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Is the Discover it Student Cash Back worth it?

This student credit card from Discover comes with cash back rewards in rotating categories


College students have plenty of cards to choose from if they want to build credit or earn rewards. Would the Discover it Student Cash Back be worth it for you?

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There are a number of student credit cards that are designed for college students who might not have a credit history or high credit scores. One such card is the Discover it® Student Cash Back, which offers a great rewards program that allows students to earn cash back on select purchases.

If you’re looking to build your credit history while still on campus — and earn rewards — this credit card is a solid choice to consider. Here’s why (and why not).

When is the Discover it Student Cash Back worth it?

You need to build your credit history

This Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t require applicants to have a credit score, making this card a great first choice for students who don’t yet have a credit history. Plus, this card offers rewards, a feature that isn’t always available for students who don’t have a credit history.

You want to earn rewards

The Discover it Student Cash Back card is a good choice for college students who want to both build their credit and earn cash back while doing so. You’ll earn 5 percent cash back after activation in rotating bonus categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1 percent back), plus 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.

This card’s bonus categories rotate, which means that the categories you can earn 5 percent cash back in will change each year and each quarter. Unlike some other issuers, Discover announces its entire cash back calendar at the beginning of each year. Over the years, the most common bonus categories have been grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, Target, Amazon and PayPal.

For example, from October through December of 2022, you’ll earn 5 percent cash back when you use your card to purchase items at and via digital wallets.

You want different options for redeeming rewards

You can redeem your cash back in several ways. Your options include a direct deposit to your bank account or a statement credit to your Discover bill, lowering what you owe. You can also use your cash back to pay for items at and through PayPal, buy gift cards (starting at $5) or make a charitable donation.

You want to earn a welcome bonus

In addition to its rewards program, the Discover it Student Cash Back card comes with a welcome bonus for new cardholders — Discover’s Cashback Match. This means that Discover will match all of the cash rewards you earn during the first 12 months of card membership. Say you earn $100 in cash back during the first year of opening your account; Discover will then give you an additional $100 in cash at the end of the year, for a total of $200 in cash back.

You want an intro APR on purchases and balance transfers

This card comes with a 0 percent intro APR on new purchases for the first six months after you open your card (then a variable APR of 17.49 percent to 26.49 percent). It also offers a 10.99 percent intro APR on balance transfers for six months, followed by the same variable APR.

This can save you a bit of money if you need to pay off debt or a large purchase over time. Just note, of course, that after the introductory period ends, your card’s standard variable APR will kick in.

When is the Discover it Student Cash Back not worth it?

Your spending habits don’t align with this card

Depending on your spending habits, the Discover it Student Cash Back card might not be the right choice for you. The biggest perk of this card is its rewards program, and it’s a strong one for a student card. Just be sure the rotating spending categories are a good fit for your spending habits. For instance, if you don’t spend a lot at gas stations or grocery stores, you might not earn much cash back for that quarter when those are the 5 percent cash back categories.

However, if you don’t yet have a credit score or your credit score isn’t very good, you may not be able to qualify for many other top student credit cards. In that case, your first priority should be to build your credit score. If you qualify for the Discover it Student Cash Back, earning some rewards with this card — even if your spending habits don’t align — would be better than not earning any rewards.

You don’t want a card with rotating categories

Additionally, don’t forget that enrollment is required each quarter. If this is something you don’t want to worry about, you should instead consider a student credit card that earns either boosted rewards in select fixed categories or a flat rate of rewards on all purchases.

For example, Discover also offers the Discover it® Student chrome, which offers 2 percent cash back on gas and restaurants (on up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter, then 1 percent back) and 1 percent cash back on all purchases. Like the Discover it Student Cash Back, this card comes with no annual fee and Discover’s Cashback Match welcome bonus. It’s also available to students with no credit history.

Should you get the Discover it Student Cash Back?

The Discover it Student Cash Back comes with a few perks that appeal to students.

You can earn 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in select categories each quarter (after activation, then 1 percent). If you’re able to max out the purchase limit each quarter, you could earn $75 in cash back each quarter, which comes out to $300 in cash back per year. During the first year, the cash back you’ll earn will be doubled, meaning that you’ll get another $300 at the end of the year. You also have numerous ways to redeem rewards and a zero-interest offer on purchases — a feature that can help you pay off large purchases over time, like furnishing your first apartment.

Finally, after you graduate, you can convert the Discover it Student Cash Back to a standard Discover cash back card. Depending on your income and credit score then, this could mean a higher credit limit (in addition to other perks).

Bottom line

As long as you don’t charge more than you can pay off in full by every due date, the Discover it Student Cash Back can be a good choice for many college students. It comes with no annual fee, a good rewards program, a welcome bonus, flexible redemption options and an intro APR offer on purchases and balance transfers. Plus, you’ll also have the option to upgrade the card to a traditional, non-student card after graduating.

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.

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