Discover it® Student Cash Back review: Build credit and earn unlimited cash back

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Pros

  • Cash back on rotating bonus categories
  • First-year Cashback Match could be valuable
  • Intro purchase APR offer
  • Can help build credit
  • No annual fee

Cons

  • Caps on bonus rewards
  • Bonus categories need to be activated
  • Potentially high regular APR
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Discover it® Student Cash Back

5.0 out of 5

From cardholders in the last year

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4 things to know about the Discover it® Student Cash Back card

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is designed for students with limited or no credit history. There’s no annual fee, and the card can help students build credit while earning unlimited cash back.

Learn more: Credit Karma Guide to Student Credit Cards

1. Earn cash back on useful everyday bonus categories

With the Discover it® Student Cash Back, you can earn 5% cash back on purchases in categories that rotate quarterly — on up to $1,500 spent (then 1%). To earn cash back at the bonus rate, you must activate each quarter. Plus, you’ll earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. Discover’s rotating categories include a range of everyday purchases that you might find useful, including groceries, gas, restaurants, Amazon.com and PayPal purchases.

But if you’re considering the card, it’s important to keep the quarterly spending cap and activation requirement in mind. And take a look at Discover’s previous bonus categories to see if your current spending lines up with what Discover typically offers.

Even still, these rotating bonus categories can be a great feature to earn cash back at a higher rate — especially if the categories align with your everyday spending habits.

2. Get an introductory 0% purchase APR  

Though the card lacks a traditional welcome bonus, students needing a bit of breathing room when paying for textbooks and supplies may appreciate the card’s introductory 0% APR on purchases for the first 6 months from account opening.

After the intro periods ends, the purchase APR will increase to a variable rate of 16.74% - 25.74%.

Keep in mind, that you should have a plan in place to pay off your balance in full before the introductory 0% APR period ends, to avoid paying costly interest charges.

3. Double your cash back rewards in the first year

Discover it® Student Cash Back’s unlimited cash back match introductory offer could be an easy way to double your cash back rewards during your first year of having the card.

With Cashback Match, Discover matches all the cash you’ve earned at the end of your first year, provided you haven’t earned this bonus with another Discover card. For example, if you earned $50 cash back in your first year, Discover will match that for a total of $100.

Just be sure to keep your spending in check and within your budget, so you don’t rack up unnecessary interest charges or credit card debt just to earn cash back.

4. Build credit while using the card

If you’re a college student with little to no credit history, the Discover it® Student Cash Back card can serve as a valuable tool to help you establish credit while earning cash back. Plus, you don’t even need a credit score to apply.

Learn more: How to build credit as a student in 5 easy steps

What to keep in mind before applying for the Discover it® Student Cash Back card

If you’re thinking about applying for this card, here’s a few other things you’ll want to consider.

  • No fee for first late payment — It’s never a good idea to pay your credit card bill late, but if it should happen, Discover will waive the fee your first time. After that, if you’re late, Discover will charge you a fee of up to $41. Returned payments have a fee of up to $41 (and the first returned payment fee isn’t waived).
  • No overlimit fee — Going over your limit isn’t a good practice when it comes to credit cards, but should it happen with the Discover it® Student Cash Back, Discover won’t hit you with a fee.
  • Zero fraud liability — If you discover that there are unauthorized charges on your card, you won’t be responsible for covering the cost.
  • Can help protect your privacy online — Discover helps remove your personal information from select people-search websites. To use this free feature, you’ll have to activate it on the mobile app.
  • No foreign transactions fees — If you plan to use the card to make purchases overseas, you won’t have to worry about paying foreign transaction fees.
  • Referral program — You can earn a statement credit up to $100 if you refer a friend to apply for the card.
  • Freeze your card instantly — If you misplace your card or think it’s been stolen, you can use the app to freeze access to your card.
  • Strong customer support — If you need help with your card, you can call Discover and speak to an agent based in the U.S. or get help on the mobile app or online.

Who the Discover it® Student Cash Back is good for

The Discover it® Student Cash Back card is solid card for college students with little or no credit history. The ability to earn cash back on all purchases can help offset some of your college expenses.

But if the bonus categories don’t align with your spending habits, a more straightforward cash back student card may be a better choice.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.

Here are few other cards that might be worth checking out.


About the author: Juan is a freelance editor and writer on topics involving credit cards, loyalty programs, travel and personal finance. Outside of Juan's passion for writing, he enjoys embarking on global travel adventures  (using poi… Read more.