Can I really buy $500 gift cards with Apple Pay? How can I get an iPhone for free? Does my Discover card qualify? Discover’s Deal of the Year Questions Answered

Discover's Deal of the YearUPDATE 9/18/2015: Discover’s Apple Pay promotion now explicitly excludes gift cards. Please see details here.

Last week, Discover announced that support for Apple Pay would begin on September 16th (Wednesday).  To encourage its use, they further announced that, through December 31 2015, customers who pay with their Discover card using Apple Pay will earn an extra 10% Cashback Bonus (or an extra 10 miles per dollar) on up to $10,000 in purchases.  That, in itself, would be pretty exciting, but this deal also overlaps with an ongoing promotion giving Discover cardholders double rewards for a year.  By stacking these two deals, Discover customers can get a total of 20% back on all Apple Pay purchases (10% back now and 10% later) in addition to rewards normally earned by their credit card.

Full coverage of this combination of deals can be found here: The NEW Deal of the Year: Preparing for Discover Apple Pay and $2,000.

What is the “Deal of the Year”?

There are two great deals here: The Apple Pay 10% rebate; and the double rewards for a year offer.  It is the combination of those two deals that I refer to as the “deal of the year.”

How do I enroll in Double Rewards for a Year?

Currently, this offer is available only to new cardholders.  The offer began with the unveiling of the Discover It Miles card.  As a result, all Discover It Miles cardholders are enrolled in this offer.  The offer was later opened up to new and existing cardholders of other Discover cards, but Discover then stopped allowing existing cardholders to enroll.  If you are unsure whether or not you are enrolled, simply call the number on the back of your Discover card and ask.

If you are not currently enrolled, the only way to enroll is to sign up for a new Discover card.

How do I enroll in the Apple Pay deal?

You do not have to enroll in this offer. Simply add your Discover card to Apple Pay on your qualifying device and then use Apple Pay through the end of this year to make in-store purchases.  As long as your Discover card is the selected payment card within Apple Pay, you should automatically get 10% cashback (or an extra 10X miles) from Discover.

Is my Discover card eligible for the Apple Pay deal?

All Discover consumer credit cards are eligible.  I believe this leaves out only business cards, gift cards, and debit cards.

Discover's Deal of the Year

If I have two Discover cards, can I earn twice the rewards?

Discover says yes.

Discover's Deal of the Year

How many Discover cards can one person have?

Two.  Once you’ve had your first Discover card for more than a year, you can apply for a second one.

How do I get Apple Pay?

You will need either an iPhone 6 or an Apple Watch linked to an iPhone 5 or iPhone 6.

How do I add my Discover card to Apple Pay?

The press release describes the process as follows:

After upgrading for free to iOS 9, Discover cardmembers can go to the Wallet app to get started. If cardmembers already have a Discover card on file with iTunes, all they need to do is enter the security code, or they can choose to add a new Discover Card.

Why can’t I add my Discover card to Apple Pay?

Discover support for Apple Pay begins on Wednesday, September 16th.  Until then, you won’t be able to add your Discover card to Apple Pay.  Based on the language in the press release, it sounds like you will also have to upgrade your phone to iOS 9 before adding your Discover card.  We’ll see.  Its possible that they’re simply trying to encourage upgrading your phone’s iOS version.  On Wednesday I’ll try adding my Discover card to Passbook, without first upgrading to iOS 9, to see what happens.

Can I add my spouse’s Discover card to my Apple Pay?

Yes, that should work.  I added my wife’s Amex card and Bank of America card to my Apple Pay account without any problem.  I was then able to use Apple Pay in stores to buy things (including gift cards) with my wife’s cards – with her permission, of course.  Your spouse will be alerted that their card has been added to Apple Pay.

Can I add multiple Discover cards to one iPhone?

Yes.  I can’t try this until support for Discover appears on Wednesday, but I’ve added multiple cards from Amex without trouble so I expect that Discover will be the same.  One caution: it may be difficult to distinguish the two cards within the Wallet app.  For that reason, it may make more sense to do one card at a time.

