Cash Back Smackdown: Discover it® vs. Chase Freedom

Recently readers have been asking me which card offers the best cash back rewards, Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee or Chase Freedom®. Since I carry both and have used their cash rewards, it seemed like a great question to address.

At first glance, it would seem that the two cards are about equal. For example, both offer cash rewards of up to 5%. Like so much in life, however, things aren’t always as simple as they first appear. So before we evaluate these two cards, let’s make sure we get the facts straight:

Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee Chase Freedom®
Top Cash Back Reward 5% on select categories that change each quarter 5% on rotating categories
Cash Back on other purchases 1% on all purchases 1% on all purchases
Intro Offers 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 12 months 0% introductory APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months
Cash Bonus Double cash back the first year $150
Annual Fee $0 $0

For my money, the Chase Freedom® edges out Discover. Its 0% rate lasts for 15 months, not 12. And the $150 cash bonus when you spend at least $500 on the card in the first three months trumps double cash back. Of course, if you plan to spend a lot on the card, double cash back could prove a better deal. But you’d have to spend about $15,000 the first year just to break even.

5% Cash Back

The first consideration is to what extent you’ll take advantage of the top tier cash back offers. For the Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee, here are the 5% categories for 2016:

January – March

  • Gas
  • Ground Transportation

April – June

  • Restaurants
  • Movies

July – September

  • Home Improvement

October – December

  • More to be determined

We go on vacation during the summer, so this past year we saved 5% on restaurants. The key is to determine to what extent you’ll take advantage of the 5% cash back categories.

With Chase Freedom®, the categories also change each quarter. For 2016, here is a listing of the categories by month:

Chase 5% Categories 2016

Cash Back on Everyday Purchases

At one point, the Chase Freedom® had the edge here because the old Discover More Card didn’t pay out at 1% until you had spent $3,000. With the new Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee, however, it pays out 1% on all purchases. So on this feature, the cards are equivalent. I guess Discover got tired of those Chase commercials!

0% Intro Rates

If cash back is your only consideration, the 0% intro offers aren’t all that important. If you do care about this feature, then the Chase Freedom® wins by a nose (or three months to be precise).

If getting a no interest card is important, you may want to check out our list of 0% APR credit cards and list of 0% balance transfer offers.

Interest Rates

The interest rates will depend on your credit and they can change from time to time. Currently the Chase Freedom® has slightly higher rates. Of course, this only matters if you plan to rollover a balance from month to month. Further, these rates only kick in once the 0% introductory APR expries.

Final Thoughts

I carry both both the Chase Freedom® and the Discover it® Cashback Match™ with No annual fee. Frankly, both cards are excellent, and which one works best for you will depend on your spending habits. If had to choose just one, however, I’d pick the Chase Freedom®. Of course, you could just get both cards.

Published or Updated: May 12, 2016
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.


  1. I miss the days when the Chase Freedom card gave 3% back on all purchases. Ever since they stopped, I stopped using the card. I haven’t done a comparison yet, but I think my airline card gets me more rewards than the Chase card. I also have the American Express Blue Card but that’s not good unless you spent a fortune each year at places that take American Express.

  2. DaK says:

    Freedom gives 3% in the Top 3 categories that you spend in, so it works out better.

    Haven’t used a hotel in a few years, so having quarters where my drugstore visit or groceries are earning 0.25 or best case 1% makes no sense.

  3. Roy says:

    Be wary. Discover has an upper limit on the 5% cash back. Its pretty low. $20

    • DR says:

      Roy, that’s not true. I’ve used the Discover More card for some time, and there is no $20 limit. In fact, I just cashed in $50 worth of cash back rewards today and applied it to my statement.

      • DR – Roy is right, at least for some of the 5% offers. Last year, the home improvement 5% was capped at the first $400 in expenses in the category, meaning the cashback only came to $20.00.

        • DR says:

          Fred, thanks for point this out. I just went into my Discover account and you are correct that there are limits. The appear to vary from category to category and even from merchant to merchant. January to March 2010 is travel, for example, and the limit is $800 in purchases. Thanks for clarifying this important point.

  4. Kate says:

    I have to go with Chase Freedom, only because there are still so many places that don’t accept Discover.

    • DR says:

      Kate, that’s a good point, and I wonder how many people share your view. I use the Discover Card everyday, but it is frustrating when a merchant won’t accept it. Of course, I have the Chase Freedom as a backup!

