Discover it® Student Cash Back Review [2024]: A+ Rewards for Savvy Spending

CREDIT CARDS - STUDENT CREDIT CARDS
The Discover it Student Cash Back card can be a great credit card for people in college who are looking to earn elevated rewards.
Updated Feb. 1, 2024
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The Discover it® Student Cash Back can be a great credit card for people who are in college as you can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Additionally, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. The best part is that this card is recommended for those new to credit and has a $0 annual fee, which could make it more accessible to students.

Let’s explore the benefits of this card in our Discover it® Student Cash Back review.

Cash Back for Those New to Credit

4.5

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Current Offer

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

In this Discover it Student Cash Back credit card review

Key takeaways

  • The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a cash back credit card that helps cardholders earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
  • The rotating categories can help students earn higher rewards on common spending. However, these categories require activation every quarter.
  • This credit card comes with additional benefits, such as free access to your credit score, identity theft protection, and credit report monitoring.
  • Discover cards aren’t as widely accepted abroad as Mastercard or Visa cards. If you plan to travel with the Discover it® Student Cash Back, make sure to have a backup travel credit card with you.

Who should get the Discover it Student Cash Back card?

The Discover it Student Cash Back card is perfect for students who are willing to put in some effort to maximize their credit card rewards.

That's because this card's rewards program provides the ability to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. 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.

As an added bonus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Discover it® Student Cash Back basics

Card type Student/Cash back
Credit card issuer Discover
Annual fee $0
Welcome offer Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
Intro APR 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then 18.24% - 27.24% Variable
Rewards rate Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.
Recommended credit score Fair

Why we like the Discover it Student Cash Back: benefits and perks

  • Flexible cashback rewards: You can earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. This gives you the ability to earn elevated rewards on different categories each quarter once you activate them.
  • Generous welcome offer: With this card, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. There are no limits, and you don't have to do anything to sign up for this offer.
  • 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% intro APR on purchases: Benefit from 0% introductory APR on new purchases charged to your Discover it Student Cash Back card for the first 6 months that you're a cardmember (then 18.24% - 27.24% Variable). Keep in mind that this card doesn’t offer intro APR for balance transfers.
  • $0 annual fee: This card comes with a $0 annual fee, which makes it an easy card for students to keep year after another.
  • No fee on the first late payment: This card waives the first late payment fee. However, you'll need to pay a late payment fee of up to $41 if you miss a subsequent payment.
  • Identity theft protection tools: Not only does Discover monitor for suspicious activity, but you can also use Discover’s Freeze it® feature to immediately prevent any new transactions on your card.
  • Additional monitoring tools: With this card, you'll also get Experian credit report monitoring, so Discover will notify you if someone opens a new account in your name. It also alerts you if your Social Security number appears on the dark web.

What we don’t like about the Discover it Student Cash Back: drawbacks

  • Limited acceptance abroad: Discover cards aren't as widely accepted as American Express, Mastercard, and Visa cards. If you plan to travel, you'd likely be better off bringing a backup card to ensure you have more than a single payment option at your destination.
  • Quarterly spending categories require activation: While this card offers a high cashback rate in bonus categories each quarter, you need to remember to activate the quarterly categories.
  • Spending cap for the 5% cashback rate: There typically is a maximum for the quarterly spending that earns 5% cash back when you activate. If you spend beyond that maximum, you’d only earn 1% cash back.

Earning & redeeming cash back

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.

Keep in mind that Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year. You'll also want to keep this cashback match in mind to maximize your earnings in the first year.

Category Rewards rate
Rotating categories each quarter, on up to $1,500 in purchases when you activate 5%
All other purchases 1%

Maximizing your redemptions

The Discover it Student Cash Back Card provides cash back you can redeem as statement credits, deposits to your bank account, gift cards, Amazon.com purchases, or purchases via PayPal. Cash back can be redeemed at any time and doesn't expire as long as your account remains active.