Can I add Discover, Visa, MasterCard, or Amex gift cards to Apple Pay?

In my experience, no.

Can I get an iPhone 6 for free?  Can I get one cheap?

Yes, you can!  One approach is to signup for the Citi AT&T Access More credit card.  Details can be found here: The NEW Deal of the Year: Preparing for Discover Apple Pay and $2,000.

Options for getting a discounted phone, or a free phone for a month, can be found in this Big Habitat post: 9-11-15 Need an iphone 6 for up to one month for free? Here’s how….

Will in-app Apple Pay purchases count for 10% cashback?

Discover says no.  There’s always a chance that it will work anyway, but I wouldn’t count on it.  On the other hand, Discover’s rep, Cassie, got the starting date of the promo wrong, so who knows…

Discover's Deal of the Year

Can I use an iPad with Apple Pay?

Some iPad models do support Apple Pay, but only for in-app purchases.  So, no, that won’t help you with this deal unless Cassie (see above) was wrong when she said that in-app charges do not qualify.

Will stores allow large gift card purchases to be made with Apple Pay?

Yes. I can’t promise that your local stores will allow it, but it has worked for me.  In the past few days I tried Apple Pay at several merchants in the southeast Michigan area.  In each case I brought a variable load Visa gift card to the register, asked to load $500, and paid with Apple Pay.  I had no problems.

Which stores accept Apple Pay?

Apple provides a list of stores accepting Apple Pay.  The list includes interesting stores such as:

  • BI LO
  • Duane Reade
  • Meijer
  • ToysRUs
  • Walgreens
  • etc…

However, the list is not complete.  I found Apple Pay at Rite Aid, for example, even though it is not on the list.

Look for this logo in stores that you frequent:

Discover's Deal of the Year

When you find the icons, try out Apple Pay.  The icons alone don’t prove that the technology is currently in-place and working.  I tried a couple of stores that showed an icon like the one on the left, but they didn’t work.  For example, see the photo of the register at my local CVS store:

Discover's Deal of the Year

I tried buying gift cards at CVS with Apple Pay.  At first, the register seemed to accept it, but then a message appeared that said something like “this register does not support contactless payments”.

Where can I buy $500 Visa or MasterCard gift cards and pay with Apple Pay?

The answer to this will vary by location.  I had success at a couple of different drugstores and a toy store.

What types of $500 gift cards are available?

Discover's Deal of the YearIn my area, I found only Vanilla brand Visa or MasterCard gift cards.  There are pros and cons to these cards.


  • Some Vanilla card fees are only $4.95 per card.  That’s $1 cheaper than most competing variable load cards.
  • Upon first use, you can use any 4 digits as the PIN so there is no need to write down or memorize a PIN.
  • One Vanilla cards do not have the word “gift” written on their face so they may be accepted in more places.


  • Vanilla gift cards can’t be used at Walmart to load Bluebird or Serve.

How can I liquidate Vanilla Visa or MasterCard gift cards?

Here are a few options:

  • Use for regular spend.
  • Use to pay bills wherever credit cards are accepted.
  • Use as debit card to reload Serve at Family Dollar.
  • Use to reload REDbird at Target (note: some Target stores do not accept gift cards as payment, so YMMV)
  • Use to pay friends through a service like Venmo or Paypal.  You will likely incur a fee, but since you will get at least 10% back for the purchase of the gift card, a 3% fee won’t kill you.
  • Use to pay bills that are not normally payable by credit card via a service like Plastiq.  As above, you will incur a fee, but it could be well worth it.

