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Does the new 'Discover it' credit card change the game?

by Peter Andrew

When Discover recently launched its Discover it credit card, it described the new product as "game-changing." Those familiar with marketing practices are likely to know that "game-changing" is a phrase -- along with "revolutionary" -- that almost always means "virtually indistinguishable from every other competing product," just as "exciting" always means "so overwhelmingly tedious that we really have to overdo the hype."

So were the good people in Discover's marketing department indulging in hyperbole when describing their new card, or is it really something new and different?

Discover it has fresh, new features

For once, the marketers seem not to be making totally over-the-top claims. It may be a bit much to say the new card's game changing, but it certainly has some great, all-new features, and the combination of these with others that are relatively unusual makes it very different from most -- arguably all -- competing products. Perhaps its biggest unique selling proposition is its focus on being fair, friendly and affordable. In a press release, Discover states:

  1. No annual fees.
  2. No over-limit fees.
  3. No foreign transaction fees.
  4. No pay-by-phone fees.
  5. No fee for your first past-due payment.
  6. No APR hike if you're late paying.

Discover rewards credit cards just got more generous

The Discover it card allows you to earn cash-back rewards at a rate of 5 percent on purchases in spending categories that change each quarter. As is usual, you have to register anew, online or by phone, each quarter in order to qualify, and the amount you can earn in any one quarter is capped. You can receive cash back at this or even higher rates -- up to 20 percent -- on purchases you make throughout the year via the company's ShopDiscover web portal.

An interesting change with the Discover it card concerns purchases where you don't earn those higher rates. The press release says: "Cardmembers automatically earn 1 percent Cashback Bonus on all other purchases, not points." And that may be new. Previously, Discover paid only 0.25 percent cash back on the first $3,000 of annual standard-rate purchases on many of its rewards credit cards. Assuming that press release is worded correctly, the Discover it card appears to be more generous.

it is flexible

Discover lists some other attractive features for Discover it cardholders:

  1. You can choose your own due dates.
  2. You have until midnight ET on that date to pay, either online or by phone.
  3. You get free access to online tools and mobile apps, along with optional email reminders, to help you manage your account.
  4. Real, live call-center agents who are based in the U.S. can be reached 24/7.
  5. You get excellent identity-fraud assistance, and, Discover claims with some justification, the best customer service available.

All of this sounds pretty good. The Discover it card may not have changed the game, but it could well have leveled the playing field somewhat.

Published 01/24/13 (Modified 11/21/13)


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