Summary of the Discover Miles Card

Last Reviewed: 12/06/2010

The Discover Miles card is the lightweight brethren of the invincible Discover Escape card. As with the Escape card, GetDebit classifies the Discover Miles card as a restricted cash-back card, because the miles earned on Discover Miles can be applied against nearly any form of travel (airline, hotel, auto rentals, cruises, travel packages) in the form of a statement credit post-purchase. Thus, as long as you get out of your house once in a while, the Miles by Discover card will perform much like a cash back credit card.

While the Discover Miles card doesn’t have an annual fee (whereas Escape does), alas the Discover Miles card is ultimately a much weaker performer. Whereas the Discover Escape card offers the opportunity to earn 2 miles on every purchase, the Discover Miles card only gives you 2 miles per dollar spent on travel and restaurant purchases, with restrictive earnings caps in place which severely limit the upside even in these 2 categories. At the end of the day, the Discover Miles card performs at nearly the same level as a typical 1% cash back card, with just a slight edge from a sign-up bonus and limited (capped) extra mileage bonuses in several categories.

If you are interested in a Discover Card, GetDebit would recommend you start with our review of the Discover Escape Card. You could also check out our assessments of the Discover Motiva and Discover More credit cards, though Escape is the Mack Daddy.

Summary of the Discover Miles Card: Rewards and Fees
Earning rewards
  • 1 mile per dollar spent on all purchases except restaurants and travel, which earn at a higher rate.
  • 2 miles per dollar spent on restaurants and travel (includes air, auto rental, hotel, cruises, tour operators, and vacation packages purchased through travel agents, including online purchases).
Rewards caps
  • Earn 2 miles per dollar spent on travel and restaurant purchases up to a combined spend of $3,000 per year, after which cardholders earn only 1 mile per dollar spent on these categories.
Sign up bonus
  • Earn 1,000 miles during each month that you make at least 1 purchase, for the first 12 months post card-activation. Maximum of 12,000 bonus miles.
Redeeming rewards
  • Redeem miles for statement credits against travel expenditures (travel includes: air, hotel, auto rental, cruises, travel packages).
  • You can also redeem for cash back or gift cards, but at typically less favorable rates.
Miles exchange rate
  • Exchange 10,000 miles for a $100 statement credit against travel purchases.
Rewards expiration
  • Miles do not expire but if your account is closed or inactive for 18 months you forfeit miles.
Annual fee
  • None
Foreign transaction fee
  • None

Earning Miles from the Discover Miles Card

Cardholders earn 1 mile for every dollar of spend except spend at restaurants and travel purchases, where cardholders earn 2 miles per dollar of spend. However, this double miles earnings power is capped annually at a combined $3,000 of spend within the travel and restaurant categories.

With this rather restrictive cap in place, the 2% mileage bonus is worth a maximum of $30 extra per year in rewards. The math is simple: at an earnings rate of only 1 mile per dollar of spend, you would have earned 3,000 miles on your first $3,000 of spend (before hitting the spending cap). But since you are earning 2 miles per dollar of spend, you earn 6,000 miles. The difference is an incremental 3,000 miles, valued at $0.01 per mile, which gives you an extra $30 per year. I’m sure you will agree, this is nothing to write home about.

Callout: Sign-Up Bonus

You can earn an extra 1,000 miles per month for the first 12 months you use the card, provided you make at least 1 purchase each month.

Redeeming Miles with Miles by Discover

While miles can be redeemed, at suboptimal rates, for cash back or gift cards, the ideal redemption method is to redeem your miles for statement credits, which can be applied to offset any travel-related purchases made. Travel is defined quite broadly as any purchases of airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, cruises, or travel packages. The conversion rate for miles when used as statement credits is $0.01 per mile.

Discover Miles Fees

There’s no annual fee or foreign transaction fee on this card.

GetDebit’s Conclusions About the Discover Miles Card

There are only 2 reasons that the editors at GetDebit can conjure up to explain why you might get the Discover Miles card. The first is simply if you are in the business of racking up sign-up bonuses, in which case the extra 12,000 miles, earned over the course of a year, isn’t so bad (although the Discover Escape doubles that over a 2-year period). The second reason is simply if you want a Discover Card, and have been turned down for the Discover Escape Card or the Discover More Card. If you can think of another good reason, let us know and we’ll add it to the list.

You can apply for the Miles by Discover Credit Card here.

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