See also: Beginner’s guide to buying & liquidating Visa & Mastercard gift cards.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

More articles by Greg The Frequent Miler »


  1. […] Quick background: Discover is currently running two overlapping promotions: an extra 10% cash back for Apple Pay purchases made through December 31st, plus double all cash back for a year.  Each promotion is amazing on its own. Taken together, they’re fantastic.  You can get 20% back on all Apple Pay purchases, in addition to your usual credit card rewards!  But… until now, we didn’t know whether or not gift card purchases would work…  You can find full details about the promotions here and here. […]


  1. any data points on how many variable loads you can buy at a time?
    i.e. I have a location that has quite a few variable load cards available. but since they TRUly offer no category bonuses I have no experience buying there. Was hoping to buy 2 or 3 at a time. Especially since the Redbird lives right across the street.

  2. I’ve had a regular Discover Card for 10 years and out of the blue they just sent me a replacement Discover It card (which qualifies for the Apple Pay and 10% promos)

    • @max

      All discover cards qualify for the promotion, they didn’t send you a special card that qualifies. Your card was probably discontinued.

  3. I don’t have an iPhone but my mother-in-law does and she happens to be living with us at the moment. So I would need to make her an AU of my IT card and then I can borrow her iPhone for an afternoon of GC shopping? Or could I simply load my IT card onto her Apple Pay account without setting her up as an AU?

  4. @FrequentMiler: Regarding in-app payments, I asked Discover about this. My understanding is that Discover is not set up for in-app Apple Pay, but they are working on it.

  5. Hey can anyone confirm how the double cash back will work for new cards for immediate purchases? I’ve read in multiple places that the double cash back doesn’t kick in until *after* your first statement closes. Is this true? I was approved for the card last week. When it arrives this week (let’s say i get it and activate on Sept 16), and I go out and immediately buy a few VGC, will I not get the double cash back on those? Or is this all just hearsay and immediate purchases will receive the double CB bonus?

    • I’m not sure about that, but usually cashback isn’t awarded until your statement closes anyway, so immediate purchases should still get doubled, I believe. It can’t hurt to call the number on the back of the card and ask in a situation like this.

      • I researched more since posting this question, and people actually mention it in a thread on reddit (r/churning). Someone said they called in to Discover and the CSR said that the double cash back will begin working right away for new cardmembers. For current cardholders who enroll in the double cash back promo, it will not begin until the current billing cycle closes and their next cycle begins.

  6. If my wife signs up for a new IT card, will she automatically qualify for double cash back, or will she have to call in after getting the card?

  7. Does Discover have a problem with recycling the credit line in the same statement cycle?

    That is the only way I can take full advantage of this promotion.

  8. FT,
    slightly off-topic..
    I still have few $$ left on my Q3 for discover.

    Can I go through Discover deals to go to Nordstorm to buy Nordstorm Gift card?
    Will i get 5%?


  9. I like this promotion. However, the only place near me that sells A $500 VGC is CVS…and since those are Vanillas, they don’t load to serve. I know there are other uses for them, but it definitely makes things interesting. Office Depot and Staples is an option, but we’ll see.

    • why can’t you just use the discover card for regular spend? It’s still abetter return than anything else currently out there.

      Get to apple pay retailer and clear out as many GC’s as you can. Gas, Restaurants, Disney, whatever you need. Christmas and the holidays coming.

      A list of things I’d like to receive 20% back on:

      If you are over analyzing this to make $$$ you are missing the forest for the trees. Even if you can’t manufacture spend there is still plenty of opportunity here!

      Go for it!

      • This completely depends on the store. I have two Walgreens near me that DO check ID (every single time, even when paying through Apple Pay), and one that doesn’t. So YMMV.

        Even more obnoxious – they wanted me to pull out the physical card so that they could match the name on the card with the name on my ID. Doesn’t that negate the point of Apple Pay?

  10. “Can I really buy $500 gift cards with Apple Pay?”

    I love your blog, but are the circles and arrows really necessary? Why not be a good steward for this?

  11. I have a Serve card and I want to take advantage of this promotion. Since the only local place that accepts Apple Pay and has VGCs only has the Vanilla Visas (which DO NOT load to Serve), I’m thinking the only option to easily liquidate them for me is to buy money orders. But buying $10k in money orders seems like a good way to set off some red flags somewhere. 🙁

    • I wouldn’t worry because I think all that registers that it was an IN-STORE purchase. There are no details transmitted to WHAT you bought.

