User Rating: Very Good
Web Site Experience:
Pros:cashback bonus award, low intro APR (on platinum), no annual fee
Cons:not widely accepted, high APR afer intro period, cashback bonus could be better
The Bottom Line: Not the best and not the worst. I have went from the lowly standard Discover Card for college students to Discover Platinum and have lived to tell about it.
My Discover card was one of the first credit cards I ever applied for as a college student. I started at the bottom with the standard black Discover Card for college students and have worked my way up to Discover Platinum so this review is for both of those cards.
Recommend this product?
A Discover promotion I got in the mail some years ago said that I could choose one of an array of certain (tempting?) items or get $5, and all I had to do was apply for the card. I choose the $5 credit and applied for the Discover card. As soon as I received it in the mail, I started using it a lot for almost every purchase unless the merchant did not take Discover (which some do NOT: a major disadvantage) or if the credit limit was almost maxed out.
As far as appearances, I have found the modern design of these cards to be simple yet attractive. The standard is a somewhat shiny black card with a silvery hologram lettering of the word, DISCOVER, and if you look closely, the hologram is of a horizon over the ocean and waves, and there are clouds in the sky. The magnetic strip on the back is silver, which I think is a nice contrast to the black color. The platinum card looks very similar but is silver (or platinum?) in color and has the word PLATINUM lettering in black under DISCOVER, and the silver strip does not contrast as much.
At the beginning, Discover had a slightly lower regular interest rate (for purchases) than most of my other credit cards, about 16.9% compared to 19.9% or so. Now… it's just as high as the average. I was a good little Discover customer for a few years, no late payments or anything, but I was only earning a few cents here and there, for the hundreds of dollars I was putting on it (but paying balances off in full so I actually felt like I was coming out ahead).
The only way to go with this card and to come out ahead is to pay it off in full because it's pretty funny how you're actually "earning money" (through the cashback bonus award program) making the purchases yet interest rates are about one hundred times higher so the worst thing you can think is... “I'm paying this much in interest but I'm earning money too.” If it's not possible to pay it off in full, pay as much as possible and pay it all off as soon as you can (I'm sure you all know that or have learned from experience, kinda happy to say I've only learned from others' experiences). Only buy what you can afford!
Anyway, as a good customer, a year went by and I got about $30 in the form of a check, mailed several weeks after the anniversary date as a cashback bonus award after making several thousands of dollars in purchases that year on it (I know earning ANY money, no matter how little, is better than nothing, but it could have been better). Anyway, my credit limit got raised only from $1000 to $1500 after a year (guess they don’t trust me that much as a low-income college student or something), and after almost two years, they finally upgraded me to the Platinum card. I was pretty happy about it, but they didn't increase my credit limit at all with my promotion. I suppose the prestige of “platinum” is supposed to be good enough. After comparing advantages of this credit card to some other credit cards I recently applied for, I just took advantage of the low introductory platinum APR (1.9%) for some fairly large purchases I wanted to make (but needed a few months to pay it off), and then decided it would be best to say good bye to the Discover Card at the next anniversary (2 years) after I got my check and to make room for some new cards with better offers. After being with Discover so long and being so loyal, and especially after getting a promotion, it was really, really hard to say good bye… I kinda felt bad about it, like I was just using it to get ahead… you know, just to get some good marks on my credit report. Sure we had some good times, but sadly... I've found another (more to come on that).
Many merchants have told me that Discover Card charges a higher percentage rate for sales than Visa/MasterCard so it's pretty obvious where this cashback bonus award is coming from and also explains why it is not as widely accepted. I think for a credit card, Discover is easy to get, especially as a college student with no credit; it’s heavily marketed to them and the Platinum is for everyone else so there's no way you've never heard of it, but after reading several reviews on some other award cards, especially the Citibank Platinum Select Dividend MasterCard (I got the one for college students and I believe there is one for everyone else too- with better APR), I have applied and switched since then. The Citibank Dividend MasterCard should be just as easy to get as a college student, plus it offers 1% on ALL purchases and is much more widely accepted as a MasterCard than Discover, which is not as widely accepted and only offers UP TO 1%, you have to spend $3000 before it becomes 1% (at rates 0.25%, 0.5%, and 0.75% for each of the thousand - read the small print). Citibank also highly promotes their credit cards (usually only the regular Platinum Select) but choose carefully, many may look the same, make sure it says DIVIDEND or there's no cash earnings at all. Once I have (or have not- and then will be really mad about it) gotten my first $100 check (big disadvantage on Citibank Dividend: have to spends lots to get the large checks but I can live with that), I will write a review about my satisfaction with that card (which is so far, so good...)
Other discoveries about Discover: I have not dealt too much with their customer service, but the few times I have, it seemed like they did not know what they were talking about at all (I’m sure that’s true for all credit card customer services). The website is decent, seems to be easy to use, and you can check your statement online, transfer balances with some decent promotional rates, and pay off your balances with the SmartCheck feature which will save you a paper check and a stamp. I’d only really recommend the Discover Card to those who buy often from the select online merchants like Barnes & Noble website, FTD.com, etc. that Discover offers very high rates (5-20%) of cashback bonus which is credited to your account on the same statement as the time of the purchase, just check the ShopCenter page on the Discover website for more details. Overall, I haven’t been deeply disappointed or wholly satisfied with Discover.