The Discover it Chrome for Students is a good card for young adults who want to build credit while earning rewards, but it may be especially beneficial for people who spend a lot on gas and dining out. This card is also a smart choice for those who prefer to get cash back rather than travel rewards, and is one of the few credit cards to offer a bonus to new student cardholders. You can also access your cash back whenever you wish, and don’t need to wait to hit a minimum redemption amount.
Federal law requires young adults under age 21 to have their own verifiable income to be approved for any credit card on their own. Like most card issuers, Discover doesn’t allow those under age 21 to apply with a co-signer, so applying with an adult who does meet the income requirements isn’t an option.
Good first-year bonus for new cardholders
Annual reward for good students
First late payment fee is waived
Caps on bonus-earning categories
Better balance transfer deals exist
Limited card acceptance
- Good first-year bonus for new cardholders: Only about half of all student credit cards offer a bonus for new cardholders, so the fact that this card has one at all is a plus. Discover will double what you earn your first year, which could amount to a nice stash.
- Annual reward for good students. You’ll earn a $20 annual statement credit for maintaining a GPA of 3.0 or above.
- First late payment fee is waived: Don’t get in the habit of missing your payment, because it can really hurt your credit score. But if you’re just getting the hang of on-time payments and you slip up once, Discover won’t charge you an extra fee for paying late. Only one other student card offers such understanding terms, the Discover it Student Cash Back card.
- Caps on bonus-earning categories: If you spend a lot on gas and dining, you may be disappointed to know you’ll only earn bonus rewards on the first combined $1,000 you spend in these categories each quarter.
- Better balance transfer deals exist: This might not be the best card for you if you’re looking for the most affordable balance transfer card, in order to pay down debt. The Discover it Chrome for students has a 10.99% APR for six months for balances transferred, while some other cards have 0% introductory rates.
- Limited card acceptance: If you plan to use this card outside the U.S., know that cards that use the Visa or MasterCard networks have more international acceptance than Discover cards, according to the Nilson Report.
Bonus for New Cardholders
Discover will double all the cash back you earn in your first 12 months as a cardholder, but you have to wait until the end of the year to get it. Unlike a conventional sign-up bonus— where you’re required to spend a certain amount in your first months in order to get a lump sum—this incentive gives you the control.
As a student, let’s say you spend half of the average for a U.S. household ($12,148, based on the 2018 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Based on that, we’ve calculated you would earn $150 in cash back per year if you used this card for all your expenses. And that means the first-year cash-back match would be $150 as well. Sign-up bonuses on student credit cards aren’t a given, so a bonus this size wouldn’t be half bad.
Note: Most credit cards allow you to earn your bonus within the first few months of account opening, so waiting a whole year to earn your new-cardholder bonus is unusual.
The Discover it Chrome for Students Card offers 2% cash back on up to $1,000 in combined spending on dining out and gas each quarter, and then 1% cash back after that). You’ll also earn 1% back on everything else you buy.
Once you begin earning rewards with the Discover it Chrome for Students, you’ll have several options to choose from when it comes to cashing in your points. You can get cash back in the form of an account credit or an electronic deposit to your bank account. You can also redeem rewards for gift cards or use them to pay at Amazon or Paypal. Finally, you can use them for charitable donations.
An important aspect to note is that you can redeem any amount of a penny or more, at any time (some credit cards require you to hit a minimum redemption amount, such as $25, before you can cash in).
The only exception is gift cards—those start at $20 redemption amounts. When you redeem for gift cards, note that you’ll also get at least a bonus of $5 added to the card.
The cash back you earn never expires.
How to Get the Most Out of This Card
Other than using the card for your regular gas and dining purchases, focus on your studies: You get a $20 annual bonus each year you earn at least a 3.0 GPA. You can qualify for that bonus for up to five years after opening your account.
As well, redeem as soon as you can—otherwise your money is just sitting in an account, not earning interest or paying down today’s bills.
And while cash is often the most useful way to redeem rewards, if you want the maximum value, consider redeeming for gift cards. You can redeem $20 in rewards for a $25 gift card.
J.D. Power ranked Discover number two in its 2020 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, which considered the input of over 29,000 customers across 11 credit card issuers.
If you like to check your account on your smartphone, you may also find it interesting to know that Discover earned fourth place in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Credit Card Mobile App Satisfaction Study, with 867 out of 1,000 possible points.
Finally, note that this card gives you free access to your FICO score on your monthly statement.
The Discover it Chrome for Students gives you the opportunity to sign up for free alerts that notify you if your Social Security number is found on the dark web, as well as free alerts that tell you whenever new credit accounts are opened in your name. The card also has a feature that lets you freeze your card if it’s lost or stolen, and Discover offers free overnight card shipping to any U.S. address if your credit card is lost or stolen.
The Discover it Chrome for Students doesn’t charge any outrageous fees, although the 5% balance transfer fee is higher than average, if you miss the promotional 3% introductory balance-transfer fee period. Discover won’t charge a late fee on your first late payment and won’t charge a penalty APR.