  12. I am trying to decide whether to go with Serve or RedBird for VGC liquidating. In your experience, are the Targets in SE Michigan cooperative when it comes to VGC loads of Redbird?


  13. I have an ancient regular Discover card. If I ask for a product conversion to Discover IT, I assume I would NOT be considered a “new cardholder” and would not qualify for the double bonus. Is that correct? Thanks.

      • I had a standard Discover card, w/e they upped me to from my student one eons ago. Just this week they upgraded it to the Discover It card and all the paperwork sounds like I’ll still get the double CB. However this was a case of them automatically changing my card to a new product, and not me requesting it.

    • Not true for me! I upgraded, got the IT card and the double cash back promo. Worth upgrading regardless, because the cash back is so much better than the ancient Discover.

  14. if i go get a new iphone (current android user), do I absolutely need to activate cell service for the new phone in order to use Apple Pay? In other words, would like to make this as easy as possible without switching from Android. Sounds like a silly question, but do I need to get cell service for Apple Pay to work?

    • My local CVS allows you to buy them via credit card…or did the last time I tried. I would think if they accept credit cards, ApplePay should work just fine.

  15. I use discover all the time, so convenient. I have an exclusive link, become a Discover cardmember and you’ll get $50 Cashback Bonus with your 1st purchase within 3 mos. ..just follow through the link and on top of the 10% you would be getting you will get 50$ just for signing up and making one purchase. I love it! Also make sure you install iOS 9 so you’ll have no problem adding the card. 🙂

  16. FM, I have a discover it card and my wife is an AU. Does each of us have a $10k spending limit or we share the $10k limit? Thanks.

  17. This may have been addressed already, but does the Apple Pay cashback stack up on the 5% quarterly category bonuses? e.g. buying gift cards from Home Depot with Discover/Apple Pay yield 30% cashback?

    Put another way, what’s the max % you can conceive of with stacking? Thanks!

    • There is the disclaimer that contactless payment methods may NOT qualify for the quarterly bonus, so I don’t think anyone knows for sure. Guess we need to contact Discover and see what they say.

      • That’s great! And is it your understanding that the incremental category bonus is not subject to the $10K cap on Apple Pay since that’s subject to a different bonus type?

  18. Bought $1k at RiteAid where I’ve been turned down for CC use prior. Hilariously was asked for driver license, then the clerk sat there sweating for a minute trying to figure out what he was going to compare the driver license to as I wasn’t going to be handing over a credit card. SWEET SWEET REVENGE.

  19. I don’t have iPhone, so I am wondering whether the store will be ok in the sense that now they require my credit card and id. They need to verify that it’s my card and also they need the last 4 digits on my card. Will they be able to get all that when using Apple Pay?

    • Here’s what I got in an e-mail from Discover: “If a merchant asks for the last 4 digits of your card when paying with your Discover card using Apple Pay, please use the last 4 digits of the Apple Pay Device Account Number. This can be found by tapping the “i” icon on your card in the Wallet app.”

    • The Discover It Miles card will give you a total of 3% back for the first year (1.5% initially, which will be doubled after 12 months). The Discover It cash back card will only give you a total of 2% cashback when paying taxes (1% doubled to 2%)

  20. Orange County, CA.

    Went to first Office Depot – Used ApplePay. Declined and got e-mail saying card is not activated (been using card for a few months). Called Discover. They checked everything and said no issues (in retrospect, may card not active in ApplePay – see below).

    Went to second OD, got $200 Vanilla for $206.95. No problem. Got 4 more card, again declined. No e-mail this time. Called Discover and rep deactivated card from ApplyPay and reactivated it. Tried to pay for card again, and went through. Agent told me that they are learning ApplePay as well, and there might be issues as it was just rolled out. I wonder if the card is shutting on/off in AP after each use.

