Best for gas, dining & large purchases
Discover it® Student chrome
Recommended Credit Score
An ideal choice for students who want to build their credit history and learn more about maximizing rewards without stressing over annual fees.
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On top of perks like a cash match program in the first year, this card offers generous cash back deals, a rarity for starter cards made for students. However, it may not be the ideal card for every student, particularly students who want to use this card during their study abroad trips. Other starter cards have better track records getting accepted for international use, but this one is still worthy of consideration for students new to credit and looking to build their history.
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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 Cashback 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.
No annual fee, foreign transaction fees or penalty APR
Excellent cash back reward program for a student card
Unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of cash back earned in the first year
First late fee waived, after that, up to $41
Lower international acceptance history, limiting its use abroad
A few other student cards have higher rewards, such as the Discover it® Student Cash Back card
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 (then 17.24 percent to 26.24 percent variable APR) 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.
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 of which are often staples for students on a 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.
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.
The full list of redemption options includes:
The value of your rewards depends on where you’re spending your money. With 2 percent cash back on gas stations and restaurants, you’ll earn $2 for every $100 you spend in these categories. For spending the same amount on all other purchases, you’ll earn $1 back. Each dollar spent is equivalent to 1 to 2 cents in rewards, but with the Cashback Match offer in the first year, these rewards are worth double. Overall, the rewards from this card are generous for a student just starting out in the credit world.
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.
Easily view your FICO credit score on monthly statements or on demand. When you activate free alerts, Discover will notify you if:
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 17.24 percent to 26.24 percent applies.
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.
Recommended Credit Score
Recommended Credit Score
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 Cashback 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.
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 does not have a welcome offer but does offer unlimited 5 percent cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Terms apply.
With the Discover it Student chrome you’ll receive the Cashback Match program, 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.
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.
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, low rates and few 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.
* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.
Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.