In the universe of rewards credit cards, both Discover it and Chase Freedom stand out as top card options. Account holders not only have seemingly endless benefits with each card, the cash-back rewards are some of the best in the business. However, for newcomers to the credit card rewards playground, there are some nuances that make determining which card is the best a difficult task. Let’s take a closer look at both the Discover it and the Chase Freedom credit cards in terms of rewards potential, introductory bonuses and fees.
Both the Discover it and Chase Freedom credit cards offer robust rewards programs, but slight differences exist. First, the Discover it credit card offers 1% cash back on every dollar spent on purchases outside bonus categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. Purchases made within the bonus categories earn cardholders 5% cash back, up to a limit of $1,500 in total spending each quarter. Card members must sign up for the bonus categories as they rotate to ensure points are earned on applicable purchases, but the process is simply and free. Discover it bonus categories for cash back earnings are as follows for 2016:
- January through March: Gas stations and ground transportation
- April through June: Restaurants and movies
- July through September: Home improvement stores and Amazon.com
- October through December: Amazon.com (and others to be determined)
The Chase Freedom credit card also earns card members 1% on all purchases, with similar quarterly cash back bonuses of 5%. The bonus cash back categories do not require activation each quarter, but like the Discover it card, earnings are capped at $1,500 worth of spending. The cash back categories through Chase Freedom rotate each quarter, and for 2016 include:
- January through March: Gas stations and local commuter transportation (not including Amtrak, tools or parking)
- April through June: Grocery stores (not including warehouse clubs, Walmart or Target)
- July through September: Restaurants
- October through December: Holiday shopping with partner retailers to be determined
The fact that no additional step is needed to activate the bonus cash back rewards each quarter for the Chase Freedom card is certainly a bonus, but the category restrictions make the program slightly less attractive than Discover it. However, Discover it does not require a minimum number of points to accumulate prior to redemption; Chase Freedom card members must have earned at least $20 in cash back rewards prior to redeeming.
Only Chase Freedom offers an upfront cash back bonus for new card members within the first few months. Cardholders have the potential to earn $150 in cash after a minimum of $500 is spent on purchases within the first three months of account opening. The Discover it credit card offers a matching program for cash back earned, up to $200 additional cash, but the bonus is not immediate. Card members receive the matching cash back credit at the end of the first year after account opening, opposed to the first three months for Chase Freedom.
Comparison of Card Member Fees
For applicants seeking out low-cost rewards credit cards, both the Discover it and the Chase Freedom cards fit the bill. Both credit card options come with no annual fee, and no redemption fees for cash back earned. However, differences come into play as it relates to other costs associated with each credit card.
Discover it has an introductory interest rate of 0%, not just for purchases but for balance transfers as well. The promotional APR is honored for the first 12 months after account opening, after which time the standard rate and balance transfer ranges from 11.24% up to 23.24%. These interest rates are based on each applicant’s creditworthiness at the time of account opening, and rates may fluctuate over time based on broad market movements.
The Chase Freedom credit card also offers an attractive introductory interest rate for well-qualified borrowers. A 0% APR is in place for the first 15 months after account opening for both purchases and balance transfers. After the promotional period ends, card members are assessed interest on remaining balances as low as 14.24% up to 23.24%. All rates for purchases and balance transfers after the introductory rates expire are variable. Account holders looking for potentially lower interest after the promotional rate may find the Discover it card more attractive, while those looking for extended terms for 0% APR purchases or transfers may lean more toward the Chase Freedom card.
One of the other aspects that differentiates the Discover it card from the Chase Freedom card is the foreign transaction fee. Chase Freedom card members are assessed a 3% transaction fee for all purchases made outside the U.S., while Discover it cardholders are not assessed an additional fee for foreign transactions.
One of the more helpful perks associated with the Discover it credit card is the free access to individualized credit scores through FICO reporting tools. Card members can view their FICO score for free through the Discover portal online, at any time. Additionally, Discover it card members have the benefit of a waived late payment fee for the first occurrence, and a single late payment does not mean a higher APR. These extra benefits are attractive to credit card users concerned about their credit health and status.
The Chase Freedom credit card does not currently provide access to credit monitoring or scores, but does protect card members who make a payment late. No penalty APR is imposed upon the first occurrence of a late payment, although a late payment fee will be assessed. Chase Freedom also offers superb protection against lost or damaged purchases liability protection against identity theft or fraud.
Both the Discover it and Chase Freedom credit cards offer smart, low-cost options for individuals looking for rewards programs. The Discover it card is a stronger choice for cardholders who purchase items or utilize their card overseas, or those who do not want to mess with accumulating a substantial number of points prior to redeeming for cash back. The Chase Freedom card is a great choice for individuals who do not want to activate the bonus cash back categories each quarter, or those who are seeking an extended 0% promotional period for purchase or balance transfers.