    Do note that, when you use AP, receipt will show you paid with Discover, but the 4 numbers will not be the last 4 of your Discover number. If you look at card details on AP, the 4 numbers corresponds to you Device Account Number.

    HD really scrutinizes ID and such, so be prepared.

    I will wait to see how the transactions posts on my account before trying for more.

  21. Orange County, CA

    Local Walgreens – variable Vanilla but cash/debit only.
    Office Depot has variable load Vanilla and AMEX, but they are cash/debit only.
    Office Depot – Can use credit card on fixed value GC (largest is $200 Vanilla or AMEX, with $6.95 fee).

  22. So I clicked on the link in the article for stores accepting ApplePay and I was surprised a local grocery chain here is listed (Bashas). So if Bashas has the loadable GCs up to $500 Visa gift cards like Safeway and Kroger that would probably be the easiest way to MS and then load them on Redcard at Target (worked before at local store with GC loading but haven’t tried in a few months) right?

  23. I just spoke to Apple Support. The woman was sure that I only need an iPhone 5 or above to use Apple Pay with Discover. I’ve only seen people mention that iPhone 6 or above is needed. Can someone chime in on who’s correct?

  24. I just got some bad news. Keep in mind I DID NOT ask if gift cards are excluded. He simply stated the terms for me when I asked him something else. Here is what he wrote.: “With this promotion, you can enjoy the convenience of Apple Pay and earn an extra 10% Cashback Bonus on up to $10,000 of in-store purchases when you use your Discover card with Apple Pay now through 12/31/15. Excludes gift card purchases.” He also said that an iPhone 6 or above is required which is what I thought.

      • Are you sure that the store doesn’t transmit information about the purchase? I figured they didn’t either but it’s still not good when it’s specifically excluded in the terms.

        • Been trying to do some research and it looks like the answer is no. But I guess the only way to know for sure is to attempt to buy a gift card and see what happens.

    • Its common for gift cards to be excluded in the terms of promotions like these, but it is extremely uncommon for those terms to be enforced. We’ll know for sure once some readers have their statements close (after they’ve bought gift cards with Apple Pay). Mine doesn’t close until early October

      • My Discover IT statement apparently will close on the 26th of the month, so I’ll try to buy a few cards and see what happens and report back here.

    • I came here to say this as well. I did not ask about it but the support rep gave me the same lingo – “excludes gift cards”.

      Best to wait and see then

      • this is a big one right here but I have yet to have any issues when buying any vanilla gift card. All of your statements should show in store merchant purchases, and will not show what exactly you bought. And low and behold discover cannot ask you what you bought or have you provide a valid receipt as that is your right not theres. I have had two postings using apple pay on vgc at walgreens and the cashback works as intended.

        • Are you saying you received your statement already and you received 11% on the gc? Also, how do you know Discover isn’t allowed to ask us what we purchased?

  25. If you just got the discover it card in the mail can you request a different statement closing date? Like say, tomorrow or very soon, so you can see what happened with your Apple Pay purchases? If so, what’s the process and what do you say on the phone?

  26. Just tested from Wallgreen, can not use apple pay to purchase the wallgreen balance financial card with Apple Pay with Discover.
    Location: Chicago

  27. In NJ, many stores listed on the Apple site do not accept Apple Pay. Sports Authority, American Eagle, Macy’s DO NOT @ this time. The good news if we get the 10% bonus, Walgreen’s DOES accept and I did buy a $500 Vanilla Visa. The only other where I tried was Coca Cola vending which does accept. I hear that Shoprite also accepts Apple Pay and will try this weekend.

  28. Here in MI I plan to get the 22% off on family purchases and gas exclusively at Meijer which accepts apple pay. Combination of groceries, gas, household items, and holiday shopping should easily eclipse the $10,000.

    No GC necessary.

  29. You can purchase the “payanywhere” reader @ the Apple store for $39.95. The 1st $5K of transactions are free. Buy two for $79.90 which gives you $10K free transactions. Do you see where I’m going w/ this? I wonder….any thoughts?

