Discover it® Student Cash Back review

Discover it® Student Cash Back review

Published: November 23, 2020

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Published: November 23, 2020

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Ratings Policy
Student Rating:
4.2 rating
4.2 rating
4.2 / 5
Introductory Offer4.6
Interest and Fees4.7
Rewards Program1.9
Features3.0
Issuer Customer Experience5.0

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
12.99%-21.99% (variable) (See rates and fees)

Excellent

Annual Fee
$0  (See rates and fees)

Excellent

Penalty APR
None (See rates and fees)

Excellent

Introductory Offer
0% intro APR on new purchases for first 6 months (12.99%-21.99% variable thereafter) (See rates and fees)

Excellent

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

Very Good

Rewards Program

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

Discover Customer Service Ratings

  • J. D. Power 2020 customer satisfaction rating: 837 (10% of issuers in this category ranked higher)
  • 24/7 customer service?: Yes
  • Online chat available?: Yes
  • Google Play Store mobile app rating: 4.5/5
  • Apple Store mobile app rating: 4.8/5
Excellent

Other Notable Features: $20 statement credit each year for good grades, no penalty APR, no fee on first late payment (after that, up to $40), 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.

Average APR

The Discover it Student Cash Back card offers a reasonable APR of 12.99%-21.99% variable. The low-end APR on this card is quite impressive considering our weekly rate report lists the average student card APR as hovering around 18%.

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, then 1 percent) — many of which cover everyday purchases, such as gas and groceries, that students may already make regularly.

Through the end of the year, you can earn 5 percent back at Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com when you enroll in the Q4 bonus category.

Discover it Student Cashback Bonus Calendar 2020

WinterSpringSummerHoliday
January – March

(Activation closed)

April – June

(Activation closed)

July – September

(Activate starting May 1, 2020)

October – December

(Activate now)

  • Grocery stores
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Gas stations
  • Uber
  • Lyft
  • Wholesale Clubs
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
  • Amazon.com
  • Target.com
  • Walmart.com

With the holiday shopping season on the horizon, such a generous cash back rate at these retailers could earn you a ton in cash back.

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 a 0% intro APR for six months on purchases (12.99%-21.99% variable APR after that), 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.

How does the Discover it Student Cash Back Card compare to other student cards?

While the Discover it Student Cash Back Card offers an impressive cash back rate in a variety of spending categories, you’ll only earn 5% cash back on your first $1,500 in eligible purchases per quarter. You’ll also need to track and enroll in bonus categories, which could prove to be too much of a headache. If you’re looking for something a bit simpler, consider one of these student cash back cards.

Discover it Student Cash Back
Chase Freedom Student Credit Card*
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card
Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card*
Rewards rate

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • 5% cash back on Lyft rides (through March 2022)
Rewards rate

  • 1% cash back on every purchase
  • 25% bonus when you pay on time
Rewards rate

  • 3% cash back on gas, groceries and drugstore purchases for first 6 months (up to $2,500 in purchases)
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
APR

14.99% (variable)

APR

26.99% (variable)

APR

11.15%-21.15% (variable)

Introductory offer

$50 bonus after your first purchase made within the first 3 months

Introductory offer

Up to $60 in streaming subscription credits when you pay on time

Introductory offer

None

Other things to know

  • $20 Good Standing Rewards after each account anniversary for up to 5 years
  • No annual fee
  • Free access to your credit score
Other things to know

  • Automatically considered for a credit limit increase after six months of on-time payments
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Credit tracking tools
Other things to know

  • 0% APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 6 months
  • Budget management tools
  • Cellphone insurance
  • Car rental insurance

Chase Freedom Student Credit Card

The Chase Freedom Student Credit Card not only offers students a foot in the door of Chase Ultimate Rewards, but also comes with a $50 bonus after you make your first purchase within the first three months and a $20 annual bonus for the first five years for keeping your account in good standing. You’ll also earn 1% back on all purchases, which you can redeem for cash back, statement credits, Apple purchases, travel and more. You can even transfer their points to another Ultimate Rewards card like the Chase Freedom should you qualify down the line

Journey Student Rewards from Capital One

Though the Capital One Journey card only comes with 1% cash back on every purchase, it offers a unique incentive for maintaining positive payment history, allowing you to increase your cash back rate to 1.25% if you pay on time. You’ll also enjoy perks like no foreign transaction fee, making it a solid choice if you plan to study abroad or travel frequently.

Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card

Along with its generous ongoing bonus cash back in practical categories including gas, groceries and drugstore purchases for the first six months, the Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card will be a big help if you need to pay off large purchases over time or chip away at debt. The card comes with a 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for the first six months (11.15%-21.15% variable thereafter). This could be especially useful if you need a little time to cover the cost of a big back to school expense or hit pause on interest charges on another credit card balance.

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.

Is the Discover it Student Cash Back card worth it?

In short, yes. The Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the best student credit cards on the market, thanks to its $0 annual fee, impressive cash back rewards rate, first-year cash back match and user-friendly terms. The card’s rotating cash back categories offer students on a budget great variety and a chance to chip away at some everyday costs and Discover’s forgiving terms could be a big help for someone just starting out with credit cards.

*All information about the Chase Freedom Student Credit Card and Wells Fargo Cash Back College Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed or approved by the issuer.

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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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