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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

Bob Haegele

By: Bob Haegele

Bob Haegele
Bob Haegele

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who specializes in topics like credit cards, banking, and investing. After repaying his student loans and taking control of his finances, he’s made it his mission to help people get out of debt, save, and invest for a better future. His practical approach helps people simplify their finances and stop overspending. He’s been quoted or featured in media outlets such as Business Insider, Forbes Advisor, MarketWatch, TIME, and many others.

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Editor: Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker
Ashley Fricker

Ashley Fricker has more than a decade of experience as a finance contributor and editor, and has specialized in the credit card industry since 2015. Her credit card commentary is featured on national media outlets that include CNBC, MarketWatch, Investopedia, and Reader's Digest, among many others. She has worked closely with the world’s largest banks and financial institutions, up-and-coming fintech companies, and press and news outlets to curate comprehensive content and media. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from Florida Atlantic University.

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Reviewer: Danielle Spurlin

Danielle Spurlin
Danielle Spurlin

With more than 10 years of accounting experience, Danielle Marshall has a deep understanding of many financial disciplines, including personal and commercial lending, retirement annuities, financial forecasting, and general bookkeeping. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Florida's Fisher School of Accounting and currently manages all accounts receivable and payable for the parent company of CardRates.com. She works directly with credit card issuers and advertising partners to ensure our content meets compliance expectations and regulatory standards.

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Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

Rated 4.5 /5.0 ★★★★★

Many student credit cards emphasize features that build credit, as students often have limited or no credit. The idea is to help students graduate (pun intended) to a more feature-packed card later. The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a notable exception, providing cash back rewards to students without a stellar credit history.

But this card doesn’t skimp on typical student card features. Students can apply without a credit history and qualify for a higher credit line after graduation. This review will discuss these features and whether they are enough to make it your student credit card of choice.

List of Benefits

Aside from not requiring a credit score, the main benefits of the Discover it® Student Cash Back are its rotating bonus categories, unlimited Cashback Match, $0 annual fee, and no foreign transaction fees.

Cash Back Rewards

This card offers 5% cash back on bonus category purchases. These purchases include places you may already spend money, like Target, restaurants, and drug stores. This rewards rate is one of the best you’ll find, especially if you’re a college student.

These categories change every quarter, and manual activation is required. In addition, there is a quarterly cap on the amount of bonus cash back, after which you’ll earn 1% back. Still, it’s a great way to earn a little bit extra.

To track high-rate categories for the card, check Discover’s 5% Cash Back Bonus calendar.

Unlimited Cashback Match

With the unlimited Cashback Match feature, Discover rewards you by matching your cash back dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year. There’s no limit to how much cash back you can earn.

Intro APRs

Another great benefit of this card is its 0% Intro APR (6 months). There is also a promotional balance transfer 10.99% Intro APR (6 months) after account opening. Note that a balance transfer fee applies. The regular APR will apply after the intro APRs expire.

Flexible Redemption Options

Discover offers several ways to redeem your rewards. These include cash, paying with rewards on Amazon.com and PayPal, gift cards, and donations to charity. You can redeem rewards at any time in any amount. The only exception is gift cards, which you can redeem starting at $5.

Rewards never expire, but Discover will credit your account or send you a check with your rewards balance if your account is closed or you haven’t used it in 18 months.

Excellent Customer Service

Customer service is an important aspect of a great credit card, and Discover is highly rated in that category. Discover’s customer service is 24/7 and entirely U.S.-based, so you don’t have to worry about talking to someone in a far-off country. In addition, Discover is highly rated in J.D. Power’s Credit Card Satisfaction Study.

Other Benefits

Other benefits of this card include access to your FICO credit score, online privacy protection, Social Security number alerts, and Freeze it®. The Freeze It feature lets you freeze your card so you can block new purchases and cash advances.

How to Apply

The Discover it® Student Cash Back has a relatively simple online application that should only take a few minutes. The application should be easy and straightforward if you meet the requirements mentioned in the previous section. You can click the Apply Now button below to be taken directly to Discover’s application:

Disclosure: When you apply through links on our site, we often earn referral fees from partners. For more information, see our ad disclosure and review policy.

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Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.5

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

Here are the steps to apply:

    1. Fill out the online application. The application asks for basic information, such as your name, home address, year in college, gross income, and monthly housing/rent payment.
    2. Choose your card design. Discover has over a dozen unique card designs, from simple to retro to just plain fun
    3. Provide relevant documentation. You may need to provide certain documents to support your application. This may include a driver’s license or state ID, proof of enrollment, and pay stubs.
    4. Receive your approval decision. Once you submit the form, you’ll get your approval decision. Discover often provides an approval decision in a matter of seconds. However, the process may take longer if Discover needs additional documentation. The bank will likely send you an explanation letter if you are ultimately not approved for the card.
    5. Activate your card. If approved, you can activate your card online or over the phone.
    6. Set up online access. Finally, you can set up online access to easily check your balance and statements and opt into quarterly bonus categories. You’ll see the card in your account if you’re an existing customer.

