Maximizing Discover’s Apple Pay promo

Please note: Discover’s ApplePay promotion ended on December 31, 2015 and is no longer in effect. The facts mentioned below are for information purposes only.

Have a Discover card? Have Apple Pay? Things just got quite lucrative for you.

While Discover’s credit cards were not originally part of Apple Pay when it first launched, they’ll be joining on Sept. 16, 2015. To celebrate, the issuer is granting extra rewards for purchases made via Apple Pay — an extra 10 percent for its cash-back cards and 10 extra miles per dollar for its travel card, Discover it Miles.

These bonuses are available on in-store purchases of up to $10,000 made between Sept. 16 and the end of the year, according to the press release.

Maximizing the promo

Making the most out of this promotion requires layering it with other promotions Discover is running. The Discover it Miles doubles the rewards earned in the first year if you’ve enrolled in the double-miles offer, and (for a limited time), the cash-back cards are doing the same for new cardholders only.

A Discover spokesperson has confirmed that the Apple Pay bonus rewards you earn will also be doubled, if you’re eligible. That’s an extra 20 percent back on Apple Pay purchases during the promotional period. That 20 percent figure goes for both the cash-back cards and the Miles card (as your miles are worth 1 cent each).
So how does that translate into dollars and cents?

Let’s say you manage to maximize the Apple Pay promo for all it’s worth and spend $10,000 on Apple Pay in-store before the end of the year. You’ll get you $1,000 worth of rewards. If your card is eligible for rewards-doubling at the end of the year, that becomes …

$2,000 worth of rewards.

And don’t forget: Discover’s ‘it’ card has quarterly bonus categories, which earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter. If you manage to max out the ‘it’ card’s Q4 5 percent category, you’ll add $75 to the total above – if your card is eligible for doubling, add $150 for a total of …

$2,150 worth of rewards.

There’s one more thing to account for, and that’s the fact that spending outside the categories gets you 1 percent back with the Discover it card. The remainder of that $10,000 you spent would therefore get you $85 worth of rewards. If you’re eligible for doubling, that’s $170. That brings the grand total to …


The math works out differently, of course, if you’re using the Miles card – or the Discover it chrome card, which earns 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (for up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter).

Too good to be true?

So how can Discover afford to just give away all that money? The promotion is remarkably lucrative, especially when you consider the rewards-maximizers will likely be out in force. Well, there are several limits on the promotion:

  • Gift card purchases may not be eligible: Cardholders have reported receiving emails from Discover, informing them that gift card purchases aren’t eligible for the bonus 10 percent.
  • Spending ceiling and time limit: To get that almost-too-good-to-be-true figure above ($2,350), you need to spend $10,000 on Apple Pay before the end of the year. Rewards hobbyists aside, Discover probably figures a lot of cardholders won’t reach that amount.
  • NFC symbol

  • Not all retailers take Apple Pay: You can see a list of Apple’s retail partners here. The only stores that accept Apple Pay are those that accept contactless NFC (look for the symbol to the right when you’re at the registers). Contactless NFC requires equipment and software upgrades that many stores haven’t yet gotten around to. So, while Apple estimates more than 1 million stores accept Apple Pay, the places you shop (and where you might make your biggest purchases) may not.
  • You need the right phone: Apple Pay functions only on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. You can make it work with the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c, but you need to pair those phones with the Apple Watch. So, it’s not like everyone walking around with a Discover card can take advantage of the promo anyway.
  • Only some cardholders are eligible for doubling after the first year: All Discover it Miles card holders can enroll in the doubling program, but only new ‘it’ and ‘it chrome’ cardholders are eligible for double rewards.

While the potential payouts are huge, the subgroup of those with the right phone, who are shopping at retailers that take Apple Pay, who are eligible for rewards-doubling at the end of the first year, and who can spend large amounts of money in a few months is small enough to be manageable for Discover. So, although this promo is exciting and is likely to garner headlines, not all cardholders are likely to achieve the highest possible payout. Meanwhile, Discover and Apple Pay both benefit from increased exposure – and the card applications and phone purchases that come with it.

Even if you don’t get the grandest of payoffs, with a little effort, you can still get a generous one. Just $1,000 in Apple Pay spending will get you $200 cash back (if you’re eligible for doubling), which is still loftier than most credit-card sign-up bonuses for similar cards

For additional takes on the Apple Pay-Discover promo (and advice on maximizing it), check out our forum thread.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Would love to see how people are going to use/maximize this great promo, stores, purchases etc