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Discover it® Student Cash Back review

Published: August 3, 2018

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Published: August 3, 2018

Partner Offer

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Ratings Policy
Student Rating:
3.3 rating
3.3 rating
3.3 / 5
Introductory Offer 4.6
Interest and Fees 4.0
Rewards Program 4.0
Features 3.0

In a Nutshell:

One of the most lucrative student cards on the market, the Discover it Student Cash Back card pairs ample cash rewards with forgiving terms and consumer-friendly benefits.

Learn more about this card

APR
14.74-23.74% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Annual Fee
$0  (See rates and fees)

Penalty APR
None

Introductory Offer
0% APR on new purchases and 10.99% APR on balance transfers for first 6 months

Estimated Yearly Rewards Value ($300 monthly spend)
$85

Rewards Program

  • 5% cash back on rotating quarterly bonus categories, up to $1,500 per quarter (enrollment required)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • Matches cash back at end of first year

Other Notable Features: $20 statement credit each year for good grades, no penalty APR, no late fee on first payment, no overlimit fee, no foreign transaction fee, free FICO credit score, ability to withdraw cash at checkout, freeze on/off switch, social security number alerts

When you’re just learning to use credit, a card’s terms are crucially important. Before settling on a new card, you’ll want to make sure that the card’s APR is affordable, its fees are reasonable and the issuer won’t ding you with an unaffordable APR if you fall behind on payments. In this respect, the Discover it Student Cash Back card shines, offering one of the most forgiving and consumer-friendly credit card agreements around.

But unlike many credit cards with more affordable terms, the Discover it Student Cash Back card doesn’t sacrifice rewards. Instead, it offers one of the most generous cash back programs you can get on a student card — especially in the first year.

Since it’s a category card with rotating bonuses, the Discover it Student Cash Back card’s cash back program takes some time to master. But if you don’t mind tracking bonus-earning purchases and opting into the program every three months, you could be surprised by how much cash you earn.

A safer card for learning to use credit

When you’re just starting to learn to live within a budget and master your finances, the last thing you need is to worry about excess fees or unaffordable interest rates. Discover helps lessen this worry by offering consumer-friendly terms that are much more forgiving than what you’ll find on most rewards credit cards.

For example, it doesn’t charge a late fee the first time you miss a payment deadline, so you have some wiggle room in case you accidentally forget to make an on-time payment. It also doesn’t charge a penalty rate. So if you run into some money trouble and have a hard time paying your bills, Discover won’t make your situation worse by dramatically hiking your interest rate.

No foreign transaction fee

Discover also waives the it card’s foreign transaction fee, so you can take this card with you when you study abroad or travel for the summer and not worry about whether you’ll be hit with extra charges. Many cards, by contrast, charge foreign transaction fees as high as 3 percent, which can add up if you regularly charge your card abroad or use it to buy foreign merchandise online.

Reasonable APR

The Discover it Student Cash Back card also gets higher marks for its reasonably priced APR, which is lower than what many student cards charge. Depending on your credit history, you may be able to get approved for a variable APR as low as 14.74 percent, which is well below average for a student. The typical student card, for example, charges a minimum APR of 16.35 percent, according to our weekly rate report.

The Discover it Student Cash Back card’s maximum APR is high, though, so you may get stuck with a much larger interest rate than you were anticipating. The card’s variable APR can run as high as 23.74 percent. Regardless of which interest rate you get, you should still try to only charge what you can afford to pay off in full.

Excellent rewards

Where the Discover it Student Cash Back card really stands out is with its rewards. Cards that offer similarly forgiving terms are often basic, plain vanilla cards without a rewards program. The Discover it Student Cash Back card, by contrast, offers a robust cash back program that can deliver a substantial amount of value if you use it regularly.

For example, cardholders get 5 percent cash back when they enroll in rotating purchase categories (up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter) — many of which cover everyday purchases, such as gas and groceries, that students may already make regularly.

If you’re strategic, you could save yourself a ton of money with this card. For example, if you’re not on the campus meal plan, you could purchase grocery store gift cards during the quarter that you earn a cash back bonus and then use those gift cards throughout the year.

Outstanding sign-up bonus — if you can wait

The Discover it Student Cash Back card also offers the opportunity to double your cash back in the first year. Unlike with a typical sign-up bonus, you won’t get any kind of cash reward up front. But if you can wait until the end of the year, you could end up getting a much bigger bonus overall. Since Discover doubles your rewards bonus, you’ll essentially earn 10 percent on categories such as gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants or Amazon.com during (when the category’s quarterly bonus is active) and 2 percent on all other purchases.

Student-friendly benefits

The Discover it Student Cash Back card also offers a number of other benefits that can help you pad your bank account and protect your personal information. For example, it offers a $20 statement credit every year you earn a 3.0 GPA or higher. It offers six months of interest free purchases, so you can temporarily carry a balance without paying interest. It also offers a security service that monitors the dark web on your behalf and alerts you if it finds that your Social Security number is being traded on the web. It will also monitor your Experian credit report and let you know if an account is opened in your name.

In addition, it offers an instant freeze service you can use if you lose track of your credit card — a helpful tool for nights out when you accidentally leave your card at a bar or lose it in your dorm. Finally, the Discover it Student Cash Back card offers a free FICO score so you can track your credit score throughout the year.

Why get the Discover it Student Cash Back card?

  • You want to build credit and earn cash rewards.
  • You want a safer card with consumer-friendly terms, but don’t want to sacrifice rewards.
  • You prefer cash instead of points or travel.
  • You want to earn a lot of cash and don’t mind keeping track of rotating bonus categories.

How to use the Discover it Student Cash Back card:

  • Maximize your cash back by using your credit card rather than cash or debit for all or most of your purchases.
  • Avoid paying interest by paying off your purchases in full each month.
  • If you take advantage of the card’s six-month introductory offer on purchases, make a plan for how you’ll pay back your balance before the card’s interest-free offer expires.
  • Take advantage of the card’s credit building and safety features by signing up for Social Security monitoring and regularly reviewing your FICO score.

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All reviews are prepared by CreditCards.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the reviewer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented in the review is accurate as of the date of the review. Check the data at the top of this page and the bank’s website for the most current information.

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