Discover’s Deal of the Year results are in. The gift card rule IS being enforced.

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.

Results are in: no gift cards

I awoke this morning to a flood of emails, tweets, and comments from blog readers who had received emails from Discover.  It turned out that I got them too.  The emails came in two forms.  One said that 10% would be awarded as a one time courtesy despite the purchase of a gift card. The others said “no gift cards allowed”.

Version 1:



Access My Account

Account number ending in XXXX

Important info about extra rewards with Apple Pay

Future gift card purchases will not earn extra rewards

Dear Frequent Miler,

We’re writing to let you know that your gift card purchase made with Apple Pay at Rite Aid Store – 1234 for $505.95  on September 17, 2015 will be rewarded 10% Cashback Bonus® as a one-time courtesy. Gift card purchases are not currently included in this promotion, and any future gift card purchases will not qualify.

As a reminder, now through December 31, 2015, you’ll get an extra 10% Cashback Bonus® on up to $10,000 in purchases when you shop in stores and use your Discover card with Apple Pay, excluding gift card purchases.


Discover Card Customer Service

Version 2:



Access My Account

Account number ending in XXXX

Important info about extra rewards with Apple Pay

Gift card purchases will not earn extra rewards

Dear Frequent Miler,

We’re writing to let you know that your Apple Pay purchase on September 18, 2015 for $505.95 at Walgreens #5678 included a gift card. The gift card portion of your purchase does not qualify for the 10%Cashback Bonus®  promotion.

As a reminder, now through December 31, 2015, you’ll earn an extra 10% Cashback Bonus® on up to $10,000 in purchases when you shop in stores and use your Discover card with Apple Pay, excluding gift card purchases.

If you disagree with our finding and contend that your purchase did not include a gift card or a portion of your purchase qualifies per the terms of the promotion, let us know with supporting documentation in the next 21 days. Documentation can include store receipts or invoices, but cannot include your Discover card statement. You can send documentation via email:


Scan and then e-mail to


Discover Card Customer Service

Stores listed

My emails from Discover included purchases from Walgreens and Rite Aid.  Others have reported Staples as well.  I’m curious… Did you receive emails about gift card purchases from any other stores?

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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.

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  1. Winn Dixie purchase of 550.10 on Sept 20… Email states ” gift card portion of your purchase does not qualify”

  2. I received the same email for a purchase at a local grocery store that included a gift card.
    “We’re writing to let you know that your Apple Pay purchase on September 19, 2015 for $507.02 at Shaw’s included a gift card. The gift card portion of your purchase does not qualify for the 10% Cashback Bonus® promotion.”

  3. What magic words do I use to convince Discover to give me a “one-time courtesy” on my first purchase? Does the date of the purchase matter? What date did Discover add the no-gift-cards exclusion? Thanks.

  4. Same here. Multiple purchases 9/17 qualify as “a one-time courtesy” (even though there were several). Bought $2500 that first day, should’ve maxed out the full $10k. The thing I’m shocked by is that they were able to parse out gift cards from other items I purchased at the same time. This is not a good precedent

  5. According to DoC and others on FT, Twitter, etc., it seems as if Discover is just flagging high value purchases. For example, some people bought items at Staples for re-selling with no GCs on the receipt (ipads, etc.) and still got the e-mail. This seems as if it’s going to be a customer service nightmare for Discover.

  6. @Chuck reading over the threads on Reddit, SD and other blogs I think (as I suspected) they are guessing/speculating. Placing the burden of proof on the consumer.

    • @eddy – good point. The dollar figures in the emails were total purchase amounts, not just gift cards

  7. Anyone have luck with Whole Paycheck or Sprouts GCs? Figured I could go that option now that this has been squashed.

    • I bought some Sprouts GCs two days ago when they had them for 10% off. I bought 5 so I’ll son find out if Discover has a “pain threshold” of amounts they’ll let through without questioning.

  8. My plan will be buyying apple stuff that I wanted to buy anyhow. (first 3000)

    And line off attack is buy an expensive goods with an gift recipe. Then return with the gift recipe…. Would work for target, bestbuy, apple , walmart.
    Not an nice Option but still doable.

  9. Got the emails for Duane Reade, Walgreens, and Shoprite. The shoprite orders all included my regular grocery shopping and like others said, only listed the total amount. I did receive the “one time courtesy” otherwise would have every right to complain about the grocery portion of the bill. A disappointment for sure but part of the game!

  10. Anyone know if this is a generic email they’re sending everyone, or just those who purchased GCs. I bought just one $50 GC at Office Depot to test out, but I haven’t received a single email regarding the 10%. I’m a current cardholder, but I was able to register for the double cash back promo.

  11. I actually bought items for a big party at Winn Dixie and the total charge was just below $1k. But I got the one-time courtesy email as well. It appears that they assumed the purchase was gift cards, but I did not purchase any gift card.

  12. So I made two GC purchases on 9/17/15 – the first day of the promo IIRC. According to the email I received, they’re honoring them both.

