Discover cards are accepted by at least 96% of US merchants that take credit cards, according to industry analyst The Nilson Report. That is still behind industry leaders Visa and MasterCard, which are accepted by nearly 100% of merchants that use cards and Discover still lags further behind in international acceptance.
You will be able to use your Discover card at most US locations that accept credit cards, but you should be aware that there are still some merchants who don’t accept Discover. If you intend to use your card for foreign travel you may want to check your destination countries and consider another card if Discover is not widely used there.
Where Are Discover Cards Accepted in the USA?
Discover is one of the most widely accepted card networks in the US, but it still lags slightly behind market leaders Visa and MasterCard. Discover claims that 11 million locations, around 96% of US merchants that accept credit cards, accept Discover cards.
That means that while a large majority of US merchants that accept cards do accept Discover, there are still some that don’t. Most of these will be small merchants, but there are some major businesses that don’t support Discover cards, like Costco, for example, which accepts only Visa cards.
Your Discover card will be accepted almost everywhere in the US, but if you depend on cards and often travel or work without cash, you may wish to carry a MasterCard or Visa card as a backup.
Discover Card Acceptance Outside The USA
Discover cards have no foreign transaction fees, so you may consider using one for foreign travel. Before you fly, though, you may want to find out whether your card will be accepted in the country you’re flying to.
Discover has a worldwide presence, but acceptance of Discover cards varies widely from country to country. The UK, Canada, and Australia have “moderate acceptance”, while acceptance remains low in Spain and France. Discover has partnered with companies like Diner’s Club, China UnionPay, and Japan’s JCB, which has expanded its reach in some foreign markets. Discover cards are not accepted at all in some countries, however, notably in Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Eastern Europe.
Check the Discover site and do your own research to determine whether a Discover card is the right choice for your overseas trip. Remember that even if Discover has a presence in a country it may not be accepted by all merchants. Also remember that credit card payments are not widely used at all in some countries, particularly developing countries.
It’s useful to have a card that doesn’t have foreign transaction fees when traveling abroad, but you may wish to have a more widely accepted card as a backup, especially if you’re traveling in a market where Discover is not widely accepted.
Why Are Discover Cards Less Widely Accepted?
Discover has earned a reputation for offering low-interest rates and fees, generous rewards, extensive zero-APR promotions, and other attractive features. Those features make Discover cards popular with consumers.
Discover is able to make these offers because they charge merchants higher fees than some other networks for accepting transactions than some other credit card networks. That makes some merchants reluctant to accept Discover cards.
Visa and MasterCard also have many more cards in circulation than Discover, so some merchants don’t feel a need to accept Discover.
Discover is both a credit card network and a credit card issuer, meaning that they issue cards directly to the consumer, rather than partnering with banks that carry some of the expense of promotion and marketing.
Discover has not pursued international markets as extensively as some rivals, though it is rapidly catching up.
The Bottom Line
Discover cards offer many appealing features and are accepted at a large majority of US merchants. There are still some US merchants that do not accept Discover. Discover is expanding its international presence but still lags behind Visa and MasterCard in many international markets.
If you see a Discover card that offers features you find attractive, there’s no reason to avoid it because of worries about acceptance: you’ll be able to use it almost everywhere that you’d normally use a credit card.
If you are often in situations where you’re completely dependent on a credit card, or if you’re traveling abroad, you may wish to have a Visa or MasterCard as a backup. You can still use your Discover card for most transactions, but you’ll be covered if you need to patronize a merchant that doesn’t accept Discover.