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Discover it® Student Cash Back Review

This card offers the opportunity to build credit without passing up on stellar credit card perks like the chance to earn 1 percent back on all your purchases and 5 percent back on up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, Discover will MATCH all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
 CardRatings Senior Manager  | Updated

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Discover it® Student Cash Back

This card is no longer available.
Our Rating:   
Fair, New to Credit

CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons

  • This card rewards good grades by offering students $20 statement credit each year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.
  • All the cash back you earn during your first year will be matched, dollar-for-dollar, by Discover. That means $200 in cash back is actually $400 in cash back after your first year.
  • If you have relatively low student-loan debt, and an excellent credit score, you'll be able to find other credit cards with larger rewards. Check the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students (This card is not currently available on CardRatings) as an option.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Essentials

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card has a lot to offer a young person trying to build their credit history and learn the ropes of using a rewards credit card at the same time.

As the name suggests, it is multiple cash-back opportunities that make Discover it® Student Cash Back a great addition to the wallet of any financially responsible young adult. You have the chance to earn 5 percent cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate. Plus, you’ll also earn 1 percent cash back on all other purchases and on the bonus category purchases once you’ve met the quarterly spending maximum.

Here’s where this reward structure gets even better: As an introductory welcome bonus, Discover will MATCH, dollar-for-dollar, all the cash back you have accumulated during the course of your first year as a card member. This can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. Thank about it: If you max out the spending in the quarterly 5 percent categories, you’ll earn $75 cash back just on those purchases each quarter for a total of $300 cash back for the whole year. That means that with Discover’s match at the end of your first year you will have earned $600 cash back after your first year – and we haven’t even mentioned the 1 percent cash back you’ll be earning on all your other purchases that will also be matched after your first year.

As an added kicker, Discover will give you a $20 statement credit for every year you earn a GPA of 3.0 or better for up to five years.

Discover it® Student Cash Back offers tools to help you manage your credit, including free credit score updates with each statement, fraud monitoring and the ability to quickly turn your card "off" if you think it's been lost or stolen and then back "on" again if you find it.

Top Features

 Cash Back on Gas
1-5%
 Cash Back on Groceries
1-5%
 Cash Back on Other
1%

What Our Editors Like Most about Discover it® Student Cash Back

Show us the money! We love the multiple ways you can earn cash-back bonuses with the Discover it® Student Cash Back card. There is 1 percent cash back on all purchases and a healthy 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in rotating categories each quarter you activate.

As if 5 percent cash back on certain purchases wasn’t impressive enough, Discover goes a step further and effectively offers you 10 percent back on those purchases during your first year thanks to the introductory match. Discover will match, dollar-for-dollar, all the cash back you earn during your first year.

This card encourages you to keep up on your studies, rewarding you with a $20 statement credit every year you earn a GPA of 3.0 or better (for up to five years).

Potential Downsides of Discover it® Student Cash Back

To maximize your cash back rewards you need to keep track of the rotating categories, which change each quarter. If you aren't good keeping up with schedules, you could miss out on opportunities to maximize your rewards.

As is the case with all student credit cards, getting the Discover it® Student Cash Back card is not as easy as it used to be. Discover no longer allows co-signers, so you are on your own with the application. And the federal government has tightened its regulations on marketing and issuing cards, particularly to students.

Lastly, if you do a fair amount of traveling overseas or are planning to participate in a study abroad program, you'll want to have other options in your wallet. On the plus side, Discover it® Student Cash Back doesn't charge fees for foreign transactions but, on the down side, Discover cards are not as widely accepted internationally as a Visa or Mastercard is.

How Discover it® Student Cash Back Compares to Other Credit Cards

Discover it® Student Cash Back vs. Discover it® Student chrome (This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Discover it® Student chrome is best described as a scaled back, simplified version of the Discover it® Student Cash Back card. Rather than rotating quarterly rewards categories, Discover it® Student chrome offers a straight 2 percent cash back for gas and restaurants purchases, on up to $1,000 in purchases per quarter with no need to sign up each quarter to take advantage; you’ll also earn an unlimited 1 percent on all other purchases. This type of cash-back card is called a tiered rewards card. Discover it® Student chrome does offer the end-of-the-first-year cash-back matching bonus, so you’ll enjoy a match of every dollar you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

It also offers a $0 annual fee and the opportunity to earn the $20 "Good Grades Rewards" statement credit each year you earn a GPA of 3.0 or better (for up to five years).

Overall, Discover it® Student chrome could be a better fit for the student who already has enough on their plate (and who could blame you?) and doesn’t want to keep up with rotating categories. Furthermore, if you know you spend the bulk of your money on restaurant and gas purchases, you’ll likely earn more cash back in the long run with Discover it® Student chrome.

Discover it® Student Cash Back vs. Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®

Learn More

Both cards have $0 annual fee, charge no foreign transaction fees and offer cash-back rewards. But that's where the similarities end.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card offers a flat-rate 1 percent cash back on all your purchases; however, you can bump that earning up to 1.25 percent each month that you pay your bill on time for a maximum cash back opportunity. Discover it® Student Cash Back, of course, offers 5 percent cash back for certain purchase categories that rotate each quarter (on up to $1,500 in purchases per quarter each time you activate) and 1 percent on all other purchases, plus that match bonus at the end of your first year. On an ongoing basis, however, the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card could be a better fit with its consistent opportunity to earn up to 1.25 percent back.

Neither card charges an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

Discover it® Student Cash Back vs. Citi ThankYou Preferred for College Students(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)

Citi ThankYou<sup>®</sup> Preferred Card for College Students

Learn More

While organized fans of a cash-back rewards program might understandably opt for the Discover it® Student Cash Back card, you will find the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students has an attractive "points based" rewards program that rewards you with ThankYou® points that are transferable to a number of airline loyalty programs as well as being redeemable for travel rewards, cash back and more.

As part of its introductory offer, new Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students cardholders earn a 2,500 ThankYou®- point bonus after making $500 in qualifying purchases in the first three months you have the card (Citi is a CardRatings advertiser). You also get two points for every $1 spent on dining and entertainment and one point for each $1 on all other purchases. Your points never expire as long as your account is open.

Both cards have a $0 annual fee and neither charges foreign transaction fees.

Who Should Get This Card?

Discover it® Student Cash Back is almost a "must-have" for the wallet of any financially responsible college student. The combination of ongoing cash-back rewards, "Good Grades Reward" statement credit bonus opportunity and an end-of-the-first-year cash back matching bonus can put several hundred dollars into your pocket.

This is also a strong card for a young person looking to build their credit rating. The card offers credit management tools such as monthly credit score updates on your statements and fraud monitoring, to help you avoid pitfalls.

Discover it® Student Cash Back Compared to Other Cash back Cards

Cash Back on Gas
1-5% 
Cash Back on Gas
3% Cash Back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more). 
Cash Back on Gas
1.5% 
Cash Back on Gas
1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay 
Cash Back on Gas
Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases 
Cash Back on Groceries
1-5% 
Cash Back on Groceries
6% at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%) 
Cash Back on Groceries
5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target(R) or Walmart(R) purchases) on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. 
Cash Back on Groceries
1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay 
Cash Back on Groceries
Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases 
Cash Back on other
1% 
Cash Back on other
1% cash back on other purchases 
Cash Back on other
1.5% 
Cash Back on other
1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay 
Cash Back on other
Qualified applicants will receive exclusive benefits such as 1% cash back rewards on all purchases 

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