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Discover it® Student Cash Back review: Earn 5% in popular categories

This card offers the opportunity to build credit without passing up on excellent rewards. Plus, Discover will MATCH all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
By Jennifer Doss  CardRatings Editor  | Updated

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Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back
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 $100 in cash back is actually $200 in cash back after your first year.
  • As a cardmember, you can earn a statement credit for each person you refer who is approved for the card.
  • If you have relatively low student-loan debt, and an excellent credit score, you may be able to find another option with larger rewards potential.

WHAT DISCOVER SAYS ABOUT THIS CARD

  • INTRO OFFER: Unlimited Cashback Match - 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 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 each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
  • Earn rewards while building your credit history that can help you after graduation. And, get your free Credit Scorecard that includes your FICO® Credit Score and important details that help make up your score.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Refer-a-Friend: Once you become a Discover it® Student cardmember, you can earn a statement credit each time you refer a friend and they're approved. Over half a million students got Discover Cards from their friends' recommendations.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
  • Discover is accepted nationwide by 99% of the places that take credit cards.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 12.99% - 21.99% applies.
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Top Features

 Cash Back on Gas
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
 Cash Back on Groceries
Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations and when you pay using PayPal, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
 Cash Back on Other
Earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

DISCOVER IT® STUDENT CASH BACK REWARDS

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% cash back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter you activate. Plus, you'll also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases and 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 your first year as a card member. This can easily add up to hundreds of dollars. Think about it: If you max out the spending in the quarterly 5% 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% 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. Plus, you can earn a statement credit for each person you refer who is approved.

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.

DISCOVER IT® STUDENT CASH BACK CREDIT LIMIT

Credit limits on the Discover it® Student Cash Back vary. While you cannot request a specific credit line when you apply, Discover says credit lines start at $500. In some cases, credit limits may be higher depending on a combination of information provided in your application and consumer report used to determine your creditworthiness.

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 at 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 might want to have other options in your wallet. On the plus side, Discover doesn't charge fees for foreign transactions but, on the downside, Discover cards are not usually as widely accepted internationally as Visa or Mastercard.

HOW DISCOVER IT® STUDENT CASH BACK COMPARES TO OTHER CARDS

Discover it® Student Cash Back vs. Discover it® Student chrome

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% cash back for gas and restaurant 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% on all other purchases. This type of cash-back card is called a tiered-rewards card. Discover it® Student chrome does also 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 could end up earning 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

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

The Capital One card offers a flat-rate 1% cash back on all your purchases; however, you can bump that earning up to 1.25% each month that you pay your bill on time for a maximum cash back opportunity. Discover it® Student Cash Back, of course, offers 5% 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% 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% back.



Discover it® Student Cash Back vs. Discover it® Cash Back

There is no annual fee with either card and both offer 5% cash back on everyday purchases in certain categories that rotate each quarter. With both cards, cardholders also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. The unlimited dollar-for-dollar cash match rewards are also the same. Discover will match all earned cash back rewards on both cards from the day your account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days (whichever is longer).

It's in the rates and details where both cards differ. The Discover it® Cash Back has a 0% introductory APR for 14 months on both purchases and balance transfers (then 11.99% - 22.99% Variable APR). The Discover it® Student Cash Back also has a 0% introductory APR offer but it's only for six months on purchases (then 12.99% - 21.99% Variable APR).

As the Discover it® Student Cash Back is designed with students in mind, the credit scores required for each differ as well. The Discover it® Student Cash Back is meant for those with fair credit or who are new to building credit, while the Discover it® Cash Back is for those with good to excellent credit.

WHO SHOULD GET THE DISCOVER IT® STUDENT CASH BACK CARD?

Discover it® Student Cash Back is a great fit 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.

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