Who is This Credit Card Best For?
Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free
Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
Hits the road often, whether for work or play
Loves to explore places and experience new things
If you’ve got good credit and want a little something back on some of your most common everyday expenses, the Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurants Card is a no-fuss cash-back card. Unlike the Discover it Cash Back Card, there are no rotating categories that must be activated for bonus rewards, so if your budget is pretty regular, your rewards will be too.
That said, this card does not reward big spenders. You’ll regularly earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, but only up to $1,000 in combined purchases each calendar quarter. What’s more, you can find higher rewards-earnings rates on competing cards with no annual fee, so don’t choose this card unless it appeals for other reasons too. A 0% introductory APR and Discover’s reputation for customer service might help tip the scales for cash-back seekers.
First-year cash-back match
0% introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers
Rewards are capped (and not the best)
Potentially tough to use when abroad
- First-year cash-back match: Discover cards are known for this unique sign-up bonus structure, and for good reason. And the end of your first year, Discover will double all of the cash-back rewards you’ve earned. It takes longer to get than typical new cardholder incentives, but depending on how much you use your card, it can be quite lucrative.
- 0% introductory interest rate on purchases and balance transfers: We don’t recommend carrying a balance, but if you do, it’s nice to get a break on your finance charges, especially while you’re earning cash back toward that first-year match. You’ll have 14 months interest-free, giving you some wiggle room to make any bigger-than-average purchases in order to maximize your match amount. And once your promotional period is over, the ongoing variable APR of 13.49%-24.49% is on the low end among comparable cards, particularly for the most creditworthy customers.
- Minimal fees: Not only are there no annual or foreign transaction fees, but if you’re late to make your monthly payment, you’ll get a one-time free pass. (After that, you’ll be charged up to $39.)
- Rewards are capped (and not the best): The 2% cash back only applies to the first $1,000 a quarter (about $333 a month) you spend on gas and dining out combined, and many people spend almost as much in just one of those categories. A couple of competitors pay 2% cash back on everything, with no limits, and there are many tiered cards with even higher percentages in similar categories.
- Potentially tough to use when abroad: Although Discover cards are accepted by merchants pretty widely in the U.S., that’s not always the case abroad. Countries such as France and Russia have low merchant acceptance, according to Discover, and the card isn’t taken at all in many parts of Africa.
This card doesn’t offer a traditional sign-up bonus where you get a lump sum for charging a certain amount to your card in your first three or six months. Instead, at the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will double the amount of cash back you’ve earned in that year, with no limit.
If you use this card exclusively, and spend about what the average U.S. household spends, ($24,297 in 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) we’ve calculated you’d earn about $283 a year in cash back—$80 on the first $4,000 in gas and restaurant purchases (earned at the 2% rate) and $203 on all your remaining charges (earned at the 1% rate).
Compare a $283 cash-back match to a bonus of $150-$200 (usually earned after spending $500-$1000 in the first three months after account opening), and the Discover offer is quite respectable among cash-back cards. Then again, you’ll get your bonus in less time if you get a competing card and, if you don’t have a big budget, by spending much less.
Earning Points & Rewards
You’ll earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each calendar quarter (beginning Jan. 1, April 1, July 1, and Oct. 1.) Any gas and restaurant charges over the quarterly cap, as well as all other purchases, will earn 1% cash back. Again, these are not the best rewards rates, not only because the $1,000 cap is quite low, but because some cards offer 3% or 5% back on popular everyday spending categories.
Still, perspective helps. The average American spent $3,459 and $2,109 on dining and gas, respectively, in 2018, meaning they would have likely missed out on about $16 a year in cash back because of the cap on this card. But with a card offering an unlimited 3% back on both categories, you’d earn $167 on those purchases each year—$87 more than with this card.
While the 2% cash back is limited each calendar quarter, there is no limit on the total amount of cash back you can earn.
With cash back, you can use your rewards for whatever you want and, unlike some travel points, it will always have its original value. You can get a credit on your statement in any amount at any time, or request that your cash be deposited directly into a bank account. If you’re feeling charitable, you can make a donation to a cause you care about. Or, you can use your rewards at the Amazon checkout. You can even purchase gift cards with more than 100 popular brands, starting at $20.
The rewards do not expire, and your account will even be automatically credited if it’s closed or you have not used the rewards within 18 months.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
The cash-back match is one of the big selling points of this card, so make sure to maximize it by front-loading any big purchases you may be planning. You’ll have some extra time to pay it off, thanks to the 0% introductory APR offer, so just make sure you don’t spend money you won’t have within the 14-month period.
After the first year, consider pairing this card with a rewards card that offers extra payouts on other purchase categories.
A category cash-back card like the Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurants Card can complement a travel rewards card that’s focused on airline or hotel bonus categories.
Discover has been the reigning champ in J.D. Power’s credit card customer satisfaction survey for two years now, and the company got the highest ranking in the marketing firm’s 2019 study of credit card mobile apps and websites too.
Discover boasts 100% U.S.-based customer service that can be accessed 24/7 by phone or online. And it’s nice that you have until midnight Eastern Time on your due date to get your payment in. Cardholders also get free FICO credit scores online and on their monthly statements.
This card comes with Discover’s Freeze it app feature, which lets you switch your account on and off in seconds if you misplace your card. If you enroll in special alerts, Discover will notify you if your Social Security number is found on any Dark Web sites or if there’s any suspicious activity showing up on your credit report.
Discover is known for being pretty reasonable about fees. This card doesn’t charge an annual fee, foreign transaction fee, or late fee the first time you pay after the due date. And, there’s no penalty APR. It’s worth noting that the balance transfer fee is 3% of the transaction amount during the introductory period (on transfers made by March 10, 2020) but then increases to 5%.