Discover continues to surprise the market with products that take an innovative angle. The Discover Escape Card doesn’t offer everything, but it does provide some distinct advantages that its competition doesn’t. For particular types of card users – those who travel a great deal – it’s a very good offer. It may also be a good offer for others who can use it for expenses. But it may not be for everybody.
Since it started out as an independent company in 2007, Discover has had its own approach to the credit card business. Discover was created by Sears as the chain credit card, and then sold to Dean Witter who sold it to Morgan Stanley. In 2007, that firm spun it off as an independent publicly traded company. The company grew to a point at which it was able to purchase Diner’s Club from Citigroup for $165 million in 2008.
Discover managed such rapid growth by offering something different. At the start, Discover demanded no annual fee – the Discover Escape Card still only requires a low $60 yearly payment. Then, Discover has been, and still is, liberal with its spending limits and rewards. Acceptance has been an issue – Discover has had to battle with competitors over this, but the card now has 90 percent acceptance in the U.S. Abroad is another matter, and it is difficult to get accurate statistics. Discover’s merchant fees are higher than those of Visa and MasterCard, so acceptance is still an issue outside the U.S.
The number of Discover Cards in circulation is still relatively low compared with its those of its competition. This helps to explain why, for example, in London, not all restaurants and shops accept the card, although a growing number certainly do. In France and Germany, where just about all cards are universally accepted, there is generally no problem. In the Netherlands, where there are always issues for cardholders, we would suggest caution. Readers should do some research about acceptance if they plan on using the card. Incidentally, in China, the card is reportedly accepted in most places.
Some card users have a different take on the acceptance issue. Travelers to the more exotic regions of the world – to Central America, to Eastern Europe, for example – say that they frequent stores that accept Discover Cards, because it is a sign that the merchandise or services sold there is particularly good; acceptance of the Discover Card shows an upscale clientele. This may or may not be true, but certainly Discover Card holders travel and explore more than others.
Benefits of the Discover Escape Card
This is important, because the Discover Escape Card, as its name suggests, is particularly advantageous to those who travel a lot. With the 0 percent starting APR, and very low annual fee of $60, getting started is easy and balance transfers are welcome. Then you make purchases, earn points, and you get 2 percent back on them all if you redeem them for travel. You can purchase travel anywhere – on- or offline – and still get your rewards.
After six months, the APR goes up to a reasonable 10.99 percent, with Standard Variable Purchase APR at 22.99 percent. You also get 25,000 Bonus Miles (1,000 each month you make a purchase in your first 25 months).
And let’s not forget the biggest travel benefit of all: There is no Foreign Transaction Fee. This 3 percent charge on all your purchases when travelling abroad really adds up for those of us who do a lot of travelling. Not having it on the card is not having one big extra worry.
There is another, very considerable perquisite for the Discover Escape Card holder. The card offers primary auto insurance of up to $50,000. This makes quite a difference in renting a car. Usually, credit card coverage only covers secondary insurance, and for quite smaller amounts. You must rely on your own insurance for primary coverage. With the Discover Escape card, you are completely sure of damages without any discussion of deductibles or the nature of the issues. The card also includes Travel Delay insurance of $250 per day and Lost Luggage insurance.
There is some lounge access at some airports. When Discover acquired Diner’s Club, it also acquired the lounges that card had at airports, and most of them are foreign ones. You cannot count on finding one at a major European airport terminal – there is none at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, for example, and that is where most international travelers wind up. Discover does not provide a list. This is a terrific perk when you can get it, it’s just a question of when you can get it.
Like most cards, there is a Concierge service connected with the Discover Escape Card. The Discover Concierge Service is known to be a particularly good one – the quality of these services can vary wildly from card to card and from place to place. Discover’s service is known to go the extra mile, in one case even finding an optician who could fill a special prescription for a traveler in a foreign city. You don’t really think about how valuable this kind of thing can be until you’re in a place where you don’t speak the language and you realize you forgot your favorite mouthwash…
So where’s the hitch? With all its undoubted advantages, the Discover Escape Card sees tough competition from the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card.. Like the Discover Escape Card, the Capital One Card is one of the very few that give a full 2% rewards on all purchases. It also comes with a host of traveler-friendly perquisites like no foreign transaction fee and concierge services. In addition, it provides travel accident insurance, and delay insurance. It does not offer the automobile insurance that the Discover Escape Card has. But the big advantage is, of course, that it is a Visa card, and so is accepted surely almost everywhere in the world.
There are two other cards, the Fidelity American Express, and the Starwood American Express Card, that both offer similar ranges of perquisites and rewards, albeit without quite the extent that the Discover Escape Card does. It is worth exploring all of these to see which best fits your budget and needs.