With a cash back program comparable to other Discover cards, the Discover it® Card for College Students is a standout option in the world of cards for those with little or no credit history. In this review, we’ll cover the card’s many benefits, as well as some of its less positive aspects.
- No annual fee, no foreign transaction fee, and no fee for your first late payment.
- 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter in categories that rotate every three months. Cardmembers must activate bonus cash back each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
- A $20 cash back bonus each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher, for up to 5 consecutive years. Students must apply to receive their good grade bonus each year
- Cash back match at the end of your first year for new cardmembers.
- 0% APR on purchases for you first 6 months with the card (13.99% to 22.99% APR applies thereafter.)
- 10.99% balance transfer APR for you first 6 months with the card (13.99% to 22.99% APR applies thereafter.)
- No minimum credit requirements.
At a glance
Discover it® for Students
on Discover Card's website
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- Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
- Earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter like Amazon.com, restaurants, ground transportation and more, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
- Good Grades Rewards: $20 cash back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
- No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & your FICO® Credit Score for free on monthly statements, on mobile and online.
- Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 13.99% - 22.99%.
- Click "APPLY NOW" to see rates, rewards, FICO® Credit Score terms, Cashback Match™ details & other information.
1% Cash Back
Discover it® Card for College Students deep dive
When it comes to student credit cards, the Discover it® Card for College Students is a front-runner, not only offering a low-cost way to build credit, but actually rewarding cardholders for the purchases they make. But the value you’ll get from the card will depend on how and when you spend your money, so be sure to fully understand the card’s requirements and restrictions before going ahead with an application.
Get it: If you’re a student looking to build your credit and you want to be rewarded for doing so
While getting approved for credit cards can be a challenge for students with little or no credit, the Discover it® Card for College Students allows you to build your credit and earn rewards with no credit history. Its reward rate is also pretty stellar as compared to many options that don’t require at least a decent credit score — for example, the Discover it® Card shares the same 5% cash back bonus program, but requires a credit score of 670 or above.
Some of the benefits of the Discover it® Card for College Students include:
- Get paid for good grades: The Discover it® Card for College Students will award you $20 cash back for each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher. Students will need to apply for their cash back bonus each year and can redeem the bonus for up to 5 consecutive years from when the account is opened.
- Qualify with no credit or thin credit: Discover recognizes that most students have thin credit files, if any, and offer the Discover it® Card for College Students without a minimum credit requirement
- Up to 5% cash back on purchases: This card offers the same cash back scheme as some other Discover cards, with rewards categories that rotate each quarter. You can earn 5% cash back on up to a quarterly maximum of $1,500 in combined purchases in the category of the quarter. Categories are announced for the year, so you can plan big purchases ahead in order to maximize your rewards, but you’ll need to sign up each quarter in order to qualify for 5% rewards
- Cash back match for your first year: Discover matches 100% of the cash back you’ve accrued in the past 12 months at the end of year one with the card, giving you extra incentive to maximize your 5% cash back when you first get the card. You must be a new cardholder in order to qualify for this offer
- Introductory APR break: The Discover it® Card for College Students offers 0% APR for purchases within 6 months of account opening, after which an APR of 13.99% to 22.99% applies. Your first balance transfer that posts to your account before August 10, 2017 will be charged an APR of 10.99% for 6 months, and 13.99% to 22.99% thereafter
- Rewards redemption on your terms: Redeem your cash back as account credits or gift cards whenever you want, and for any amount. Plus, your rewards won’t expire
- Few fees: Access all of the perks from the Discover it® Card for College Students without paying an annual fee, and never worry about foreign transaction fees. In addition, you won’t be charged for your first late payment (the fee increases to up to $37 thereafter), and this card does not charge a penalty APR
- Peace of mind: You’re automatically protected against fraudulent charges on your Discover card and Discover will monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if your SSN is found on any of thousands of risky websites
Skip it: If you don’t see yourself spending much in the right bonus categories at the right times, or already have a great credit score
While 5% cash back is a great rewards rate, it does require you to spend money in the rotating categories that Discover has selected for elevated rewards. Students who don’t spend much in these categories (in 2017, these included gas stations, wholesale clubs, home improvement stores, restaurants, and Amazon.com), might therefore be better served by a different student card that’s tied to categories where you do spend your money.
Further, if you’ve already built up your credit, you may find you’re able to be approved for a card that offers better rewards rates.
Consider these drawbacks of the Discover it® Card for College Students into account before making your decision:
- Bonus rewards categories may not apply: As a student, the 5% cash back bonus categories on this card might be less relevant than they would be to, for example, families or individuals who commute to work. Given that many college students live on-campus, don’t have a car, and dine in college facilities, it may be a challenge to fully take advantage of rewards for purchases like gas, home improvement stores, and restaurants
- Maximum rewards come with careful planning: Given you’ll want to make the most purchases in the spending categories that qualify for 5% cash back each quarter, planning your spending in advance can help you to maximize the value of potential rewards. That said, college students might find this to be challenging given the set nature of the school year. For example, you’d likely want to make all of your back to school purchases on Amazon.com when spending with Amazon earns 5% cash back. But in 2017, that doesn’t happen until October—so if your semester starts in August, you’ll either have to wait to make your purchases or forego the bonus cash back
- Better rewards exist for those with positive credit history: If you happen to already have a credit score that 670 or above, you may be able to get approved for a card that offers a higher level of rewards than the Discover it® Card for College Students
- Spotty international acceptance: While it’s unlikely you’ll be traveling abroad frequently as a student (although study abroad might change this), it’s worth mentioning that, while you won’t be charged foreign transaction fees on your Discover it® Card, you may have some issues finding merchants that accept Discover cards, depending on which country you’re in. It’s worth traveling with a backup Visa or Mastercard just in case
The Discover it® Card for College Students is a great option for college students looking to earn cash back on their purchases and build their credit at the same time, but the amount of rewards you earn will depend on your spending habits.