Applying for the Discover it® Student Cash Back is relatively easy, especially if you meet all the requirements. Be sure to review the card’s rates and fees before applying.

You can also see if you’re preapproved for the card before applying. Although Discover’s student cards tend to have easier approval than typical consumer cards, approval isn’t guaranteed. Fortunately, you can use Discover’s preapproval form to see if you’re likely to be approved without impacting your credit score.

How to Qualify

This cash back credit card has several enticing features, and you may wonder how to qualify for them. These are the things you will need to apply online:

    • Be at least 18 years of age

    • Have a U.S. address

    • Have a Social Security number

    • Provide all the required information requested in your Discover application

    • Show proof of education

If you don’t qualify for the Discover it® Student Cash Back, Discover has many other credit cards with excellent features. For instance, if you aren’t a college student but have bad credit, you could apply for a secured credit card from Discover. Those with higher credit ratings may consider a card that offers an introductory 0% APR or a travel credit card.

Regardless of the situation, Discover has an array of low-interest credit cards that may meet your needs.

Potential Drawbacks to Consider

One of the biggest drawbacks of this card is that its bonus categories change every quarter and require manual activation. In addition, only two to three categories qualify for the higher cash-back rate at any given time. The bonus rate also has a spending cap for each quarter, and that bonus is on the low side.

You do earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Still, aside from the match you earn after your first year, there’s no way to earn a higher rate on other purchases.

Also, Discover cards may have limited acceptance outside the U.S. Students who study abroad or take other international trips may run into problems when using this card.

The initial credit limit on this credit card may also be low. While Discover doesn’t disclose a specific credit line, the fact that you can increase it after graduating suggests students get a lower credit limit than other consumers.

Finally, this card offers few additional benefits and perks. While the bonus categories and Cashback Match are nice to have, other student cards may offer perks like travel insurance and extended warranties. Unfortunately, these aren’t available with this card.

More Student Cards Worth Your Attention

If you don’t qualify for the Discover it® Student Cash Back or are looking for rewards credit cards that earn more cash back on every purchase, consider these top student cards:

Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card for Students Review

at Bank Of America'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.7

OVERALL RATING

  • $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.
  • Earn 3% cash back in the category of your choice, automatic 2% at grocery stores and wholesale clubs (up to $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club quarterly purchases) and unlimited 1% on all other purchases.
  • Choose 3% cash back on gas and EV charging station, online shopping/cable/internet/phone plan/streaming, dining, travel, drug store/pharmacy or home improvement/furnishings purchases.
  • No annual fee and cash rewards don’t expire as long as your account remains open.
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases, and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days. After the Intro APR offer ends, a Variable APR that’s currently 19.24% - 29.24% will apply. A 3% Intro balance transfer fee will apply for the first 60 days your account is open. After the Intro balance transfer fee offer ends, the fee for future balance transfers is 4%.
  • When handled responsibly, a credit card can help you build your credit history, which could be helpful when looking for an apartment, a car loan, and even a job. Access your FICO® Score for free within Online Banking or your Mobile Banking app.
  • Contactless Cards - The security of a chip card, with the convenience of a tap.
  • This online only offer may not be available if you leave this page or if you visit a Bank of America financial center. You can take advantage of this offer when you apply now.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for purchases
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (Balance Transfer Fee 3% for 60 days from account opening, then 4%)
19.24% - 29.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
$0
Excellent/Good

Additional Disclosure: Bank of America is a CardRates advertiser.

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★★
4.6

OVERALL RATING

  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Early Spend Bonus: Earn $50 when you spend $100 in the first three months
  • Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats, plus complimentary Uber One membership statement credits through 11/14/2024
  • Enjoy peace of mind with $0 Fraud Liability so that you won't be responsible for unauthorized charges
  • Enjoy no annual fee, foreign transaction fees, or hidden fees
  • Lock your card in the Capital One Mobile app if it's misplaced, lost or stolen
  • Earn up to $500 a year by referring friends and family when they're approved for a Capital One credit card
  • Build your credit with responsible card use
  • Whether you're at a 4-year university, community college or other higher education institution, this card might be an option for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Discover it® Student Chrome Review

at Discover Card'ssecure website

BEST OVERALL RATING

★★★★
4.0

OVERALL RATING

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match for all new cardmembers – only from Discover. Discover will automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year! So you could turn $50 cash back into $100. Or turn $100 cash back into $200. There’s no minimum spending or maximum rewards. Just a dollar-for-dollar match.
  • Earn 2% cash back at Gas Stations and Restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, automatically. Plus earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Redeem your rewards for cash at any time.
  • No credit score required to apply.
  • Discover could help you reduce exposure of your personal information online by helping you remove it from select people-search sites that could sell your data. It’s free, activate with the mobile app.
  • No annual fee and build your credit with responsible use.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24% applies.
  • Terms and conditions apply.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% Intro APR for 6 months
10.99% Intro APR for 6 months
18.24% - 27.24% Variable APR
$0
Fair/New to Credit

+ Compare More Student Cards

The best credit card to apply for is one that has the features you want. If you don’t find the features you need from Discover, you may find that cards from Capital One or Bank of America check all the right boxes. These features may include a 0% intro APR or no annual fee credit cards.

