discover it cash backIt’s hard to say no to getting more cash back from your credit card. For the highest cash back rates, you generally need to turn to cash back credit cards with rotating rewards categories. This means that you’ll earn a high cash back percentage on certain kinds of purchases and after a quarter (generally), you’d earn that percentage on something else. For example, you might earn 5% cash back on Amazon.com purchases for a quarter and then 5% cash back on grocery store purchases the next.

But which rotating rewards category credit card is best for you? We’ve set up a head-to-head battle between two strong contenders, Chase Freedom and Discover it Cash Back. Read on to see which takes first place.

Highest intro bonus: Tied

If you’re looking to see which card earns rewards straight off the starting block, you’ll find them pretty evenly matched. Yet they offer very different styles of intro rewards.

Discover it Cash Back offers a unique intro bonus with its cash back match. At the end of your first year as a cardholder, Discover will match all of the cash back you’ve earned. For example, if you earn $250 in your first year, Discover will match that $250 and you’ll get a total of $500 back. The bonus is uncapped, so this could be a huge opportunity. Because the bonus is so contingent on your spending, however, it’s difficult to compare to traditional intro bonuses, which is why we call this category a tie.

If you are looking for a more traditional bonus, Chase Freedom has you covered. You’ll earn a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first 3 months of account opening. That’s 30% cash back on the first $500 you spend!

Best intro APRs: Chase Freedom

As we get into the first lap, Chase Freedom takes the lead. That’s because Chase Freedom offers the longer intro APR period of the two cards, with 15 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. However, you’ll pay a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater.

Discover it Cash Back offers a slightly shorter intro APR period — 14 months of 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. You will also need to pay a 3% balance transfer fee on any transfers. After the intro APRs elapse, the variable go-to rate applies.

While the difference in balance transfer fee and length of intro balance transfer APR kept these two cards pretty close, Chase Freedom’s longer intro purchase APR gives cardholders a little more of a head start when compared to Discover it Cash Back.

Best ongoing rewards: Tied

Both Discover it Cash Back and Chase Freedom offer 5% cash back on categories that rotate each quarter and 1% cash back on all other purchases. The quarterly maximum for both cards is currently $1,500, then it’s 1% back. You’ll need to sign up for the 5% category rewards each quarter, but you can set up email and text alerts and reminders with either card.

Because both credit cards offer the same rates, you’ll earn the most with whichever card’s categories best match your spending habits. That said, we slightly lean toward Discover it Cash Back because Discover releases its cash back calendar for the whole year ahead of time, whereas Chase Freedom’s cash back calendar is released quarterly. We feel that the extra planning time can help you make the most of the high rewards rate.

Discover’s 2019 cash back categories include groceries from January to March; gas stations, Uber and Lyft from April to June; restaurants from July to September; and Amazon.com from October to December. If you get the card before 2018 ends, you can earn 5% cash back at Amazon.com and wholesale clubs as long as you activate the rewards before the end of December rolls around (note that you will only earn 5% cash back on purchases made after you activate).

Chase hasn’t released any of its categories for 2019 yet — and it will release categories quarter to quarter rather than all at once. However, to give you an example of Chase’s categories, here’s what they were in 2018: January through March of 2018’s categories included gas stations, Internet/cable/phone services and purchases made with Android Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Chase Pay. Then April through June’s categories were grocery stores and purchases made through PayPal or Chase Pay. July through September’s categories were gas stations, Lyft and Walgreens. Finally, October through December’s categories are department stores, wholesale clubs and Chase Pay. To take advantage of Chase Freedom’s October through December categories this year, you would need to activate the category by Dec. 15, 2018.

Best redemption options: Discover it Cash Back

Redemption options is the place for Discover it Cash Back to gain ground. That’s because Discover offers a bit more redemption flexibility. Both cards offer cash back that can be redeemed at any time, in any amount for cash or statement credit. You can even have the money deposited to most major bank accounts. Plus, your cash back won’t expire with either card. That said, Discover takes things a bit further, as it also allows cardholders to redeem their rewards directly through Amazon.com or for a charitable donation.

Lowest fees: Discover it Cash Back

As the race drags on, extra fees can start to weigh our contestants down. Discover wins this category thanks to its 0% foreign transaction fees and its more forgiving late payment policy.

Chase Freedom charges a 3% foreign transaction fee on every transaction made outside the United States. Discover it Cash Back’s 0% foreign transaction fee will save you a fair bit of change if you plan to use your card internationally! Add to that the late payment policies: Discover it Cash Back charges no late payment fee for the first late payment. After that, it’s up to $37 per late payment. It also won’t charge a penalty APR. In contrast, Chase Freedom charges up to $38 starting with the first late payment and can apply a penalty APR. That said, you’ll pay no annual fee with either of these cash back credit cards.

Best additional benefits: Discover it Cash Back

We’re getting close to the finish line and these two contestants are pretty close to one another. Added perks are a final place for them to break away. Free FICO credit scores? Both cards offer it. No liability for unauthorized spending? Check and check. Both issuers monitor your account for fraud. Discover allows you to freeze your account at any time and Chase offers a similar option to lock your account through the Chase website or mobile app.

However, Discover starts to pull away in the security features thanks to its extra monitoring. You can opt in to have Discover monitor your Experian credit report and receive alerts if your social security number is found on risky websites or if new lines of credit show up on your Experian credit report.

Chase receives a second wind with its shopping perks. Chase’s purchase protection covers your new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft (up to $500 per claim, $50,000 per account). On top of that, Chase offers extended warranty protection: you can add an extra year to warranties of 3 years or less from U.S. manufacturers.

Discover it Cash Back clinches the perks with a few final benefits. Discover provides a year-end summary with colorful graphs and charts so you can visualize your spending and plan your budget. In addition to that, Discover’s Cash Over Purchases option saves you the hassle of going to the ATM. Just use your Discover card at the checkout of one of the select stores that supports this feature, choose an amount of cash over the cost of the purchase you’d like to get back and leave with cash in hand (regular purchase APR applies — this doesn’t count as a cash advance). Last but not least, Discover has a proven track record of customer satisfaction. Discover ranked the highest in customer satisfaction in the J.D. Power’s 2018 Credit Card Satisfaction Survey.

The winner is … Discover it Cash Back

school yearIn a photo finish, we give the trophy to Discover it Cash Back. With an exciting intro bonus opportunity, huge cash back rewards in rotating categories, nice intro APR periods, low fees and some awesome added perks, we count ourselves as fans.

Not sure how your rewards would look with these cards based on your spending habits? You can input your regular spending into our free Cash Back Credit Card Analysis to customize the cash back totals for you. If you don’t think rotating categories are for you, take a look at one of our other top-rated cash back credit cards.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.