How To Save Big With Discover

Discover, Finances, Shopping
How To Save Big With Discover


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The name of the game at PointsAway is, of course, free travel. However, we receive one question far more often than you might think:

I don’t actually travel that much. Is there a card that can just save me money?

We don’t talk about Discover much here since the company doesn’t offer a travel-focused card. What they do offer, though, are several of the best cash-back cards on the market today.

These cards are great not only for those who want to save money at home but also for those just beginning to build their credit history and students, too.

Discover It

Discover It offers a 5% cash-back bonus on up to $1,500 of purchases within spending categories that change each quarter. For example, here’s what the 2015 calendar looks like:

  • January – March: Gas and Ground Transport
  • April – June: Dining
  • July – September: Home Improvement
  • October – December: Holiday Shopping

This is very similar to how Chase Freedom is structured, but I think Discover’s 5% categories are just slightly stronger. For example, Freedom only offers 5% back at Amazon, Zappos and select department stores, while Discover It can earn 5% back with a far wider array of online merchants, including eBay among others.

Maximizing Your Cash Back

If you maximize your 5% cash-back each quarter, you can save up to $300 per year, and keep saving at 1% on all purchases. That’s a great value considering the card has no annual fee.

Maxing out your cash-back is easier than you might think, too. For example, gas stations tend to offer a wide variety of gift cards, allowing you to extend the 5% discount at gas stations to a variety of other shopping this quarter.

All other purchases – and purchases from 5% categories after the first $1,500 each quarter – earn an extra 1% cash-back. You can receive your points either as a statement credit to help lower your bill or redeem them directly toward purchases at

Discover Advantages

Discover It comes with a variety of features that are particularly useful to students and those still building their credit history. For example:

  • Discover It cardholders gain free access to their FICO score, which is a great way to stay on top of your credit health.
  • Paying late doesn’t raise your interest rate.
  • There’s no late fee the first time you forget to make a payment.
  • Discover will help you out on your bill if you lose your job.
  • You can pay your bill up until midnight on the day it’s due and your payment is considered on time.

None of those features apply to Chase Freedom, by comparison.

Discover It: Key Features

  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up to $1,500 in purchases.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.

Learn More & Apply!

Discover It Chrome

Discover It Chrome is very similar to Discover It in many ways. The only real difference is in how the card’s cash-back is structured.

Rather than rotating categories, Discover It Chrome offers 2% cash-back up to $1,000 each quarter for purchases at restaurants and gas stations. These categories don’t change and you can still earn 1% cash-back on all other purchases.

If you tend to use your card most often when dining out or filling up, this might be a good option for you. For most people, though, I’d recommend sticking with the higher cash-back offered by Discover It.

Discover It Chrome: Key Features

  • 2% cash back for up to $1,000 in restaurant and gas station purchases each month.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.

Learn More & Apply!


You can actually save a LOT more than 5% with your Discover card thanks to the ShopDiscover shopping portal.

Right now, for example, is offering an extra 5% cash-back and Nike is offering an extra 15% cash-back on purchases made through ShopDiscover. Some retailers offer as much as 25% cash-back, and your cash-back will be combined with any cash-back earned in incentivized spending categories each quarter.

For example, you save 5% from October to December on your first $1,500 of online shopping with Discover It. Purchases on Nike’s website would be considered an online purchase, so you’d earn not just 5% but also the extra 15% for a total of 20% cash-back so long as you click through ShopDiscover on your way to make a purchase.

Shopping portals are one of the key ways we talk about for earning points and miles normally, but ShopDiscover’s cash-back rates are often well above those offered by any other shopping portal and is only open to Discover cardholders, making it a great benefit of using any Discover card.

Options For Students & First-Time Cardholders

If you’re still a student and you might be looking for your first credit card, you can start building a solid credit history with the student version of Discover It or Discover It Chrome.

There’s no difference in features for the student cards over the standard cards. You’re simply more likely to be approved even with a limited credit history for the student version because they typically come with lower spending limits than the standard versions of the cards.

If you’re just beginning to build your credit history, getting one of these cards now can not only earn you some valuable cash-back but also build your credit history and improve your credit score, making you eligible for more of the exceptional travel cards we more typically talk about here at PointsAway. If you want to travel for free in the future, using one of these cards now can put you on the right path.

Best of all, Discover’s offering a $20 statement credit when you sign-up for their student card right now!

Discover It For Students: Key Features

  • 5% cash back in categories that change each quarter up to $1,500 in purchases.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • $20 statement credit after your first purchase.
  • No annual fee.

Learn More & Apply!

Discover It Chrome For Students: Key Features

  • 2% cash back for up to $1,000 in restaurant and gas station purchases each month.
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No annual fee.

Learn More & Apply!

Why You Should Almost Always Choose Credit Over Debit

Discover It and Discover It Chrome also come with a variety of features available on most credit cards, but which folks who rely exclusively on their debit cards might not be familiar with. These core features – along with the ability to earn points and miles – are why I always make purchases with a credit card instead of a debit card.

Purchase Protection

You just bought a new phone and managed to drop it and crack the screen just a month after you bought it. Crisis averted: if you pay with your Discover card, you’re covered for damage or theft of purchases for 90 days, up to $500.

Price Protection

You just bought a new computer and a couple months later, it was replaced by a new model and is now hundreds of dollars cheaper than when you bought it. Believe it or not, this is a huge win for you! If you find a lower price within 90 days, Discover will cover the difference up to $500.

Extended Product Warranty

You bought a new video game system and it refuses to turn on 12 months and 1 day after you bought it. “Not our problem,” is the answer you’ll likely hear from the manufacturer and the retailer. Good news: Discover offers additional warranty protection, even after the manufacturer’s warranty expires. For warranties up to 36 months in length, Discover will add an extra 12 months of protection.

Return Guarantee

You buy a new pair of shoes from an online retailer and they don’t fit. “Sorry, no refunds,” is the store’s reply. You’re covered with Discover: you can return any qualifying purchase within 90 days and receive a refund, up to $500.

Fraud Protection

Bad news: you lost your wallet or your card was stolen. If your debit card is lost, it could take weeks or months to sort it all out with your bank, and some banks may still hold you liable for NSF charges triggered due to fraudulent spending on your account.

That’s simply not the case with credit cards like Discover It. You have $0 of liability for fraud and tools like enhanced account verification and Discover’s mobile app help you ensure the only person spending with your card is you.

Discover It For Yourself

If you’re not a traveler, Discover It is one of the best ways to still save a bundle on your everyday purchases. If you’re already a points and miles enthusiast, Discover It might make sense for you, as well. The cash-back opportunities available through ShopDiscover only to Discover cardholders can make having a Discover card on hand worthwhile for many shoppers.

To learn more, head on over to Discover’s informational pages on each card:

Discover It Card

Discover It Card For Students

Discover It Chrome

Discover It Chrome For Students

PointsAway receives an affiliate credit if you apply using the above links. If one of these cards are right for you, simply using one of these links is a great way to support PointsAway while saving a bundle!

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About PointsAway
Casey Ayers is a consultant and entrepreneur with a passion for travel. After amassing enough miles and points to travel anywhere in the world for almost free in less than six months, he developed PointsAway as a way to help others make travel dreams big and small come true.
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