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Discover it Student Cash Back Review: A Rewarding Introduction to Credit

June 12, 2018
Credit Cards, Student Credit Cards
Discover it for Students Review: A Rewarding Intro to Credit - NerdWallet
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The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a rare beast among student cards. It offers cash-back rewards, a bonus for good grades and tools for managing credit. It does all of this with low fees. That’s why it’s one of our best credit cards for college students.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Apply Now on Discover's secure site
  • Recommended Credit Score
  • 630
    689
    Average
  • Card Details
  • Pros

    • Earn 5% Cash Back in rotating categories each quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate
    • Qualify with average credit
    • Bonus cash back categories
    • No annual fee
    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
    • No foreign transaction fee

    Annual Fees

    $0

    APR

    • APR: 14.49% - 23.49% Variable APR
    • Cash Advance APR: 26.49%, Variable

    Bonus Offers

    Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.

    Intro APR

    • 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months
  • Additional Information
    • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
    • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases – automatically.
    • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
    • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
    • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
    • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
    • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
    • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49%.
    • View Rates and Fees

Discover it® Student Cash Back: At a glance

Card type Student
Annual fee $0
Interest rate 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 23.49% Variable APR
Rewards • 5% cash back in rotating categories that you activate, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter
• 1% cash back on all other spending
• $20 statement credit for every school year in which you have a GPA of 3.0 or better, for up to 5 years
Sign-up bonus Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
Credit required Average (read about credit score ranges here)
Our assessment Discover it® Student Cash Back Editor's Rating: 4.4 / 5

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Benefits

  • Rewards. The rewards program on the Discover it® Student Cash Back is the same as on Discover’s regular cash-back credit cards — and far superior to what’s available on just about every other card for college students. You get 5% cash back in categories that change every three months, on up to $1,500 in spending per quarter and 1% back on everything else. The 5% categories, which you must opt in to every quarter, tend to be everyday expenses. The current categories:

Discover bonus categories for 2018
Q1 2018 (Jan. 1 – March 31)Gas stations and wholesale clubs
Q2 2018 (April 1 – June 30)Grocery stores
Q3 2018 (July 1 – Sept. 30)Restaurants
Q4 2018 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31)Amazon.com and wholesale clubs

  • Bonuses. While other cards awards sign-up bonuses upfront, the Discover it® Student Cash Back waits, then doubles all the cash back you earned in your first year. That means you’re in charge of your bonus: The more you put on the card, the bigger your bonus. The card also offers a bonus for good grades. Every year you have a GPA of at least 3.0 (for up to five years), you’re eligible for a $20 statement credit.
  • A 0% intro APR period. Rewards and bonuses are rare among student cards, and 0% periods are even more so. This card has introductory APRs of 0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 14.49% - 23.49% Variable APR.
  • Low fees. In addition to its $0 annual fee, the card has no foreign transaction fees and doesn’t charge a late fee for the first late payment.
  • Credit tools. You get access to your FICO credit score for free. Also, if your card is lost or stolen, you can quickly prevent someone from taking it for a joyride by using Discover’s Freeze It® on/off switch.

» MORE: Discover credit cards mobile app review

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Drawbacks

  • Hard for many to qualify for. This problem isn’t specific to the Discover it® Student Cash Back, but it’s important to mention. All student credit cards are tricky because of a federal law that limits whom credit card issuers can market to. Unlike in decades past, simply being a student isn’t enough to qualify you for a student card. If you’re under 21, you’ll need to show proof of independent income or get a co-signer. Which leads us to …
  • No more co-signer option. Discover used to allow students to qualify for a credit card by asking a parent to co-sign on the account, a rarity among major credit card issuers. It stopped allowing co-signers at the end of 2016, but Discover assures us that the company is still committed to helping people who are new to credit.
  • Rewards categories might not fit your spending. Don’t do a lot of spending at home improvement stores? That was a category in 2017. In other words, the 5% rate is generous — but only if you can use it. Also, opting in to the new bonus category every three months can be a hassle.
  • Poor international acceptance. Compared with Mastercard and Visa, Discover’s acceptance abroad is more limited. So even though the Discover it® Student Cash Back doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees, we don’t recommend setting off for a semester abroad with only this card in your pocket.

Discover it® Student Cash Back: Alternatives

For simpler rewards: Discover it® Student chrome and Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Discover offers another student credit card, the Discover it® Student chrome, that structures its cash-back rewards differently. Instead of giving 5% cash back on a kaleidoscope of changing bonus categories, the Discover it® Student chrome pays 2% all the time on just two: restaurants and gas. These may be especially attractive for students commuting to campus, although the 2% rate applies only to your first $1,000 in combined restaurant and gas spending each quarter. You’ll earn 1% back on all other spending. Otherwise, this card is a lot like the Discover it® Student Cash Back: The annual fee is $0, and the new-cardmember and good-grades bonuses are the same.

Another card, the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®, has an even simpler rewards setup: You earn 1% cash back on everything you buy. Pay your bill on time, and your rewards for that month are automatically boosted to 1.25%. Make your first five monthly payments on time, and Capital One may raise your credit limit. The annual fee is $0. Like all Capital One cards, it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees; it’s a Mastercard, so it’s a good choice to take abroad.

Still not sure? See NerdWallet’s list of the best credit card offers right now.