Rediscovering Discover Rewards

Among the many options for no-fee cash back credit cards, I believe the Discover It card to be one of the better ones.  Like the Chase Freedom card, the Discover card offers rotating quarterly 5% cash back categories.  And, like American Express cards, the Discover card has special offers in which cardholders can often save quite a bit at various merchants.  These “Discover Extras” often come in the form of automatic statement credits.  And, best of all, having a Discover card gives you access to the ShopDiscover portal which often offers much better rebates than any other online portal.

Discover_card

Another interesting aspect of Discover cash back cards is that the cash back is sometimes worth more than its stated value when redeemed for gift cards.  Discover offers many options for partner gift cards in which the stated value of the gift card is greater than the amount of Discover Cash needed to buy it.  For example, you can use $20 in Discover Cash to buy a $25 Staples gift card.  That’s a 20% discount!

Last summer, I investigated these options in the following posts:

At the time, the only real deals I found were from merchant gift cards.  The terms and conditions of the travel related gift cards seemed to make them almost worthless.  For example, the car rental deals appear to be terrific: $20 in Discover Cash for a $40 Alamo, Enterprise, or National car rental gift card.  That’s a 50% discount!  However, the on screen terms say, for example:

  • One certificate per National rental
  • Not valid with any other offer, discount or promotional rate

If those terms were true, the best you could do is save $20 by using just one certificate and you would have to give up any other discounts you might have used.  As a result, in my earlier post, I argued that there are very few situations where these certificates would really be worth using.

Au contraire

Two things have changed since I wrote the Discover rewards series over the summer.  One change is that Discover has switched out the old Hyatt certificate (which had many restrictions) for a regular Hyatt gift card.  The face value discount is much lower than before, but the new option is a reasonably good way to save 10% on Hyatt stays within the US, Canada, and Caribbean.  The second change was that I learned how wrong I was about car rental certificates.  Several readers let me know that they were able to use multiple certificates at once and apply discount codes on the same reservation.

I tested out the rental car discounts this past weekend.  I used Discover Cash to buy three $40 National car rental certificates for $20 each.  I then found the best deal I could and applied all three certificates to the reservation.  My total bill was reduced by $120.  I had no problem using multiple certificates and no problem combining with a discount code.  Here’s a cut out from my receipt:

NationalCarDiscounts

This was pretty amazing since it meant that I got $120 in value from $60 in Discover Cash!  It’s also worth noting that even though the certificates say that you must have them with you at the time of rental, National never asked to see them.

UPDATE 10/26/2015: You can now only use 1 certificate per rental.

Investigations to come

Now that I know that some of the terms & conditions of Discover’s partner gift cards are completely wrong, I plan to take another look at what’s available.  Are all of the car rental gift cards as worthwhile as I found the National ones to be?  What is the maximum number of certificates that can be used on one reservation with each car company?  Are the Universal Studios gift cards or the cruise gift cards better values than I previously thought?  Are there any new merchant gift cards worth considering?

Do you have recent experience in redeeming Discover Cash for partner gift cards?  What has your experience been?  Have you managed to get outsized value from your cash back?  Please comment below.

Last updated on October 26th, 2015

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.

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snuggliestbear
Guest
snuggliestbear

I think you would have a harder time applying the gift cards to enterprise – according to the terms you are supposed to use a special rate code DISCBB and they have you enter the certificate number during the reservation process (only 1 line for this). I have been asked to see it sometimes so maybe showing them more than 1 certificate would work, but I’m not so sure.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Thanks for that input. I’ll have to see. It might be possible to do more than one by calling in the reservation. I did something similar once with Budget

MichaelP
Guest
MichaelP

20% off giftcards at Sears!

Redeem $80 cash back for $100 Landsend giftcard and use it at Sears to buy other giftcards(Visa, Staples, Amazon, etc)

Chuck
Guest
Chuck

Along the same lines, the Budget certificates you can get from Citi Preferred Thank you points allows you to stack the 25.00 off coupons on top of any discounts you already have applied to the reservation. And you can use multiple certificates up to the value of the rental – not including taxes and fees.
On the other hand, the Alamo certificates from Thank you points does not allow any discounts to be stacked with the use of the certificate though you can use multiple certificates in similar fashion to Budget.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Thanks Chuck! Are you able to apply multiple Budget and Alamo certificates online (as I did with National) or do you have to call in to get that done?

wingtipper
Guest

We cruise with Royal Caribbean every two years. I asked if the certificate could be used for on board credit and was told that it can not. I may take a shot at it anyway-our trip is in a week. If anyone else had success with a RCCL credit, I’d love to hear it.

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

I have never tried any of this complicated stuff with my discover cash back, just bought discounted gift cards. I hope this will go in the FM laboratory, because this is really useful information!

FrequentMiler
Guest

Good idea!

Jamie
Guest
Jamie

On a related note, discover now provides your real FICO score to you. There’s a link right on the account home page. Cool.

