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 similar month to month your rewards will be too.
That said, this card does not reward big spenders or those seeking substantial rewards on other common purchases such as hotels, groceries, clothing, or entertainment. You’ll earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, but only up to $1,000 in combined purchases each calendar quarter ($4,000 per year).
For perspective, the average American household spent $3,526 on dining and $2,094 on gas in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means if you spend that much with this card, you would've missed out on $16.20 a year in cash back because of the cap on how many bonus points you can earn on gas and dining purchases. You’ll leave even more money on the table if your annual spend on gas and dining out is above average. You can find higher rewards-earnings rates and fewer limitations on similar no-annual-fee cards.
Generous first-year cash-back match
Decent 0% introductory APR deal on purchases and balance transfers
Bonus-earning rates are capped
Better reward-earning rates exist
Potentially tough to use when abroad
Rewards may take awhile to appear in account
- Generous first-year cash-back match: Discover cards are known for this unique bonus structure for new cardholders, and for good reason. At the end of your first year, Discover will double all of the cash-back rewards you’ve earned. It takes longer to get this welcome bonus than typical new cardholder incentives, but depending on how much you use your card, it can be quite lucrative, since there’s no limit on how much Discover will match.
- Decent 0% introductory APR deal on purchases and balance transfers: You’ll have 14 months interest-free to pay off a balance transfer or any bigger-than-average purchases you make in order to maximize your first-year match amount. It’s not the best offer available, but still a pretty good deal compared to what similar cards are giving new cardholders right now. Once your promotional period is over, the ongoing variable APR of 11.99%–22.99% is on the low end among comparable cards.
- 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 $40.)
- Bonus-earning rates are capped: 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.
- Better reward-earning rates exist: Several competing cash-back cards offer better gas and restaurant rates. The Wells Fargo Propel offers 3% on gas and many other categories. The Paypal Extras Mastercard offers 3% back on gas and restaurant purchases. Others offer 1.5% or 2% cash back on everything, with no limits.
- Potentially tough to use when abroad: Although Discover cards are accepted by merchants pretty widely in the U.S., it’s not as widely accepted overseas as Visa and Mastercard. And it isn’t taken at all in most of Africa and the Middle East, according to Discover.
- Rewards may take awhile to appear in account: Because Discover awards the 2% cash-back rewards for this card on a quarterly basis, you may not see your total cashback earnings in your account for up to five months after a purchase, which is much slower than many competitors. Rewards for purchases that qualify for 1% cashback will appear in your account much sooner. More about this below.
Bonus for New Cardholders
This card doesn’t offer a traditional bonus for new cardholders where you get a lump sum of cash or points 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.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spent $26,597 in 2019 on categories that typically can go on credit cards. With this spending, you’d earn $305.97 in cash back—$80 on the first $4,000 in gas and restaurant purchases (earned at the 2% rate) and $225.97 on all your remaining charges (earned at the 1% rate). So, that’s $305.97 you earned throughout the year, plus $305.97 matched at year’s end for a total of $611.94 in the first year.
Compare a $305.97 cash-back match to a typical cash-back credit card welcome 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 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 (which starts on 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. While the 2% cash back is limited each calendar quarter, there is no limit on the total amount of cash back you can earn. Again, these are not the best rewards rates, not only because the $1,000 cap is quite low, but also because some cards offer up to 3% back on dining, groceries, and other popular everyday spending categories with more generous (or no) earning limits.
Even with an unlimited flat-rate 1.5% back card, you’d earn $101.06 back on gas and groceries alone. Plus you'd earn $287.90 in cash back from the rest of your spending for $398.96 per year in total cash back, based on a total annual spend of $26,597 from the above mentioned BLS data.
Anything you earn on purchases in the 2% category is calculated at the end of each quarter, not immediately after the purchase or even in the same month. It may also take another two billing periods for the cash back to show up in your account—so you may not see your total cashback earnings for up to five months after a purchase. It’s an interesting approach on Discover’s part, as the 1% cash back is added to your account after each billing period.
With cash back, you can use your rewards for whatever you want, for any amount. You can get a credit on your statement, 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 as payment at the Amazon checkout. You can also 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 at the end of the first year is one of the big selling points of this card, so maximize it by front-loading any big purchases you’re planning. You’ll have some extra time to pay it off, thanks to the 0% introductory APR offer, but don’t spend more than you can pay off within the 14-month period. Otherwise, you could easily end up paying more interest than you’ll earn in rewards.
After the first year, consider pairing this card with a rewards card that offers extra rewards on more purchase categories, or a card that offers at least 1.5% back on all purchases with no earning limits.
The Discover it Chrome Gas & Restaurants Card can also complement a travel rewards card that highly rewards airline or hotel purchases.
Discover ranked second in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study and was just one point away from first first place. Additionally, Discover ranked fourth and had a strong above average score in the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study.
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 your card doesn’t turn up, Discover will overnight a replacement card to any U.S. street address for free. There’s also an option to enroll in special security alerts so that 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 it Chrome Gas & Restaurants Card’s Fees
Discover is known for being pretty reasonable when it comes to card 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 May 10, 2021) but then increases to 5%.