Chase Freedom vs Discover it Cash Back: Which is the right choice for you?

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On the surface, the Chase Freedom and Discover it® Cash Back seem very similar in earning and rotating bonus categories. Neither card adds an annual fee, so they’re both good picks to keep long-term and potentially help boost your credit score.

I currently have both cards in my wallet. But there’s a clear winner between the two cards. If I had to choose one, it would be the Chase Freedom – and here’s why.

If you make online purchases with Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com during the holiday season, you’ll love having these cards in your back pocket. (Photo courtesy of Hadrian/ Shutterstock.com)

Chase Freedom vs Discover it Cash Back

Best sign-up bonus

The Chase Freedom has a simple sign-up bonus. If you spend at least $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening, you’ll earn $150 (15,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points).

With the Discover it Cash Back card, you’ll receive no chunk of change upfront. Instead, Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first 12 billing cycles. Depending on how much you spend, you could easily see hundreds of dollars in return.

Deciding which bonus is best for you is contingent on how much you’ll use the card. Most people will love the instant gratification that the Chase Freedom provides.

Winner:   Chase Freedom

Best earning rate

Both cards offer 5% bonus categories in rotating categories, on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate and 1% unlimited cash back. The Chase Freedom and Discover it Cash Back card usually offer similar bonus categories.

With the Chase Freedom, you’ll earn 5% cash back (5X Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar) spent on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in categories which rotate each quarter when you activate the bonus.

And with the Discover it Cash Back, you can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in rotating quarterly bonus categories after enrollment. Plus, earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Just this year, there have been bonus categories of gas stations, internet and phone services, streaming, grocery stores and much more. And often during the holidays, Amazon.com, Target.com, and Walmart.com make an appearance. It can be tough to say which card is better for the future because the Chase Freedom bonus calendar is only released a few months in advance.

HOWEVER, Discover will match any cashback you earn within your first 12 billing cycles with the Discover it Cash Back. Therefore, any time you earn 5% back in one of the rotating quarterly bonus categories (on the first $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate), you’re effectively receiving 10% back — and any time you earn 1% back in non-bonus spending will instead earn 2% back.

Winner: Discover it Cash Back (for the first 12 billing cycles)

Best redemption value

Of these two cards, only the Chase Freedom earns valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. You can use Chase points for cash back or travel through the Chase Travel Portal at a rate of 1 cent per point. For example, if you earn 10,000 points, that equates to $100 in cash back or travel.

But if you also have an annual-fee Chase Ultimate Rewards card, you can combine your points to one of these cards and use them to buy travel at an improved rate through the Chase Travel Portal. Here’s what your points are worth towards travel with each card:

The information for the Chase Freedom card has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

All of us on the team have kept both the Chase Freedom and at least one of the above cards for years.

You can even redeem your points with valuable Chase transfer partners, like Hyatt or United Airlines, for potentially more value.

Winner: Chase Freedom

Lowest annual fee

Neither card incurs an annual fee. Any time you can add a no-annual-fee card to your wallet, we encourage you to do so. Carrying cards like the Chase Freedom or Discover it Cash Back allow you to earn lucrative rewards without shelling out hundreds on annual fees.

Winner: Tie

Best additional benefits

The Chase Freedom comes standard with Chase’s suite of extended warranty, price protection, secondary car rental coverage, and roadside dispatch benefits.

Eligible purchases with your Chase Freedom extend the manufacturer’s warranty of the product by one year! With this coverage, you’ll get an additional year of warranty on eligible warranties of three years or less, up to a maximum of $10,000 per claim, and a maximum of $50,000 per account.

You’ll also get automatic purchase protection coverage when you shop with the Chase Freedom, which covers you in the event of damage or theft. If an eligible item you purchase is lost or stolen within 120 days, this coverage will replace, repair, or reimburse you up to a maximum of $500 for each claim and up to $50,000 total for your account.

If you decline the rental agency’s Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) / Loss Damage Waiver (LDW), you’ll get secondary coverage when you pay for your car rental with the Chase Freedom. Coverage is global and is eligible with most private passenger vehicles.

Also, if your trip is canceled or impacted by an eligible situation, like sickness or injury, you can be covered with your Freedom card. You can be reimbursed up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per trip for your pre-paid, non-refundable fares.

You can find more information regarding these benefits in our full Chase Freedom review.

Winner: Chase Freedom

Best worldwide acceptance

The Chase Freedom and Discover it Cash Back have similar acceptance domestically. Both Discover and Visa cards are accepted by nearly all U.S. merchants that accept credit cards. But the Chase Freedom edges out the Discover it with foreign acceptance.

Visa cards are accepted in over 200 countries while Discover cards are accepted in only 185 countries. Keep in mind, the Chase Freedom adds foreign transaction fees, while the Discover it Cash Back does not — so take your travel habits into account.

If you travel abroad often, we actually recommend the Chase Sapphire Preferred because of its worldwide acceptance and no foreign transaction fees.

Winner: Chase Freedom

Bottom line

The Chase Freedom and Discover it Cash Back have similar backbones to their earning potential, but when you dive deep into the details, the Chase Freedom emerges the winner.

  • Best welcome bonus: Chase Freedom, unless you can spend a LOT on your Discover it® Cash Back in the first 12 months of opening your account
  • Best rewards earning: Discover it Cash Back — Discover will match the earnings after your first 12 billing cycles
  • Best redemption value: Chase Freedom – You can redeem for cash back, gift cards, and travel at 1 cent per point!  If paired with a premium Chase card, your redemption value could be as high as 1.5 cents per point, a 50% increase
  • Best annual fee: Tie – Both have $0 annual fees.
  • Best additional benefits: Chase Freedom – Extended warranty, price protection, and roadside dispatch are just a few additional benefits that come standard with this card
  • Best worldwide acceptance: Tie – Visa cards are accepted more places than discover, however the Chase Freedom adds foreign transaction fees

With a suite of complimentary benefits, a easy-to-earn sign-up bonus, and the ability to combine your earned points with a premium Chase card, the Chase Freedom is one of the best credit cards with no annual fee.

The Discover it Cash Back is also a good option (you can read our Discover it Cash Back review), but if you have to choose one, the answer is a no-brainer — the Chase Freedom. Good thing they’re issued by different banks, so if you want you can get both cards.

What do you think of these two cards? Why would you pick one over the other?

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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