You’ll likely need fair to good credit to qualify for a Discover it Student Cash Back card. Fortunately, building that credit is easier than you might think.
The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers one of the more robust rewards programs available to students or others with lower credit scores or limited credit histories. With this card, you’ll earn 5% cash back for purchases in specific rotating categories each quarter, such as grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations or Amazon.com (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%). These categories change each quarter, and you do have to enroll each quarter. You’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
The Discover it Student Cash Back will also match dollar-for-dollar all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year using the card. If you earn $100 cash back during the year, for example, Discover will reward you with an additional $100 cash back for a total of $200 for that first year. And these perks come with no annual fee.
But as with all credit cards, you’ll need to meet certain credit and income requirements to qualify for the Discover it Student Cash Back card. How good of a credit score do you need for this student credit card?
What score do I need to get the Discover it Student Cash Back card?
Discover doesn’t share the minimum credit score required to qualify for a Discover student credit card. However, the company did say that it considers information other than credit scores when reviewing applications. For instance, Discover says that it will look at your income when making a decision. If you’re 21, you can include another person’s income, if it is available to you, on your application. If you’re under 21, you can use income from another person if that person regularly deposits this money into your account.
You should, however, aim for a FICO credit score that is at least considered fair if you want to improve your odds of qualifying for a Discover it Student Cash Back card. FICO credit scores range from 300 to a high of 850. A fair FICO score is at least 580.
There are other requirements for applying for this card. First, you must be a student enrolled at a two-year or four-year college or university. You must also be at least 18 years old, have a U.S. address and have a Social Security number.
How can I improve my score to qualify for this card?
Is your credit score low – low enough that you worry about qualifying for this student card? Or maybe because you’re a college student, you don’t have a long enough history of using credit to even have a credit score.
Fortunately, you can steadily improve your credit score and build a credit history.
Pay your bills on time and pay down any debt
The first step is to pay all your monthly bills on time. Certain payments – such as for a student loan, auto loan or credit card payments – are reported each month to the three national credit bureaus, which are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Pay your bills on time, and you’ll steadily build a stronger credit score. Just make sure to never pay late. If you pay bills 30 days or more past their due date, your creditors and lenders will report your payments as late to the credit bureaus. This can cause your three-digit FICO credit score to fall by 100 points or more.
Next, if you already have a credit card, pay down any credit card debt and keep your card balances low. The less debt you have – and the less of your available credit you are using – the better it is for your credit score.
Consider applying for a secured credit card first
Consider, too, applying for a secured credit card before aiming for more valuable traditional cards such as the Discover it Student Cash Back card. A secured card acts much like a traditional credit card, except its credit limit is tied to a deposit you make with the issuing bank. If you deposit $500 with the issuing bank, your secured credit card will have a credit limit of $500. If you don’t make your payments, the bank can withdraw what you owe from your deposit.
This makes it easier to qualify for a secured card because the bank is taking on less risk. You should be able to qualify for a secured card even if you have a low credit score or no credit score at all.
Once you have your secured card, make regular purchases throughout the month and then pay all of them off on or before your due date. Doing this will steadily boost your credit score. Just make sure to pay off everything you charge by each due date. If you don’t, your balance will roll over into the next month, and you’ll be hit with high interest rates on the money you owe.
Ask to be an authorized user on another account
You can also consider becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. In such arrangements, you’ll be listed on the main user’s account and you’ll receive a credit card tied to that account. You can use that card to make purchases. But when the bill comes due, the primary account holder – not you – is responsible to the bank for making the payments. The benefit to you is that whenever the primary account holder makes these payments, they are reported in your name, too, to the credit bureaus. All of these on-time payments will help boost your credit score.
Be careful, though: Don’t run up more debt than you and the primary account holder agreed upon. And always pay the account holder for your charges. If you don’t, you could damage your relationship with the account holder.
There aren’t any benefits for the primary account owner in an authorized-user arrangement. That makes it difficult to find cardholders willing to add you to their accounts. Most often, it is parents who add their adult children as authorized users as a way to help these children build their credit scores.
What can I do if Discover rejects my application?
If your application for a Discover card is rejected, your first step is to find out why. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires credit card providers to explain, usually in a letter, why your credit application was denied.
Common reasons include a low credit score, monthly income that is too low, a short credit history, missed payments on your credit reports or a high level of debt.
You should also order copies of your credit reports. Each of the three credit bureaus maintains a credit report on you. You can order one copy of each of these reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. These reports will list the amount of money you owe in loans and on credit cards. It will also list any late payments from the last seven years and any bankruptcies or foreclosures from the last seven to 10 years.
Armed with this information, you should be able to determine why your credit card application was denied. Maybe your monthly income is too low. If you boost that with a side job or a raise if you have a job already, you might get approved next time you apply for a student credit card from Discover. Or maybe your credit score is too low. You can improve that by paying your bills on time and reducing any debt you are carrying.
The Discover it Student Cash Back card is a solid choice for college students thanks to its generous rewards program. Applicants don’t need a sky-high credit score, either, to qualify for this card. If you’re looking to continue to build your credit history while earning cash back, this card could be the smart choice.