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Capital One Vs. Discover: How Their Credit Cards Compare

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Capital One and Discover are both major financial services companies that provide a variety of products such as bank accounts, loans, and an assortment of credit cards.

Discover is known for introducing the first cash rewards credit card to the market. Capital One is one of the top 10 largest banks in America, based on deposits. Some key differences include:

  • Discover does not have physical branches whereas Capital One does in select states: Discover describes itself as an online financial services company. This means that you can’t walk into a Discover branch and talk to a representative. Capital One has branches in Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C. You can also complete limited banking transactions at Capital One Cafés in select cities, which offer full-service coffee bars and workspaces.
  • Acceptance: Discover cards traditionally have not been as widely accepted, – especially outside the U.S. – as Capital One cards, which are backed by Visa or Mastercard. That’s why it’s smart to have a backup non-Discover card when traveling abroad.
  • Free FICO Score vs. VantageScore: Discover offers a free FICO® Score with Discover Credit Scorecard. Capital One offers a free VantageScore 3.0 with CreditWise. Both features are available to anyone, regardless if you’re a cardmember. While the FICO Score is more widely used by lenders, both scores rank your creditworthiness on a 300-850 range.

Top Discover and Capital One cards by category

Capital One and Discover both offer credit cards that can appeal to a broad range of consumers – whether you want to earn travel rewards, transfer a balance or build your credit.

Each issuer has multiple cards in the following categories; we listed our top picks based on our research of cards available through LendingTree, as well as top cards offered by both Discover and Capital One:

Cash back credit cards

Travel rewards credit cards

  • Discover it® Miles

Restaurant & dining credit cards

Credit cards to rebuild credit

Business credit cards

Student credit cards

Their best cash back credit cards

vs.
Signup bonus
Rewards rate
Annual fee

Winner:

While both cards come with no annual fee and offer cash back on every purchase, the is the better choice if you want to earn a higher rewards rate in popular categories that rotate quarterly, when you activate.

The card offers the following rewards rate: .

This means that if you max out the spending limit by making $1,500 in purchases in the 5% bonus category each quarter, you’ll earn $300 cash back in one year. Once you factor in the cashback match sign-up bonus for new cardmembers, that amount will jump to $600 in the first year of card membership.

The , on the other hand, offers a flat cashback rate on every purchase – making the card more appealing if you don’t want to deal with rotating categories or spending limits.

If your credit isn’t quite good enough to qualify for the , you may want to consider the instead.

The also offers unlimited . However, while the requires credit, the requires credit.

That said, the charges an annual fee of and does not offer a sign-up bonus.

Their best travel rewards credit cards

Discover it® Miles vs.
Discover it® Miles
Signup bonus Only Discover will automatically match all the Miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year. For example, if you earn 35,000 Miles, you get 70,000 Miles. There’s no signing up, no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a Miles-for-Miles match.
Rewards rate Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases.
Annual fee $0

Winner:

The stands out in this category due to its flexible redemption options and travel transfer partners.

In addition to using miles to book travel on any airline, with no seat restrictions or blackout dates, miles can be redeemed for car rentals, hotels, ride-sharing apps, cruises and more.

The current sign-up bonus is worth $500 in travel if you max out the $3,000 spend requirement in the first three months, and $1,000 if you reach the $20,000 spend requirement in the first 12 months.

Cardholders can also transfer miles to 17 airline and hotel loyalty partners, including Air France KLM Flying Blue, Emirates Skywards, JetBlue TrueBlue, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer and Wyndham Rewards.

cardholders also receive a statement credit of up to $100 to cover your Global Entry or TSA Precheck application every four years. However, the card comes with an annual fee of .

By contrast, the Discover it® Miles does not offer travel transfer partners.

You can, however, redeem your miles for airfare, hotel stays, rental cars and other travel expenses with no blackout dates.

Although the Discover it® Miles offers a slightly lower flat rewards rate than the , Discover will match all of the miles you earned at the end of your first year of card membership. So, for example, if you earn 35,000 miles in the first year of card membership, you’ll get 70,000 miles – which is worth $700 when redeemed for travel.

If you want to earn Venture miles without paying an annual fee, you may want to consider the instead.

Along with a annual fee, the offers . Plus, cardholders earn .

Their best restaurant and dining credit cards

vs.
Signup bonus
Rewards rate
Annual fee

Winner:

If you want the opportunity to earn a higher amount of cashback on dining purchases in the first year of card membership, the is the better choice. In addition to its generous sign-up bonus, the offers a higher cashback rate on dining purchases, without a limit on spending.

So, for example, if you spend $4,000 on dining during the first year, you’ll earn $160 cash back. Once you add on the sign-up bonus, that amount increases to $460.

