Discover it® Student chrome review: A solid starter card with easy rewards
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Discover it Student chrome Overview
Rewards are hard to find when shopping for a starter card. But the Discover it Student chrome has quite a generous rewards structure, making it an interesting option among starter credit cards for students.
Also attractive are the benefits, value and security features of this card, which have been customized for college students’ needs. Along with the card’s limited fees and popular student spending categories like gas and takeout, students will benefit from Discover’s Cash Back Match program, a unique welcome bonus that sees Discover matching all of the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. The primary drawback for this card comes about for students hoping to study abroad, as Discover is not the most widely accepted credit card network internationally.
What are the pros and cons?
- Lower international acceptance history
- A few other student cards have higher rewards, such as the Discover it Student Cash Back card
A deeper look at the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter; 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
- Welcome offer: Match all cash back earned at the end of your first year
- 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
Current sign-up bonus
A popular mainstay on Discover’s cards for good credit, the unlimited Cash Back Match intro offer is one of the most attractive features of the Student chrome card. Discover will match all cash back you earn during the first year. There are no minimum spending requirements or cap on how much the card will match. Since bonuses on other student cards are typically minimal, if at all available, this is a particularly generous offer.
Plus, having the first six months’ intro offer for purchases interest-free (ongoing 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent variable APR thereafter) to finance any necessities at college might make this card attractive enough all on its own. Parents will appreciate students having a bit of breathing room while getting settled and learning the credit card ropes. Just pay the balance in full after the first six months, or interest can quickly negate all the cash back benefits you’ll earn.
Earning cash back is easy with the Discover it Student chrome, as it provides rewards for common student spending categories.
How you earn
Students can earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined quarterly purchases) and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases. The restaurant category includes cafes, takeout, delivery, and fast food, all often staples of the student budget.
Outside any rewards, the only other way to earn cash back is through Discover’s referral bonuses. Eligible cardmembers will receive a $50 to $100 “Refer-a-Friend” statement credits (annual maximum listed in your card terms) if their friend applies via your specific offer link by the end of the year. Even better, referred friends will also receive a bonus statement credit after making a purchase within their first three months.
How to redeem
Your cash rewards will never expire while your account is open and in good standing. You can redeem for cash back at any time, use them instantly at Amazon.com or opt for a variety of other redemption options. If you decide not to choose cash back for any reason, your next best option would be to choose a partner merchant gift card since Discover adds 5 percent to 20 percent extra value to each card, depending on the merchant. You must have at least $5 of cash back rewards in order to choose a gift card, however, since they range from $5 to $200 in $5 increments.
The full list includes these redemption options:
- Electronic deposit into any eligible account you designate
- Statement credit to your account
- Physical or digital gift cards to partner merchants
- Pay with cash back at select merchants
- Charitable donation to select charities
Other cardholder perks
For students new to their starter card, credit education resources and account protection benefits can be invaluable.
With the Discover it Student chrome, the account essentially has an on/off switch available through the mobile app or website called “Freeze it,” which will prevent any cash advances, purchases and balance transfers with your card.
Free credit score access and protection
Easily view your FICO credit score on monthly statements or on demand. When you activate free alerts, Discover will notify you if:
- Your Social Security number is found on one of thousands of dark web sites.
- Any new credit card, mortgage, car loan or other account shows up on your credit report.
- Anyone pulls your credit, so you can recognize possible fraud.
Rates and fees
This card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
Discover also forgives your first late fee if you fall behind on one payment (None the first time you pay late. After that, up to $41). Paying late won’t raise your APR, and you won’t incur a fee if you happen to exceed your limit. After excusing that first late payment, the fee going forward is up to $41. If you’re just getting the hang of credit card payments, these perks provide a valuable safety net the first time you slip.
Cash advance fees are either $10 or 5 percent of the amount, whichever is greater.
Finally, balance transfers have a fee of 3 percent intro balance transfer fee, up to 5 percent fee on future balance transfers (see terms*), with a 10.99 percent intro APR balance transfer offer for the first six months. After that, the variable APR of 14.49 percent to 23.49 percent applies.
How the Discover it Student chrome compares to other student cards
When looking for the best student credit card, it’s important to weigh your options.
The Discover it Student chrome card will be a solid candidate for many students looking to establish credit and manage their own finances. Earning and redeeming rewards is easy with this card and can help stretch a student’s budget.
Discover It Student chrome vs. Discover it® Student Cash Back
If you already have some credit experience, you want to practice earning rewards and you don’t mind tracking the revolving door of categories, you may benefit more from the Discover it® Student Cash Back.
Both cards have a few of the same standout features, including Discover’s Cash Back Match, no annual fee and a reasonable ongoing APR. The primary distinction between the two is the highest reward tier. With the Discover It Student Cash Back, you have access to one of the highest cash back rates offered among student credit cards.
Your tradeoff is that you’re limited to whatever Discover’s bonus category is for a given quarter and you must enroll each quarter to earn the maximum reward rate. Monitoring rotating categories and enrollment dates could prove to be tedious when paired with keeping up with a busy student schedule, and could be even less worth it if your spending habits don’t sync with a quarter’s bonus category. Depending on what you’re after, something a bit more hands free or a bit more lucrative, will help determine which of these two student cards is for you.
Discover It Student chrome vs. Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Alternatively, the Journey Student Rewards from Capital One has a flat rate of cash back on all purchases, so you don’t have to keep track of bonus categories at all. You’d still reap the benefit of no annual fee or foreign transaction fees with the Journey, but the ongoing APR is steep when compared to the Discover It Student chrome and carrying a balance may be a bit pricier as a result.
The welcome offers are also quite different across these two cards and could be a major determinant for which you choose. The Journey’s welcome offer centers streaming services, a very popular expense among students, but could be limiting when compared to the Cash Back Match program from Discover, which lets you use your dollar for dollar match at the end of the first year on any of Discover’s redemption options. The Journey Student may be the lowest maintenance, but the Discover It Student chrome still offers a bit more on the reward front.
Best cards to pair with the Discover it Student chrome
Where this card falls a bit short is for students planning to study or vacation abroad. Discover cards aren’t as widely accepted outside the U.S. as some other cards are. If that’s the case, other student credit cards might be better suited for your lifestyle.
Consider pairing your Discover card with a Visa or Mastercard that has a wider acceptance history outside of the U.S., but still skips foreign transaction fees for a more cost effective study abroad experience. One such card is the Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card, which also has a decent flat rewards rate on all purchases and can cover any spending categories that the Discover It Student chrome misses.
Bankrate’s Take—Is the Discover it Student chrome worth it?
The answer is yes if you are a student looking to establish your credit history and take advantage of cash back rewards that are quite uncommon for student credit cards. Plus, the intro purchase APR period, and low rates and fees provide excellent incentives for students.
However, it’s worth noting that if you have a study abroad trip coming up, you should see if Discover is accepted in the areas you’ll visit. Although there are no foreign transaction fees, Discover has a marginally lower international acceptance rate than larger card networks like Visa and Mastercard.