Editorial Review

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

This no-annual-fee card offers the same rewards and new-cardholder bonus as Discover's regular cash-back cards; there's also a statement credit for students with good grades

At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

Our Take


NerdWallet rating 

The Bottom Line: This is a great card for a student learning to handle credit. On top of the rewards, you get a free FICO score, low fees and forgiveness for your first late payment.

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover It for Students Credit Card

on Discover's website, or call (800) 347-0264

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Annual Fee
Regular APR
15.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
Intro APR
0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Annual Fee
Regular APR
15.24% - 24.24% Variable APR
Intro APR
0% on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Pros & Cons

  • 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
  • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers
  • No foreign transaction fee
  • None

recommended credit score

Alternate Pick: For bad credit or no credit

Discover it® Secured

Secured card helps you build credit

If you have bad credit or no credit, it's harder to get approved for a credit card, even a student card ostensibly designed for beginners. If so, try a secured card, which requires a cash deposit. Discover's version is the best we've seen.

Read our review

Full Review

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a rare beast among student cards. It offers cash-back rewards, a statement credit 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: Benefits

  • Card type: College student.

  • 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:

  • Bonuses. While other cards award 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 an incentive 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 15.24% - 24.24% 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.

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 statement credit features 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.