    So it seems that they’re honoring purchases made before the GC exclusion was added to the T&C of the promo. In this case, I have to say it’s fair since it was just two or three days later the GC exclusion was added.

    At least it confirms that they can read the purchase details which was an outlying question that has been the subject of a lot of discussion.

    • Many of us still don’t believe they can read/view the purchase details – otherwise there wouldnt be multiple reports of legit purchases still flagged (see Orens Money’s report)

      It’s very likely all speculation – flagging large purchases, purchases in multiples of 504.95, guess work.

      • I think it’s obvious from the emails that they CANNOT view the details. They are putting the burden of proof on the consumer for large purchases which is what I predicted would happen.

  13. Wonder if they will even bother looking at DisneyStore purchases. Hoping to be able to save 10% there and they only sell gift cards to themselves so maybe. If anyone got an email from DisneyStore, I’d love to hear if they are going to apply the exclusion there.

    • Mary – if you are planning a Disney World trip – you can buy WDW tickets at the Disney Store – that is what I am planning to do. Those will be legitimate purchases. I am guessing the purchase will get flagged but for being too big – but I will keep the receipt. Just have to say that if they are going simply by purchase price – they will have a big problem on their hands by disgruntled people making allowable purchases. I am all for the disallowing of GC – but Discover should not just guess.

  14. How can you even tell with Discover if an individual purchase has been credited cashback? I’m new to Discover (drawn in by the 2x bonus) and last month I bought a bunch of gift cards online from Sears. I do not seem to have received the cashback for this. Is their a way to check — and complain?

    • You will need to wait for your statement to be generated. It usually has the details. You wont know for sure until you get the statement. And if they are Apple Pay charges, you might have to wait for longer. We are just receiving reports of cashback being received for purchases made in September.

      In your case, if they exclude your GC purchase, then you wont see any cash back for those (likely)

  15. Interesting to see how folks are trying to hate on MS absent L3. But for every measure there is an effective countermeasure. Just keep countermeasure conversations off the public blogs.

  16. It sounds like they’re guessing. Those of you with no gift cards in your purchase should be writing the Discover CEO, CFPB and consumer advocates.

    Those of you with prepaids and no courtesy should send them in and argue they’re not gift cards. If they single out Visa and Mastercards is that monopolistic activity a regulator would be interested in?

    At issue is the privacy of your purchases in my opinion. I don’t want a credit card company looking into my itemized purchase history. They should recognize this limitation of their offer and adjust or even not issue the offer. Just don’t cross that line of invading my privacy.

    That’s the nightmare for them. Discover gets tagged with a Big Brother label and the whole promotion backfires. Idiots.

    For my part, no email at all but my Walgreens purchases have not exceeded $505 and I’ve only done two to date. Variable application of promotion rules just angers folks.

  17. I too received an email from Discover Card Customer Service today, in part, “one time courtesy” re gift card purchase with Apple Pay at Staples on September 17, 2015 I will receive 10% cashback bonus… any future gift card purchases will not qualify.

  18. Got 2 one time allowments out of 4 purchases made in the two days the intro was first introduced. Kinda of annoying because they didnt exclude gift cards till like four days after the promo.

  19. Yeah so what should we all be buying now that that’s not gonna work? Anyone got any thoughts on what the hot Christmas gifts are gonna be? I might go buy Furbies.

  20. Had a feeling this was coming. That’s why I didn’t go out of my way to get apple pay. Now waiting for the other shoe to drop. They still have a chance to pull the plug on the matching 10% at the end of the year for all those who got the double cash back deal and bought gift cards during the year long promo.

    • Had a feeling this was coming? I think everyone who took the chance knew about the risk, as the risk of denial was widely noted by everyone. Sounds like you were just too scared to play the game.

    • They can close accounts for abuse. However, they can’t take back the double cash promo because people bought gc. GC are NOT excluded from Apple Pay. They are excluded from earning the 10% bonus. That is not the same thing.

    • I think they’re working through by date. I only got emails for the first 2 purchases, had a bunch more later that i haven’t received emails for but I expect I will.

  21. I’ve been saying since 9/15 on FT that a source said that Discover doesn’t have L3 data (not even L2). These emails prove Discover is just flagging purchases based on algorithms and doesn’t have actual transaction data other than the total purchase price.

  22. So far only 10% credit for two small McDonald’s purchases in September, meaning previous statement.

    The GC purchase at Walgreens ($475 + fee) on 9/22 that they said they said they would give me 10% back on as a one time courtesy in fact did NOT show up on my 11/5 statement. So maybe still pending or they’re not even paying out on those. This is going to be hard to keep track of…

    No credit for Walgreens $65 non-GC purchase either. Man this is going to be a pain going through this when we don’t know when the credits will post.

    • Reward will post after 2 cycles.your 9/22 purchase is included in ur 10/5 bill,so u will see the xtra cashback on ur 12/5 bill

  23. How do you find out which transaction qualifies for cash back with Discover card? I am not able to find any breakdown on which purchases earned what on Discover website.

  24. I am interested in getting a newer iPad.

    Can I buy refurbished iPad with ApplePay at Apple, or does it have to accept Discover card?
    Will it come with the same protections as a Credit Card purchase?