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 that enrollment is required to activate the bonus categories every quarter to maximize your rewards. There's also a quarterly maximum spend cap, after which all other purchases earn 1% cash back.

For 2024, the bonus spending categories are:

2024 dates 5% cashback bonus categories
January 1 through March 31 Restaurants and drugstores
April 1 through June 30 To be announced
July 1 through September 30 To be announced
October 1 through December 31 To be announced

For 2023, the bonus spending categories were:

2023 dates 5% cashback bonus categories
January 1 through March 31 Grocery stores, drugstores, and select streaming services
April 1 through June 30 Restaurants and wholesale clubs
July 1 through September 30 Gas stations and digital wallets
October 1 through December 31 Amazon.com and Target

Discover it Student Cash Back card FAQ

Is Discover it Cash Back card good for students?

The Discover it Cash Back card isn't targeted to students, but the Discover it Student Cash Back card is — and it offers similar cardholder perks and benefits. This is a great card for you if you're in school and want a rewards card that provides the ability to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

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

You have to be a student to be eligible for the Discover it Student Cash Back card. However, there are other Discover cards available even if you aren't currently attending college. This includes the Discover it® Cash Back, Discover it® Chrome, and Discover it® Miles.

What is the credit limit for the Discover it Student Cash Back?

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

What is Discover’s Cashback Match™?

Discover's Cashback Match™ is a bonus offered to new Discover customers who are approved for the Discover it Student Cash Back card or for other eligible Discover cash back cards. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Does the Discover it Student Cash Back card have a foreign transaction fee?

The Discover it® Student Cash Back charges a 0% foreign transaction fee. This means that you can travel abroad with this credit card without having to worry about extra fees you may incur. However, you should keep in mind that Discover isn’t as widely accepted internationally as Visa or Mastercard.

What credit score do you need for the Discover it Student Cash Back card?

A fair to good credit score is recommended to be considered for approval for the Discover it Student Cash Back. A fair FICO score typically ranges from 580-669, while a good score ranges from 670-739. Keep in mind that credit card issuers typically consider various factors in addition to your credit history when determining your creditworthiness. This means that your credit score alone doesn't guarantee approval.

Other cards to consider

While the Discover it Student Cash Back Card is a great card for building credit and getting rewarded on your everyday purchases, it isn't the only student card out there. Consider these credit cards to use while you are in school:

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit CardUnlike the Discover it Student Cash Back, this card doesn't provide rotating cash back. Instead, you'll earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment; 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 3% on dining, entertainment, streaming services, and grocery stores (excluding superstores such as Walmart® and Target®); and 1% on all other purchases. This is a great fit for students who are into live music, sporting events, and dining out.

Chase Freedom Rise℠: This card provides a lower rewards rate — earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases. However, there's no limit on what you can earn. Cardholders can also earn $25 statement credit for enrolling in automatic payments within the first three months of account opening. While this card can help you build credit, the Discover student card offers better rewards.

Cash Back for Those New to Credit

4.5

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Why We Like It

Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

See how these cards compare:

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
  • Welcome bonus: Earn a one-time $50 cash bonus after spending $100 in the first 3 months
  • No annual fee
  • 3% unlimited cash back on dining, entertainment, popular streaming services, and at grocery stores (excluding superstores such as Walmart® and Target®)
  • 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment
  • Automatic consideration for a higher credit limit after 6 months
  • No foreign transaction fee
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One
  • Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
  • Boost cash back up to 1.25% on all purchases each month you make an on-time monthly payment
  • None annual fee

Discover it® Student Cash Back: bottom line

The Discover it® Student Cash Back can be a great fit for college students who want to earn rewards on their daily purchases.

It offers a robust rewards program, allowing students to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. The card also features an introductory APR offer on purchases, and it has a $0 annual fee.

This card also offers a Cashback Match™ at the end of your first year, free credit score tracking, and identity theft monitoring. However, the bonus categories require quarterly activation, and they have a maximum spending cap.

Learn how to get a student credit card or explore more options in our list of the best credit cards for students.

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.

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