With the , if you max out the spend limit by making $1,000 in purchases at restaurants each quarter you activate, you’ll earn $80 cash back in one year. Once you factor in the cashback match bonus, you’ll get $160 cash back in the first year of card membership.

After the first year, though, the comes out on top – at least slightly – thanks to its annual fee. If you spend $4,000 per year on dining purchases, you’ll receive $80 cash back at the end of the year. With the , that same spend amount will earn you $160 cash back. However, once you factor in the annual fee after the first year, that amount decreases to $65.

Capital One offers an additional dining credit card that comes with a annual fee – the .

The card offers . Plus, new card members .

Their best credit cards to rebuild credit

vs.
Signup bonus
Rewards rate
Annual fee

Winner:

For those who haven’t yet established credit or whose credit is , Discover and Capital One both offer cards to help build or rebuild your credit. However, the also offers a rewards program – which is very rare for a secured credit card.

While the charges a annual fee; it does require a security deposit, which will serve as your line of credit. Depending on your income and ability to pay, the security deposit will range from $200 to $2,500. That said, after eight months, Discover will automatically review your account to see if you qualify to receive your security deposit back and convert to an unsecured card.

Like the , the reports to the three major credit bureaus.

The offers cardholders an initial credit line of $200 after making a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200. Although the card doesn’t come with a rewards program, it does give you access to a higher credit line after you make your first five monthly payments on time.

Their best business credit cards

vs.
Signup bonus
Rewards rate
Annual fee

Winner:

While both business credit cards offer cash back on every purchase, the takes a slight edge due to its higher rewards rate and robust benefits.

Along with no-cost employee cards, the offers year-end summaries, downloadable purchase records in multiple formats (including Quicken, QuickBooks and Excel), discounts for your business through Spring and Wikibuy, savings through Paribus and more.

The also comes with Visa Business Benefits, including emergency card replacement, auto rental damage waiver and purchase security and extended protection.

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee – ever – and you don’t mind missing out on some of the benefits offered by the , the is a great alternative.

The offers free Social Security number alerts, $0 fraud liability, no-cost FICO® Credit Score and the ability to download transactions into Quicken, QuickBooks and Excel. Additionally, like the , the offers employee cards at no-cost.

Their best student credit cards

vs.
Signup bonus
Rewards rate
Annual fee

Winner:

The card takes the lead in the student credit card category, thanks to its generous cashback rate in popular spending categories and promotional introductory APR on purchases.

The card offers the following rewards rate: .

Discover’s 2020 cashback calendar includes a number of appealing bonus categories for students, including Uber, Lyft, restaurants, PayPal, Amazon.com and Target.com. Additionally, for new card members only,

Also, if you need to finance a large purchase, such as a laptop or school books, and pay it off over time, you can do so interest-free for several months with the card. The card offers an intro APR on purchases of , then a regular APR of applies.

The , on the other hand, offers a flat cashback rate on every purchase, with the opportunity to earn slightly more with responsible card usage. Cardholders earn — for a total of 1.25% cash back on purchases for that month. The annual fee card also lets you access a higher credit line when you make your first five monthly payments on time.

But beware, if you don’t pay your balance in full each month, you will be subject to a high interest rate of on any remaining portion.

Discover and Capital One credit card FAQs

How to apply for a Discover or Capital One credit card

In addition to applying for a credit card over the phone, both Capital One and Discover offer online applications that can be completed in minutes.

When you apply, be sure to have your Social Security Number and key financial information handy, including annual income and monthly rent or mortgage payment. This will allow the issuer to access your credit history and make a decision. In addition, Capital One will ask if you have any bank accounts, and Discover will ask your total available assets.

You can also apply for Capital One credit cards at Capital One branches and Capital One Cafes.

What are some card benefits offered by each issuer?

All Discover credit cards come with a $0 annual fee and offer the CashBack Match™ bonus – which matches all of the cash back or miles you’ve earned at the end of your first year of card membership (for new card members only).

Additional Discover benefits include the ability to freeze and unfreeze your account, free FICO® Credit Scores on your monthly statements, 100% U.S.-based customer service and monitoring for suspicious activity on your account.

General Capital One credit card benefits include $0 fraud liability, security alerts, virtual card numbers, 24/7 customer service, card lock, CreditWise from Capital One, access to Paribus (a price monitoring app) and more.

Can you prequalify without hurting your score?

Both Capital One and Discover allow you to prequalify for their credit cards online by performing a soft pull on your credit that doesn’t hurt your score.

Does it matter whether you choose Discover or Capital One?

There are several factors to consider when choosing between Discover and Capital One credit cards. Because Capital One cards are served by either the Visa or Mastercard networks, you’re much more likely to have worldwide acceptance when making purchases. Fewer merchants accept Discover products, especially outside of the U.S., which can limit your ability to use your Discover credit card.