As banks race to cover all of their payments bases, one of the more exciting players to watch is Discover Financial Services.

The card issuer and payments services company wasted little time in making inroads with banks since the U.S. Department of Justice's landmark 2004 ruling found Visa and MasterCard guilty of violating antitrust laws by prohibiting banks from issuing cards on the Discover Network (In October, Discover reached a settlement with Visa and MasterCard for $2.75 billion in damages). Discover also got a boost with its 2007 spinoff from Morgan Stanley, a merger widely regarded as ill conceived.

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