College students have plenty of cards from which to choose if they want to build credit. How does the Discover it Student Cash Back card compare?
Financial institutions offer plenty of credit cards designed for college students who might not have high credit scores or much of a history of using credit. Discover is no exception. The difference? The Discover it Student Cash Back card also offers a rewards program, giving you the chance to earn money back on the purchases you make with it.
But is this credit card a good choice for college students, even with this rewards program? We think so. Here’s why.
Cash back rewards for students
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% cash back whenever you use your card to make a purchase in certain categories each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter, then 1%).
These categories rotate. From October through December of 2021, for example, you’ll earn 5% cash back when you use your card to purchase items at Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Target.com. From July through September of 2021, you would have earned 5% back for purchases at restaurants and through PayPal, while you would have earned the same percent back at gas stations and wholesale clubs and for streaming services from April through June of 2021.
You’ll earn that 5% cash back for up to $1,500 in purchases in your special category each quarter. After you hit that limit, you’ll earn 1% cash back until the next quarter begins and Discover’s new quarterly bonus categories start. Don’t forget that enrollment is required each quarter.
You’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Say you spend $1,000 during the quarter on purchases at Amazon.com and Walmart.com when these purchases earn 5% cash back. You’ll have generated $50 cash back on these charges. If you then charge an additional $500 on all other purchases, which provide a cash back bonus of 1%, you’ll earn an additional $10 back. This means you’ll have earned a total of $60 cash back for the quarter.
You can then redeem your cash back bonus in several ways: You can have it sent as a credit to your Discover bill, lowering what you owe. You can also use your cash back to pay for items at Amazon.com and through PayPal, or you can buy gift cards starting at $5. You can even make a charitable donation with your cash back bonuses.
See related: How to get a credit card as a college student
Benefits for students
In addition to its rewards program, the Discover it Student Cash Back card comes with several other perks that should appeal to students.
First, Discover will match the cash rewards you earn during the first 12 consecutive billing periods after you open your account. If you earn $100 in cash back during the first year of opening your account, Discover will give you an additional $100 in cash on your one-year anniversary. This matching program is only in effect during your first year of opening a Student Cash Back card.
You can also earn a $20 statement credit for good grades once a year. You’ll need to be enrolled in college and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher for the school year. You can apply at Discover.com for your $20 statement credit once a year – as long as you are still enrolled and your GPA is still 3.0 or higher – for up to five consecutive years from the date you open your Discover it Student Cash Back account.
This card comes with a 0% interest rate on new purchases for the first six months after you open your card. This can save you a significant amount of money during this first half-year. Be sure to pay off your new purchases in full each month, though. After the introductory period ends, your card’s standard variable APR of 12.99% to 21.99% will kick in. If you carry a balance, you’ll be charged interest each month on whatever amount of debt you don’t pay off.
Finally, you can convert the Discover it Student Cash Back card to a standard Discover cash back card after you graduate. Depending on your income and credit score after you graduate, this could mean a higher credit limit.
Is the Discover it Student Cash Back card worth it?
If you’re looking for a student-focused credit card, is the Discover it Student Cash Back card a smart move? It could be, depending on your spending habits.
The biggest perk of this card is its rewards program. 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 supermarkets, you might not earn as much cash back for the quarter when those are the 5% cash back categories.
Otherwise, this card should be a good fit for most students. It comes with no annual fee, so you won’t have to pay to use the card. You’ll also have the option to upgrade the card to a traditional, non-student card after graduating. You’ll even earn a small cash bonus if you maintain strong grades.
Our recommendation? 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 card is a good choice for college students.