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Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it Student Cash Back: Which is best for you?

Though the cards' rewards are similar, their features appeal to different types of students

Summary

The Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Student Cash Back are two great options for college students. We’ll help you decide which is best for you.

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If you’re a student shopping for your first credit card or a parent comparing cards on your kids’ behalf, you may be wondering whether to apply for a card that’s designed specifically for college students, or if you should stick with a more general credit card.

The answer depends, in part, on what kind of student card you’re considering, how old a student is and what limits you want to set. Discover, for example, offers a student cash back card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back, that’s not too different from Discover’s flagship cash back card. However, its terms are more restrictive, and it includes a slightly higher APR and a less generous introductory APR.

The Discover it® Cash Back card, in contrast, offers a bigger credit limit than you’ll get on the student version and a more generous promotion, including a 0 percent intro APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers (then a variable APR of 14.99 percent to 25.99 percent). But it doesn’t have as many safeguards as the Discover it Student card, so students could potentially get into more trouble. Young adults new to credit are also unlikely to qualify for the Discover it Cash Back card. Discover doesn’t allow co-signers, so a student would need to have a significant credit history and income to qualify.

Card details

CardDiscover it Cash Back
Discover it® Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back
Rewards rate
  • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back in rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back in rotating categories (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
Sign-up bonusMatches your cash back at the end of the first yearMatches your cash back at the end of the first year
Annual fee$0$0
Estimated rewards value in first year ($15,900 yearly spend)$439$394

Discover it Cash Back vs. Discover it Student Cash Back

Introductory APR

Discover it Cash BackDiscover it Student Cash Back
0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months from account opening (then 14.99%-25.99% variable APR)0% intro APR on new purchases for six months from account opening (then 15.99%-24.99% variableAPR)

The winner: Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back wins this round because it offers a 0 percent intro APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 15 months from account opening. It also has an intro balance transfer fee of 3 percent, or $5, then it goes up to 5 percent. On the other hand, the Discover it Student Cash Back has an intro APR of only six months from account opening on new purchases, with a regular APR of 15.99 percent to 24.99 percent variable. The shorter intro APR and higher regular APR on the Discover it Student card are strong deterrents to students who’ve never had a credit card before, helping train them to have better payment habits.

Annual fee

Discover it Cash BackDiscover it Student Cash Back
$0$0

The winner: Tie

Good news: Both the Discover it Cash Back and the Discover it Student Cash Back have no annual fee, which is good for students, considering education these days is getting more and more expensive. It’s good for cardholders in general as well since you don’t have to put in as much effort maximizing the card to make up for the annual fee. With either card, you’ll earn a solid amount of cash back without paying anything for the card itself.

Other perks

Discover it Cash BackDiscover it Student Cash Back
  • Free FICO credit score
  • No penalty APR
  • No late fee on cardholders’ first payment (after that, up to $41)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free Social Security alerts
  • Free Experian credit monitoring
  • Ability to freeze account in seconds
  • Free FICO credit score
  • No penalty APR
  • No late fee on cardholders’ first payment (after that, up to $41)
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free Social Security alerts
  • Free Experian credit monitoring
  • Ability to freeze account in seconds

The winner: Tie

The two cards offer the same benefits, making them both great for students thanks to their no penalty APR when you miss a payment and no late fee on your first late payment. Other perks include viewing your FICO credit score for free through your Discover account and no foreign transaction fee, in case you decide to spontaneously visit your friend studying abroad. If you lose the card or it gets stolen (anything can happen at school), you can easily freeze it until you have time to report the loss and request a new card.

Which card should you get?

There isn’t much of a difference between Discover it Cash Back and Discover it Student Cash Back. When it comes down to it, the Student Cash Back card is better for those learning to build good credit habits and is slightly more forgiving of mistakes should you make them.

  • If you have no credit history: Not only is the Discover it Student Cash Back meant for students with no credit history, but it also has certain guardrails in place to prevent an early dip in your credit score — short intro APR, higher regular APR and more forgiving fees.
  • If you live off campus: Unlike the Discover it Student card, this is a card you can use regularly for everyday purchases, considering the Discover quarterly bonus categories calendar. The categories include gas stations, grocery stores and Target, which suit those who commute to school or eat at home every day.
  • If you’re a grad student: Since it’s meant for cardholders with good or excellent credit, the Discover it Cash Back card awards larger credit limits. This makes it great for grad students who live off campus who earn more and spend more.

Bottom line

If you’re a student, applying for a credit card for yourself, the Discover it Student Cash Back is a clear winner. Those without any credit history are not only more likely to qualify for it, but the card’s strong limits also make it more difficult for them to rack up a lot of debt. The Discover it Cash Back, by contrast, is more difficult to get and riskier. However, it’s also more flexible and potentially more lucrative since it gives cardholders more room to charge new purchases, earning greater rewards.

Parents, if the thought of your student amassing a huge debt without your knowledge terrifies you, you could always apply for the Discover it Cash Back card yourself and add your kid as an authorized user. Discover doesn’t allow co-signers, but it does allow authorized users. As an authorized user, even if the account holder bears the responsibility for payment, you could build credit history and increase your credit score. It also gives kids an opportunity to earn a significant amount of cash without the risk of owning their own card.

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.

Credit Card Rate Report
Reward
18.76%
Student
19.53%
Airline
18.58%
Business
17.05%
Cash Back
18.68%

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