Key takeaways

  • The Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the best student credit cards available thanks to its $0 annual fee, impressive cash back rewards rates, first-year welcome bonus and user-friendly terms.
  • If used responsibly, this card can help students with no credit history to build a positive credit history.
  • This card might not be worth it for students who prefer simplicity, in which case they might want to go with a flat-rate cash back card or a fixed bonus category card.

Students have a variety of credit cards to choose from that can help them on their journey to build credit and earn rewards. Most issuers offer cards geared toward students and their spending habits, which means that those cards are often created for those who have little to no credit history.

You might be thinking that a student credit card is a great first step toward building positive credit history, but how do you know which card deserves a place in your wallet?

Here, we’ll analyze the Discover it® Student Cash Back to see if the rewards, perks and benefits make this card a worthwhile option for your situation. Whether you’re just starting your search or already hold the Discover it® Student Cash Back, we’ll help you decide if this card is actually a good fit for you.

When is Discover it® Student Cash Back worth it?

Here are some of the ways you can use the Discover it® Student Cash Back to your advantage:

If you don’t want to pay an annual fee

Since this is a no-annual-fee card, there’s no cost to carry it in your wallet. This is especially advantageous for students because they won’t have to justify spending enough on the card to earn rewards and offset the annual fee. Instead of worrying about overspending, students can get their money’s worth from day one.

If you want to earn high rates of cash back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back features rotating categories, meaning you’ll earn boosted rewards in designated spending categories within the quarterly spending cap. After activation, cardholders will earn 5 percent cash back in rotating bonus categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1 percent back). In the past, earning categories have included streaming services, gas stations, Amazon and more.

Plus, all other purchases will earn you 1 percent cash back. These cash back rates are a good deal since many student cards only earn 1 or 2 percent back.

If you want to earn a welcome bonus

Discover will match all of the cash back you earn at the end of your first year as a cardholder. While their Cashback Match™ program doesn’t follow the typical cash back sign-up bonus formula — where cardholders are rewarded upfront for spending a certain amount within a given time frame — it provides a great reward for students focused on building their credit versus time-sensitive spending.

Welcome bonuses are rare for starter credit cards in general, and Discover’s Cashback Match™ can be very rewarding, especially for those who are able to maximize the card’s rotating bonus categories.

If you want flexible redemption options

Discover offers several ways to redeem the rewards you earn. You can receive cash back as a statement credit or a direct deposit into your bank account. Plus, you can choose to donate your rewards to charity, pay with your rewards at or via PayPal, or redeem them for gift cards.

When redeeming cash back for gift cards or spending your rewards at online retailers, that transaction often comes with a drop in reward value. However, Discover guarantees all redemption options will yield at least a 1:1 value.

If you want intro APR offers

Discover also offers cardmembers the opportunity to put off paying interest charges on purchases for a while. More specifically, this card offers a 0 percent intro APR on purchases for six months from the date of account opening. And if you’re looking to transfer a balance, there is a 10.99 percent intro APR on balance transfers for the first six months from the date of your first transfer (provided that you transfer that balance within a set timeframe). After both intro APR offers end, a variable APR of 18.24 percent to 27.24 percent applies.

In the long run, your card’s ongoing variable APR could be below the current average interest rate, which currently hovers above 20 percent. This could be hugely beneficial considering that starter cards are known for offering high interest rates.

If you want low (or no) fees

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is a strong, low-cost option for students that want to build credit. In addition to not charging an annual fee, the card is among the best cards for studying abroad because it doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees — a nice perk for students. On top of that, Discover will not charge you a fee for your first late payment (up to $41 thereafter), nor does it charge a penalty APR, offering a safety net while you’re just starting out with credit cards.

If you want great customer service and security protections

Besides value, customer service and security are two of Discover’s core principles. Discover’s high standard of customer support has earned the issuer a top spot in the J.D. Power Credit Card Satisfaction Survey for the last several years.

In addition, users receive 24/7 U.S.-based customer service, free FICO credit score access and credit monitoring that can patrol the web for your Social Security number. This can not only give you peace of mind, but also save you money in the long run. Many similar services typically require a third-party subscription, but Discover automatically provides it at no cost.

When is Discover it® Student Cash Back not worth it?

Here are some reasons you might decide to get a different card:

If you don’t want to keep up with rotating categories

In order to earn 5 percent cash back in rotating categories each quarter (on up to $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter, then 1 percent back), you’ll need to activate your categories each quarter. For those who value simplicity, this step might be a burden.

Additionally, if you don’t typically spend much in the categories offered during a particular quarter, it will be hard to maximize rewards earnings. Plus, rotating category cards usually involve planning out your spending in advance — such as stocking up on annual household essentials during relevant quarters — in order to maximize cash back.

If you don’t want capped rewards

It’s important to consider that you’ll only receive 5 percent cash back on up to $6,000 in spending across the whole year (specifically, $1,500 in combined purchases per quarter in activated categories, then 1 percent back), which could amount to $300 in cash back earnings.

If you can qualify for a better card

The Discover it® Student Cash Back is one of the best student cards on the market, and it’s available to those with no credit history. But if you already have a good credit score to excellent credit score — maybe you’re an authorized user on one of your parent’s credit cards — you may qualify for one of the top rewards credit cards today.

Should you get the Discover it® Student Cash Back?

There are several reasons you might want to get the Discover it® Student Cash Back. The card could be a good fit for students who:

  • Don’t want to pay an annual fee, but still want to earn rewards
  • Are looking for an attainable card to help them build credit
  • Prefer earning cash back over points or miles

However, this card is not a good fit for students who:

  • Value simplicity and do not want to manage rotating bonus categories
  • Have higher credit scores and will likely qualify for a card with better ongoing perks and benefits
  • Are frequent travelers looking to rack up rewards toward vacations or study abroad trips

The bottom line

Students seeking a manageable and rewarding card will absolutely find the Discover it® Student Cash Back worth it. It maintains its position as one of the top student credit cards on the market due to its $0 annual fee, impressive cash back rewards rates, first-year welcome bonus and user-friendly terms and cash back benefits. On top of that, its rotating bonus categories offer budget-conscious students a great opportunity to chip away at everyday costs while building credit.

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