If you’re a college student looking to apply for a credit card, the Discover it® Student Cash Back might have your name on it. Do you want to build credit? Check. Do you hate annual fees? Check. Do you like earning rewards? Check. Do you want a low interest rate, low-fees structure and a suite of innovative credit protection features? Check, check and check.
The Discover it Student Cash Back has a special place in the Discover card lineup. For a student credit card, it’s unusually rich in features — after all, not too many issuers feel compelled to offer cash back or other valuable benefits to cardholders who are new to credit. This card not only offers a generous rewards program, but it will match all of the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. Plus, you might qualify even if you don’t have any credit history.
Discover it Student Cash Back card benefits
No credit score is needed to apply
Getting your first credit card may feel like a credit Catch-22: You need a credit history to get your first credit card, but you need a card to build credit history. In this regard, the Discover it Student Cash Back can be a great fit for students with a thin credit file (or no file at all) because, unlike some other student cards, the Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t require a credit score to apply.
5% cash back in rotating bonus categories
The Discover it Student Cash Back card offers 5 percent cash back on rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1 percent), plus 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. Note: You need to activate your categories every quarter to earn the 5 percent cash back.
To illustrate, here are the Discover bonus categories for the remainder of 2022:
- Q3 (July through September): Restaurants and PayPal
- Q4 (October through December): Amazon.com and digital wallets
Unlimited Cashback Match
Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t have a traditional welcome bonus, but it does have a unique offering called Cashback Match. You don’t need to activate it, there’s no minimum spending requirement and it’s truly unlimited. For example, if you earn $200 in cash back during your first year, Discover will match it dollar for dollar, turning it into $400.
Flexible redemption options
Your rewards never expire, and in most cases, there is no redemption minimum. You can redeem rewards for statement credits, direct deposits to your bank account, gift cards, donations to select charities or shopping at Amazon or via PayPal.
0% intro APR for purchases for 6 months
If you’re planning on a large purchase, you can have up to six months to pay it back interest-free. However, if you don’t pay it back in full before the introductory APR period is over, the regular variable APR will kick in (14.49 percent to 23.49 percent, based on your creditworthiness).
Light on fees
Besides no annual fee, the Discover it Student Cash Back doesn’t have a penalty APR, and it’ll waive the late payment fee the first time you pay late (after that, up to $41). The card also doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, which would make it a good option for studying abroad.
Low regular APR
While we recommend that you avoid interest by paying your bill in full every month, we know that life happens. So if you have to carry a balance every now and then, the Discover it Student Cash Back offers a regular variable APR of 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent.
Free FICO credit score access
With the Discover it Student Cash Back, you can view your FICO credit score (provided by TransUnion) for free. You can view your score by logging in to your account.
Credit protection benefits
Discover it Student Cash Back offers several innovative credit protection benefits:
- Discover Identity Alerts. Discover will monitor your Experian credit report daily and it will send an alert when there is a new inquiry or account found on your report. Discover will also monitor thousands of malicious websites for your personal information and send you an alert if your Social Security number is found on one of those websites.
- Online Privacy Protection. Discover will help to regularly remove your personal information from ten popular websites that sell private data. You can activate this feature for free online or via Discover’s mobile app.
- Freeze it. With this feature, you can easily freeze your account if you lose your card. Discover will not authorize new transactions like purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.
How to maximize Discover it Student Cash Back benefits
The best way to maximize the Discover it Student Cash Back’s benefits is to plan your spending according to the card’s 5 percent rotating bonus categories and remember to activate them every quarter. Then, at the end of the first year, Discover will match all of the cash back you’ve earned.
Try to think outside the box, too. Instead of using your Discover it Student Cash Back card to directly pay a merchant, use your card through PayPal whenever you can (hundreds of online stores accept PayPal). Then, think ahead. Are there any Amazon purchases you’re planning in the near future? If there’s something you don’t need immediately, wait until the Amazon bonus quarter. And when it’s the digital wallets quarter, use the card through your favorite payment app.
That said, you should never spend money just to receive cash back. And don’t put yourself in a position where you can’t pay your bills in full — even cash back won’t help if you have to pay interest.
The bottom line
With its no annual fee, an excellent rewards program and no credit score requirement, the Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the most attractive student credit cards on the market today. While rotating bonus category cards may be a little more complicated than flat cash back cards, the unlimited Cashback Match feature might make this extra work worthwhile during the first year, especially for cardholders who can consistently maximize the 5 percent bonus categories.