chase Freedom card, only not quite as lucrative. There’s no annual fee, but there’s no signup bonus either. You’ll get 5% cash back on different categories each quarter, up to $1500 in spend (just like the Freedom card). This quarter, for example, is gas, themeparks, and movies. Next quarter is “holiday shopping.” Whatever. Basically you’ll get $300 cash back annually if you maximize your spend in the categories.

You’ll also earn 1% on all purchases, like the Freedom card. Except that’s not exactly true. Your first $3,000 spent only earns .25%. Also, for whatever reason, warehouse clubs also earn only .25% no matter how much you’ve spent during the year. And yet another also, money spent on the 5% cashback categories do not count toward that initial $3,000. That .25% is not a huge penalty – you’re missing out on $22.50 compared to the Freedom card, which pays 1% on all purchases.

Why would you get the card?
If you’re really looking to maximize your spend, there’s no reason not to get $300 a year in cash back from the 5% bonus categories. I wouldn’t use it for anything else, but $300 is $300.


The Miles by Discover card is their attempt to keep up with the Chase Sapphire card (not the Preferred version, mind you). You’ll earn 1,000 bonus miles each month for the first year, as long as you put some spend on the card each month. Those miles, er, “miles” are then convertible into cash that can be used to pay off travel expenses at 100 miles per dollar. In other words, you’ll get $120 cash back to be used toward travel expenses as long as you use the card each month.

There’s no annual fee, so that’s a good thing. You’ll also get double miles on the first $3,000 worth of travel and restaurant purchases each year (sound familiar?) and 1 mile per dollar spent on everything else. Plus you’ll get double miles on everything through their online mall.

Why would you get the card?
If you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred card, there’s no reason you would get this card. If you don’t have the Chase card, and you’re looking for $180 at the end of the year ($120 from spending each month, plus $60 for maximizing the double miles on the $3,000 worth of travel), why not? There’s no annual fee.

In summary: neither card will knock your socks off. But if you’re looking to grab some cash back without having to do much, you could get both cards and have $480 at the end of each year after spending only $9000. If you’re careful about just using these cards for $6,000 worth of 5% cash back categories, and the $3,000 worth of travel and restaurant purchases, then you’d be looking at 5.3% cashback. Hm, now that I think about it that’s not too bad at all.

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