    • iPads don’t work for this deal because they don’t have nfc capability but instead use the Apple Pay mobile app to complete purchases. Rules state it must be in-store and that means via nfc chip like what a newer iPhone has.

      • Which was totally not his question (using an iPad to pay for something).

        I don’t think you can buy refurbished at a physical Apple store which is apparently what you have to do to get the 10% bonus. (In-app Apple Pay is not supposed to count.)

  25. Everyone just needs to inundate Discover with phone calls asking all these questions and the status of their Apple Pay credits. Let them just go crazy having to check on each person’s accounts. I think there are still lots of other options. If Apple truly knew your items purchased they wouldn’t be asking for receipts.

    • Your comment must surely be sarcastic since we all know calling is the number one thing ms’rs never should do. In fact, people calling them at the beginning of this promotion asking about gcs is what lead to their decision to change the terms. Newbie ms’rs killed this by their lack of discretion by breaking rule number one. Also, the constant discussion openly in public forums and blogs brought the attention of the company even more. Can’t fix stupid… more future deals will continue to die fast due to standard ms rules being broken by the ignorant and unwise.

  26. I spoke to them regarding the receipt problem.they said the merchant is the one handing out cashback bonus,and they can send letter asking the merchant 4 receipts .Most importantly,discover does not have access to lv3 data,and so it appear apple is the one flag the transaction,as they said apple also pay out the cashback bonus.i already maxed out the limit by paying my phone bill and every one i know lol

  27. Well, with the confirmation that the GC exception rule is indeed being enforced, this deal went from being the “Deal of the Year” to the “Biggest Flop of the Year”. I won’t be getting anywhere near the cash back that I was hopping for. 🙁

  28. Has anyone tried this at a grocery store with regular spend items? How are they going to detect if I buy $100 in groceries and $1000 in gift cards?

    • I have routinely been picking up $50 in groceries and $50 in random merchant gift cards and have not received any e-mail from them.

      I won’t hit $10K this way, but I will bump up my total.

        • First one was 9/17 and was for $75 all gift cards. I got no notice whatsoever about this as far as I can tell.

        • Did you already receive the 10% on that purchase? I’m thinking maybe they are only going after people who have a large gc purchase (ie $500+). After that they might scrutinize all of the purchases and even notice small gc. Maybe you will get away with it since you had no large purchases.

        • I have not gotten 10% for anything, including purchases made on Sep 21. My statement closes in a week, so we will see. I had a 50/50 type transaction on the 27th, I think.

    • Interesting. On what date was the “no gift card” language added to the terms. If someone applied for the card based on the original terms BEFORE the new language was added, I suppose you could make a case for bait-and-switch. Discover really should be allowing bonus cash back for gift cards for anyone who applied for a new card before the terms changed.

  29. do people still get 1% cash back on every purchase for GC payment though? then it would not hurt much since paypal MC is still <1% activation fee

  30. Does anyone have reports of merchant gift cards being flagged or is this mostly an issue with Visa/MC gift cards? Are merchant gift cards explicitly excluded from promotion as well? Even stores that only sell their own brand of gift card?

    • Yes, I bought merchant GC’s at Staples and not getting CB. They have no idea what you’re buying, they are flagging transactions over a certain amount.

  31. Is Discover maybe checking if you bought a GC based on sales tax? My online transaction history has a “Complete Transaction details” tab, that I can pull down and it shows me “Sales Tax Amount”. They could easily write a program to check location, check sales tax, then calculate what should have been collected. Has anyone seen this discussed anywhere yet?

    • For some states food isn’t subject to sales tax, and you can buy gift cards at grocery stores that accept AP, so they would have no way of knowing between GC’s or food.

  32. Nothing new here, but it appears that I DID received the extra 10% on my REGULAR purchases from 9/10-9/15. No gift cards in this batch. however, the entire NEXT month had no purchases, so I still have NOT received a statement, so it’s making it hard to see what the rewards are. But my quick math seems to add up.

  33. Adding another data point: My statement posted 11/25, and that morning I happened to also get another one of those emails about a gift card transaction that took place on 10/5. The Apple Pay bonus on my statement only included my non-gift-card Apple Pay transactions (i.e., the ones they didn’t email about) up to 10/5 (best that I can tell — the numbers seem to work out). So it seems like they’re slowly working their way through transactions to find what they think are gift card transactions, and only posting the Apply Pay bonus for reviewed transactions. And I do mean slowly — I got 2 emails on 11/13 about 2 gift card transactions I made on 9/29. So it took them like 12 days (11/13-11/25) to review their way through less than a week (9/29-10/5) of transactions. It may be 2016 before they get to reviewing November Apple Pay transactions!

    • Agreed. They’re running way behind. Even if I leave off the cash back off for my two “small” GC purchases, the totals are still NOWHERE near the amount that posted on my November 26th statement.

  34. To date, I have not gotten a penny of 10% cash back. I called them and they said it may take 3 statements! My closing date is the 19th.

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