Sign-Up Bonus and Earning Miles
Why would that busy parent be concerned with using the card all year? Because after your first year ends, you get your coveted sign-up bonus offer credited to your account: all miles earned are doubled, with no limit!
The typical user may differ from the above picture, but anyone too busy to track a dozen or so credit cards who still enjoys traveling with their family will enjoy the card.
This card’s normal rate is 1.5x on all purchases, making it an easy all-around card. But the first year double miles bonus really sweetens the deal!
Essentially, you’re getting 3x points for each dollar spent as long as you keep your Discover Miles card for the whole year.
That shouldn’t be too tough to do, since there’s no annual fee ($0) or any other restrictions.
Additionally, you typically get an intro APR on the card. Useful if you want to free up some cash for something else!
Bottom Line: The Discover Miles card comes with an intro APR and earns the equivalent of 3x points for the full first year due to its double miles sign-up bonus! The card has no annual fee.
Card Drawbacks: Weak Second+ Year and No Partners
But, drawbacks do exist. After your first year, you’ll simply continue to earn 1.5x points for everything you spend from that point on; lots of other cards can beat this earning rate.
Also, while Discover positions the card as a miles earner, it actually acts more like a cash-back card.
In fact, one option for redeeming your “miles” is to just get straight cash deposited into your bank account. We don’t suggest you do this for tax purposes, however.
Additionally, the “miles” are actually just credits to your statement for anything travel related. Miles cannot be transferred to any frequent flier programs and cannot be used in any other way.
Bottom Line: After the first year, you will earn 1.5x miles for all of your purchases on the Discover Miles card. However, these act much more like cash-back since the miles cannot be transferred to airline partners.
Some Additional Benefits of the Discover Miles Card
On the plus side, you do get a little love from the $30 WiFi credit per year. That should cover a trip or two’s worth of internet access while flying at 30,000ft.
With no annual fee, there’s really no harm in having the card around. They’ll waive your first late fee payment if you don’t pay off your balance for some reason, and you won’t incur a penalty APR for doing so.
Another fringe benefit of having Discover credit cards is that you get free access to your FICO score, which is tracked in a monthly graph for you (see the picture).
This is a very useful tool when developing your points strategy, so you can see how your credit score is being affected by your activities.
Bottom Line: The Discover Miles card comes with a $30 WiFi credit each year and also has free credit score tracking.
Useful for the Family Shopper
Are there other advantages of having a Discover card? Discover has often been the rogue provider that is not accepted at all merchants, though that has been changing.
However, one unique partnership, Sam’s Club, is no longer exclusive and now accepts all card providers. In January of 2016, Sam’s started accepting Visa.
But warehouse clubs are the outcasts of the points world and do not have many partnerships, so you’ll usually only earn 1x points there. However, the Chase Freedom® has been running a 5% bonus for the last two quarters!
Use your Discover Miles card to your heart’s content at your local Sam’s or Costco to quickly rack up points and fill the gap in your points strategy when you can’t use any other card.
One alternate card for wholesale stores is the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi, which earns 2% cash-back at Costco, but also 4% in gas at Costco (up to $7,000, then earn 1%) and 3% in dining and eligible travel.
Bottom Line: The Discover Miles card is great for those places where you won’t earn bonus miles otherwise, such as at Sam’s Club or Costco (or even Costco Travel!).
International Travelers: Discover How Difficult It Is
Although no foreign transaction fees are imposed, using your card overseas can be tough since many international merchants do not accept Discover.
Perhaps that will change with the addition of chip technology, but you’d be better off using your Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or another overseas travel card.
Also, after your first year, the card only earns 1.5x points to the dollar, which is the same as the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card but lower than the Citi Double Cash Card.
As we said, the card essentially boils down to a cash-back card that can only be redeemed for travel, so other cards may be more profitable once you’ve collected the first-year bonus.
Bottom Line: The Discover Miles card is essentially a cash-back card like the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card or the Citi Double Cash Card. Note that Discover is difficult to use overseas due to limited international presence.
How To Redeem Awards With the Card
When redeeming miles for your rewards, there’s no minimum limit. Redeeming 1 mile for 1 cent can be done any time with no restrictions. Discover typically likes to keep things easy, and this is no exception.
Also, there’s no minimum spend you must make to activate your rewards. Pretty generous offer!
Your miles won’t expire unless your account is turned off, and they may potentially get disabled if you’re not active on your card for 18 months or more.
Finally, if you’re worried about airline mileage devaluation, this card can help hedge your bets since you don’t actually deal with any of the airline loyalty programs.
Hidden Benefit: the Double Dip
Here’s a somewhat “hidden” benefit of using the Discover Miles card: when you’re using the card to make travel purchases with the “miles,” you’re actually still accruing points in those loyalty programs, which is then reimbursed by Discover.
In a typical redemption, you won’t earn miles for your travels because you can’t redeem and earn points at the same time. Another double bonus!
If nothing else, the card is great during its first year and for a newbie to the points strategy world.
Bottom Line: The “double dip” increases the value of the miles earned on the Discover Miles card slightly, since you can both pay for a travel purchase with the card to earn miles and pay off the balance with those “miles” as cash-back.