Roger
Guest
Roger

I used a Discover coupon for an Enterprise car rental last November. I had to call in and a CS said to bring it to the counter to have it applied. They had a Holiday special going on and gave me the special rate and the coupon.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Thanks for that info. Sounds like its not as well automated as with National

Marshall
Guest
Marshall

Also, get 50% off on gift certificates to the various cruise lines. Appears can only use for original purchase of cruise & not as on board credit. Still, 50% discount is nice.

VRHunter
Guest
VRHunter

Being new to the Discover card, and looking at this with fresh eyes since Doctor of Credit’s post today about underrated credit cards, I got excited by the 50% off cruise idea. But in digging a bit deeper I see the T&Cs say one e-certificate per room and they even restrict the cabin categories – like you point out in a related post about Universal redemptions. That’s not a gift certificate! That’s a highly restrictive coupon. Like you said: What a joke.

Jo
Guest
Jo

Speaking of partner gift cards with Discover, right now Discover is running an offer wherein if a customer spends $2K/mo from Feb 1-Sept 30, a $300.00 cashback bonus gets credited. So, come Oct., that extra $300.00 cashback will become very useful given the redemptive qualities of the partner gift cards. (Dunno if it’s a targeted offer….registration was required.)

FrequentMiler
Guest

I’m pretty sure that’s a targeted offer. I didn’t get it.

FreeTravelGuys
Guest

+1 on the $300 cash back offer. It’s a targeted offer. I didn’t get it. I do show on my Discover portal that I can refer others up to 10 referrals and when the person makes the first purchase within 3 months they get $50 cash back and so does the person who refers them. Seems to be standard for everyone.

John
Guest
John

I was targeted for $250 for spending $1500/mo from March – July. I like my offer more!

Nate
Guest
Nate

@Jo – Definitely targeted offer, which is unfortunate.
.
I’ve got into a habit of just purchasing 20% off Staples GC, since they come in low denominations and can be converted to many other GC including Visa, less hassle since I’m there regardless.

Trevor
Guest
Trevor

I have been using the National Car Rental certs without a problem on a very good corp rate ($33.50/day out of SFO) for the last 6 months+. I have never been asked for the voucher (always have it ready on my phone just in case). I hadn’t attempted to use more than one on a rental, since I rent once a week anyways.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Good to know, thanks!

Lynda B
Guest
Lynda B

where do you find this National Car Rental certificates?

I just got a Discover it card; I only saw something for enterprise… Maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Log in. Go to CashBack Bonus… Partner gift cards

cyclops
Guest
cyclops

So can I make a car reservation through Costco travels and then play at the pick-up counter or at return with these gift cards?

FrequentMiler
Guest

I don’t know about that

blanca
Guest
blanca

I’ve used the national rental discover rewards in the past…$20 gets you $40 off. My problem was that I rent almost exclusively for three day weekends, and there are always 1 free weekend day coupons with a three day rental available from national. The free weekend day coupon was not combinable with the $40 off at that time. So, for example, on a $25 daily rate, I would only net an extra $15 off using the $40 discover reward vs just using a free national coupon. Does anyone know if they are now combinable? What I ended up doing with the reward was to use it on a one day rental which generally no coupons apply to (other than a totally free day).

FrequentMiler
Guest

Interesting. I’ll have to try that and let you know

John
Guest
John

I guess there’s no reason why I shouldn’t call discover to see if they’ll change my More account to It? “It” seems like a better card all around.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Or, you can apply new and get the $150 signup bonus (see my Best Offers page)

blanca
Guest
blanca

Ok, data point here…I have the regular discover card (is it called “More”?). Anyway, I applied for the “It” card, and they snail mailed me and told me to convert my old regular discover. Boo…I wanted the bonus. I never called them, they would just talk to me for 25 minutes about how and why I could use my card more. Maybe they were still going to give me the bonus, I don’t know.

John
Guest
John

Good call. I haven’t done any applications in a while. Time to plan a round (need a new AMEX to replace the Business rewards gold I just cancelled).

Dave
Guest
Dave

Anyone with data points for enterprise certificates? will it work together with a contract ID?

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

Any thought of booking an Enterprise car rental using Shop Discover for 5% cash back and then applying the Costco discount code and then finally topping it off with a $20 for $40 gift certificate. Or is this just wishful thinking on my part.

FrequentMiler
Guest

Seems worth a try to me!

trackback

[…] And, Discover Cash can sometimes be used for better than 1 cent per penny value (see “Rediscovering Discover Rewards” and “Maximizing Discover rewards: real value from merchant gift cards”).  I’ve […]

gil949
Guest
gil949

Thank you FM! I used my Entertainment Book 10% off code and 3x Discover $20=$40 vouchers for National Car Rental on my Kauai rental coming up. This is a fantastic use of my Discover points.

NI
Guest
NI

Has anyone been able to use more than one Alamo certificate on a reservation?

trackback

[…] and uPromise.  ShopDiscover cash back is sometimes worth much more than its stated value (see  “Rediscovering Discover Rewards”).  And, I’ve had great success in always getting cash back via the uPromise portal and […]