Discover It Student Chrome Review: A Top-Notch Starter Card

You'll earn 2% cash back on up to $1,000 per quarter in combined spending on gas and at restaurants, plus 1% on everything else.

Melissa LambarenaJuly 22, 2020

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Our Take

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: The card is an outstanding choice, especially if you spend a lot on gas and at restaurants. But look elsewhere if you need a card to take with you when studying abroad.

Best Credit Card for College Students

Discover it® Student chrome

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

Rates & Fees
Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Recommended Credit Score

Quick FactsView rates and fees

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • No FICO history required.

  • Bonus cash back categories

  • No annual fee

  • Intro APR period on Purchases and Balance Transfers

  • No foreign transaction fee

Cons

  • Higher rewards available elsewhere

  • Discover cards not widely accepted outside the U.S.

Alternate Pick: Simple rewards with no credit

Petal® Visa® Credit Card

Earn a decent rewards rate on all purchases

This $0-annual-fee card earns up to 1.5% cash back on every purchase with on-time payments. It starts off at 1% cash back on all purchases, and increases to 1.25% after six on-time payments, then 1.5% after 12 on-time payments. It's possible to qualify for this card with no credit history, and no security deposit is required.

Read our review

Compare to Other Cards

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Annual Fee

$0

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR

Rates & Fees

Regular APR

18.74% Variable

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months

Intro APR

N/A

Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score

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Full Review

With healthy rewards and no FICO credit history requirement, the Discover it® Student chrome is the generous exception to many other student credit cards.

The $0-annual-fee card features simple, straightforward rewards, making it an outstanding choice for students. It earns 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined quarterly purchases and 1% on all other purchases. Its introductory offers and good grade rewards can also stretch your student budget enough to cover a trip to the movies or a dinner out.

Among student credit cards, the Discover it® Student chrome is an overachiever and it rewards you for being one, too.

Nerd tip: Even though Discover says there's no FICO credit history required to apply for this card, keep in mind that the issuer won't automatically approve you just because you're a student. This is standard for all student credit cards. If you're under 21, you still must show proof of independent income when applying to be eligible.

Discover it® Student chrome: Basics and benefits

Card type: College student.

Annual fee: $0.

Sign-up bonus: INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for- dollar match.

Rewards:

  • 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases per quarter.

  • 1% cash back on all other purchases.

Cash back can be redeemed in any amount for a statement credit, direct deposit, store credit at select merchants — including Amazon — or PayPal credit. If you opt to redeem for gift cards or instant eCertificates from Discover partners, you'll need a minimum of $20 in rewards first.

APR: 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR.

Other benefits:

  • Payments are reported to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian), which helps you build credit.

  • Good Grades Rewards: Discover offers a $20 statement credit for every school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years.

  • No late fee on your first late payment.

  • Social Security number alerts, free access to your FICO score, ability to instantly freeze and unfreeze your card and block new purchases when it's misplaced, lost or stolen.

  • Free overnight shipping helps you quickly replace your card if it's lost, damaged or stolen.

Nerd tip: You can ditch the “student” label after Discover is notified of your graduation, meaning you become a Discover it® chrome cardholder. By keeping this card active and in good standing after leaving college, you can help your credit score.

Why you might want the Discover it® Student chrome

Solid rewards and bonuses for a starter card

The Discover it® Student chrome offers solid rewards, a rarity for a starter card. You can earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and 1% back on all other purchases.

You'll also be eligible for a potentially lucrative sign-up bonus, which Discover phrases this way: "INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for- dollar match." Because the card doesn't require you to charge a certain amount to get a bonus, there's no pressure to overspend. That's a plus for students on tight budgets.

The card comes with a Good Grades Rewards perk, too: You get $20 statement credit for every school year that your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to the next five years.

All combined, these rewards and benefits can cover a few meals or maybe even a night out. Just make sure you pay off your balance in full each month to get the full benefit of rewards. Otherwise, interest can chip away at their value.

A report to all three major credit bureaus

The Discover it® Student chrome reports to TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. These companies gather the information used to calculate your credit scores. Included in that information is your payment history, a key factor in your scores. That’s why it’s important to pay your bill on time. Discover notes that there's no FICO history requirement for this card, but if you're approved and you demonstrate responsible use of the card, it can help you establish a credit history.

Light on fees

The Discover it® Student chrome has a $0 annual fee, and it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees (although Discover's acceptance abroad is limited). Discover also lets you skip the first late fee if you run behind on a payment. On-time payments are important, but it’s nice to have this waiver when you’re starting out and getting into the habit of managing your credit card bills. Stay on track if you want to retain a healthy credit score and avoid a large late fee for a subsequent slip-up.

An introductory APR period

You don’t find this type of offer on many student credit cards. The Discover it® Student chrome charges 0% intro APR on Purchases for 6 months and 10.99% intro APR on Balance Transfers for 6 months, and then the ongoing APR of 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR. That’s enough breathing room to pay off a large purchase interest-free, such as a new laptop or expensive textbooks.

Why you might want a different credit card

Higher rewards are available

If you're looking for a student card with more rewards potential, the Discover it® Student Cash Back could be a better choice. It earns 5% back on rotating bonus categories that change every quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter (requires activation). All other purchases earn 1% back. Its rewards structure makes it significantly more complicated than the Discover it® Student chrome, a downside for many students. But for those who have time to handle the complexity, it could be a more valuable choice. Previous bonus categories have included gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants and Amazon.com, among others. (See a list of current categories here.) Its annual fee is $0.

Poor international acceptance

Even though it doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, the Discover it® Student chrome has limited acceptance outside the U.S. It may not be an ideal payment option, depending on where you’re going. If your college experience includes international travel, consider the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®. It offers 1% back on all purchases, plus you'll get a 0.25% bonus each month you pay on time, for a total of 1.25% in cash back. And as a Visa with broad merchant acceptance and no foreign transaction fees, it’s a travel-worthy companion.

Not an option for international students

Typically credit cards require a Social Security number as part of the application process, and the Discover it® Student chrome is no different. If you don’t have a Social Security number and you’re an international student, consider the  $0-annual-fee Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students. The issuer uses its own underwriting process to evaluate applications based on factors such as your bank account and contact information. It earns 1% cash back on all purchases and it offers some decent incentives. Terms apply.

Is the Discover it® Student chrome right for you?

The Discover it® Student chrome is an ideal candidate for many students’ wallets. When you’re just starting out, a credit card that reports to all three credit bureaus is a top priority to help you establish credit. This card does that in addition to providing rare rewards-earning opportunities seldom offered on student credit cards. It's also easy to maintain since you don’t have to worry about activating rewards to earn them.

One instance when you might consider a different card is if you plan to study or vacation abroad at a destination that does not accept a Discover payment method. If that’s the case, other student credit cards might be better suited for your lifestyle.

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