Key takeaways

  • The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a great first card for students who want to get experience earning cash back rewards.
  • Not only do you get the benefit of cash back, but you also get perks like free access to your credit score and a short introductory APR offer on purchases.
  • The card is also a low-cost option for students since it has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and the first late payment fee is waived.
  • While the Discover it® Student Cash Back comes with great benefits, students should remember not to overspend just to earn cash back.

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 student card 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.

Discover it Student Cash Back card benefits

This card not only offers a generous rewards program, but it will match all 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.

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. Secured credit cards can also help you build credit history, but you’d need to put down a security deposit — usually around $200 minimum — to get the card.

In this regard, Discover it Student Cash Back can be a great fit for students with a thin credit file or no file at all. Unlike a secured credit card, the Discover student card won’t require you to put down a deposit, and unlike some other student cards, this card doesn’t put as much emphasis on your credit score when you apply.

​​5% cash back in rotating bonus categories

The Discover it Student Cash Back card offers 5 percent cash back in rotating categories each quarter when you activate (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1 percent), plus 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. You’ll need to activate your categories every quarter to earn the 5 percent cash back, but if you remember to do that, you can earn quite a bit back each quarter.

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. Discover will match all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year. For example, if you earned $200 in cash back during your first year, Discover will match it, dollar for dollar, at the end of that year, 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 chosen bank account
  • Gift cards
  • Donations to select charities
  • Shopping at

​​​0% intro APR for purchases for 6 months

Some cards offer an introductory annual percentage rate (APR) that allows you to carry a balance on your credit card for little to no interest for a set period of time. This is especially useful if you want to pay down debt over time, like for a large purchase you make with your card.

The Discover it Student Cash Back offers a 0 percent introductory APR on purchases for six months, followed by a variable APR of 18.24 percent to 27.24 percent, based on your creditworthiness. So, if you’re planning on making large purchases for the upcoming school year, such as new furniture or books, 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.

​​​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, the late payment fee is up to $41). The card also doesn’t have a foreign transaction fee, which would make it a good option for studying abroad.

Learn more: How to choose the best card for study 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 18.24 percent to 27.24 percent, which on the lower end is better than the average credit card interest rate.

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

The 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 appears on one of those websites.
  • ​Online Privacy Protection. Discover will help to regularly remove your personal information from 10 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.

Discover is also well-known for its customer service and ranks highly in J.D. Power satisfaction surveys. So, if you do run into issues with your credit card, you’d likely be able to quickly get the answers you need from Discover.

​How to maximize your 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 (on up to $1,500 spent, then 1 percent) and remember to activate them every quarter. You’ll want to align your spending with those categories as best you can while staying within your budget. Then, at the end of the first year, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned.

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 and on time — even cash back won’t help if you have to pay interest.

Because the Student Cash Back also offers a 0 percent introductory APR on purchases for six months (followed by a variable APR of 18.24 percent to 27.24 percent), you should plan to get your card before you have to make any large purchases for the upcoming school year. This way, you can pay it off over time without worrying about accruing interest for those first six months.

The bottom line

With an excellent rewards program, no credit score requirement and no annual fee the Discover it Student Cash Back is one of the most attractive student credit cards on the market today.

A rotating bonus category card might be a little more complicated to use than a flat-rate cash back card, but the rewards could pay off well for those who stay on top of their spending. Plus, the Student Cash Back card’s unlimited Cashback Match feature could make all the category tracking especially worthwhile at the end of your first year, when all of your earned cash back will be matched.

If you’re still not sure whether it’s the right card for you, consider comparing the Student Cash Back to other popular student credit cards before you decide.