For 2013, scrappy little Discover is trying something bold. They’ve chucked everything and started fresh with only one card – the new Discover it® Card. (Yes, lowercase, don’t ask me why.) No longer promoted are the Discover More, Motiva, Open Road, Escape, and Miles cards. You may have noticed a lot of commercials about it recently, claiming it to be a “Game Changer”.
After a closer look, the new card is a definite improvement over the old products, with many positive changes in direct response to the competition. Here are the highlights:
- 5% cash back on rotating categories. My favorite feature. As with the Discover More card, you’ll get 5% cash back from select categories each quarter. From April to June 2013, you’ll get 5% cashback at all Home Improvement Stores on up to $1,500 in purchases.
- 1% flat cashback on all other purchases. Previous cash back cards had an initial tier that only gave you 0.25% cash back on the first $3,000 in purchases, and then 1% after that. They’ve finally matched competitors and went for 1% flat.
- Late payment forgiveness. There is no late fee for your first late payment, and your APR won’t automatically increase either. You can also pay-by-phone for free, up to midnight Eastern on your due date. We all make mistakes, so this is a nice addition.
- Direct-to-human, 100% US-based Cashback Concierge who guides a free, personalized online tour to help you get the most rewards for how you use your card. Instead of an intentionally-complicated robot phone tree, you can now select at any time to go straight to a human. I’m a little bummed that this has to be touted as a feature, but sadly it is…
- No annual fee, no fee for going over your limit.
- 0% Intro APR on both purchases and balance transfers for 14 months. 14 months is pretty long for purchases. Intro offer has a 3% balance transfer fee with no minimum.
- No foreign transaction fee. Okay, but I wouldn’t take a Discover internationally anyway. Discover acceptance is good inside the US, but much worse outside.
- Silly things. Things that shouldn’t matter, but still might. The card arrives via UPS/FedEx mail in a sleek-looking box. The card front is made to look like brushed stainless steel with no raised embossing – your name and card number are only on the back. I wonder where they got that idea?
Is it really a game-changer? Well, no. It’s not quite “one card to rule them all”, but it does combine the good bits from several other popular cards (Chase Sapphire, Chase Freedom, Citi Simplicity) to create a competitive offering. I like the 5% categories that are usually different from my Citi Dividend and Chase Freedom.
Discover is still the underdog to American Express/Visa/Mastercard, but it has its own perks. There are bonuses above cash back value for gift card redemptions. For example, you can regularly redeem $40 in cashback rewards for a $50 gift card to Wal-mart or Sam’s Club, that’s 25% extra that you can use even on the 5% back earnings. (Hint: If only Sam’s Club is available, you can use a Sam’s Club gift card at Wal-mart.) Their ShopDiscover cashback portal also often has the highest percentages for online shopping merchants, like 10% at Sears, better than eBates and such. Finally, Discover card has a lot of consumer features like return protection and an extended warranty that extends the manufacturer’s warranty for up to an extra year.
Basically, this Discover card is certainly a worthwhile addition to your wallet, just don’t make it the only card in your wallet.
Existing cardholders. I have not gotten any communication from Discover that my existing cards will be converted to an “it” card in the near future, let me know in the comments if you have. I’m assuming that we’ll eventually get switched over at some point, hopefully soon because it (pun intended) seems to be better.
Update: Readers report that if you call them up, they will convert you to the new card manually (it will not happen automatically). You get to keep your same card number and thus credit history. Certain people with annual fee miles-type cards may prefer to stay, but again I think this card is definitely better than the plain Discover and Discover More cards.