  5. I would probably lean towards the Discover More Card although I am personally not a huge fan of cash back cards with rotating categories (although having multiple cards and using them responsibly is smart as you are doing). I prefer my American Express TrueEarnings Card with 1% to 3% cash back and no rotating categories.

  6. Smac20 says:

    Wow, these cards offer some serious cash back. I am from Canada and am happy to receive my 2% cash back on my visa. I get 2% on groceries, gas and regular bills and 1% on the rest. Any type of rotating system seems like a lot of work for the credit card companies and ultimately will lead to lower profits.

    • DR says:

      Smac20, the rotating system for Discover Card does require a bit of effort on both their part and a card holder’s. Since I tend to use it for most purchases, though, I don’t really give it much thought.

  7. First time visiting here – great looking site, and good article. The question I was looking to answer is what are the upper limits on the premium categories. Last year, Discover offered 5% back on home improvement purchases only up to the first $400 in expenditures – or $20 as one of your commenters noted. I think the limits go up for other types of benefits.

    I was thinking that if Chase’ 3% was unlimited, or very high-limited, it might actually work out better for us.

  8. Travis Crabtree says:

    I had always paid my credit card balance off each month my entire life until my wife lost her job recently. I quickly discovered how a credit card, even one like CITI Bank Master card a customer such as I had had for many years, could raise the interest rate practically as high as they wished.A few weeks ago I discovered your website and on it read about the credit card companies that you could transfer an account balance with your current card to one with a 0% interest rate for a specified time frame. I went with Discover Card because it appeared to be the one that your site thought was best. After I completed their on line form, I submitted it and several days later received and email from them saying they had only transfered a portion of the balance from CITi Bank. The entire balance at CITI was about 15,000.00. The problem is that Discover Card did not give a reason for not transfering the entire balance and they give me no way to contact them. We have never had a late payment of any kind and have paid for 4 cars and a house since we have been married. There are no blemishes on our credit report. If you know how I can contact Discover Card please let me know. I do realize that Discover Card delibertly made it impossible for me to cantact them but I would rather not turn the matter over to the Alabama Attorney Generals Consumer protection division if at all possible. Thank you and I in no way hold your website responsible for a mess I never should have allowed myself to get into.

    • DR says:

      Travis, with most credit cards you don’t know how much credit they will extend until you apply. Sometimes that don’t give you what you want. I’ve had that happen before, which is why I’ve applied for multiple balance transfer offers before. Anyway, the contact number for Discover should be on the back of your credit card and is available on That said, the number is easy to remember: 1-800-DISCOVER (347-2683)

  9. Gillgirl says:

    A couple of other key difference between Discover and Chase Freedom that are worth noting:
    – Discover doesn’t give cash back EVER for your spend at discount stores, like Target, Walmart, Kmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, etc. — so if you do a bunch of shopping there (like me, at Target), you lose with Discover.
    – Discover’s $3000 minimum to move from .25% to 1% cash back resets every year. So you start over every year. And, any money you spend in the 5% cash back categories doesn’t count toward your $3000 “hurdle”. All fine print that they never talk about…

  10. Gator Shane says:

    you are mistaken on your take with Discover – READ the Fine print from these lying credit card companies — we spend\t $2000 + this last month on our 2 vacations (thinking we would get $125 back in reward dollars– only to find the $300 limit on cash back netted us just $15). Always assume that ALL Credit card companies will do their Best to F you. READ THE FINE PRINT.

    • DR says:

      Gator, not sure why you say Discover is lying. They do place caps on the 5% rewards. All cards that offer 5% place caps. And they tell you they do. You may not like the terms and as a result choose a different card, but they are up front with the terms.

  11. Loralee Bruggman says:

    This is a extremly valuable post, I came across it searching through MSN. I believe majority of people will agree with your point. Finally – someone with common sense!
    PS I quite like the template you are using – where did you get it from?

  12. Janiece Whaley says:

    This is a extremly valuable post, I found it searching through Google. I believe most people would agree with your point. At last – someone with common sense!
    PS I quite like the theme you are using – where did you find it?

  13. Robert says:

    Hello DR. I want to get the chase freedom and the Discover More, but I’ve heard Chase has been doing a lot of shady things to their customers. Do you agree with this and do you think I should take a chance and get a Chase Freedom. I’m almost afraid to because I don’t want them to screw me.

    • Rob Berger says:

      Robert, I have both cards and have never had a problem with either Discover or Chase.

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