If you are carrying a Discover card, chances are good that you’ve heard at least once or twice the dreaded “Sorry-we’re not taking Discover” line. While it’s true that Discover is not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard, in the United States, Discover’s cards have a surprisingly high acceptance rate, and international acceptance is on the rise.
Discover credit cards come with many enticing features that draw new customers including no annual fees, cashback bonuses, and low introductory interest rates.
However, once the new cards arrive in the mail, many consumers become disappointed when they find out that Discover Card acceptance isn’t as widespread as rivals MasterCard and Visa.
What Makes it Different?
Like American Express, in most cases, Discover issues its line of credit directly to consumers, while Visa and MasterCard are issued through banks and other entities that promote the cards and manage the billing.
These partnerships help to spread the costs associated with logistics and promotion. According to a spokesperson for Discover, more than 30 Discover cards are co-branded with other partners.
Why Isn’t Discover as Widely Accepted as Visa or Mastercard?
There are a few reasons. For example:
- Discover is a direct-to-consumer issuer, meaning that it doesn’t partner with banks that help promote and distribute its products. There’s about one-seventh the number of Discover cards as Visa cards, so merchants may not have as much of an incentive to accept them.
- Discover sometimes charges merchants more for card acceptance than either Visa or Mastercard.
- Discover hasn’t pushed into international markets as aggressively as its rivals.
On the surface, one of Discover’s perks are attractive to international travelers, but while Discover cardholders don’t pay any foreign transaction fees, it isn’t accepted in some places worldwide.
Its affiliation with Diners Club International may extend its availability in some stores in some countries, but it is not as universally accepted like MasterCard or Visa. That said:
Even though Discover has set itself up to do business in more countries than it used to, the same problems with high fees to retailers keep many from accepting the cards.
Some other banks charge retailers steep fees for foreign transactions on credit card purchases, but there are other cards available in addition to Discover which don’t charge foreign transaction fees.
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Discover Card Accepted in the United States
Visa and Mastercard have virtually universal acceptance in the U.S. In other words, if a particular merchant accepts credit cards, there’s close to a 100% chance that they’ll take Visa and Mastercard cards.
The biggest exception is Costco, which is a Visa-exclusive business.
While Discover doesn’t have quite the universal acceptance rate as those rivals, it does have pretty widespread acceptance in the U.S. According to a 2014 study by The Nilson Report, Visa and Mastercard were accepted by 9.5 million U.S. merchants, while Discover was accepted by 9.3 million.
In other words, Discover is accepted in the vast majority of (but not all) places that accept card payments in the United States. In fact, it may surprise you to learn that Discover has a significantly higher acceptance rate than American Express.
If you have a Discover credit card, you should be able to use it just about everywhere you go, but it’s not a bad idea to keep a Visa- or Mastercard-branded card in your wallet as well just in case you hear, “Sorry – we don’t take Discover.”
Small businesses are where you’re most likely to run into an acceptance issue with your Discover card.
Discover Card Acceptance Outside of the United States
Unfortunately, Discover cards aren’t widely accepted outside of the United States, so they may not be the best travel credit cards to take on your next trip.
Visa and Mastercard are the most widely-used card payment networks abroad, while Discover and American Express are still very much U.S.-oriented. Plus, card payments aren’t widely used at all in many international markets.
Having said that, this doesn’t mean your Discover card is necessarily useless for international travel. Discover has some degree of acceptance in 190 countries and territories around the world.
According to the credit card acceptance tool on Discover’s website, there are many markets where Discover cards are used. The company claims “moderate acceptance” in certain countries like the U.K., Canada, and Australia.
While acceptance is admittedly low in other places such as Spain and France, just to name a few.
There are many places where Discover cards aren’t accepted at all, such as most of Africa and the Middle East, and several countries in Asia, Europe, and South America.
If you plan to travel to any of these places, I suggest checking Discover’s website to see if the company has a presence there.
It’s also worth noting that Discover cards can be used to get cash from ATMs in many foreign markets, even where merchant acceptance is quite low.
There are some great reasons to carry a Discover credit card. Discover cards generally have industry-leading cashback programs, generous 0% intro APR offers, and several other great perks with no annual fee.
In fact, there are regularly Discover products on our best rewards credit cards list.
Discover credit card acceptance rate is more than enough to be able to use a Discover card as your primary credit card.
However, it isn’t universally accepted, so it’s a good idea to have an excellent credit card from another payment processing network in your wallet as well.
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