Discover was once the credit card that you were too embarrassed to take out of your wallet. It was the card that you made all of your secret purchases with so nobody would know that you would actually stoop so low as to use it. Just a few years ago it was the theme of a joke on Family Guy: Peter, the manager of a restaurant, exclaims, “Diamond, Jim over here asked if we accept Discover!”
Gradually, Discover has grown from its joke status into a legit card. It has even started becoming competitive with the likes of MasterCard and Visa.
So how did it change its image?
The Discover card, introduced by Sears as a store card in 1981 and sold to Dean Witter in 1993, began distinguishing itself by offering perks that no other card issuers offered at the time, like cash back and no annual fees. It was also the only card accepted by the U.S. Customs Service to pay customs duty. A Supreme Court decision in 2004 allowed banks that also offered MasterCard or Visa cards to offer Discover cards, and in 2005, Discover acquired the Pulse payment network, allowing it to issue debit cards.
Now, with spring around the corner. Discover is adding a touch of spring fever.
Through June 30, Discover is offering 5% cash back at all home improvement, clothing and department stores. The reward is capped at $400 for the period, and cardholders will get 1% cash back for all additional purchases in these categories. Every quarter, Discover offers 5% cash back in specific retail categories. Cardholders must sign up on the Discover website each quarter to get the additional cash back.
Discover is growing its redemption options for reward points. The company is forging partnerships with brands like Old Navy, Olive Garden and Bed Bath and Beyond. It will also grow its list of items, like digital cameras and tools, that customers can buy outright with points.
Discover is also expanding its online shopping mall, ShopDiscover, where cardholders earn 5%-20% cash back. ShopDiscover has more than 200 stores, including Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears and Groupon. This quarter it plans to add retailers like Expedia, Lowes and Golfsmith.
Don’t bet against Discover. The company is constantly changing its style and strategically embracing the trends.