Discover it® Student Cash Back

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A near-perfect card for students seeking to build up credit.

Discover it® Student Cash Back is a card designed for young adults, but one that has had its training wheels removed. Unlike many student cards, this one comes with few fees, a low annual percentage rate for qualified cardholders and generous rewards. This is one of the very best credit cards for college students.

Review

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is jam-packed with goodies. Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year. You’ll earn 1% on all other purchases. Discover will match dollar-for-dollar all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. There’s also a $20 statement credit every year you get a GPA of 3.0 or higher, which should be more than enough to buy an apple for every teacher you have.

The card comes with an OK introductory offer on purchases and a less impressive one on balance transfers. There’s also a 3% balance transfer fee, so you’d be better off transferring a balance to a card with a 0% APR offer.

College students typically haven’t built up as much credit history as those in the workforce and might not be eligible for many credit cards. The Discover it® Student Cash Back is like a kindly grandparent, giving those with fledgling credit histories a chance, and it charges no annual fee. This card is hard to top.

Who should get this card

If you’re a college student who’s organized and looking to build up your credit score, the Discover it® Student Cash Back can reward you for your efforts.

Advantages
  • You don’t need perfect credit to qualify for this card.
  • Get a $20 statement credit back each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.
  • The opportunity to earn cash-back rewards is especially generous for a student card.
  • At the end of the first year, all the cash-back earnings are automatically matched.
Disadvantages
  • The rotating bonus cash-back categories can be cumbersome to track and may not correspond with the cardholder's biggest spending categories.
  • Other cards have better introductory balance transfer offers.
  • There’s no sign-up bonus with this card, although you do get a cash-back match at the end of the first year.

Fees and APR

• This card has a 6-month 0% introductory APR offer on purchases. After that it’s a variable 14.99% to 23.99%
• There’s a 6-month introductory APR offer on balance transfers of 10.99%, after that it’s a variable 14.99% to 23.99%.
• You’ll pay no annual fee.
• There’s no foreign transaction fees, making this card a good choice for students studying abroad (where Discover cards are accepted).
• Late payments won’t affect your annual percentage rate.
• There’s a balance transfer fee of 3%.
• First late payment fee is waived, after that it’s up to $37.
• See Rates & Fees.

Extras, perks and using rewards

View your approximate FICO score for free on your monthly statement.

The Freeze It feature allows you to turn your card on or off to prevent new purchases, cash advances and balance transfers.

Redeem your rewards at any time in any amount as a credit on your statement, an electronic bank deposit, gift cards through Discover partners (in $20 increments) or use to shop on Amazon.com.

How this card compares

Discover it® Student chrome
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 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.
  • No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
  • Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.99% - 23.99%.
Credit Needed

Fair Credit

Regular APR

14.99% - 23.99% Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 6 months

Balance Transfers Intro APR

10.99% for 6 months

The Discover it® Student chrome has the same rates and perks as the Discover it® Student Cash Back but instead of rotating bonus categories, it pays 2% back on gas stations and restaurants, up to $1,000 per quarter, and an unlimited 1% on everything else. Although this might make it attractive to some, the rewards potential is greater with the Discover it® Student Cash Back card.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
  • Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Get customized alerts and manage your account with the Capital One mobile app
Credit Needed

Average, Fair, Limited

Regular APR

26.46% (Variable)

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

N/A

Balance Transfers Intro APR

N/A

The Journey Student Rewards from Capital One card is decent for those just starting to build up their credit score or anyone with average credit who may not qualify for other cards. But, there are other cards aimed at those with less-than-stellar credit that offer better cash back rewards and you’re likely to get a better rate on the APR too.

Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
  • Enjoy 0% Intro APR for 7 months on purchases from date of account opening; after that the variable APR will be 16.49% - 26.49% based upon your creditworthiness*
  • Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • 2,500 ThankYou® Points are redeemable for $25 in gift cards, electronics and other great rewards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • Earn 2X Points on Dining Out & Entertainment
  • Earn 1X Points on All Other Purchases
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No annual fee*

This card offer is currently unavailable on Bankrate. To see more cards in this category, please visit our 0% apr category page.

Credit Needed

Good Credit

Regular APR

0% introductory APR for 7 months from date of account opening. After that, your APR will be 16.49% to 26.49%, based on your creditworthiness. These APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.

Annual Fee

No Annual Fee.

Balance Transfers Intro APR

If you know you can use a credit card responsibly (which means paying your bill on time every month) you may as well be rewarded for doing so. The Citi Thank You Preferred Card for College Students offers top rewards, but doesn’t offer much flexibility for cardholders who pay late or who carry a balance.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.