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Is the Discover It Student Cash Back card worth it?

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In today’s credit card landscape, students can choose from a variety of cards to help them on their journey to build credit and earn rewards. Most issuers offer cards geared towards students and their spending habits, but how do you know if a Discover card deserves a place in your wallet?

Here we will analyze the Discover it® Student Cash Back card to see if the rewards, perks and benefits make this card a valuable option for your situation. Whether you are just starting your search or already own the Discover It Student Cash Back, we’ll help you decide if this card is a good fit for you.

What does the Discover It Student Cash Back card offer?

Quick card details:

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back on each quarter’s activated rotating categories (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases, then 1 percent) and 1 percent on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: All cash back earned within the first 12 months will be matched
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for six months
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 10.99 percent for six months
  • Regular APR: 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable

How can I benefit from the Discover It Student Cash Back card?

Here are some of the ways you can use the Discover It Student Cash Back to your advantage.

No annual fee

Since this is a no-annual-fee card, there’s no cost to carry it in your wallet. This is especially advantageous for students as you don’t have to justify spending enough on the card to earn rewards and offset the annual fee. Instead of worrying about overspending, students can get their money’s worth from day one.

Earning cash back

The Discover It Student Cash Back features rotating categories, meaning you’ll earn boosted rewards in designated spending categories within the quarterly spending cap. After activation, cardholders will earn 5 percent cash back within the Discover 2022 cash back calendar bonus categories up to $1,500 on combined purchases (then 1 percent back). Plus, all other purchases will earn you 1 percent cash back, a good deal for student cards as many cards in this category earn a maximum of 1 percent back.

Discover cash back 2022 categories

Quarterly categories 2022 Discover it categories
Q1: Jan. through March
  • Grocery stores
  • Fitness clubs
  • Gym memberships
Q2: April through June
  • Gas stations
  • Target
Q3: July through Sept.
  • Restaurants
  • PayPal
Q4: Oct. through Dec.
  • Amazon.com
  • Digital Wallets

Welcome bonus

As is the case with many of Discover’s other cards, the issuer will match all of the cash back you accrue in the first year as a cardholder. While this program doesn’t follow the typical cash back card sign-up bonus formula where cardholders are rewarded upfront for spending a certain amount within a given time frame, it can be a boon to students focused on building their credit versus time-sensitive spending.

Welcome bonuses are rare for starter credit cards in general, and this one can be very rewarding, especially for those who take advantage of the card’s student-centric bonus categories.

Redeeming cash back

Discover offers several methods to redeem the rewards you earn. Cardholders can receive cash back as a statement credit or a direct deposit into your bank account. Plus, you can choose to donate your rewards to charity, pay with your rewards at Amazon.com via PayPal or redeem them for gift cards.

Is the Discover It Student Cash Back card worth it?

The Discover it Student Cash Back card is one of the few student credit cards that offer rewards on par with its issuer’s signature cash back card. Among student cards with no annual fee, the Discover it Cash Back’s first-year value can be exceptional. Thanks to Discover’s reward match offer, all of the cash back earned in your first 12 months is essentially doubled. This could make this card a substantially more valuable option in the first year of ownership than competing cards, depending on how much you spend. But, it’s important to consider that you’ll only receive 5 percent cash back on up to $6,000 across the whole year, which amounts to $300 back (earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in rotating category purchases each quarter when you activate the bonus category, then 1 percent).

When redeeming cash back into gift cards or spending your rewards at online retailers, that transaction often comes with a drop in reward value. However, Discover guarantees all redemption options will yield at least a 1:1 value.

Besides value, customer service and security are two of Discover’s core principles. Discover’s high standard of credit card customer service has earned the issuer a top spot in the J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Survey for five of the past seven years.

In addition, users will receive 24/7 U.S.-based customer service, a free FICO Credit Scorecard, spending summary reports and in-depth credit monitoring that can patrol the dark web for your Social Security number. This can save you money in the long run as well, as similar services typically require a third-party subscription, but Discover automatically provides it at no cost.

The Discover it Student Cash Back card is a strong, low-cost option for students that want to build credit but don’t want to take out an additional credit-building loan. The card does not charge annual fees or foreign transaction fees, which is a nice perk for students studying abroad. On top of that, Discover will waive your first late payment fee (up to $41 thereafter) and will not charge a penalty APR, offering a safety net while you’re just starting out.

Discover also offers cardmembers the opportunity to put off paying interest charges for a while, thanks to the card’s six-month 0 percent intro purchase APR. And if you’re looking to transfer a balance, there is a 10.99 percent intro APR for balance transfers for the first six months. In the long run, the ongoing 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable APR could be well below the current average interest rate, which could be hugely beneficial considering starter cards are known for offering high interest rates.

Who should get the Discover It Student Cash Back card?

  • People who don’t want to pay an annual fee, but still want to earn rewards on student-focused categories.
  • Students looking for an attainable card to help them build credit.
  • Individuals that prefer earning cash back over points or travel miles.

Who should pass on the Discover It Student Cash Back card?

  • People who value simplicity and do not want to manage rotating bonus categories.
  • Students with higher credit scores will likely see more value from a card with better ongoing perks and benefits.
  • Frequent travelers looking to rack up rewards toward vacations.

The bottom line

Students seeking a manageable and rewarding card will absolutely find the Discover It Student Cash Back card worth it. It maintains its position as one of the top student credit cards on the market due to its $0 annual fee, impressive cash back rewards rate, first-year cash back match and user-friendly terms. On top of that, its rotating bonus categories offer budget-conscious students a great opportunity to chip away at everyday costs and build credit.

Written by
Ryan Noonan
SEO Writer
Ryan Noonan is a 2018 graduate of the School of Journalism at The Ohio State University. He began working in marketing for Bankrate.com in December 2018 and has since begun using his industry expertise as a writer, contributing to both Bankrate.com and Creditcards.com.
Edited by
Senior Editor
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Part of  Introduction to the Discover it Student Cash Back Credit Card