Discover it Student Cash Back Review: A+ Rewards and a Bonus for Good Grades

The Discover it Student Cash Back card provides 5% back on rotating bonus categories, plus a cash back match after your first year as a cardholder.
Last updated Sep 17, 2020 | By Christy Rakoczy

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As a student, chances are good your budget is tight and you need to make your money stretch as far as possible. A cash back credit card can help you do that by providing you with money back on every purchase you make.

Finding a good cash back card as a student is a challenge. After all, you need a card you can qualify for, and that can be difficult if you don’t have a long credit history. Plus, it needs to be affordable and offer rewards on the spending you do most.

Fortunately, you have options, whether you're a current student or a recent grad. And one of the best student credit cards is the Discover it Student Cash Back card.

Cash Back for Those New to Credit

Discover it Student Cash Back

Discover it Student Cash Back

Discover it Student Cash Back

Benefits

  • 0% intro APR on purchases
  • 5% cash back in rotating bonus categories quarterly
  • Matched cash back at the end of your first year
  • $20 statement credit each year for 3.0 GPA or higher
  • No annual fee

Drawbacks

  • You must be a student


Who should get this card?

The Discover it Student Cash Back card is the perfect card for students who don't mind doing a little bit of work to maximize their credit card rewards. That's because the card provides 5% back on rotating categories each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases. To get the most from this card, you need to be willing to activate the quarterly bonus and keep track of which spending provides the highest rewards.

Bonus categories include spending at grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and Amazon. So if you have an on-campus meal plan, never eat out and rarely drive, this probably isn't the card for you. But if you do venture off campus for food, gas, and groceries, or if you're a frequent Amazon shopper, you can't beat the cash back this card offers. And as an added bonus, you automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of the first year.

Card basics

Card Type Student
Card Issuer Discover
Annual fee $0
Welcome bonus You automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of the first year
Recommended credit score Fair
Intro APR 0% APR for 6 months

Top card benefits

  • A generous welcome offer: With this card, you automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of the first year. There are no limits and you don't have to do anything to sign up for this bonus.
  • A $20 statement credit for good grades: If your GPA is 3.0 or above, Discover provides you with a $20 statement credit. You're eligible to earn this credit annually for up to five years.
  • A rewards program offering 5% cash back: If you activate your quarterly bonus cash back, you can earn 5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter on up to $1,500 in purchases, and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • Free credit scores: Track how your credit score is changing with a free score available on your monthly statement or by signing into your Discover account using your online or mobile app.
  • 0% introductory APR on purchases: Pay 0% interest on purchases charged to your Discover it Student Cash Back card for the first 6 months that you're a cardmember.
  • Identity theft protection tools: Not only does Discover monitor for suspicious activity, but you can also use Discover’s Freeze it feature to prevent any new transactions from being made using your card.

Earning & redeeming

Best ways to earn

The best ways to earn cash back on the Discover it Student Cash Back card is to activate the quarterly bonus categories and spend within those categories each quarter.

For example, you could opt to buy all the textbooks you'll need for the year on Amazon during the quarter when you get 5% cash back from Amazon purchases. Or you could spend primarily on groceries during the month you get the bonus for this spending and save your dining out budget for another quarter when you're rewarded for restaurant purchases.

You'll also want to sign up for the card during a year when you plan to spend a lot to take advantage of the cash back match.

Maximizing your redemptions

The Discover it Student Cash Back Card provides cash back you can redeem in the form of a statement credit or for Amazon.com purchases. Cash back can be redeemed at any time and doesn't expire.

The nice thing about the fact the card offers cash back, rather than points or miles, is you don't have to figure out the most strategic way to redeem to maximize the value of your rewards. You can simply claim the cash back you earn. Just remember to activate the bonus categories every quarter to maximize your rewards.

Common questions

Is Discover it good for students?

The Discover it card isn't targeted to students, but the Discover it Student Cash Back card is — and it offers similar cardholder perks and benefits. If you're in school and want a rewards card that provides 5% cash back on rotating categories each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases, this is a great card for you.

Do you have to be a student to get the Discover it Student card?

You have to be a student to be eligible for the Discover it Student card. However, there are other Discover it cards available even if you aren't currently attending college.

What is the limit on the Discover it Student card?

Credit limits vary based on your financial situation but student cards usually have lower credit limits than other Discover cards.

What is Discover’s cash back match?

Discover's cash back match is a bonus offered to new Discover customers who sign up for the Discover it Student Cash Back card or for other eligible Discover cash back cards. Cardholders will automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of the first year.

Other cards to consider

While the Discover it Student Cash Back Card is a great card, it isn't the only student card out there. There are a few others you might want to take a look at if you're looking for the perfect credit cards to use while you are in school. Other options include the following:

  • Discover it Chrome for Students: Unlike the Discover it, the Chrome doesn't provide rotating cash back. Instead, you'll get 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations, up to $1000 per quarter; and 1% automatic cash back on all other purchases. Discover will automatically match the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year — and there's no limit. You're also still eligible for the $20 statement credit for maintaining a 3.0 GPA or higher, as well as other benefits the Discover it provides, such as access to your credit score.
  • Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®: This card provides a much lower rewards rate — get 1% cash back on all purchases and 1.25% cash back each month you make an on-time monthly payment. However, there's no limit on what you can earn. The biggest benefit of this card is that you can automatically get automatic consideration for a higher credit line as quickly as 6 months after account opening. While this can help you build credit, the Discover student cards offer better rewards.

Cash Back for Those New to Credit

Discover it Student Cash Back

Discover it Student Cash Back

Discover it Student Cash Back

Special Offer

Automatically get an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of any cash back you've earned at the end of the first year

See how these cards compare:

Discover it Chrome for Students
Discover it Chrome for Students
  • 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months
  • Up to 2% cash back at restaurants and gas stations
  • $20 statement credit each year for 3.0 GPA or higher
  • No annual fee
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Boost cash back to 1.25% with on-time payments
  • No annual fee
  • CreditWise from Capital One for credit monitoring
  • Earn up to $60 in streaming service credits with on-time payments