If you’re not a fan of point-based systems, cash back cards can be the way to go, and if you spend a lot of time on road trips, the Discover Open Road Card may be something you want to consider. For years consumers have shied away from Discover along with her exclusive cousin American Express because far too many merchants did not accept them, however, these days about 90 percent of sellers accept Discover, and they are catching back up in the credit world.
What does the Discover Open Road Card have to offer?
I’ll admit, the Discover Open Road Card cash back package is a bit complex. For the first $250 spent at restaurants or on gas, you’ll receive two percent back. On other purchases, you’ll receive .25 percent on the first $3,000 spent, and then one percent thereafter. Then each period Discover offers another category that you can earn a bonus percentage cash back within. For example, they may offer an addition five percent for online purchases. (This was an actual offer from December of 2013. You do have to sign up on your account page for each new offer). To further complicate things, if you shop from the Discover market place, ShopDiscover, many vendors offer a different bonus as well, but you have to access their site via the market place to receive it. This discount varies and may be anywhere from .5 to 20 percent. Your cash back can be received as a statement credit, used for purchases such as Amazon, or to buy gift cards and merchandise. On the gift card note, you’ll also increase your return, many card redemptions are for slightly more than the cash back required to purchase them. You may get a $45 card for $40 dollars of your cash back for example.
I think that it takes a rather lengthy paragraph to explain just the cash back terms of the Discover Open Road Card is a bit excessive. The category discrimination is also a pain, as you only receive the bonus if the merchant’s purchase code is correct. For instance, if you buy gas, but that store also does auto repair and their billing is coded as auto repair rather than gas, you don’t get your bonus even though you bought within the proper category. Discover also makes you work for your bonus. In the above example of an addition five percent on online purchases, if you failed to log in and select that offer you would not receive it. Likewise, if you want to gain the bonus via ShopDiscover, you can’t just log into the webpage and shop, you have to navigate to it through Discover’s webpage every time you access the site for a purchase. If you keep up with the sign-ups, and shop online through ShopDiscover, you can eventually work up a fairly nice return, but there’s a lot of ifs in that statement. Some may feel that is too many to make the card worthwhile being the regular old all-category return is abysmal, you’d earn one quarter for every $100 you spent.
Finally, many customers complain about not being able to see how their cash back was computed. You can’t open your Discover Open Road Card statement and see how much you received cash back on each purchase, you simply know how much you earned each statement. (Rewards are credited each statement period and not in real time.) This seems silly, because the Discover site is full of neat little tools for their card holders. You can analyze your spending five ways, but you can’t see something as simple as how much cash back your earned on what—something even eBay has mastered with their eBay bucks system.
Other than their cash back program, the Discover Open Road Card doesn’t offer much extra, though they have committed to an all-American help staff, meaning when you call, you’ll get someone in this country, which is nice I suppose. Discover is also often ranked in the top three for credit card company service programs. When you do have a question, it’s easy to have it answered and not a nightmare of bad hold music, dropped calls and thick accents. It’s also a nice feeling to support our economy by keeping jobs on our soil.
What does the Discover Open Road credit card cost you?
The Discover Open Road Card has no annual fee, and as of December 2013, offers zero percent interest for the first 14 months (10.99 to 22.99 percent after that). This rate does apply to balance transfers, which come with the standard three percent fee. Cash advances require a five percent fee with a 24.99 percent APR. Late fees and returned payment fees are $35. While complicated, the rewards system does offer a decent return when you consider the cost of keeping the card, especially for a no-annual-fee credit card.
Who would benefit from a Discover Open Road Card?
The Discover Open Road Card is marketed, obviously, at those who travel often by car, however, being that respectful two percent back is capped at $5 (two percent of $250) a month, I would not say this is the most amazing travel card out there. It does, however, offer decent rewards with very little investment. The Discover Open Road card is also relatively easy to qualify for and in my experience and Discover starts new members with low limits before stepping it up after they have proven they can pay on time. All of the above makes it a pretty good card for beginners to the credit world, such as college students. They earn a bit extra on their purchases, don’t spend a great deal of money on fees, and hopefully gain some positive marks on their credit report.
For serious road trippers though? The Discover Open Road Card may have been acceptable before 2010, when it offered five percent cash back, but not anymore. I’d recommend searching out a card with more substantial rewards, a simpler system, and more perks for travelers. The Open Road Discover card doesn’t even boost roadside assistance or rental car discounts.