Discover it® for Students Card Review – 5% Cash Back on Rotating Categories

Discover it® for Students Card Review – 5% Cash Back on Rotating Categories

Discover it® for Students is a popular student credit card with a solid cash back rewards program and some nice value-added benefits for current college attendees. With the same baseline 1% cash back earnings and 5% cash back in quarterly rotating categories (subject to a $1,500 quarterly spending limit), it’s very similar to the flagship Discover it card. Fellow Discover rewards cards include Discover it Chrome and Discover it Chrome for Students, as well as Discover it Miles, a travel rewards card.

Discover it for Students competes with a number of other student credit cards, including Capital One Journey for Students, Upromise MasterCard, and Citi ThankYou Preferred Card for College Students.

On your first cardmember anniversary, Discover automatically doubles all the cash back earned during the previous 12 months, with no restrictions or exclusions. For instance, if you earn $100 cash back in your first year, you get a $100 bonus – boosting your total cash back earnings to $200.

Discover it for Students earns 5% cash back on select quarterly rotating categories, such as restaurants, department stores, and gas stations. Quarters begin January 1st, April 1st, July 1st, and October 1st. The 5% cash back benefit is capped at $1,500 in spending across all rotating categories in a given quarter. Once you pass that limit, any additional purchases in the rotating categories earn 1% cash back, with no caps or restrictions. All other purchases earn an unlimited 1% cash back, as well. Keep in mind that you need to manually activate your 5% cash back categories each quarter, either online or by calling Discover. Once you activate, earnings are retroactive to the beginning of the quarter.

You can redeem your accumulated cash back rewards for statement credits, pay-with-points at Amazon.com, and bank account deposits in any amount, at any time. You can also redeem for gift cards, starting at a $20 minimum.

For every year you maintain a 3.0 GPA or better, you’re entitled to a $20 Good Grade Bonus. The bonus functions as regular cash back and can be redeemed in the same fashion as cash back earned through purchases. To earn the bonus, you need to formally apply at Discover.com and provide evidence (such as transcripts) of your grades. Your account must be in good standing when you apply. This benefit is capped at 5 years, even if you remain in school for longer.

Discover’s Freeze It feature lets you freeze your account to all users (including yourself) from any Internet-connected device. Once frozen, no one can use your card to make new purchases or cash advances, though previously scheduled payments and automatic bills continue to process as normal, and any unpaid balances continue to accrue interest. Freeze It is intended to prevent unauthorized card use when you suspect your card has been stolen or your account has otherwise been compromised. Once the danger recedes, you can unfreeze your account and continue to use the same card (if not lost), rather than waiting to get a new one in the mail.

Discover gives you a free FICO credit score with every monthly paper or electronic statement. You can also get your FICO score online at any time.

Discover it for Students comes with a six-month 0% introductory purchase APR and a six-month 10.99% balance transfer APR. To qualify for the balance transfer deal, transfers must be made by the 10th day of the third month after account opening. For instance, accounts opened in March have until June 10th to make transfers.

There is no annual fee or foreign transaction fee. Balance transfers always cost a flat 3% of the transferred amount, and cash advances cost the greater of $10 or 5%. There is no fee for your first late payment, but subsequent late payments cost $35. Returned payments always cost $35.

This card requires fair credit. You can have a spotty credit history due to limited prior credit usage, and/or some blemishes on your credit report, and still be approved.

Student credit cards like Discover it® for Students are great credit-building tools for younger folks who have spotty or nonexistent credit. By using your card responsibly and making timely payments on any balances you accumulate, you demonstrate to future creditors that you’re a responsible consumer while building your credit history.

Over time, you’re likely to be approved for higher spending limits and become eligible for credit cards with more generous rewards. And, like many of life’s lasting friendships and pursuits, it starts in college.

Discover it® for Students is a card for students who wish to build their credit, get financial recognition for their academic achievements, and earn cash back rewards on every single purchase they make. With rotating spending categories and a 1% base cash back rate, it’s ideal for a wide range of spending needs, though the 5% category spending limit means it’s not the best option for heavier spenders. If you prefer lots of fringe benefits, don’t like the manual activation requirement, or have poor credit, this probably isn’t the card for you.

This card’s generous cash back rewards, first-year cash back bonus, flexible redemption options, rewards for good academic performance, and relatively low fees are all nice perks. The lack of a signup bonus, minimal fringe benefits, and manual activation requirement all hurt it. Overall, it’s a strong card for lots of different types of students.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Categories: Credit and Debt, Credit Cards, Discover, Reviews

Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

Comments Disclosure: The below responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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