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.

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