  30. is there anyway to combine the portals with the apple pay bonus?

    For example, discover deals gives 5% for purchases made thru their portal at the apple store. (doubled to 10%). Then they have the 10% (doubled to 20%) bonus if purchased in apple store using apple pay. Anyway to combine these?


    • The only way I can think of is to buy Apple gift cards at the Apple store or anywhere else that takes Apple pay and sells Apple gift cards (and hopefully get 20%, pending the results of the “gift cards excluded” issue), then shop through the portal and buy items with your gift cards. Note that iTunes gift cards are NOT the same as Apple store gift cards. They’re much more limited.

  31. Looked through and did not see this question. What about department stores which have the 5% quarterly bonus (10% with double cash). Would it be 10% + 20% + 2% (regular purchase percent) = 32% or am I dreaming? I don’t know if there is a bonus on top of a bonus on top of a bonus. 🙂 Do you know the answer? If so, I’m all about Macy’s.

    • Yes, you might be correct…if you have the double cashback promo, the 5% category would eventually be 10% plus the ApplePay 10% doubled, but what stores in that category have ApplePay? Is Macy’s one of them?

      • On the website it says Macy’s takes Apple Pay. I’m all about meijer like the other reader, especially considering the Meijer gas station, but do the category and the Apple Pay bonuses stack? Don’t know, just guessing. How can we be sure?

        • Sweet!!! My guess is yes, they do, and I think they DO, but we won’t know for sure until your statement comes.

        • I tried Apple Pay @ Macy’s Ocean County Mall in NJ yesterday. It did not work. I called another Macy’s in Monmouth Mall and they said they accept Apple Pay. Will try that store next week. Depends on the store.

        • Did a quick search of bonus categories, and it says purchases made via near field communication or virtual wallets “may not be eligible.” I haven’t actually made my Macy’s purchase, since I wasn’t sure how good of a deal I was getting. I will wait to see others’ results, I guess.

  32. If my friend has an iphone 6; can i add my Discover card to his phone; buy gift cards then delete my card from his phone and still get the Discover 10% bonus (plus year end doubling) ?

    Do I have to setup my friend’s phone with my thumbprint to work?

    I will carry my physical card and DL to the store. ANything else I should be worried about?

  33. CVS and RiteAid have contact less terminals, but disabled them because they are members of CurrentC (formerly MCX) and didn’t want to pay the Apple Pay fees. This is despite CVS being one of the first contactless payment retailers back in the mid-90’s.

    • It is not about “ApplePay Fees”, it is about interchange that banks earn on card transactions – including ApplePay – more generally. The CurrentC app was their attempt to switch to an ACH routing transaction based system, which is a flat (much lower) fee than the interchange the merchant pays for accepting cards.

      It is failing miserably.

      Visa and Mastercard have both agreed to waive the interchange cut they had originally planned to take on ApplePay transactions (which would have been paid by the issuing bank, not the merchant) for at least the first year… though Visa has announced it will be permanent, Mastercard is expected to follow soon.

  34. I tried this at Rite Aid and Walgreens in CA
    I did not get the message on my iphone saying GC’s are excluded
    My statement closes tomorrow

    How will I know that I have been awarded 10 miles/$ for using Apple Pay?

    • That is unknown. However, someone stated earlier that any purchases made within 5 days of the closing would not have the bonus posted until the NEXT statement. There may be an extra line for the ApplePay bonus but I’m not sure anyone knows. Keep us updated. My statement closes on Saturday.

  35. Hi, which stores are you buying Vanilla Reload cards at? Office Depot and Walgreens have always hassled me about it in the past so I stopped doing it.

  36. Still not seeing any Apple Pay/Discover cashback on ANY of my Apple Pay purchases on my Discover statement. Any clue whats going on?

  37. -does anyone have a link to any discover webpage or a screen shot that actually shows “10%” please?
    -when is the 10% cash back supposed to post? each statement or in january, 2016?

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