Either way, it’s generally a good idea to compare credit cards from several banks before signing up.

FAQs: What is the Credit Limit?

Discover does not state a specific credit limit for the Discover it® Student Cash Back. However, some sources suggest that limits may start at $500. Some cardholders have corroborated this finding. In other cases, the limit may be in the range of $2,000 to $3,000.

Also, consider that the starting credit limit may not be final; Discover may increase your credit line if you regularly pay your bills on time. The bank also says it may increase your credit line after you graduate.

Is Discover a Good Option for Students?

Discover has several features that can make it a good choice for students. For instance, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is specifically designed for students and doesn’t require a credit score to apply. Discover is also known for low fees, as none of its cards have an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

It also has U.S.-based support, which can be helpful for students who have questions about their accounts. The bonus categories from Discover may appeal to students, as they allow students to earn on purchases from places like Target, gas stations, and restaurants.

Discover also has helpful resources for students who want to build and stay on top of their credit. These include free FICO score monitoring and content that helps students understand their credit scores and reports.

Is it Hard to Get Approved for this Card?

Approval tends to be easier for most student cards since, as mentioned, no credit score is required to apply. However, as is usually the case when applying for a credit card, approval is never guaranteed.

Possibly the biggest hurdle for students is that they may need to provide proof of income. While you don’t need a job to qualify, you must show income for these cards.

Otherwise, you may only need to meet the basic requirements for this student credit card. These include being at least 18 years old and having a Social Security number.

How Much Cash Back Can You Earn?

The amount of cash back you can earn depends on your spending habits and whether you activate bonus categories. With the $1,500 limit in combined purchases on 5% cash back categories, you could earn $75 each quarter for a total of $300 per year. With the Cashback Match, you can earn up to $600 on bonus categories in your first year alone.

Remember that this card also earns unlimited 1% cash back. This means there is theoretically no limit to how much cash back you can earn.

What Happens to the Card After Graduation?

Once you graduate, your card will become a standard credit card. It will have the same design and the same cash rewards. The biggest difference is you may qualify for a credit line increase after graduation. Discover recommends providing your income information after graduation to ensure you receive the appropriate increase.

Make sure you compare this card to other cards after graduation. While this card has some compelling features for students, other credit cards may be better for you after graduation.

Is the Discover it® Student Cash Back Only for Students?

Student credit cards can help students improve their financial literacy while earning rewards for students. While these cards can have many benefits, they aren’t for everyone — you must be a student to get a student credit card.

But even if you don’t qualify, Discover offers many other credit cards with great rewards and no annual fees.

Also, don’t forget about the alternatives mentioned earlier. You have a wide range of options when applying for a credit card, so there is likely something available for you. These include prepaid debit cards and secured credit cards.

Is this Card Better than the Discover it® Student Chrome?

The Discover it® Student Cash Back and the Discover it® Student Chrome have some nice benefits, and one is not necessarily better. In fact, carrying both cards is likely better than having one or the other.

The biggest difference is that the Discover it® Student Cash Back offers a higher cash back rate on rotating categories, while the Discover it® Student Chrome offers a lower (but still elevated) rate at gas stations and restaurants.

However, both cards have quarterly caps on their higher cash back rates. The Discover it® Student Chrome has a lower cap than the Discover it® Student Cash Back. Both cards get the Cashback Match benefit in the first year of card ownership.

This Card May Be For You If…

    • You’re a college student with limited or no credit

    • You want to earn a high cash back rate on quarterly categories

    • You have a large purchase or purchases coming up and can take full advantage of the first-year Cashback Match

    • You prefer to avoid extra fees, like annual fees and foreign translation fees

    • You want to build credit

While some student credit cards heavily emphasize building credit, the Discover it® Student Cash Back lets you do that and earn rewards in the process. Although the higher cash back rate is capped and requires manual activation, you can still earn cash back on every purchase.

Discover matches all your cash back dollar-for-dollar at the end of your first year with no cap on earnings. This means you can earn significant cash back even if you’re not always earning the higher rate.

Remember that international acceptance can be limited. This card also lacks some of the premium benefits and perks of other cards, like travel insurance and purchase protection. Still, the Discover it® Student Cash Back may be the right choice if you’re a college student and want to earn extra cash back. You can pair it with the Discover it® Student Chrome for even better results.

About the Author

Bob Haegele
Bob Haegele Finance Expert

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer who specializes in topics like credit cards, banking, and investing. After repaying his student loans and taking control of his finances, he’s made it his mission to help people get out of debt, save, and invest for a better future. His practical approach helps people simplify their finances and stop overspending. He’s been quoted or featured in media outlets such as Business Insider, Forbes Advisor, MarketWatch, TIME, and many others.

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