Discover is one of the four big credit card networks in the United States, one that offers an array of benefits that you might not find on all other networks, but also provides the accessibility and the usability that you will.
But what is it that truly sets this network aside from the others? How accessible is it, how safe is it, and should you get a Discover card or not?
How Many Places Accept Discover in the US?
One of the main concerns that credit card users have when it comes to Discover is that these cards can not be used in as many locations as cards from Visa, MasterCard and American Express. However, that’s not entirely true.
Visa and MasterCard are more popular and widely available, but the numbers are far from staggering, and Discover seems to be far more common than Amex. In fact, a recent study found that while Visa and MasterCard were accepted in 9.5 million locations throughout the United States, Amex was accepted at fewer than 6.5 million. Discover, on the other hand, cold be used at 9.3 million locations.
A lot of this comes down to the fees and how easy and cheap these cards are for retailers, as opposed to any benefits that they provide customers. If you’re ever been dismayed and frustrated because a retailer doesn’t accept Amex then you should know that it has nothing to do with them using an outdated system and everything to do with them simply not wanting to pay the high fees that American Express charge.
The reason Discover, Visa and MasterCard are much more common is simply because these fees don’t exist, which means retailers would prefer you use one of these three card networks.
Pros of Owning a Discover Card
There are a number of pros to owning a Discover card and we have discussed these below.
- Instant Approval: Discover try to approve all applicants within 30 seconds, which means you may not need to wait days or weeks for your application to go through. However, there are exceptions and in certain circumstances you will be required to wait a little longer.
- Good APRs: Unlike Visa and MasterCard, Discover act as an issuer as well as a network. They are also very competitive, and this has resulted in them providing customers with some of the best APRs around. The variable APR is between 10% and 20% on average.
- Good Bonus Rates: Many Discover cards, including the Discover It Card, offer introductory rates that provide you with a prolonged period to enjoy a 0% APR on balance transfers and purchases. This is often as long as 15 months.
- Rewards: Discover cards have some great rewards schemes, which is why their cards often feature highly in our lists of Rewards Cards, Travel Cards, Student Cards and more. Click the links to learn more.
- Customer Service: Credit card companies do not have the best reputation when it comes to customer support and it doesn’t help that banks seem to be even worse. But Discover are bucking this trend. They have fantastic customer support and they are often ranked highly in support and satisfaction indexes.
- Fees: Credit card fees average around $49 and they are charged on a lot of popular cards. If you opt for a rewards card that comes with a number of benefits then you can pay as much as $599, as discussed in our guide to Premium and VIP Rewards Cards. With Discover, there are no fees, for the most part anywhere.
- Good Tech: Discover have been quick to adapt to changes in the world of finance and have helped to create mobile apps and online systems that provide a fast and secure way for customers to access their money and make transactions at all times of the day.
Cons of Owning a Discover Card
For every positive, there is a negative. But personal circumstance and preference will dictate how much of an impact these have and whether they are enough to deter you from applying.
- Good Credit: You typically need to have a good credit score in order to get a Discover card. This is usually the case with top credit cards but while other providers have options for people with no credit and people with bad credit, Discover do not. In many ways a Discover is a badge of honor because it means your credit score was good enough to get one.
- International Use: Discover is not as widely accepted outside of the US as other card networks are. We have discussed this in more detail below.
- Small Print Rewards: The rewards on Discover cards often look a lot better than they actually are. Take the Discover It Card as an example. It lures you in with the promise of a 5% cashback return. But that return is limited to $1,500 spend every quarter and it can only be used in very specific areas.
- Some Hidden Fees: There is a 3% balance transfer fee when you use a Discover card and there are also some other fees. These are not hidden as such, but it’s easy to assume that this is a completely fee free card, when that is simply not the case. Make sure you pay close attention to those terms and conditions.
Using a Discover Card Overseas
If you ask the average American to name as many credit card networks as they can, there’s a good chance they’d name Discover alongside the other three we’ve already discussed. It’s a well known provider and as mentioned above, it’s one that is accepted across the US.
However, ask the same question to someone in the UK, or anywhere across Europe for that matter, and few, if any, would mention Discover. That’s because while this network is well known here, it’s barely used internationally.
You can still use your Discover card for cash transactions abroad, but you may struggle to find a retailer who accepts it. In that case you’d be much better off with Visa or MasterCard, which are universally accepted.
Should you Get a Discover Card?
You should certainly consider one of these cards, but whether you should actually get one or not will depend on your circumstances and your needs. If you travel a lot outside of the United States and you spend thousands of dollars a month on your card, a Discover card is probably not a viable option.
However, if you spend very little money on your credit card every month, don’t leave the United States and are looking for something that can earn you a few extra bucks in rewards every month then it could be just what you need.