andresr / E+ / Getty Images

Discover it Student Cash Back benefits guide

The Discover it Student Cash Back card packs a lot of benefits into a student-focused card


The Discover it Student Cash Back card offers a lot of ways for you to start building credit while earning rewards. Here are all the features you need to know to get the most out of this card.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Back in the day, credit card companies used to get people to sign up for their products on campus by offering cheap perks like frisbees or t-shirts. Those days are long gone, but credit card companies can still offer a bit of a carrot to entice students to sign up – in the form of card perks and bonuses.

Enter the Discover it® Student Cash Back card. Far from offering just a lowly frisbee, this card comes with student-friendly perks and benefits that not only help you earn rewards but will help you build your credit responsibly, too. If you’re new to credit cards, though, it can be easy to get lost in all these perks. We’ll walk you through the many benefits of the Discover it Student Cash Back card, so you can take advantage of all it has to offer you.

Great rewards

The Discover it Student Cash Back card has a rewards program that’s essentially the same as the full-fledged, non-student version of this card, the Discover it® Cash Back card. Both of these cards are well-known in the industry for having a great rewards program with a first-year cash back matching bonus.

With the Discover it Student Cash Back card, you’ll earn twice the normal amount of cash back during your first year. Discover matches your cash back earnings for a first-year bonus. So if you spend enough to earn, say, $150 in cash back in your first year, you’ll end up instead with $300.

All your spending with this card will earn a minimum of 1% cash back. You also have the opportunity to earn a much higher rate – 5% cash back – on spending in certain categories that change each quarter (on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%, with enrollment required). This is known as a rotating category card, and  the way the Discover it Student Cash Back card works is pretty similar to any other rotating category card.

Discover publishes a cash back rewards calendar each year that outlines what the bonus categories are each quarter. To earn that 5% cash back for the quarter, you’ll need to log in to your account and activate the bonus category. If you forget to activate it, you won’t earn the higher rate, even if you do spend money in that category.

Reasonable fees

Another thing that makes this such a student-friendly card is that you won’t have to pay much for it. Here’s a breakdown of the fees that are particularly important to you as a student:

Annual fee

The Discover it Student Cash Back card doesn’t have an annual fee. That makes it free to keep open, and that’s a good thing for building credit. As you grow and move on to bigger and better cards in the future, keeping this card open anchors your credit history so that it stretches as far back as possible, which can help increase your credit score.

Interest rate

You won’t pay any interest on new purchases for the first six months after you open the card. That makes it a great time to buy things you might need that you’re not able to afford with savings or student loans, like outfitting your dorm room or moving across the country. If you make sure to pay it all back before the six months are up, it’s essentially an interest-free loan. At the end of the introductory period, the regular 13.24% to 22.24% variable APR will apply.

Free pass on first late payment

The first time you make a late payment, Discover won’t charge you a fee. After that, it’s a $41 charge each time you pay late. This allows you some sort of a pass if you’re new to making payments, but you’ll still pay in the form of a hit to your credit score. Paying late can seriously damage your credit, and that’s especially true if you’re just starting to build credit. To play it safe, don’t count on this feature too much. Instead, set all your payments on autopay for the minimum amount, and, ideally, pay your full statement balance each billing cycle.

No foreign transaction fees

Credit card companies often charge foreign transaction fees of around 3% when you swipe your card while abroad. This card doesn’t come with that fee, which makes it handy if you’re heading to another country for a short trip or a study abroad program. Unfortunately, though, Discover isn’t as widely accepted abroad as Visa, so if travel is calling your name, check whether Discover is accepted where you’ll be going. If not, you may want to consider another card with no foreign transaction fee.

Credit-building and safety perks

As a college student, you might be nervous about getting your first credit card, and that’s understandable. If so, you’ll like the safety features of the Discover it Student Cash Back card. If you lose the card or it’s stolen, you can easily switch it off in the app or your online account so that no one can use it. You can also get a free replacement card shipped overnight to you, which is super handy.

Discover also provides you with a free, regularly updated credit score, so you can see in real time how your credit-building efforts are going. It also maintains a few free credit-monitoring services to alert you if anything fishy is happening. For example, Discover monitors the dark web for your Social Security number to notify you if it’s for sale so you can take steps to protect yourself.

How to maximize your Discover it Student Cash Back benefits

The Discover it Student Cash Back card comes with a ton of great features that most students will really appreciate. If you’re interested in learning how to use rewards cards, the Discover it Student Cash Back card is a great option because it offers all of the functionality of a rotating category card, which is essentially the most complicated credit card you’ll come across. College is a good time to learn how to manage student credit cards, while the stakes are still low because your credit limit won’t be very high.

If you are interested in this card, though, here’s what we suggest. Set up a small bill on autopay to be charged to your credit card each month, such as a Netflix or Spotify subscription. Then, set up your bank account to autopay your credit card, in turn, for the amount of that small charge. That way, you’re setting the whole system up on autopilot to help you build credit. Feel free to charge other items to your card (especially if you need to buy something that’s within the quarterly bonus categories), but remember to pay those off on time, too. That way, you’ll earn all the benefits and rewards without having to pay any interest or fees.

Bottom line

College is a great time to start building your credit because, by the time you graduate, you’ll already have a leg up. You’ll understand how to use debt responsibly and how to use credit card rewards, and you’ll have a good credit score to boot. That’ll unlock new doors for you – and we mean that literally because landlords and bankers will check your credit when deciding whether to approve you for housing. College is a safe time to experiment with how you’ll run the rest of your life, and if that includes credit cards, the Discover it Student Cash Back card is a great choice. 

Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Card advice

How to get a cash advance with Discover

If you have a Discover credit card, the issuer makes the process of getting a cash advance simple – but it’s still very costly.

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more