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When to Use the Discover it Miles Card

Nov. 01, 2018
5 min read
When to Use the Discover it Miles Card
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Truth time? Truth time. If you're a hardcore points-and-miler, you may never have considered the Discover it Miles credit card because it offers little opportunity to earn and burn. This is more a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race kind of card than a few purchases equals a flight halfway around the world card.

Even so, if you're the tortoise and not the hare — or if your family has maxed out its annual budget for matching the minimum spend to earn welcome bonuses — this might be the right everyday spending card for you in at least one particular circumstance. In the end, you might have to make some sacrifices, or perhaps not.

You'll get no traditional welcome bonus with this card. You'll have no opportunity to earn extraordinary bonus category rewards. Instead, you'll earn 1.5 miles per dollar on Every. Single. Transaction.

In and of itself, the 1.5% return is just OK, easily beatable, in fact, on everyday spending even if you just use something like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or The Platinum Card® from American Express. That's because TPG values the points on these cards more than their earning rate if used to transfer to partner airlines and hotels. (Read: 1x points on everyday spending are worth more than 1 cent each.) Heck, even the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card offers a higher rate of return on everyday spending — 2 miles per dollar on every purchase.

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But...but, here's the catch. Discover it Miles ultimately returns much more than advertised for each dollar charged at the end of the first year. That's because Discover offers a unique pledge to match all rewards you earn in the first 12 consecutive billing cycles. The issuer will apply the match to your accounts within one to two billing cycles after the 12th month.

So, for the first year, Discover it Miles is essentially a 3x miles or 3% cash back card, once the miles are matched after 12 months. To answer the headline, here's when to use Discover it Miles: On all purchases that don't qualify for a bonus category that returns more than 3%, especially if you're not shooting for a welcome bonus.

When Discover it Miles Beats Other Cards

If you spend $20,000 during the first year in otherwise non-bonused spending, you'd earn $300 in redeemable miles or cash over the course of the spend, and an additional $300 at the end of your first year of card membership.

That's a better return than many of the other best cards for everyday spending, including the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card from American Express (effective return minus the welcome bonus and annual fee — 2.85% with 50% spending bonus after 30 monthly transactions), Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard (2.1%), Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (2%) and Citi® Double Cash Card (2%; 1 % when you buy plus 1% when you pay).

The information for the Amex EveryDay card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Why Families Should Consider Discover it Miles

Besides the first-year earning rate, Discover it Miles is worth considering — especially for families — for a number of other reasons:

  • You don't have to track rotating categories or remember whether this card pays the most on restaurants...or gas...or travel.
  • There's no annual fee, so there's no pressure to spend if you find out later this isn't the right card for you.
  • This is a "miles" card in name, but not really. There are no award charts or blackout dates. Miles are worth a fixed 1 cent each and can be redeemed after you charge travel (defined as airline tickets, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel agents, online travel sites, commuter transportation and more) to your Discover it Miles card. Within 180 days of the charge, you can use your miles to offset the charges as a statement credit.
  • You can also redeem miles for a statement credit at the same rate.

After the first year, the card loses some of its appeal. But, if you crave simplicity and are loathe to card hop, it may well be worth it to you to sacrifice a bit to keep using this card. During the second year and beyond, the difference in return on $20,000 in spending on this card and one that earns 2% cash back on all purchases is $100.

Featured image by Getty Images/EyeEm